The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1841

Malta Garrison 1 Jan 1841

  • Town Major – Col Balneavis
  • Town Adjutant – Col Robert Terry
  • Assistant Military Secretary – Capt Maxwell 82nd Regiment
  • Aide de Camp – Capt Lockhart 92nd Highlanders

The average strength of the garrison was 2,702.

On 26 May 1841, a vessel arrived in Malta from Alexandria with plague on board among the sailors and pilgrims. The whole crew, the guardians and the two boatmen who had communicated with the pilgrims were segregated and every precaution was taken to prevent the spread of the contagion. The plague was confined to the lazaretto. There were ten cases of plague among the crew. One of the Maltese boatmen who had communicated with the vessel on the 28 May developed a carbuncle and a bubo on 6 June and died on 10 June.

Water shortage

obelisk obelisk
Obelisk erected by Governor Charles Thomas Van Straubenzee in 1877 to commemorate the provision of a fresh supply of water to Victoria Gozo by Governor Henry Frederick Bouverie during the drought of 1841.

A drought which started in Oct 1840 continued throughout Mar 1841. There were a few partial showers only. The small amount of water which fell in April was insufficient to fill the cisterns. As the tanks on both sides of the harbour were empty, the troops and the inhabitants were supplied with water from the navy floating tanks.

On 19 Feb, Bouverie ordered the spring of the Boschetto to be conducted to the main canal of the aqueduct, a distance of 5 to 6 miles, which increased the daily supply by 30,000 gallons. The 22 casals, containing 60,000 inhabitants, were short of water, and their inhabitants walked several miles to obtain water from the fountains of the aqueduct. They then had to carry it back to their villages in carts. In consequence of the long and protracted drought, the crops almost failed entirely.

The fleet went to Syracuse for its water. In May, a watering point for frigates and ships of the line was constructed at Mgarr Gozo by conducting some springs to the landing place. This was subsequently used as an alternative to sending the fleet to Syracuse. By July 1841, Bouverie's efforts to bring water to Valletta bore fruit and the inhabitants finally had water to drink.

A visitor to Malta commented:

On my arrival at Malta, I heard that there had been no rain in Malta for 4 years and that water was in consequence extremely scarce. There was, however, still some water in the public fountains in Valletta and on passing any of these, I was generally sure to see some 20 to 30 poor creatures around, with small water barrels to take home their valuable necessity to their wives and families. In many of the casals or villages, the people are obliged to buy their water at the rate of 1/2d a gallon. This is supplied to them by water carts from the aqueduct built by Grand Master Wignacourt in 1610. The streets of Valletta are full of goats and it is the custom for the milkman to herd about his goats every morning and evening to serve his customers at their respective houses. Horses are scarce, but mules and asses, which are the chief vehicles employed for drought and burden, are very numerous especially the mules which are generally used for riding.

Assistant Inspector of Hospitals

On 17 Sep 1841, Horse Guards abolished the rank of Assistant Inspector of Hospitals in the Medical Department of the Army and replaced it with that of Staff Surgeon First Class. The relative military rank of a Staff Surgeon of the First Class was that of Major.

Concurrently Horse Guards also established the rank of Staff Surgeon Second Class in the Medical Department of the Army. The relative military rank of a Staff Surgeon of the Second Class was that of Captain. A Staff Surgeon of the Second Class ranked with the regimental surgeons according to the dates of their respective commission in the army.

Baptisms Burials 1841

  • 8 July Mary Cullen born 6 May 1826, daughter of the late Barrack Sgt James Cullen and Mary Jane, who had been baptised according to the formulary of the Romish Church, was on this day publicly received into the Church of England. She was sponsored by Mr and Mrs Napier and Mr Taylor.
  • 20 Aug Private baptism of Alfred Horatius Hughes born 19 August 1841, son of Emma and Barrack Sgt Timothy Hughes. He was publicly received into the church on 8 September.
  • 13 Dec Burial of Montague Fielding Browne aged 8 years, son of Barrack Master Fielding Browne.