Lady Doctors
Of the
Malta Garrison
Rosebery Drinkwater
1872 –1839

No 7 Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater

OBE (1918) BSc (Lond 1896) LSA (Lond 1903) MB BS (Lond 1906) DPH (Liverp 1909)

11 Nov 1872 – Dec 1939

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

Dr (Mrs) Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater was the eldest daughter of Mr H. Mason Jay MD, FRCS. She was educated at Bath High School, Bedford College London, and the London School of Medicine for Women. She qualified as a Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries London (LSA) in 1903, after obtaining the BSc in 1896. She graduated MB BS from the University of London in 1906. Dr K. R. Drinkwater was one of the first women to take the DPH of the University of Liverpool. Her name was included in the Medical Directory for Scotland (Edinburgh) on 22 October 1903.

1906 Dr Katharine Rosebery Jay married Dr Harry Drinkwater MD MSc (Hon) of Wrexham as his second wife. His first wife, Miss Ellen Priscilla Reed, died in 1901, leaving three children.

1907 From 1907 onwards, Dr Drinkwater was Assistant Schools Medical Officer for the Wrexham Educational Committee and Denbigh County Council. She was a recognised teacher for the Central Midwifery Board, a lecturer in First Aid and Home Nursing, a member of the North of England Obstetrics and Gynaecology Society. Dr Drinkwater also held the post of Assistant Gynaecologist at the Women's Hospital Liverpool. In 1913, she published Midwifery Forceps — Historical Sketch, Liverpool Medical Chirurgical Journal, 1913.

July 1916 Dr Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater 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.

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

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

27 July 1917 On duty at Malta 2 August 1916 to 27 July 1917. She was in charge of the women's wards in the Military Families Hospital at Malta for over a year.

7 June 1918 Made an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her work in Malta while in charge of the Military Families Hospital, Staff and Department (London Gazette 7 June 1918).

1918 The Medical Directory lists her address as 71, Lister House, Ruabon Road, Wrexham North Wales. Dr Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater was chairman of the Denbigh and Flint Division of the British Medical Association in 1927–29 and President of the Wrexham and District Clinical Society in 1937–38. She did much public work in North Wales, in social service and on the Magistrates' Bench.