Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Catharine Laura Boyd
1881 –?

11 Catharine Laura Boyd

MB (RUI 1903) BCh BAO (RUI 1903) DPH (Camb 1908)

27 Nov 1881 – ?

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

Staff Spinola
M Douglas, E M Edwards, H G R Jamieson, H C Smyth at Spinola Camp Hospital. (Courtesy Cotter Collection AMS archives)

1903 Dr Catharine Laura Boyd received her medical education at Queen's College Belfast. She qualified in 1903. Her name was included in the Medical Directory for Ireland on 22 May 1903. Dr C. L. Boyd held the appointments of: House Surgeon at the Children's Hospital Dublin, Schools Medical Officer for the Enfield Education Committee, Assistant Medical Officer for Health (MOH) at Huddersfield, and Assistant Schools Medical Officer for North Riding Yorkshire Education Committee.

1907 Assistant Medical Officer of Health Huddersfield. In Huddersfield, those whose duties are to give the mothers advice as to the nursing and rearing of their offspring, who encourage them in every way to follow Nature's method of bringing up their own children, and who inquire into infantile deaths in their districts, are fully-qualified medical women, of whom there are now two - Dr Prudence E. Gaffikin and Dr. Catharine L. Boyd. They visit the mothers and their babies as soon as the births are notified, a payment of 1 s. being made to the person first notifying to the medical officer of health the birth of any child within forty eight hours of such birth (in their new Bill the Corporation of Huddersfield have had it enacted that it is the father or midwife who must notify).1

Staff Spinola
1. Oscar M DeJong, 2. H C Smyth, 3. H G R Jamieson, 4. James Cotter 5. Hilda G Johnson, 6. McShane, 7. MacCormick. (M A H Stewart Collection - supplied by her grandchildren)

July 1916 Dr Catharine Laura Boyd was in the first group of women doctors to join the RAMC. She was 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. Most of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

Malta 2 Aug 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

Malta 30 Jan 1917 Attended the funeral of Dr Isobel Addy Tate.

Malta June 1917 Dr Catharine Laura Boyd was one of eight women doctors attached to No 64 General Hospital, which was formed in Malta on 28 April 1917 from the staff of Spinola Camp Hospital. Her name appears in the nominal roll of the staff of 64 General Hospital for 1 October 1917, but she ceases to be mentioned in the war diary after that date. The other women doctors were:

The hospital staff, consisting of 10 officers and 250 other ranks, marched to All Saints Convalescent Camp to await their passage. On 3 June 1917, Lt Col T. E. Fielding DSO RAMC o/c 64 GH, Captain Oscar M. De Jong, Capt M. Douglas, Capt R. A. P. Hill, Capt H. G. R. Jamieson, Lt T. M. Thomson and Lt (QM) J. Cotter with 206 soldiers embarked on HMT Abbassieh. The remaining medical officers, women doctors, female nursing staff, and all the equipment, were left in Malta due to lack of space on the transport.

64 GH Salonica
Aerial view 64 GH Salonica. (Cotter collection AMS archives)

The men arrived at Suda Bay, Crete on 6 June and at Salonica on 9 June 1917. Lt (QM) James Cotter and all personnel marched to the site of the camp which was to be occupied by No 63 General Hospital, at Kilo 9 Seres Road. The remaining officers reported to No 1 Base Depot Summerhill. Their hospital equipment did not reach Salonica until 12 July, when a quantity of medical and ordnance stores was found to be missing. On 19 June, Captains A. M. Cato, A. Cowes, A. Dennison, H. M. Green and W. D. Cruickshank joined the hospital.

18 Jun 1917 – 11 Mar 1918 Dr Catharine Laura Boyd is said to have been on duty at Salonica. Her contract was terminated due to ill health. No 64 General Hospital was set up at Akbunar hills, north of Salonica. It was equipped with 10 beds for officers and 250 beds for the Other Ranks. It became operational on 21 July 1917. The women doctors, who had been accommodated on H.S. Llandovery Castle, since their disembarkation at Salonica, reported for duty at 64 GH on 2 July.

1 Oct 1917 The nominal roll of the staff of 64 GH (excluding women doctors) was:

12 Dec 1917 Closure of No 64 General Hospital. Six medical women, (H G Johnson, E M Edwards, M D Murray, M G Ormiston, E M Layman and E S Walker), were posted to No 49 Stationary Hospital; Doctor J P Walton was posted to No 41 General Hospital.

11 Mar 1918 Contract terminated because of ill health.

15 Nov 1918 – 8 Jan 1919 On duty with Eastern Command. Ceased duty on 8 January.