Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Helen Evangeline
Elizabeth Mary Anne Greene
1865 –?

55 Helen Evangeline Elizabeth Mary Anne Greene

LSA (1894) MD (Brux 1896)

22 Mar 1865 – ?

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

Account of medical women working in Malta 8 April 1921. (MWF archives Wellcome Institute)

Dr Helen M. Greene qualified LSA in 1894 and took her MD in 1896. She received her medical education at the London School of Medicine for Women. Dr H. A. Greene held the posts of physician to the Provident Dispensary, physician to the Nightingale Home and Junior Resident Medical Officer to Clapham Maternity Hospital Battersea Bridge.

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. Most 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.

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

Malta 17 Dec 1917 Embarked for Egypt.

17 Dec 1917 – 9 May 1919 Served in Egypt.

Transcript of Medical Women with RAMC in Malta and Egypt written by Helen M. Greene dated 8 April 1921.

In 1916 the shortage of doctors for the British Armies was being felt.
Medical women were already doing good work with the French Red Cross and with the Scottish Women's Hospitals in Serbia and behind the lines in Russia.
In May 1916 a circular was sent by the head of the Federation of Medical Women to all women practicing in the British Isles; asking them to say if they were willing to serve with the RAMC. For the War Office was prepared to make an experiment. If sufficient number volunteered, 80 would be sent out to Malta and distributed among the many hospitals there.
(Malta was the base for patients from Salonica and in 1917 there were nearly 27,000 patients in the Island.)
By the end of July, women were sent out in Hospital Ships, and 85 were soon at work.
Their work was varied, mainly medical, some surgical, some pathological. Dr Edith Mary Martin organised a mental hospital and Dr Mary May Thorne did some admirable work among the nurses and and military families. No words can say what medical women, as a whole, owe to Dr May Thorne. She worked for the good of her patients, her fellow-doctors, and women in general from morning to the next morning very often. And she never faltered.

1923 The Medical Directory lists her address as No 65 Friargate Derby.