Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Alice Emilie Sanderson
1875 –1959

41 Alice Emilie Sanderson

BSc (Bedford) MB BS (Lond 1908) MD (1914)

14 May 1875 – 28 July 1959 [Cheltenham]

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 Alice Emilie Sanderson was the eighth child of 11 brothers and sisters. After graduating BSc in biology at Bedford College and teaching for a short time, she entered the London School of Medicine for Women in 1905. She graduated MB BS in 1908, and proceeded MD six years later.

Dr A. E. Sanderson held the appointments of: House Physician Belgrave Hospital for Children, House Physician and Assistant Anaesthetist Royal Free Hospital, Senior House Surgeon Clapham Maternity Hospital, Medical Officer and Lecturer St Anne's Nursery College Cheltenham, and Medical Inspector Ladies College Cheltenham.

1910 Resident at The Mount, Montpelier Road, Ealing W.5. In March 1910, she was elected a member of the British Medical Association (Metropolitan Counties Branch). She was also a member of the Association of Registered Medical Women and an honorary member of the Medical Officers of Schools Association.

1911 Author Pneumothorax complicating broncho pneumonia in a child of 2 years. Lancet 1911.

1912 Joined Dr Mary Cargill's practice in Cheltenham, where she remained for the rest of her working life.

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.

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

While stationed in Malta met Dr David Clow MB ChB (1871 – 1955) who was serving with the RAMC. They married after the end of the war and adopted two daughters.

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 A. E. Sanderson embarked on HMT Ship Abbassieh with No 61 General Hospital, under the command of Lieut Colonel Arthur Kennedy RAMC. The medical women on the staff were:

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.

26 Aug 1917 Drs Jane Reynolds, and Alice E Sanderson were detailed for duty at Dudular Refugee Camp, but had to return to No 61 General Hospital for their meals and accommodation.

5 Sep 1917 Ceased to visit Dudular Refugee Camp when her services were no longer required.

30 Oct 1917 Was detailed to check the linen store, but was unable to complete the task, due to the arrival of 136 patients at short notice.

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.

16 Feb 1918 Contract expired.

After the war, Dr A. E. Sanderson resumed her work in General Practice in Cheltenham alongside her husband. As medical officer to Cheltenham Ladies' College she collected over many years important statistics on the hygiene of menstruation. During the 1920s she produced a series of influential papers on dysmenorrhoea, its treatment by exercise, the hygiene of menstruation among schoolgirls and its implications for occupational and industrial health. She also worked for the Medical Women's Federation on research on the menopause.

The Medical Directory of 1923 lists her address as No 35, Montpellier Terrace, Cheltenham.

1938 In 1938, the Clows retired to a house at Charlton Kings, Cheltenham, but Dr David Clow continued to practice until after the second world war.

28 July 1959 Died in Cheltenham, aged 84 years, after some years of gradually failing sight and strength, patiently borne. Her obituary states that Her gifts of clear thought and sound sense, her perception of character, and her generous admiration and affection for her friends were concealed by her gentle, quiet manner and very genuine humility. Though she became unable to play duets on the piano with her daughter, she continued to enjoy classical music on the wireless, and she kept in touch with the lives around her through the news and through the talking books for the blind. She was cared for and nursed devotedly by her elder daughter, and the younger left her family to be with her at the end.