Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Helen Beatrice
De Rastricke Hanson
1874 –1926

45 Helen Beatrice De Rastricke Hanson

LSA (Lond 1901) MB (Lond 1901) BS (Lond 1904) MD (Lond 1904) DPH (Oxon 1911)

6 Jan 1874 [Dorking, Surrey] – 6 July 1926 [London]

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

1897 Dr Helen Beatrice De Rastricke Hanson received her medical education at the London School of Medicine for Women. In 1897, she passed the Intermediate Examination in medicine (First Division - excluding physiology), of the University of London. In 1901, she obtained the diploma LSA and graduated MB from the University of London. Three years later she proceeded MD and BS, and in 1911 she took the DPH Oxford.

Dr H. Hanson was a member of the British Medical Association, the Medical Women's Federation, and the Federation of University Women. She held the posts of Clinical Assistant, Morpeth and Menston County Asylum West Yorkshire, Assistant Schools Medical Officer, London County Council and Medical Assistant Public Health Department, London County Council.

1905 Worked in India for three years as a medical missionary at the Kinnaird Memorial Hospital, Lucknow.

1909 Returned from India due to ill health, travelling steerage class so as to donate the five pound fare to the Women's Social and Political Union. On her return became a member of the Tax Resistance League, The Women's Freedom League, and The London Graduates Union for Women's Suffrage.1

1910 In 1909, the Reverend Claud Hinscliff and his wife Gertrude founded the Church League for Women's Suffrage (CLWS). In 1910, Dr Hanson became a member of the executive committee of the CLWS. She published a pamphlet entitled From East to West: women's suffrage in relation to foreign missions. In 1918, the CLWS was renamed The League of the Church Militant. Dr Hanson was Honorary Secretary and Treasurer of the league. In 1928, following the tragic death of Dr Hanson, the executive committee of The League of the Church Militant commissioned E. Louise Acres to write a book on the life of Dr Hanson.3

1911 Made a donation to the Men's Political Union, and in April 1911 took part in the Women's Freedom League Census Protest. She also took part in a deputation to the House of Commons, and on 28 November 1911 was arrested and sentenced in the name of Helen Rice to five days detention.1

15 August 1912 Dr Helen Beatrice Hanson of No 24 Kemplay Road, Hampstead, London N.W. was elected a member of the British Medical Association (Metropolitan Counties Branch) in the May to August quarter.

Oct 1914 – 1916 On the outbreak of war, Dr H. Hanson became attached to the British Red Cross Society and the St John Ambulance, and went with Mrs Stobart's unit to Cherbourg and afterwards to Serbia. In 1916, she published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Arts an article entitled Serbia as seen by a Red Cross worker.2

15 Apr 1915 Miss Helen B. Hanson was one of the medical officers in Mrs St Clair Stobart's tented Hospital in Kragujevatz, Serbia, under the auspices of the Serbian Relief Fund. She arrived in Salonica with six other female doctors (Mrs King-May Atkinson MB ChB, Miss Beatrice Coxon, Miss Mabel Eliza King-May MB ChB, Miss Edith Maude Marsden MB ChB, Miss Catherine Payne MB and Miss Isobel Tate MD (NUI). Dr Hanson was the only doctor who had formed part of Mrs Stobart's unit in France. The hospital at Kragujevatz was evacuated in October 1915, when the country was overrun by German and Austrian troops and the unit had to retreat from Serbia over the mountains of Montenegro and Albania. For her services in the Balkans she received the Order of St Sava (4th Class) and Serbian Red Cross.

(See group photo of Stobart Hospital - Serbian Relief Fund Unit No 3, in The Flaming Sword in Serbia and Elsewhere by Mabel St Clair Stobart pp 18-19.)

The Serbian Relief Fund (SRF) maintained in Serbia five complete Hospital Units: (i) Lady Paget's, (ii) Cornelia Lady Wimborne's, (iii) Mrs Stobart's, and the (iv) First and (v) Second British Farmer's Hospitals. The last three were mobile units, specially organised and equipped to deal with either wounded soldiers or infectious diseases like typhus. In addition, the SRF sent nurses to Mrs Hardy's Hospital at Kragujevatz and a contingent of nurses to the typhus colony formed by Lady Paget at Skopje.

July 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.

Malta 24 Aug 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC. Served at the Valletta Military Hospital.

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

Malta 25 June 1917 St Patrick's Military Hospital mobilized as No 61 General Hospital for duty with the Salonica Expeditionary Force. The staff consisted of 12 officers, 8 medical women, 38 female nursing staff, 3 Warrant Officers, one of whom was the Quartermaster and 204 other ranks. On 25 June, the Headquarters of the unit moved to All Saints' Camp, which served as the awaiting passage camp.

Malta 2 July 1917 Dr H. Hanson embarked on HMT Ship Abbassieh with No 61 General Hospital, under the command of Lt Colonel Arthur Kennedy RAMC. The medical women were:

Malta 4 July 1917 HMT Ship Abbassieh sailed out of the Grand Harbour 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 ships 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. The medical women were accommodated in the H.S. Llandovery Castle until 21 July, when they rejoined their unit; the men moved to Karraisi Rest Camp.

13 – 30 July 1917 No 61 General Hospital was set up at Uchantar, about 12 kilometers from Salonica and about a mile to the east of the Monastir Road. While the site was being prepared, the lady doctors attended lectures on the Regulations for the Army Medical Services, Military Allowances, and the duties of patients in military hospitals. On 13 August, consulting physician Colonel Stewart Purves, who had deployed from Malta, gave a lecture on dysentery and another on the soldier's heart.

27 July 1917 The lady doctors attended a lecture by Major Falkoner, consulting staff, on pyrexia. All the men working in the sun were issued with canvas pads to protect the spine from the heat.

10 Aug 1917 No 61 General Hospital became operational.

23–24 Aug 1917 No 61 General Hospital admitted 200 patients from 25 Casualty Clearing Station; four were admitted from the advance party of 10 Division and 119 from the ambulance trains. By 27 August, the hospital had treated 444 patients.

24 Aug 1917 Dr H. Hanson served in Salonica until 4 May 1920. On 24 August 1917, she renewed her contract for another 12 months.

23 – 24 Aug 1917 200 patients were admitted from 25 Casualty Clearing Station, four were admitted from the advance party of 10 Division, and 119 from the ambulance trains.

28 Sep 1917 Tasked to checked the steward's store as part of the half yearly accounting period.

30 Nov 1917 Tasked to checked the Hospital Linen store, which was found to be correct.

7 Dec 1917 Detailed for duty at Karaissi Refugee Camp, where the weather was described as freezing.

10 Dec 1917 Dysentery patients were transferred to No 42 General Hospital in preparation for the closure of No 61 General hospital.

28 Dec 1917 No 61 General Hospital closed on 28 December and went into winter quarters. Drs A. Winifred, J. E. Reynolds, A. E. Sanderson, M. M. Rougvie, and Rose Lilian Humphrey Davy who had been transferred from No 62 General Hospital on 4 November 1917, departed for duty at No 38 General Hospital. Dr B. M. Cunningham left for duty at No 42 General Hospital. Dr Katharine Waring who had been under treatment for dysentery at No 43 General Hospital embarked for England as an invalid on 3 December 1917.

18 Apr 1918 No 61 General Hospital was re-erected on Hortiach Plateau, which had been vacated by No 66 General Hospital.

25 Apr 1918 Drs Agnes Livingstone-Learmont and B. M. Cunningham together with the Matron and 4 nursing sisters rejoined No 61 General Hospital.

30 Apr 1918 Dr Austin Winifred and Dr Jane E. Reynolds rejoined No 61 General Hospital which became operational on 1 May 1918. The hospital had tentage for 1,560 beds.

3 May 1918 Dr H. B. Hanson rejoined No 61 General Hospital.

July 1918 Returned to England on leave.

24 Aug 1918 Renewed her contract for another 12 months.

6 Nov 1918 Medical Women in charge of the nursing sister's hospital.

21 Nov 1918 Transferred to No 38 General Hospital.

7 Jan 1919 Closure of No 61 General Hospital.

24 Nov 1919 Renewed her contract for three months. Dr H. Hanson joined The Black Sea Expeditionary Force to Constantinople
(The Treaty of Mudros, (30 October 1918), had brought to an end the war between the Ottoman Empire and the allies. British Troops occupied Constantinople from 13 November 1918 to 23 September 1923.)

24 Feb 1920 Renewed her contract for another two months.

11 Apr 1920 Left Constantinople (Contract expired on 23 April 1920).

29 May 1920 Arrived in England, and returned to her former post as an Assistant Medical Officer at the Public Health Department, London County Council. Her work as a school medical officer brought her in touch with parents and children of all social grades, with teachers, nurses, and doctors, by all of whom she was greatly esteemed. However, monotonous her daily routine, she never seemed to get tired or bored. Her school inspections never degenerated into mere routine, and she, found great interest and pleasure in the gradual improvement of the standard of health of the school children.2

6 July 1926 Dr Helen Beatrice De Rastricke Hanson died from injuries sustained in a road traffic accident after being knocked down and run over by a motor car. She was 52 years old. She was buried on 12 July at St Marylebone Cemetery, Finchley; a requiem service was held in St Martin's-in-the Field on 20 July 1926. She never married and lived with her mother and sister.