Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Bernard Dobson
1874 –?

No 9 Margaret Bernard Dobson

MB MA (Lond 1900) MD (Lond 1905)

28 Dec 1874 – ?

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

Ward 20
Ward 20 B Military Hospital Valletta. A lady doctor is visible to the left.

Dr Margaret Bernard Dobson received her medical education at the London School of Medicine for Women and University College (Royal Free Hospital) London. She passed her Second Division of the MB examination of the University of London in November 1900, obtaining a 2nd Class Honours in Forensic Medicine. Her name appeared in the Medical Directory for Scotland (Edinburgh) on 19 December 1900. In 1905, Dr M. B. Dobson was awarded the MD London with a thesis in mental diseases and psychology.

The Medical Register of 1916 gives her address as 75 Eaton Rise Ealing London; that of 1917, as 27 Uxbridge Road, Ealing, London W.5 and 10 Harley Street, London W.1.

Dr M. B. Dobson occupied the following posts: Medical Officer West London District Schools Hanwell Godolphin and Latimer Girls Schools Hammersmith, Oculist Ealing and Bromley School Clinics and Medical Officer Infant Consulting Poplar Borough Metropolitan Council London. She also held appointments in Hull and under the West Riding County Council.

Jan 1906 Member of the Medico-Psychological Association of Great Britain and Ireland. She was also a member of the Registered Medical Women's Association and of the British Medical Association.

Jan 1906 Appointed Pathologist to the West Riding Asylum Wakefield.

Dr M. B. Dobson published:

10 Mar 1908 Appointed Assistant Medical Superintendent by the Bradford Education Committee. Her salary was £350 per annum.

1909 Senior House Surgeon Victoria Hospital for Sick Children Hull and Medical Institute Schools Bradford Educational Committee.

In 1909, the Bradford Education Authorities installed an x-ray apparatus for the treatment of ringworm in school children. At the Seventy-Seventh Annual Meeting of the British Medical Association, Dr Dobson reported that between March and August 1909, she had treated 270 ringworm patches by means of x rays. Most were caused by Microsporon auduini but in 3 cases in which the disease was due to Megalosporon endothrix, the patches, in one case after twenty-four hours and in a second after ten days, swelled up, the skin becoming raised, oedematous, and glossy and the hairs loose. She cautioned against x-ray treatment in such cases, because of a greater risk of burning the scalp and producing permanent baldness.

Apr 1912 Appointed Medical Officer to the West London District Schools, Hanwell and Oculist to the Ealing School Clinics.

Nov 1914 Medical Officer in charge of a ward at the temporary War Hospital Southall. The hospital was established in the recreation institute at the works of Messrs Otto Monsted, Southall near Ealing. The building had been erected in 1911. The greater part of the equipment had been provided by public subscription and gifts from residents in Ealing. Surgeon-General Greany IMS (retd) was in charge of the hospital. Dr Margaret Dobson, Dr Ethel Bowlby and Dr Davidson (Hanwell). Dr Fenton (Ealing) Dr Hill (Chiswick) and Dr Wallace (Acton) were in charge of wards.

July 1916 Dr Margaret Bernard Dobson 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 was not terminated for misconduct. Most of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

2 Aug 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC. She was on duty at Malta from 2 August 1916 to 27 July 1917.

1917 Served at the Valletta Military Hospital.

30 Jan 1917 Attended the funeral of Dr Isobel Addey Tate.

27 July 1917 Left Malta.

27 Apr 1918 On temporary duty with London District, pending her embarkation to Egypt.

4 May 1918 On duty in Egypt up to 23 April 1919.

23 Apr 1919 Returned home to England.

3 May 1919 Contract expired.

7 Dec 1920 At a meeting of the London Association of the Medical Women's Federation, held at the School of Medicine for Women, Dr Dobson showed slides of drawings from cases of diseases and injuries of the eye. These drawings were made by herself when working in Malta and Egypt during the war. The series included drawings of encapsulated foreign body in eye, detachment of retina, rupture of choroid, retinal and subhyaloid haemorrhages, syphilitic retinitis, disseminated choroiditis, and senile macular atrophy.

1925 Member of the Joint Council of Qualified Opticians.

Apr 1926 Attended the Optical Convention at South Kensington, where she read a paper on Imbalance or lack of equality in the tension and contractile strength of the eye muscles. Dr Dobson used a myophoriagraph, an instrument invented by Mr A. J. Esdaile of Newport, to record the strength and control of the muscles of the eye by means of a moving red spot and a white circle.

July 1926 Attended the annual Ophthalmological Congress in Oxford where she read a paper on Ophthalmoscopy of the macular region by red-free light.

9 July 1927 Attended the seventeenth annual Ophthalmological Congress in Oxford where she read a paper on Insufficiency of accommodation as an important factor in the causation of incipient cataract.

1932 Published Dynamic Retinoscopy. London, Oxford Medical Publications. Milford, Oxford University Press.

1933 Published Binocular Vision and the Modern treatment of Squint (1933). London, Oxford Medical Publications. Milford, Oxford University Press.

1938 Published Anaglyphs – Their use in Orthoptic Training. London, C. Tingling and Co.

23 Dec 1939 Published A spectacle frame to wear under the civilian gas mask.

1942 Published Binocular Imbalance. H.K. Lewis and Co.