Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Ida Emilie Fox
1876 –?

52 Ida Emilie Fox

MB BS (Durh 1902) MD (Durh 1906)

14 Apr 1876 [Bradford Yorkshire] – ?

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

64 GH Salonica
Aerial view No 64 British General Hospital Salonica (Cotter collection AMS Archives)

Aug 1898 Dr Ida Emilie Fox passed her examinations in chemistry and physics, of the First Examination for the Degree of Bachelor of Medicine of the University of Durham.

Sept 1899 Passed her anatomy, physiology and materia medica examinations of the Second Examination for the Degree of Bachelor of Medicine of the University of Durham.

Sept 1900 Passed her Third Examination for the Degree of Bachelor of Medicine of the University of Durham.

27 Sep 1902 Graduated Bachelor of Medicine, and Bachelor of Surgery from the University of Durham.

Dr Ida Emilie Fox attended the London School of Medicine (Royal Free Hospital) for Women and Newcastle on Tyne, but sat the examinations of the University of Durham. She was a member of the British Medical Association and a member of the Association of Registered Medical Women. Dr I. E. Fox held the post of House Physician at the New Hospital for Women, Euston Road House, which in 1918 was renamed the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital. She also worked at the Children's Hospital Sheffield and was resident Medical officer at Sherwood Forest Sanatorium, Mansfield.

1911 Medical officer Ashover Sanatorium, near Chesterfield Derbyshire. In the discussion on the Administrative Control of Tuberculosis, in the Section of State Medicine of the British Medical Journal 1911, Dr Fox stated that:

The home treatment of tuberculosis was of little use unless preceded by sanatorium treatment. The patients, must learn what to do and, what was equally important, what not to do. This applied both to the upper classes and to the working classes. The destruction of sputum, which was most important, was very difficult to carry out at home by patients' relatives. The patient was not under constant medical supervision, and at times there was difficulty about food. With regard to tuberculin, certain patients inclined to look upon tuberculin as a form of insurance; they thought, if they were taking tuberculin, they need not continue sanatorium rules or modes of living, and they should be carefully watched by medical officers and the fact pointed out that tuberculin per se was still on its trial.1

Sep 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. The majority of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

10 Sep 1916 Embarked in the Hospital Ship Essequibo as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

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

20 June 1917 Attached to No 65 General Hospital for duty with the British Salonica Force.

4 July 1917 Major E. W. Skinner (O/IC), 7 officers, 57 NCOs and men, 8 Lady Doctors, 1 Matron and 16 nurses left Malta on HMT ship Abbassieh. The transport was escorted by HMS Aster and HMS Azalea. HMS Aster struck a mine and sunk eleven miles off Malta with the loss of ten lives. HMS Azalea also struck a mine as she went to the aid of the stricken ship. The convoy returned to Malta and anchored in Marsaxlokk Harbour.

6 July 1917 HMT Ship Abbassieh sailed out of Marsaxlokk Harbour. She arrived at Suda Bay, Crete on 9 July and in Salonica, (Thessalonika) Harbour, on 11 July. No 65 General Hospital was erected at Hortiach which had been occupied by No 50 General Hospital. Seven medical women reported for duty at Hortiach on 30 July; Dr Blair and four nurses joined them on 2 August. The medical women were:

No 65 General Hospital became operational on 30 July 1917, when 200 patients were transferred from No 43 General Hospital. No 292 Pte Carrell was the first recorded death. He died on 17 August from cerebral malaria; the second and third deaths were from Bacillary Dysentery (Shiga group) on 26 and 27 August 1917 respectively.

2 July 1917 – 9 Mar 1918 On duty with No 65 General Hospital Salonica.

27 Nov 1918 – 10 Dec 1918 On duty with Eastern Command.

10 Dec 1918 Resigned.

24 Jan 1919 – 29 May 1919 On duty with 1st Southern General Hospital Birmingham (Southern Command).