RAMC

Regiments of the Malta Garrison
The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery

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The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery (1861 – 1889)

Introduction

On 25 January 1861, the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment became a corps of artillery with six Batteries and 975 all ranks. It was designated the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. Lt Col Antonio Mattei who had commanded the RMFR became its first commanding officer.

On 30 August 1861, the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery formed part of the Royal Artillery Brigade in Malta.

On 23rd March 1889, the word Fencible was dropped from its title, and the regiment became the Royal Malta Artillery.

The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery

1861 RMFA

25 Jan 1861 Conversion of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment to the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery.

25 Jan Major Saverio Gatt was promoted Lieut Col RMFA with local and temporary rank, and with Major's pay. The following were appointed Lieutenants with local and temporary rank and with ensign's pay: Ensigns Thomas Emmanuel Bonavia, Frederick Gatt, Joseph Speranza, Paolo Bernard, John Rutter and Walter Sciortino.

1 Feb No 1 Bty, No 2 Bty and No 3 Bty RMFA moved to Fort Salvatore and Vittoriosa Gate Barracks; No 4 Bty, No 5 Bty, and No 6 Bty RMFA went into St James' Cavalier and Fort Lascaris.

1862 RMFA

1862 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery had an average strength of 607 men. There were 502 admissions into hospital (827 per 1000 of mean strength) with 4 deaths (6.60 per 1000 of mean strength). The admissions were 149 for miasmatic diseases with no deaths, 43 for venereal infections, 35 for respiratory illnesses, 3 for circulatory diseases with 1 death, 6 for tubercular diseases with 1 death, 96 for digestive conditions with 1 death, 12 for a nervous disorder with 1 death, 87 for soft tissue injuries and 66 for accidental injuries.

Fourteen cases of measles were admitted into hospital, the infection being at the time epidemic among the civilian population.

18 Feb Distribution of the six Btys: HQ and three Batteries at Fort Lascaris, a Battery at Vittoriosa Gate Barracks, a Battery at Couvre Porte and a Battery at St Helen Gate.

On the formation of the RMFA the pay of the officers was increased to that equivalent to line regiments. The RMFA had one surgeon, 1 assistant surgeon and one hospital sergeant. The pay of the hospital sergeant was 1s 9d a day.

1863 RMFA

1863 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery had an average strength of 594 men. There were 496 admissions into hospital (835 per 1000 of mean strength) with 6 deaths (10.09 per 1000 of mean strength). The admissions were: 122 for miasmatic diseases with no deaths, 26 for venereal infections, 47 for respiratory illnesses, 2 for circulatory diseases with 1 death, 2 for tubercular diseases with 1 death, 119 for digestive conditions with 2 deaths, 12 for a nervous disorder with 1 death, 94 for soft tissue injuries and 62 for accidental injuries. There were 1 suicide and 1 homicide.

12 Nov Lt Col Antonio Mattei commanding the RMFA was promoted Colonel.

1864 RMFA

1864 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery had an average strength of 569 men. There were 567 admissions into hospital (996 per 1000 of mean strength) with 3 deaths (5.28 per 1000 of mean strength). The admissions were: 180 for miasmatic diseases with 1 death, 47 for venereal infections, 59 for respiratory illnesses, 1 for circulatory diseases, 125 for digestive conditions with 1 death, 11 for a nervous disorder, 96 for soft tissue injuries and 39 for accidental injuries with 1 death.
There was 1 suicide. No admissions for tubercular disease were recorded during the year.
The increase in miasmatic diseases was chiefly due to measles of which 32 cases occurred. Measles was epidemic among the civil population in July, August and September.
Bronchitis was the principal disease of the respiratory system and dyspepsia of the digestive system for which there were 111 admissions.

1865 RMFA

1865 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery had an average strength of 582 men. There were 655 admissions into hospital (1125 per 1000 of mean strength) with 12 deaths (20.62 per 1000 of mean strength) of which two occurred out of hospital. The admissions were: 332 for miasmatic diseases with 6 deaths, 31 for venereal infections, 48 for respiratory illnesses, 4 for circulatory diseases with 1 death, 115 for digestive conditions with 1 death, 4 for a nervous disorder with 1 death, 81 for soft tissue injuries and 31 for accidental injuries with 1 death. There were 167 cases of Ophthalmia which accounted for the increase in miasmatic diseases. Ophthalmia prevailed from August to December when 131 cases were admitted into hospital.

The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery occupied Fort Lascaris in Valletta, St Elena Gate Cospicua and Couvre Porte Gate Vittoriosa. The rooms at Fort Lascaris were arranged in two series, an upper and lower, the latter situated in a complete bear pit. Between 13 August and 11 September seven cases of cholera were admitted from this barracks, all from the lower rooms.

On 20 June, cholera appeared among the men of the Royal Artillery. It lasted until 14 November 1865. Cholera spread to the RMFA on 22 July. A second soldier fell ill on 13 August, but no deaths occurred until 20 August when a third soldier fell ill. In September, there were 6 ill and 3 deaths, with the last death recorded on 16 September. In total there were 9 cases of cholera with 4 deaths, all from Fort Lascaris which had 267 men.

1866 RMFA

1866 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery had an average strength of 598 men. There were 488 admissions into hospital (816 per 1000 of mean strength) with 6 deaths (10.03 per 1000 of mean strength). The admissions were: 219 for miasmatic diseases, 34 for venereal infections (22 with gonorrhoea), 40 for respiratory illnesses with 1 death, 5 for tubercular disease with 3 deaths, 2 for circulatory diseases with 1 death, 87 for digestive conditions, 7 for a nervous disorder with 1 death, 47 for soft tissue injuries and 42 for accidental injuries and 40 with rheumatism.

The increase in the number of miasmatic disease were for the large part caused by ophthalmia which prevailed in August. There were 139 admissions (232/1000 mean strength) from it.

25 Jan 1866 Lieutenant Colonel, with local temporary rank, Saverio Gatt RMFA having completed the qualifying service in the rank of Lieutenant Colonel was promoted Colonel with local and temporary rank under the Royal Warrant of 14 October 1858.

1867 RMFA

1867 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery had an average strength of 595 men. There were 374 admissions into hospital (629 per 1000 of mean strength) with 3 deaths (5.04 per 1000 of mean strength). The admissions were: 142 for miasmatic diseases with 1 death, 35 for venereal infections, 35 for respiratory illnesses, 4 for tubercular disease, 50 for digestive conditions with 1 death, 7 for a nervous disorder with 1 death, 66 for soft tissue injuries and 31 for accidental injuries.

The RMFA escaped the visitation of cholera of 1867 and the outbreak of fever during June and September which proved fatal to British troops of the Line.

1868 RMFA

1868 The average strength during the year was 593 men; there were 485 admissions (818/1000 mean strength) into hospital with 7 deaths (11.81/1000 mean strength). The deaths were from miasmatic diseases (2), tubercular (1), digestive (2), nervous (1), circulatory (1). Miasmatic diseases included tonsillitis, ophthalmia and continued fevers.

1869 RMFA

Barracks Occupied by the RMFA in 1869
Barracks Average Strength Fever Admissions Percentage Sick Soldiers
Fort Lascaris 215 14 6.51
Couvre Port 54 7 12.96
St Elena Gate 110 11 10.0
Table I: Barracks occupied by the RMFA showing the average strength, number of hospital admissions from fever, and the percentage of sick soldiers during the period each barrack was occupied. Ventilation of barrack rooms was inadequate.

Head Quarters Royal Malta Fencible Artillery occupied Fort Lascaris Barracks Valletta throughout the year; three Batteries were at the Cottonera District with one Battery at Couvre Porte, and two Batteries at St Elena Gate. Detachments were deployed around the coasts of Malta and Gozo. Officers in the Valletta District occupied quarters at Fort Lascaris, while some took private lodgings. Those at the Cottonera were housed at St Elena Gate and in a hired house in Strada Margherita.

Sanitary conditions in the vicinity of St Elena Gate were very bad. The RMFA had 1 Surgeon, and 1 Assistant Surgeon. The sick occupied wards at the Garrison Hospital Valletta.

The average annual strength in 1869 was 547 men. There were 437 admissions into hospital (799/1000 mean strength), with three deaths (5.49/1000 mean strength). The average number of daily sick in hospital amounted to 15.06. Syphilis and ophthalmia were more prevalent than in the Line regiments. There were 9 cases of Simple Continued Fever and 25 of Febricula. These two species of fever prevailed epidemically during the year in the Spring and Summer. Simple Continued Fever was generally accompanied with derangement of the digestive system and nervous complications. Patients were treated with emetics at the incipient symptoms of nausea and malaise, followed by aperients, calomel, diaphoretics and quinine.

Febricula was ubiquitous in the civil population. The illness was generally very mild. Patients were treated with emetics, aperients and tonics; they usually left hospital after 2 to 5 days of treatment. No fatalities occurred among the 35 cases of fever treated in the regimental hospital.

Women and children of the regiment were treated in the Civil Hospital; those living within the Districts of Valletta and Cottonera were generally attended to by the regimental medical officer. Several sporadic cases of diphtheria occurred amongst the children in the civil population.

Royal Malta Fencible Artillery 1 January to 31 December 1869
Month Strength on 1st day of the month Admitted to Hospital Deaths
January 539 16 0
February 542 17 0
March 540 36 0
April 544 37 0
May 544 28 0
June 550 37 0
July 550 44 0
August 551 48 1
September 548 44 0
October 548 41 0
November 550 45 0
December 556 44 2
Table II: Regimental strength on the first day of the month, showing number of admissions to hospital per month, and the number of deaths recorded. (TNA:WO 334/62)

The following deaths occurred in the regiment in 1869:

  • No 503 Gnr Falzon Gaetano aged 57 years, died on 8 August 1869 from cancer of the stomach, while detached at Marsalforn Tower, Gozo. He had served for 38 years. Falzon had a history of chronic dyspepsia. He was performing light duties at Gozo, when at about five in the morning, he was seized with severe abdominal pain, and vomited so much blood that he died within the hour. A post mortem examination revealed a cancerous tumour in the cardiac region of the stomach, which had ulcerated and bled.
  • No 1209 Sgt Montanaro Benigno aged 35 years, died on 5 December 1869 from Hypertrophy of the spleen and bleeding in the stomach. He had had hypertrophy of the spleen for two years, for which he had been under treatment in hospital. On the night of 4 December he vomited blood whilst in his private residence at Valletta. His regimental surgeon, Ludovico Bernard, transferred him to the regimental hospital were he died from continuous bleeding.
  • No 946 Gnr Borg Paolo aged 45 years, died on 26 December 1869 from Apoplexy, whilst on detachment at Madalena Tower. He had served for 27 years. He was found dead in the street a few yards away from his post. His post mortem examination was inconclusive but it was assumed that he had died suddenly during the night.

1870

Barracks Occupied by the RMFA in 1870
Barracks Average Strength Fever Admissions Percentage Sick Soldiers Remarks
Fort Lascaris 254 10 3.93 Head Quarters and three Batteries
Couvre Port 55 1 1.81 One Battery
St Elena Gate 95 6 6.31 Two Batteries
Table III: Barracks occupied by the RMFA showing the average strength, number of hospital admissions from fever, and the percentage of sick soldiers during the period each barrack was occupied. The RMFA also had detachments at the Coastal Towers of Malta and Gozo.

The RMFA occupied the same barracks as in 1869. Head Quarters with 3 Batteries was at Fort Lascaris Valletta; the 3 Batteries in the Cottonera District were at Couvre Porte (1 Battery) and at St Elena Gate (2 Batteries). There were also a number of detachments in the forts and coastal towers of Malta and Gozo.

Officers in the Valletta District were quartered at Fort Lascaris and Auberge de Castille. Those at the Cottonera District occupied quarters at St Elena and St Margherita Hill.

The scale of diet formerly used throughout the service was still adhered to in the regimental hospital situated in the Garrison Hospital Valletta. These diets were named: Full, Half, Low, Spoon and Milk; extras apart from spirits, wines, and small liquors, could only be ordered for patients who were on a Spoon Diet.

Diphtheria prevailed in Malta during the year, but the regiment remained unaffected.

Royal Malta Fencible Artillery 1 January to 31 December 1870
Month Strength 1st day of the month Hospital Admissions Deaths
January 563 55 0
February 580 22 1
March 578 31 0
April 586 43 0
May 573 38 0
June 571 29 0
July 572 26 1
August 566 54 0
September 561 45 0
October 556 46 0
November 557 45 0
December 555 40 0
Table IV: Regimental strength on the first day of the month, showing number of admissions to hospital per month, and the number of deaths recorded. (TNA:WO 334/77)

The average strength of officers was 23.91. There were 19 hospital admissions among the officers during the year, the predominant admission being for bronchitis (4 cases), followed by Febricula (2 cases).

There was 14 cases of Febricula among the men, 7 cases of Simple Continued Fever, 1 of enteric, and 1 case of measles. There were 14 cases of acute rheumatism, 3 of chronic rheumatism, and 19 of muscular rheumatism.

In 1870, the average strength of the RMFA was 568 men. There were 474 admissions into hospital (834/1000 mean strength), with two deaths (3.52/1000 mean strength). Women and children were not on the strength of the regiment and attended the Civil Hospital. Those living within the district of Valletta and Cottonera were generally attended to by the regimental medical officer in the station. The total number of cases admitted into hospital during the year was 474. The average number of daily sick in hospital was 17.77.

The following deaths occurred in 1870:

  • Captain Filippo Eynaud aged 55 years, died at home on 28 January 1870, from Angina Pectoris. He had 30 years service.
  • No 731 Gnr Vincenzo Pace aged 54 years, died on 16 February 1870 at the regimental hospital Valletta, from Simple Continued Fever. He had served for 32 years. He was admitted into hospital on 23 January 1870, with severe rigors, head ache and back ache. He was delirious by 6 February and died on 16 February.
  • Gnr Felice Psaila aged 20 years 2 months, died on 11 July 1870 at the regimental hospital Valletta, from enteritis. He was admitted to hospital on 26 May 1870 with dyspeptic symptoms and pyrexia. He developed a gangrenous slough of his left buttock and died on 11 July.

1871 RMFA

1871 The average strength of the RMFA was 563 men. HQ Bty was at Fort Lascaris, also known as St Peter's Lower Counter Guard Barracks Valletta. There were 452 admissions into hospital (803/1000 mean strength), with 3 deaths (5.31/1000 mean strength).

There were 45 admissions for febrile diseases (79.9/1000 mean strength), with 1 death (1.77/1000 mean strength), 101 admissions for digestive disorders, 49 for cutaneous conditions, 16 for respiratory disorders, 51 admissions for urinary symptoms and 91 for eye conditions. Six cases of smallpox with one fatality occurred during the epidemic which hit Malta in October 1870. The admissions for continued fevers were mainly of the febricula type; they were attributed to the sun but were more likely the result of sandfly fever.

There were 42.6 admissions/1000 mean strength for syphilis. There was also a great number of admissions by diseases of the urinary system due to the prevalence of gonorrhoea among the young soldiers. Eye diseases accounted for a fifth of all hospital admissions. The greatest number came from men quartered in St Elmo Gate Barracks. The disease was believed by the medical officer in charge to have risen from defective ventilation and damp quarters.

1872 RMFA

1872 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 592 men. There were 468 admissions into hospital (791/1000 strength) with 5 deaths (8.45/1000 strength). There were 32 admissions for febrile illnesses with 2 deaths one of which was from pyaemia, 7 for nervous disease with 1 death, 81 for eye infections, 37 for respiratory problems, 107 for digestive disorders with 1 death, 12 accidents, 44 from urinary symptoms most due to the sequelae of gonorrhoea, and 46 for cutaneous conditions. Three of the cases of fever, including the fatal case, were returned as enteric and the remainder as simple continued fever or febricula.

HQ Bty was at Lascaris Barracks Valletta with detachments at St Antonio Gardens guard room.

1873 RMFA

1873 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 411 men. There were 283 admissions into hospital (688.6/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (7.29/1000 strength).

There were 32 admissions for febrile illnesses with 1 death, 4 for nervous disease, 34 for eye infections, 23 for respiratory problems, 65 for digestive disorders with 1 death, 21 accidents, 44 from urinary symptoms most due to the sequelae of gonorrhoea, and 42 for cutaneous conditions.

12 Feb War Office letter reducing the establishment of the RMFA from 564 to 300 Rank and File.

In 1873, the average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 411 men. There were 283 admissions into hospital (688.6/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (7.29/1000 strength).

There were 32 admissions for febrile illnesses with 1 death, 4 for nervous disease, 34 for eye infections, 23 for respiratory problems, 65 for digestive disorders with 1 death, 21 accidents, 44 from urinary symptoms most due to the sequelae of gonorrhoea, and 42 for cutaneous conditions.

The vacancy of assistant surgeon created by the promotion of Assistant Surgeon Ellul Carmelo to surgeon was left unfilled.

HQ Bty and five Btys were at Fort Lascaris, one Bty was at Couvre Porte Vittoriosa.

1874 RMFA

1874 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 345 men. There were 268 admissions into hospital (777/1000 strength) with 1 death (2.9/1000 strength).

There were 16 admissions for febrile illnesses, 4 for nervous disease with 1 death, 53 for eye infections, 15 for respiratory problems, 41 for digestive disorders, 33 accidents, 10 from urinary symptoms most the sequelae of gonorrhoea, and 38 for cutaneous conditions. Ophthalmia which was epidemic among the civilian population broke out in the RMFA in July and continued until December. Most were mere conjunctivitis.

The vacancy of surgeon which followed the death of surgeon Carmelo Ellul on 25 July 1874 was to be filled by public competition, once the War Office had sent out the examination papers.

The Royal Warrant Victoria R dated 29 September 1874, altered the regulations for the appointments of medical officers in the RMFA. Our will and pleasure is that candidates for appointment as surgeons in Our Royal Malta Fencible Artillery be exempted from the provisions contained in Articles 9 and 10 of Our Warrant of 1 March 1873, and that candidates for such appointments shall be required to pass such a professional examination as Our Secretary of State for War may from time to time determine.
Given at Our Court of Balmoral 29 Sept 1874 in Our 38th year of Our reign
.2

The Governor of Malta observed that: With reference to that part of the Royal Warrant, which directs that every candidate to be admitted to the competitive examination, with the view of obtaining a commission as assistant surgeon in the army shall be unmarried, I am of the opinion that it would not be advisable to make this condition applicable in Malta in as much as the most efficient medical men who have hitherto offered themselves as candidates for the vacancy of assistant surgeon in the RMFA are married men and if the conditions of the Royal Warrant were to apply, it would seriously limit choice.3

In reply to the Governor's observation, the Secretary of State clarified the regulations issued in the Royal Warrant of 29 September 1874, mainly stating that:2

  • The examination of candidates for appointment as surgeons to the RMFA will be competitive.
  • The candidates will be eligible to compete up to the age of 32 years.
  • The fact of a candidate being married will not be considered a disqualification.

1875 RMFA

1875 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 324 men. There were 251 admissions into hospital (774.7/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (9.27/1000 strength).

There were 20 admissions for febrile illnesses, 3 for nervous disease, 43 for eye infections, 6 for circulatory problems, 11 for respiratory problems, 30 for digestive disorders with 1 death, 33 accidents, 21 from urinary symptoms most due to the sequelae of gonorrhoea, and 38 for cutaneous conditions. There was a homicide from a stab in the chest with a knife and 1 attempted homicide.

HQ Bty was at Lascaris Barracks with a Bty at Couvre Porte Barrack, Vittoriosa. There were detachments at Gozo and Fort St Lucian. On 4 February 1875, the battery at Couvre Porte joined HQ Bty at Fort Lascaris.

1876 RMFA

1876 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 339 men. There were 258 admissions into hospital (761.1/1000 strength) with no deaths. The number constantly sick was 11.53.

There were 23 admissions for febrile illnesses, 1 for nervous disease, 25 for eye infections, 7 for circulatory problems, 11 for respiratory problems, 31 for digestive disorders, 32 accidents, 23 from urinary symptoms, and 40 for cutaneous conditions. Of the 21 admissions for Continued Fevers, 1 was for enteric fever and 20 for febricula. The medical officer reported that the cases of febricula occurred as frequently as formerly; some were dependent on exposure to cold and lasted only a few days, whilst others were caused by some climatic influence, not malarial, had a long course, and were followed by rheumatic or neuralgic pains, orchitis and anaemia. These last long-continued cases would have been called by foreigners Malta Fever but I am convinced that there is no such thing as a class of fevers endemic in this island......

Gonorrhoea was common but about a third were relapses. The men hid there urethral discharges to avoid stoppages of pay.
A third of accidental injuries were due to blisters of the feet occurring in recruits who previous to enlistment had worn sandals or had walked barefooted.

1877 RMFA

5 Sep 1877 Col Antonio Mattei, retired with the honorary rank of Major-General. He died on 17 Sept 1888.

In 1877, the average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 347 men. There were 213 admissions into hospital (613.8/1000 strength) with 2 deaths (5.76/1000 strength). The number constantly sick was 8.54 (16.83/1000 strength).

There were 24 admissions for febrile illnesses, 18 for eye infections, 8 for circulatory problems with 1 death, 15 for respiratory problems, 27 for digestive disorders, 28 accidents, 18 from urinary symptoms, and 26 for cutaneous conditions. There was 1 suicide.

All the admissions for fever were for febricula which was blamed on the effects of cold on men when overheated. Two admissions for paroxysmal fevers were for ague in a man who had originally acquired it in India; the other was for remittent fever. The rate of admission for rheumatism was 54.7/1000 men. In one instance muscular rheumatism followed an attack of febricula, and continued for two months. One third of the admissions for accidental injuries were for blisters of the feet.

1878 RMFA

1878 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 345 men. There were 245 admissions into hospital (710.1/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (8.7/1000 strength). The number constantly sick was 10.49 (30.41/1000 strength).

There were 27 admissions for febrile illnesses, 2 for epilepsy and 1 for melancholia with 1 death from apoplexy, 20 for eye infections, 10 for circulatory problems, 31 for respiratory problems with 1 death from phthisis, 27 for digestive disorders, 39 accidents, 26 from urinary symptoms, and 22 for cutaneous conditions.

Febrile disorders were due to febricula.There were 8 admissions for primary and 10 for secondary syphilis, 10 for rheumatism. Gonorrhoea furnished 22 cases. Of the admissions for accidents 16 were for blisters among recruits not accustomed to wearing boots.

1879 RMFA

1879 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 347 men. There were 206 admissions into hospital (593.5/1000 strength) with 2 deaths (5.76/1000 strength). The number constantly sick was 7.46 men (21.50/1000 strength).

There were 32 admissions for fever with febricula contributing 31 out of the 32 admissions and 1 of enteric fever, 6 for rheumatism, 4 as primary syphilis, 8 as secondary syphilis, 10 of gonorrhoea, 4 as phthisis pulmonalis, 45 for injuries 14 of which were feet blisters in men unused to wearing boots, 2 as tubercular and 1 as anaemia. There was 1 death from phthisis. the other death from valvular heart disease.

1880 RMFA

1880 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 347 men. There were 193 admissions into hospital (556.2/1000 strength) with 2 deaths (5.76/1000 strength). The number constantly sick was 7.30 men (21.04/1000 strength).

There were 32 admissions for fever with febricula contributing 26 out of the 32 admissions, 3 eruptive fevers ( 1 of chicken pox, 2 from measles), and 2 paroxysmal fevers (1 ague and 1 remittent fever). There were 4 admissions for rheumatism, 4 for syphilis, 26 for digestive disorders, 20 for respiratory disorders, 15 for urinary symptoms, most the sequelae of gonorrhoea. There were one death from phthisis pulmonalis and one from accidental drowning.

1881 RMFA

1881 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 344 men. There were 222 admissions into hospital (645.3/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (8.72/1000 strength). 8 men were invalided. The number constantly sick was 8.69 men (25.26/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 9.22 days; the average duration of each sickness was 14.29 days.

There were 21 officers with 9 cases of sickness among them including one with thrombosis of the femoral arteries.

A few cases of whooping cough broke out among the children with one death from diarrhoea.

93 admissions were for continued fever, 4 for paroxysmal fevers (2 deaths), 11 for rheumatism. On account of the large number of admissions for fevers, the PMO recommended the removal of the regiment under canvas on the Floriana parade ground. There was 5 admissions for tubercular disease with 1 death from phthisis pulmonalis.

Headquarters was at Fort Lascaris Valletta; a detachment occupied rooms in St Antonio Garden.

A new scale of rations had been in force since 1 April, consisting of 1/2 lb of meat for four days a week and 1 1/2 lbs bread daily. The medical officer approved the change but urged that the meat ration should be allowed daily.

1882 RMFA

1882 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 317 men. There were 192 admissions into hospital (605.7/1000 strength) with 4 deaths (12.62/1000 strength). 8 men were invalided. The number constantly sick was 7.23 men (22.81/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 8.32 days; the average duration of each sickness was 13.74 days.

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 20 officers with 7 cases of sickness and 1 death from acute rheumatism. One child died of croup.

Admissions into hospital were for: measles (1), febricula (20), ague (5), remittent fever (7). Paroxysmal fevers occurred among the detachment returning from Egypt, where they had been exposed to malarial influences from the marshes in the vicinity of Damietta.

10 Aug 1882 A detachment of 120 men under the command of Captain Michael Portelli left for Alexandria Egypt in HMS Humber. Dr Teodoro Bonnici, who later became Professor of Surgery at the university, volunteered and accompanied them as their surgeon. The Battery was deployed to Alexandria with two small detachments at Rosetta and Damietta Gates. On 17 September it joined Sir Evelyn Wood's flying column and took part in the assault on Damietta. The Battery remained at Damietta until 22 October, when it moved to Cairo. On 25 October 1882 it embarked at Alexandria on the Steamship Prussian for Malta.

The health of the detachment with the exception of a few cases of paroxysmal fevers and venereal disease was remarkably good throughout.

A transport corps consisting of over 300 Maltese Commissariat drivers under Lieutenants W. Gatt and C. Trapani RMFA were also enlisted as muleteers for service in Egypt. Lt Alfred Vella adjutant of the RMFA served with the transport train at Suakin. He returned to Malta on 28 October 1882. Some of those returning from Egypt fell ill with paroxysmal fever (malaria).

The RMFA was granted the Battle Honour Egypt 1882.

1883 RMFA

1883 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 344 men. There were 234 admissions into hospital (680.2/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (8.72/1000 strength). 8 men were invalided. The average number constantly sick was 8.86 men (25.76/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 9.40 days; the average duration of each sickness was 13.82 days.

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 20 officers with 13 cases of sickness, none serious. There were on average 35 women with 8 cases of sickness and one death from fever. There were 104 children with 31 cases of illness. One child living in the Camerata died of small-pox; others died from valvular heart disease, teething, enteritis and intestinal obstruction respectively.

Admissions into hospital were for: fevers (51) mainly mild febricula, 11 paroxysmal fevers due to ague in men who had served in Egypt, respiratory disorders (27), digestive disorders (45), gonorrhoea (15), skin disorders (14), admissions (33). A gunner was stabbed in the back by a civilian following an argument. The men had four superficial incised wounds, which healed in a short time.

Headquarters Bty was at Lascaris Barracks with detachments at San Antonio Barracks, Forts St Lucien and Leonardo.

Surgeon Manche Lorenzo recommended the issue of a daily meat ration to the men, instead of only on four days a week as was the norm.

1884 RMFA

1884 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 347 men. There were 229 admissions into hospital (659.9/1000 strength). 4 men were invalided from the service. The average number constantly sick was 7.70 men (22.19/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 8.12 days; the average duration of each sickness was 12.30 days.

Febricula led to 33 admissions into hospital with no deaths. Hospital admissions were for: rheumatism (12), digestive disorders (43), respiratory disorders (37), gonorrhoea (6), cutaneous disorders (21) and accidental injuries (44).

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 19 officers with 13 cases of sickness and 1 death from valvular heart disease. There were on average 34 women with 11 cases of sickness and one death from fever. There were 108 children with 27 cases of illness and two deaths from anaemia and debility respectively.

1885 RMFA

1885 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 353 men. There were 290 admissions into hospital (821.5/1000 strength) with 1 death (2.83/1000 mean strength). 4 men were invalided from the service. The average number constantly sick was 9.39 men (26.60/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 9.71 days; the average duration of each sickness was 11.81 days.

Febricula led to 46 admissions into hospital. There was 1 case of enteric fever and 1 of remittent fever, which ended in death. Hospital admissions were for: rheumatism (24), syphilis (5), digestive disorders (49), respiratory disorders (27), gonorrhoea (11), cutaneous disorders (33), eye disorders (14) and accidental injuries (57). The corps had not been as healthy as in 1884, with admissions into hospital above the average of the previous six years.

A gunner stabbed a corporal in the chest, between the ninth and tenth ribs; the men recovered from his wounds. Another, caught his right hand between two wheels of a crane, crushing the index and middle fingers, which were amputated.

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 20 officers with 19 cases of sickness. Febricula caused 6 admissions. There were no deaths. There were on average 33 women with 9 cases of illness. In an average strength of 104 children there were 70 attacks of illness and 6 deaths. There were 34 cases of measles (1 death), 7 of diarrhoea (1 death), 11 of teething (3 deaths) and 1 of tabes mesenterica (1 death).

The RMFA was at Fort Lascaris with detachments at Forts St Lucian, St Leonardo, Delimara, and the Guard Room at San Antonio's Gardens. Married quarters were at the Camerata buildings which was well supplied with water from the aqueduct.

Recruits to the RMFA were not well educated. Out of 111 recruits inspected during the year, only 1 was returned as well educated; of the remainder, only 25 were able to write, while 2 could read but not write, and 83 were unable to read. 57 recruited were fit for service and 54 rejected because of visual defects (13), underweight (12), under chest measurement (11) and cardiac disease (9). Of those inspected, 82 were labourers, 16 tradesmen, 7 mechanics, 3 students and 3 boys under 17 years of age. The average height was 5 feet 4 inches (1.6m), average weight 122 lbs (55 kg) and the average chest expansion 32 inches (81 cm).

In Nov 1885, the RMFA was reduced from six to four batteries, each with 89 non commissioned officers and men.

During the year, Lt Alfred Vella and two NCOs left for the Sudan in charge of the Maltese Contingent of Transport Drivers.

1886 RMFA

1886 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 359 men. There were 254 admissions into hospital (821.5/1000 strength) with no deaths. 5 men were invalided from the service. The average number constantly sick was 8.92 men (24.84/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 9.17 days; the average duration of each sickness was 12.81 days.

Admissions were for: continued fevers (37) which were mild, only 6 were severe and followed by protracted convalescence; malarial fever (1), primary syphilis (6), secondary syphilis (3), gonorrhoea (6), debility (2), rheumatism (11), tubercular (1), respiratory (38) of which 5 were pneumonia and the rest bronchitis, digestive (40), skin (31), injuries (54).

A soldier was stabbed in the abdomen by a civilian but the blade did not penetrate the peritoneal cavity and the soldier recovered.

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 19 officers with 19 cases of sickness. There were on average 38 women with 13 cases of illness. In an average strength of 123 children there were 49 attacks of illness and 3 deaths. Two deaths were from diarrhoea and 1 from pneumonia.

1887 RMFA

1887 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 360 men. There were 238 admissions into hospital (661.1/1000 strength) with 1 death from cholera (2.78/1000 strength). 8 men were invalided from the service.

The average number constantly sick was 9.06 men (25.16/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 9.18 days; the average duration of each sickness was 13.89 days.

Admissions were for: continued fevers (22) which were mild, malarial fevers (1), cholera (1 admission and 1 death), primary syphilis (2), secondary syphilis (1), gonorrhoea (14), debility (10), rheumatism (9), respiratory (22), digestive (37), skin disorders mainly boils and ulcers (35), injuries (43).

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 22 officers with 18 cases of sickness. There were on average 38 women with 12 cases of illness. In an average strength of 126 children there were 41 attacks of illness and 3 deaths. Deaths in children were from cerebral disease (2) and debility (1).

Regimental Headquarters was at Fort Lascaris.

1888 RMFA

1888 The average strength of the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery was 363 men. There were 216 admissions into hospital (661.1/1000 strength). 5 men were invalided from the service.

The average number constantly sick was 9.70 men (26.72/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 9.78 days; the average duration of each sickness was 16.43 days.

Admissions were for: simple continued fevers (24) mostly febricula with only 6 severe cases, primary syphilis (6), secondary syphilis (6), gonorrhoea (14), debility (2), rheumatism (9), respiratory (16), digestive (40), skin disorders mainly boils and ulcers (24), injuries (50). There was 1 case of mumps which had erupted among the children at the time.

The RMFA had an annual average strength of 21 officers with 18 cases of sickness (1 death from nephritis). There were on average 40 women with 12 cases of illness. In an average strength of 133 children there were 86 attacks of illness and 11 deaths. Measles gave 32 admissions (2 deaths). Deaths in children were from teething (3), pneumonia (2), diarrhoea (2), pericarditis (1) and bronchitis (1).

1889 RMFA

23 Mar 1889 The Royal Malta Fencible Artillery became the Royal Malta Artillery (1889-1976). Though a local corps, it was subject to the same rules and regulations as the regular army.

The average strength of the Royal Malta Artillery was 365 men. There were 232 admissions into hospital (661.1/1000 strength) with 2 deaths. 6 men were invalided from the service.

The average number constantly sick was 8.87 men (24.30/1000 strength). The average sick time per each soldier was 8.87 days; the average duration of each sickness was 13.95 days.

Admissions were for: eruptive fevers (2 measles), enteric fever (1/1 death), simple continued fevers (18), primary syphilis (3), secondary syphilis (1), gonorrhoea (10), debility (8), rheumatism (9), tubercular (1), respiratory (22), digestive (34), skin disorders mainly boils and ulcers (12), injuries (60/1 death). Half the admissions of continued fevers were said to have been very severe and required detention in hospital for three and four weeks. There were 6 admissions for mumps and 2 for influenza.

A gunner died from a fractured skull sustained through an accident in moving a heavy mortar.

The RMA had an annual average strength of 20 officers with 17 cases of sickness. There were on average 40 women with 10 cases of illness. In an average strength of 126 children there were 77 attacks of illness and 5 deaths. Admissions were for whooping cough (12/1 death), diarrhoea (13), measles (9), simple continued fever (10), teething (7/3 deaths).

Bibliography

  • Chesney A. G. 1897 Historical Records of the Maltese Corps of the British Army. London: William Clowes and Sons Ltd.
  • Obituary, Professor T Bonnici MD Br Med J (1900), 1; 2037: 112, dated 13 Jan 1900.
  • Army Medical Department, Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Report for the year 1872, Vol XVI: dated London 1874 .
  • Army Medical Department, Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Report for the year 1874, Vol XIV: dated London 1874.
  • Army Medical Department, Statistical, Sanitary, and Medical Report for the year 1883, Vol XXV: dated London 1885.
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  • TNA:WO 334/62, Army Medical Department Sick Returns and Reports, Infantry Regiments and Hospitals abroad (1 Jan 1869 – 31 July 1870).
  • TNA:WO 334/77, Army Medical Department Sick Returns and Reports, Infantry Regiments and Hospitals abroad (1 Jan 1870 – 31 Dec 1870).
  • Samut Tagliaferro A. The Royal Malta Artillery 1800-1970.
  • Darmanin D. A. Helmet plates badges and buttons at the Armed Forces of Malta Officers Mess.