107 Assistant Surgeon William Mure Muir
CB (1861) QHP (1868) KCB (1873) MD (Ed 1840) LRCS (Ed 1840)
24 Jan 1818 – 2 June 1885 [Oak Lodge Blackheath Park]
William Mure Muir received his medical education at the University of Edinburgh (MD Edin 1840), and St George's Hospital London under the tuition of Sir Charles Bell, Sir George Ballingall, Professors Syme, Jameson, and Wilson, Drs Christison, Knox, Seymour, and other eminent physicians and surgeons of the day.
He served in the Crimean Campaign of 1854–1855 in the Light Division with the 33rd Regiment. He was at the Battles of Alma, Inkerman, the sortie of 26 October, the assaults on the Redan of 18 June and 8 September and the siege and fall of Sebastopol. He received the Crimea Medal with three clasps, the Turkish Medal and the Knighthood of the French Legion of Honour 5th Class.
Assistant Surgeon William Mure Muir was at the suppression of the Indian Mutiny of 1857–58. In 1860, he was the Principal Medical Officer of the Expeditionary Force to China under Sir Hope Grant. He was present at the capture of the Taku Forts and the surrender of Pekin. He was mentioned in despatches (4 November 1860) as having most ably conducted the medical arrangements of the campaign. For his services in China, he was promoted to Inspector General, made a Companion of the Order of the Bath and received the China Medal with two clasps for Taku and Pekin.
In 1874 Surgeon William Mure Muir became Director General the Army Medical Department. During his eight years tenure as DG he oversaw the disruption of the old arrangement of the department into Staff and Regimental medical officers and the unification of the medical body into a single Army Medical Department, which had commenced during DG Sir Galbraith Logan's tenure of office.
The Royal Warrant of 1 March 1873 had abolished the regimental system of administration, and shortly afterwards regimental officers were withdrawn from regiments altogether and converted into staff officers. Sir William Muir devoted himself to the consolidation of the new unification system, and to the task of bringing it into harmony with the other military departments. In this undertaking, he met with great opposition, and like his predecessor, Sir Galbraith Logan, under whose rule the disruption of the old combination of staff and regimental medical officers had occurred, Muir had to encounter a vast amount of obloquy.
The removal of medical officers from regiments, coupled with other grievances, rendered the army medical service very unpopular in the medical schools and caused a serious dearth of candidates for commissions. One of Muir's opponents over the
Unification System was Surgeon–General James Mouat VC, who in 1875, printed a pamphlet on the
Proposals for the re-introduction of the regimental system in a modified form.
The Royal Warrant of 28 April 1876 was Sir William Muir's attempts to rectify the grievances and problems facing the Army Medical Department. All medical officers entering the department from the date of the warrant were to enlist for a short service of ten years, after the expiration of which period, six were to be selected annually for promotion into the higher ranks, the services of the remainder being dispensed with. Those returned to civil life were to be granted a gratuity of £1,000 in lieu of pension.
The Royal Warrant also abolished the examination for promotion from surgeon to surgeon–major. These arrangements failed to rectify the disquiet among the army medical officers or restore the popularity of the Army Medical Services. Thus, in the winter of 1876, when there were 38 vacancies for competition, only 12 candidates appeared, of whom five had been previously rejected, and the examination had to be abandoned.
In November 1879, a committee of the War Office with Sir W. Muir as one of its three members, was appointed to re-examine the grievances. Its report, led to the Royal Warrant of November 1879, which abolished the short ten year commission, increased the rates of pay and retiring allowances and offered other material advantages so as to improve the popularity of the department and attract candidates for commission.
Among his publications were:
- Medical history of the war in North China 1860. AMD Report vol II (1860).
- On the transit of troops from Nova Scotia to Canada in 1862. AMD Report vol IV (1862).
- On the rational treatment of pneumonia. AMD Report vol V (1863).
- Sherman's March, an illustrative sketch. (1864).
- Remarks on Regimental arrangements in India (1869).
- On the diarrhoea which affected the British army in the Crimea 1854–55. Lancet 1856 vol II.
Sir William Mure Muir died on 2 June 1885 at Oak Lodge, Blackheath after a lingering illness. He had served in the army for 40 years, 24 of which were passed in foreign service, in the Mediterranean, Turkey and the Crimea, the Mauritius, India, China and North America.
22 Nov 1842 Assistant Surgeon 42nd Royal Highland Regiment. Served with the Black Watch in Malta, Bermuda, and at home until promoted Surgeon 33rd Regiment in February 1854.
13 Feb 1843 Arrived from England.
1 Feb 1844 Assistant Surgeon 42nd Foot. Attached to 1st/42nd Foot.
June–Nov 1845 On duty with the Reserve Battalion 42nd Foot during the temporary absence of assistant surgeon Charles Dawson.
1846 Assistant Surgeon 42nd Foot.
20 Jan 1847 Was placed under arrest by Capt Hinton Daniel Reserve Bn/42nd Regiment while the latter appeared in the officers mess at the Auberge de Castille in a state of intoxication.
24 Feb 1847 Left for Bermuda.
2 Jan 1851 Married Annie Elizabeth Harman aged 25 years at Hamilton Bermuda by the Rev J F Lightbourn.
24 Feb 1854 Promoted Surgeon 33rd vice Surgeon James Townsend Oswald Johnston who was appointed to the Staff.
2 Mar 1854 Arrived from Ireland to join the 33rd in Malta. Proceeded with the 33rd to Turkey and the Crimea, where he continued in charge of it until the fall of Sevastopol.
10 Apr 1854 Left for Turkey and the Crimea. Present at the Battles of Alma (20 Sep 1854) and Inkermann (5 Nov 1854), the sortie of the 26th October, the attacks upon the Redan, and the fall of Sebastopol.
Feb 1855 Was specially recommended for promotion by the Principal Medical Officer of the Light Division, on account of the zealous manner in which he performed his duties during the outbreak of cholera in Bulgaria, and on all occasions in the Crimea. The PMO reported that he knew of no more deserving or competent officer in Her Majesty's Service.
1856 Completed six months duty in England before proceeding with the 33rd Regiment to Mauritius and then to Bombay and Madras.
1857–1858 Served in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny.
Gazette 1 May 1857 Received the Legion of Honour for distinguished service during the War with Russia.
31 Dec 1858 Promoted Deputy Surgeon General from 33rd Foot.
1859 Served in Madras.
1860 Principal Medical Officer of the force to China under Sir Hope Grant. Present at the taking of the Taku Forts and Pekin.
Promoted to Inspector General for his services in China. Muir was soon afterwards nominated to accompany the expedition to North America in connection with the Trent Affair which arose in consequence of the stopping of the steamer Trent.
15 Feb 1861 Promoted Surgeon General Army Medical Department. On duty at Chatham.
Gazette 1 Mar 1861 Made an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the 3rd Class or Companion of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath for his services in China.
1862–67 In Canada. During the American Civil War, he was sent by the War Office to Washington to report upon the medical arrangements of the army.
1867 At the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley.
Feb 1868–1872 Proceeded to India as Principal Medical Officer of the British troops in Bengal. Surgeon General Army HQ India.
Feb 1872 Recalled to England. Made Head of the Sanitary Branch Medical Department War Office.
1873–1882 In London. Made a Knight Commander of the Bath in recognition of his unfailing efforts to improve the workings of the department and the sanitary conditions of the troops in India.
1 Apr 1874 Appointed Director General Army Medical Department on the retirement of Sir Galbraith Logan.
1875 Married, Rachel Stanley Heaton, daughter of the Reverend George Heaton MA, of Hennock, Devon. He had one son.
28 April 1876 The Royal Warrant 1876 was Sir William Muir's attempts to rectify the grievances and problems facing the Army Medical Department.
7 May 1882 Retired on a special pension in addition to his retirement allowance. He was succeeded as Director General AMD by Surgeon-General Thomas Crawford, Principal Medical Officer in India.
- Drew R., 1968. Entry No: 4723. Medical Officers in the British Army 1660 – 1960. Volume 1: 1660 – 1898. London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library.
- RAMC/PE/3/27/Drew. Manuscript for Drew's Roll.
- TNA:WO 25/3902, Records of Service - Officers of the Medical Department (1790–1847).
- TNA:WO 25/3241/30, Reports of officer's marriage.
- Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1882), 559 (Published 15 April 1882).
- The Times 1882.Retirement of Sir William Muir Director General Army Medical Department.
- Obituary Br Med J (1885), 1; 1277: 1271 (Published 20 June 1885).