RAMC Officers
Of the Malta Garrison
Herbert Cumming French
1869 – 1913

Major Herbert Cumming French

MRCS (Eng) LRCP (Lond)

22 Oct 1869 [Quebec Canada] – 13 Oct 1913

Herbert Cumming French was the third son of Major General Sir George French KCMG. He received his medical education at King's College Hospital. In 1891, he was the resident Warneford scholar and in the following year held a senior scholarship.

Service Record

29 July 1893 Surgeon-Lieutenant Army Medical Staff.

29 July 1896 Surgeon-Captain.

1891 Served on Expedition to Miranzai (North West Frontier of British India, now part of Pakistan).

1901–1902 Served in Anglo–Boer War, South Africa, including the operations in the Orange River Colony.

17 Nov 1902 When on the transport Wakool in the Straits of Malacca, he jumped overboard from the upper deck at night, into a sea swarming with sharks, to save the life of a native fireman. For this act he was awarded the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society, and also the Royal Albert Medal, which was personally presented to him by His Majesty King Edward VII.

While HM Transport Wakool was steaming at the rate of about 12 knots an hour through the Straits of Malacca, on November 17, 1902, a native fireman jumped overboard. Captain French, who was a passenger on board, immediately dived off the promenade deck, a height of about 36 feet from the water, and swam to the place where he had observed the man. Before he reached the spot the man had disappeared, and Captain French was obliged to make for a lifebuoy as he was exhausted with the weight of his clothing. Subsequently both were rescued by the ship's lifeboat. Captain French incurred considerable risk as a strong current was running at the time and he might have been drawn under the propellers of the ship. He was also in danger of sharks and water snakes, which are known to frequent the Straits of Malacca, (London Gazette March 10, 1903).

25 Jan 1905 Married in Cyprus, Helen Richards Healy, daughter of Mr Joseph Healy, barrister of Boston USA.

29 Apr 1905 Major RAMC.

1907 He wrote many papers on the prevention and treatment of syphilis. In 1907, published a book on "Syphilis in the Army".

21 May 1909 Birth of a son at 31, the Common Woolwich.

11 Sep 1909 Embarked for Malta.
Specialist in dermatology and venereal diseases.

1910 Officer in charge Military Hospital Mtarfa.
Specialist in dermatology and venereal diseases.

July 1910 In England on leave.

1911 Officer in charge Military Hospital Mtarfa.

1911 Delivered the Hunterian lectures at the Royal College of Surgeons, England, on the Recent Development in the Recognition, Treatment, and Prophylaxis of Syphilis.

1912 Specialist in dermatology and venereal diseases. Read a paper before the Royal Society of Medicine on Syphilis; and in 1913 another at the Seventeenth International Congress of Medicine, on Syphilis, its dangers to the community and the question of State Control.

1912 Awarded The Albert Medal for gallantry, after he jumped overboard in Singapore in Nov 1911, thus saving the life of a Royal Engineer, injured in a bridge accident.

1913 Specialist in dermatology.

Sep 1913 Elected a member of Council of the Section of Dermatology, Royal Society of Medicine for the years 1913-14.

13 Oct 1913 Died after a severe and painful illness which he bore with the greatest fortitude over several years. A few months before his death, he had written a paper on the "State Control of Syphilis" which was read before the International Medical Congress.