The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1819

Malta Garrison 1819

Effective Strength Malta Garrison 25 Jan 1819
Col –
Surg Assist
Sgt Drm Rank
& File
65 1 2 2 3 84 44 1596
Returns of the Adjutant General's Office showing the Effective Strength of the Garrison including Colonial Corps, Artillery and Engineers.

The half-yearly returns of the sick compiled by Inspector of Hospitals John Warren Esq reveal that the average proportion of sick to healthy between 21 June and 20 Dec 1819 was: Royal Artillery 1:17, 10th Regiment 1:13, 36th Regiment 1:25.

Valletta Hospital
General Plan Garrison Hospital Valletta showing the ophthalmia hospital, the artillery hospital, and the hospital for the infantry regiment at Lower St Elmo. The 95th Regiment was in Malta from 1824 to 1829. (TNA:MPH 1/912)

The average proportion of deaths to treated was 1 in 59. There were 177 cases of Continued Fever with two deaths. Not a single case of Remittent Fever had occurred; the few reported cases of Intermittent Fever were in men who had long resided in the Mediterranean. There were 77 admissions from acute diseases between 20 July and 20 Aug, and 43 admissions from 20 Nov to 20 Dec 1819.

Ophthalmia had decreased so significantly that the Ophthalmia Ward at the General Hospital was closed down. It was reopened in the latter part of Nov to admit a few cases that had arrived with detachments from the Ionian Islands.

Venereal Disease

There was a greater increase in venereal diseases among the men of the 10th Regiment than among those of the 36th. There were 206 admissions from the 10th as opposed to just 29 admissions from the 36th.

Inspector of Hospitals Warren attributed the disparity on the location of the 10th Regiment in Valletta, which made them more vulnerable to the temptations of women and wine.

Regimental surgeons reported to the civil police the residence of diseased females, whenever the house could be ascertained through disclosures by the men. Infected women and prostitutes from Naples were admitted to the Civil Hospital. Despite the compulsory admission of a considerable number of infected women for treatment with mercury, the infection rate among the military did not decrease.

The treatment of gonorrhoea varied between the two regimental hospitals. Surgeon Thomas Bouchier 36th Foot treated his patients with rest in a horizontal position, an antiphlogistic regime, and the local application by injection of silver nitrate dissolved in distilled water in the proportion of 15 to 30 grains of nitrate to one ounce of water.

Surgeon William O'Donel 10th Foot did not use silver nitrate injections but preferred the older method of treatment. His patients were placed on a Low Diet, were administered saline purgatives and were given a local injection composed of 2 grains Plumbi Acetas to an ounce of water once the pain of inflammation had subsided.

The Nitro-Muriatic Acid Bath was used by the regimental surgeon 10th Foot to treat 14 soldiers with Primary Syphilis, and one soldier with recurrent ulcers of Secondary Syphilis.

The whole body, an arm or a foot, were submerged in dilute Nitro-Muriatic Acid, or an acid solution was diluted with water and drunk. This produced the expected increased flow of saliva and sore gums, with some soldiers complaining of a pricking sensation all over their skin. Chancres were found to heal equally well and at the same rate, irrespective of whether the acid bath was employed or not.

Surgeon William O'Donel thus concluded that the Acid Bath possessed little or no power over syphilis. The bath was also tried on two soldiers with severe dysentery, but it proved equally futile as both patients still went to their graves.