The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1850

Asiatic Cholera

John Bathurst Thomson
Memorial to Surg John Bathurst Thomson 69th Foot who died of cholera on 18 Sep 1850. (Upper Barracca Gardens Valletta)

A second cholera epidemic struck Malta from 9 June to 13 October 1850. Suspicious cases had occurred in the Manderaggio in May, but the first authentic case occurred in a master of a Maltese boat, four days after his arrival from Susa, Tunisia on 9 June. Two men who had been disembarking cattle from Tunis and a soldier of the Malta Regiment residing with them also died.

Cholera spread to the 44th Regiment at Floriana Barracks. From 25 to 29 June, the 44th Foot had 8 cases with 6 deaths. The soldier's latrines were nothing more than cess pits, with neither flushing nor trapping, whilst the urine tabs and urinals were placed next or inside the doors of the barrack rooms. Encampment and the removal of men from their barracks was widely practiced to combat cholera. The troops were removed to Fort Ricasoli and Isola Gate Barracks. A Company of the 44th Regiment stationed for several months at San Francesco de Paola Barracks lost a third of its men. The Company was removed to Gozo. Within ten days of its arrival, it had no less than 26 men fell ill, with 16 deaths.

Cholera then appeared to the village of Ghajnsielem situated at the foot of Fort Chambray, from where it rapidly spread through out Gozo. There were 105 attacks and 78 deaths among the civilians in Gozo.

Out of a garrison of 3,475 men, 228 became infected with the Vibrio cholera, with 135 deaths. In addition, 407 cases of other bowel complaints were admitted to the military hospital with one death. The garrison had its last case on 23 Sept, but the epidemic did not cease until 20 October. There were 2833 civilians with 1,551 deaths in Malta, with the villages of Qormi and Birkirkara the worst affected.

Central Civil Hospital

Floriana Hospital
The Central Civil Hospital Floriana overlooked Floriana Barracks.

The new Central Civil Hospital at Floriana was completed on 26 April 1850, when the public was invited to view the new premises.

In 1850, the Central Hospital Floriana, replaced the Civil Hospital in Valletta. The new hospital was equipped with an operating theatre, which was initially not used exclusively for the performance of surgical operations.

In 1854, the Inspector of Charitable Institutions directed that the arms and ammunition of sick soldiers under treatment at the Central Hospital, were to be stored in the operating room, and the key handed to the military authorities, whenever they required it.

Medical Officers AMD

MO strength
Strength of medical officers on full pay from 1 Apr 1839 to 31 Mar 1854 showing the deaths in each year.

The average strength of the garrison from 1 July to 31 December 1850 was 2,842 men. There were 414 fever cases treated in hospital with 2 deaths.

The return shows the strength of medical officers on full pay in the Army Medical Department on 1 April of each year from the 1st April 1839 to 31 March 1854 and the deaths which had taken place among them in each year

Baptisms 1850

23 Jan Baptism of Mary Joyce Atkinson born 23 Nov 1849, daughter of Mary and Deputy Assistant Commissary General George Atkinson, by the Rev William Hare Chaplain to the Forces.