Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Elsie Jean Dalyell
1881 –1948

65 Elsie Jean Dalyell

OBE (1919) MB BS (Syd 1909) ChM (Syd 1910)

13 Dec 1881 [Newtown Sydney] – 1 Nov 1948 [Greenwich NSW Australia]

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

E J Dalyell
Dr Elsie Jean Dalyell. Digital ID: 9873_a025_a025000062
(State Records New South Wales)

Dr Elsie Jean Dalyell was the second daughter of James Melville Dalyell, a mining engineer and his wife Jean, nee McGregor. She was educated at Sydney Girls' High School and at the Women's College, University of Sydney.

1897 Joined the Department of Public Instruction as a pupil-teacher. She was sponsored by the department and completed her first year arts and science at the University of Sydney. In 1909, she resigned as a teacher and transferred to second-year medicine.

1909 Dr E. J. Dalyell entered the Women's College, University of Sydney. Graduated MB with First Class Honours in 1909 and ChM in 1910. She was one of the University's first female graduates in Medicine to win such a distinction.

1911 – 1912 Appointed Resident Medical Officer at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital, and later was made pathologist at the hospital, a position she also held at the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children. She was the first woman to act as demonstrator in the Sydney Medical School where she served as senior demonstrator in pathology under Professor Welch. In December 1912 she became the first Australian woman to be elected to Beit Scholarship.
The Beit Scholarship was founded in 1909, by the South African Otto John Beit in memory of his brother Alfred Beit who died in 1906. It paid £250 for three years. Dr Dalyell went to the Lister Institute of Preventive Medicine London to carry out research on gastroenteritis.

8 Feb 1913 The British Medical Journal dated February 1813 records her as being appointed a Resident Medical Officer for the Renwick Hospital for Infants Sydney NSW.4

Mar 1915 Medical Officer with the Sixth Reserve Hospital, Uskub, Serbian Relief Unit. From 1 March to the end of April 1915, about 1,800 cases of typhus were treated by the staff of the Sixth Reserve Hospital. Dr Dalyell was the hospital bacteriologist.3

2 May–2 Oct 1916 Medical Officer at the Hôpital Auxiliaire 301, Asnieres-sur-Oise.

Oct 1916 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.

20 Oct 1916 Embarked in the Hospital Ship Britannic for Malta and Egypt, via Naples and transshipping at Mudros.

1 June 1917 Embarked for Salonica as a bacteriologist with No 63 General Hospital.

The Treaty of Mudros, (30 October 1918), brought to an end the war between the Ottoman Empire and the allies, and resulted in British Troops occupying Constantinople from 13 November 1918 to 23 September 1923. Early in 1919, Dr E. J. Dalyell went to Constantinople to deal with a cholera epidemic. Transferred to No 82 General Hospital, which arrived in Constantinople on 3 December 1918.

1 June 1917–1 July 1919 On duty at Salonica.

25 Oct 1917 Mentioned in Dispatches GHQ British Salonica Force (London Gazette 28 November 1917). The medical women attached to the RAMC who were mentioned in a dispatch dated 25 October 1917 from Lieutenant-General G. F. Milne, Commander-in-Chief, British Salonica Force for distinguished service were: Mary Alice Blai, Barbara Martin Cunningham, Elsie Jean Dalyell, Elizabeth Mary Edwards and Edith Blake Hollway.

5 June 1919 Mentioned in Dispatches (London Gazette 5 June 1919).
Awarded the Order of the British Empire (Military Division).

1 July 1919 Arrived in England, contract expired.

1919–1922 In 1919, the Accessory Food Factors Committee appointed jointly by the Medical Research Council and the Lister Institute, commissioned a small team led by Dr (Dame) Harriette Chick, and including Dr E J Dalyell, to investigate whether the diseases affecting the population in Vienna were the result of vitamin deficiencies in the diet. The team studied the role of vitamin D in preventing infantile rickets.2

Mar 1923 Returned to Australia, where without capital, her attempts to set herself in private practice in Macquarie Street, the Harley Street of Sydney, failed.

Jan 1924 Assistant microbiologist in the Department of Public Health.

1925 – 1935 Served on the committee of the Rachel Forster Hospital for Women and Children, and with Dr Maisie Hamilton, was responsible for the venereal diseases clinic which opened there in 1927.
(The Rachel Forster Hospital, Sydney, was founded in the aftermath of the First World War. It was staffed exclusively by women).

1 Nov 1948 Retired in 1946. Died at her home at Seaman Street, Greenwich, New South Wales Australia, of hypertensive arterial disease and coronary occlusion. Her estate was valued for probate at £7086.