Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison
Hughes Matthew Louis

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Surgeon-Captain Matthew Louis Hughes LRCP (Lond) MRCS (Eng 1889), DPH (Lond)
7 July 1867 [Yokohama] – 15 Dec 1899 [Tugela River Colenso]

Service Record — Matthew Louis Hughes

Assistant Demonstrator in Anatomy at King's College London.

Aug 1889 Passed the competitive examination for entry to the Army Medical School Netley.

1 Feb 1890 Surgeon-Captain. Passed out of the Army Medical School Netley. Was placed first in his course with 5512 marks. Was awarded the Parkes Memorial Bronze Medal.

Malta 10 Dec 1890 Arrived from Aldershot England.

Malta 1891 Worked on the bacteriology of Undulant Fever. He cultivated from the spleens of 14 fatal cases of Undulant Fever a micrococcus similar to that previously discovered by David Bruce.

Malta 1892 Officer-in-charge of the Military Analytical Laboratory Valletta.

Malta Apr 1893 Member of a commission to Benghazi. On receiving a report of an outbreak of plague at Benghazi, a Mediterranean seaport on the Gulf of Sidra in the north of Tripoli, a special commission, consisting of Drs. Pisani and D Vella, and Surgeon-Captain M Louis Hughes, proceeded to Benghazi to report on the epidemic so as to take precautions to prevent its spread.

The commission found that there had been no increase in the prevalence of bubonic plague at the port of Benghazi, but a severe epidemic of typhus fever had raged from December 1892 to April, 1893. The high mortality was attributed to the overcrowding of the town, caused by the sudden influx during cold wet weather of a number of bedouins in a state of misery and famine.

Malta 4 Apr 1893 According to the minutes of the meeting of the Mediterranean and Malta Branch of the British Medical Association, held at the Station Hospital Valletta, Surg Capt Hughes presented a paper on the prevalence of Mediterranean Fever among the civil, naval, and military communities of Malta with special reference to its endemic and epidemic characters.

Malta 9 June 1893 Home leave.

Malta 8 Aug 1893 Returned from leave.

Malta 24 Sep 1894 Married Katherine Winifred Simpson, daughter of Dr Henry Simpson of Altrincham Cheshire, at St Paul's Anglican Cathedral, Valletta.

In his confidential report of 8 Dec 1894 the PMO stated that he has a sound knowledge of hygiene and bacteriology. The GOC Malta garrison stated that he had an extremely good opinion of his merit and ability.

Malta 1895 On duty at the Valletta Station Hospital.
In medical charge of infantry regiments Valletta.

2 May 1895 Home leave.

26 July 1895 Returned from leave.

Malta 1896 On duty at the Valletta Station Hospital.
In medical charge of Infantry Regiments Valletta.
Resident at 9 Strada Scoccese Valletta.

7 Sept 1896 Left Malta on sick leave.

In his confidential report of 1896, the PMO very favourably reported on his ability, zeal, and professional acquirement, also tact and judgement. The GOC Malta, who was very well acquainted with him, had also a very high opinion of him and remarked that he had charming manners.

1897 Author: Mediterranean, Malta, or Undulant Fever, (Macmillan, Lond 1897).
In this classic monograph, Hughes described the signs and symptoms of the disease later to be known as Brucellosis, but ascribed its causation to the local insanitary conditions. Hughes proposed the name undulant fever which was recommended by the International Congress of Medicine held in London in 1913. As Hughes had pointed out, the term undulant fever describes one of the most constant, and characteristic feature of the disease, namely the undulations of the temperature curve.

In 1897, Almroth Wright working at the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley found that serum from patients recovering from Malta Fever had specific antibodies or agglutinins against Brucella melitensis which could be used to distinguish Malta Fever from typhoid fever.

1898 On returning to England he was selected as one of the secretaries to the first meeting of the Section of Tropical Diseases at the Edinburgh meeting of the British Medical Association, with Dr Patrick Manson as President.

1898 Assistant Sanitary Officer to the troops at Aldershot where he was in charge of the chemical and bacteriological laboratories. He arranged the medical portion of the combined medical and engineering course of lectures, delivered to all quartermasters at Aldershot, to initiate them into the rudiments of sanitation connected with their important duties. In this course, which was first ordered by the Duke of Connaught, when in command at Aldershot, and which was cordially supported by Sir Redvers Buller, who succeeded him, Captain Hughes took a prominent part and became the medical instructor, and so effectively did he perform his duty that many of those who attended his classes were able to obtain by examination the certificate of the National Health Society, given for knowledge of the rudiments of sanitation. Again, when chiropody was started in the army at Aldershot, Captain Hughes took it up with his usual energy, delivered lectures, and framed a syllabus of instruction.

1899 In 1899, he was chosen by Sir Redvers Buller to serve on his personal staff and to act as sanitary advisor.

15 Dec 1899 Killed in action at Colenso, in General Buller's disastrous action at the Tugela. Hughes was riding in aid of the wounded when he was shot through the neck and died in 30 minutes. His obituary described him as: "an able surgeon, a charming companion, a most amiable and popular man, beloved by everyone in his corps and who had a distinguished career before him". He left behind a widow and a young child.2

The District Corps Orders by Surgeon-General T F O'Dwyer AMS, Commanding Royal Army Medical Corps, Aldershot District, for Dec 18, contained the following:

The Late Captain Louis Hughes. The Surgeon-General Commanding announces to the corps with the deepest regret the death in action at Colenso of Captain M L Hughes, while employed on the staff of General Sir Redvers Buller. Captain Hughes was well known at Aldershot, where he filled the post of Assistant Sanitary Officer for the last two years; and where his zeal and scientific attainments were of advantage to the Army generally and contributed to raise the character and position of the corps in public estimation. The officers will wear the usual mourning for one month from this date.

Colonel Hughes, CB CMG, of Guildford, received a telegram from General Sir Redvers Buller with reference to the death of his son, Captain Matthew Louis Hughes, at the battle of Colenso. General Buller adds, "We had all grown so fond of him".


  • Entry No: 7283. Johnston W. Roll of Commissioned Officers in the Medical Service of the British Army. Vol 1 (20 June 1727-23 June 1898. Aberdeen (1917).
  • Malta Army and Navy directory at the Malta Chronicle office Nov 1895.
  • Distribution of RAMC Officers. Corps News Vol IV June 1905 No 6.
  • Succession Books Vol XVIII Returns of statement of service of RAMC Officers.
  • Outbreak of plague in the Mediterranean. Br Med J (1893) 1893, 1; 1686: 860 (Published 22 April 1893).
  • Von Wesley William Spink The nature of brucellosis.
  • Hughes M L, 1893. Notes on Mediterranean or Malta Fever (Its behaviour in Malta) Br Med J (1893), 2; 1136: 61-62 (Published 8 July 1893).
  • Hughes M L, 1896 Note on the Endemic Fever of the Mediterranean.
  • Hughes M L, 1897 Mediterranean, Malta or Undulant Fever. London: MacMillan.
  • The War in South Africa – Obituary. Br Med J (1899), 2; 2034: 1757-1758 (Published 23 December 1899).
  • Gear J H S The Anglo Boer War of 1899–1902. Enteric Fever and Captain Matthew Louis Hughes. Adler Museum Bulletin Vol 7: 1; 10–13 dated March 1981.
  • Stevenson R E, 1967. The Tragedy of Captain Hughes. South African Military History Journal Vol 1 No 1.
  • The South Africa War Memorial J R Army Med Corps Vol I: 4; Oct 1903 ; 333.
  • The South Africa War Memorial, J R Army Med Corps May 1904, ii; 5: 642.