Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Mary Florence Bignold
1883 –1966

31 Mary Florence Bignold

MB BCh (Ed 1907)

20 Sep 1883 – 2 May 1966 [Sussex]

In May 1916, Dr Louisa Aldrich-Blake, Surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and Dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, approached all the women on the Medical Register asking them to say if they would be willing to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps. From the replies received, 48 lady doctors were enrolled. The first 22 medical women embarked for Malta on 2 August 1916; another 16 lady doctors embarked on the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Gloucester Castle on 12 August 1916.

The Director General Army Medical Services, Sir Alfred Keogh, was responsible for employing medical women and for dealing with illnesses among them. Women doctors, also referred to as lady doctors, were classed as civilian surgeons attached to the RAMC. Women serving as full time doctors in the Army and doing precisely the same work as their male colleagues had neither military rank nor status, but received the same pay, rations, travelling allowances and gratuity as temporary commissioned male officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. A uniform was not introduced until after April 1918.. This was similar in appearance to that worn by the Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps (QMAAC) but with an RAMC badge on both lapels.

In October 1916, on hearing from the War Office that fifty more medical women were needed for service with the RAMC in English hospitals, Aldrich-Blake again negotiated with all the women who had qualified in the preceding ten years, and secured the requisite number in a very short time. On 20 October 1916, eleven medical women embarked on H.S. Britannic for Malta.

The casualties from operations in Gallipoli (25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916), and Salonica (October 1915 – 30 September 1918), were initially treated in Malta and Egypt, but in 1917, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to evacuate from Salonica and five General Hospitals, Nos 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65, mobilized in Malta for service in Salonica to which the medical women were attached.

Between August 1916 and July 1917, eighty two lady doctors served in war hospitals in Malta. They worked alongside their RAMC colleagues and carried out all but administrative duties. Their assistance was very highly appreciated. Their work was recognized in the King's Birthday Honours list of June 1918 when Dr Barbara Martin Cunningham MB ChB, Military Hospital Mtarfa, Mrs Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater MB BS, in charge of Military Families Staff and Department Malta and Miss May Thorne MD, in charge of Sisters' Hospital and Staff Department Malta, were awarded the Order of the British Empire for services rendered during the war.

Service Record

Sliema school
Sliema Primary School served as St John's Hospital 1 Sep 1915–9 Oct 1917.

27 July 1907 Dr Mary Florence Bignold received her medical education at the Medical College for Women Edinburgh from where she qualified Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Bachelor of Surgery (BCH) in 1907. Her name was listed in the Medical Directory for Scotland on 27 July.

Apr 1915 Medical officer 2nd Serbian Unit Scottish Women's Hospital, Valjevo.

1916 Listed in the Medical Directory as residing at 15 Queen's Crescent Edinburgh.
Contracted to work for 12 months as a Civilian Surgeon attached to the RAMC. Her salary was 24 shillings a day including allowances, but excluding duty transport. A gratuity of £60 was awarded at the end of the contract, provided employment had not been terminated for misconduct.

12 Aug 1916 Embarked from Southampton for Malta on the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Gloucester Castle as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

Worked in Malta in St John's Hospital Sliema.

1917 On duty at Malta.

1918 On duty at Malta.

11 Feb 1919 Arrived in England. Was granted leave till 5 March 1919.

6 Mar 1919 – 11 Nov 1919 On duty at the University War Hospital Southampton and at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley, (Southern Command).

11 Nov 1919 Ceased duty.

6 Oct 1938 Approved by the Central Midwives Board for England and Wales a lecturer at the Sussex Maternity and Women's Hospital.