The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1857

Army Medical Department

From May 1857, admission into the AMD was through competitive examination, and not by patronage or nomination. Candidates had to have a medical qualification, usually the Licence of Apothecaries Hall, and the Diploma of the Royal College of Surgeons. The competitive examination for commissions into the AMD consisted of a written paper, and oral questionings, followed by an interview with the Director General. Successful candidates were moved to Fort Pitt in Chatham for further training.

The Hospital at Fort Pitt had a Medical and Surgical Division, which admitted worn out soldiers invalided from all corners of the empire. These served as teaching aids to the young surgeons. Candidates who satisfied their examiners at Fort Pitt were commissioned as Assistant Surgeons. The first successful candidates received their commission dated 27 May 1857. This was the date of their competitive examination, although antedates were given to those who had served in the Crimea as Acting Assistant Surgeons.

The first ten candidates admitted to the AMD through the examination system were: Ffolliott Nicholas, Johnson Yorke Hobart, Ebenezer John Hatchell, Kinahan Charles James, McSheehy Edward Louis, Parr James, Baker James Bowyer, Lumsden Charles George, Thornhill Thomas Allen, Bradshaw Alexander Frederick.

Army Hospital Corps

In 1857, a Royal Commission presided over by the Secretary at War, the Hon Sidney Herbert, enquired into the sanitary conditions of troops, barracks, and hospitals in the United Kingdom. The Royal Commission recommended the disbandment of the Medical Staff Corps.

The Army Hospital Corps was raised on 1 Aug 1857, but the first transfers from the Medical Staff Corps to the Army Hospital Corps did not take place until 31 October 1859. The AHC was to provide the stretcher bearers, orderlies, and nursing staff for General Hospitals. Recruits were to be of regular, steady habits, and good temper, possessed of a kindly disposition, and able to read and write. All had to pass a three month probationary period in a military hospital, before being permanently enrolled.

Proposed New Military Hospital

Capuchin convent
Plan of Floriana showing Magazine and St Francis Bastions occupied by Capuchin Convent and St Francis Barracks.

On 26 May 1857, a committee met to select a site for a new military hospital for 500 patients. The President was Maj Gen Warren, with G Montanaro, Collector of Land Revenues; G Sciortino, Assistant to Chief Secretary; V Mamo, Cashier to Government Treasury; Dr Scott, PMO, and Lt Col Harvey as members. The Committee visited the Ta' Franconi Lunatic Asylum at Floriana. Having been assured by Dr T Chetcuti and Dr De Salvo that the location was a very healthy one, the Committee decided to built the hospital on this site.

In Oct 1857, Dr Scott received the plans of the military hospital at Aldershot from the Director General of the Army Medical Department, and submitted these to the Commanding Officer Royal Engineers, so that plans and estimates for a General Hospital for 500 might be prepared.

In a letter dated 17 Oct 1857, the Commanding Officer Royal Engineers reported that the site chosen would only accommodate a hospital for 300 beds, since quarters for staff and other various offices, as laid down in the plans, had to be included. The Committee had to decide whether to seek a new site or build two hospitals - one of 200 beds and another for 300 patients. In addition, as the site chosen had included St Francis Barracks, the cost of the project would have had to absorb the building of a new barracks on the Floriana Curtain, between the two gates of St Anne and Notre Dame to replace St Francis Barracks.

On 17 Dec 1857, the Secretary of State for War approved the recommendation of the Committee for a hospital to be built on the site of St Francis Barracks and Civil Lunatic Asylum. The proposed hospital was to be limited to 300 beds. It was not to have room for sick officers. The question of building another hospital for 200 beds was to be placed in abeyance.

Fort Lascaris

Fort Lascaris
Fort Lascaris approached from Victoria Gate, with the tunnel leading to the Custom House and the Valletta Marina.

St Peter's Lower Counter Guard Barracks (Fort Lascaris), was constructed in 1857–58. It was occupied in 1859.

The fort is situated at the South East angle of Valletta and rises 150 feet above the harbour. It was the HQ of the Royal Malta Fencible Regiment.

Purveyor Department

In July 1857, staff on full pay in the Purveyor's Department consisted of 54 at home and 79 on foreign stations.

At home were: 14 purveyors, 10 first class clerks, 16 second class clerks, and 14 extra clerks; abroad were 15 purveyors, 31 first class clerks, and 33 second class clerks.

Baptisms Marriages Burials 1857

  • 2 Sep Albert Thomas Taylor born 9 August 1857, son of Mary and Garrison QM Sgt William Frederick Taylor was baptised by the Rev Henry Hare Chaplain to the Forces.
  • 6 Sep Louisa Ellenor Cohoon born 15 August 1857, daughter of Caroline and Barrack Sgt of Verdala Walter Cohoon was baptised at the Chapel School Cottonera by the Rev George Lawless Chaplain to the Forces.
  • 12 Mar George Edward Price aged 3 years 7 months, son of Rifle Instructor Price was buried at Floriana.
  • 2 June In the Collegiate Church of St Paul's Valletta, widower and chief warden John Price in charge of the military prison Lower St Elmo Barracks, married Phoebe Gardiner, widow of Garrison QM Sgt John Gardiner.