The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1862

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the garrison was 5,958, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 4,140 admissions into hospital (695/1000 mean strength), with 55 deaths (9.23/1000 mean strength), of which 44 occurred in hospital, 5 out of hospital and 6 among the invalids on their passage home and at the Invalid Depôt at Fort Pitt.

The average number constantly sick was 234 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 39.27; the average sick time to each soldier was 14.34 days; the average duration of each case was 20.63 days. 47 invalids were returned to the Invalid Depôt at Fort Pitt, Chatham for discharge; 39 men were returned home for change of climate after an attack of ophthalmia.

Miasmatic diseases from infections accounted for 2,127 admissions into hospital (357.0/1000 mean strength) with 26 deaths (4.36/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 74 admissions for parasitic conditions
  • 67 for tubercular diseases with 9 deaths
  • 180 admissions for respiratory conditions with 4 deaths
  • 151 admissions for digestive diseases with 4 deaths
  • 82 admissions for nervous system diseases with 3 deaths
  • 20 admissions for circulatory diseases with 1 death
  • 13 admissions for urinary problems with 1 death
  • 295 admissions for venereal diseases
  • 368 admissions for accidents with 3 deaths
  • 1 suicide (shot himself with his rifle)

16 soldiers were admitted to hospital after receiving corporal punishment. Two deaths occurred in the Army Hospital Corps, one of which was that of the Sergeant-Major from intemperance. The reduction in syphilis was attributed to the adoption in the middle of 1861 of police surveillance of prostitutes, though the incidence of gonorrhoea remained the same as 1861. Of the 3 accidental deaths, one was from drowning, one by a fracture skull following a fall from a parapet while on duty. The third was also by a fractured skull caused by falling from a height while in a state of intoxication.

There were 11 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (1.8/1000 mean strength), 844 for continued fevers (141.7/1000 strength) with 21 deaths (3.51/1000 strength), 297 for dysentery and diarrhoea (49.8/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (0.50/1000 strength), 571 for ophthalmia (95.8/1000 strength), and 287 for Rheumatism (48.2/1000 strength). There were 8 admissions for eruptive fevers, predominantly small pox, with 2 deaths. Small pox prevailed among the civil population during the first half of the year, but only 7 cases of which 2 proved fatal occurred among the troops.


The Order of St Francis (Franciscan Friars) devoted itself to the care of leprous sufferers. The Santo Spirito Hospital in Rabat formed part of their monastery.

In 1862, in reply to a questionnaire sent out by the Royal College of Physicians, it was officially stated that leprosy did not exist in Malta. In the following 20 years, however, cases were noted and action was taken on 24 Aug 1893, when legislation was enacted to register and compulsorily segregate lepers. There were 61 cases officially known at that time.

An additional wing to the poor house in Marsa was added to act as a leper asylum under the Ordinance No VII of 1893.

Sanitary Commission

In Autumn 1862, the Barrack, and Hospital Improvement Commission investigated the sanitary conditions of all the military establishments of the island.

In 1861, the Malta and Mediterranean Gas Company was established. This enabled the barracks to be gradually connected to the town gas. Gas was introduced into Lower St Elmo Barracks. At Floriana Barracks, pipes were in progress for similar purposes. In all other barracks, oil lamps were still the only source of lighting.

In 1862, gas lighting, which had already been introduced at Lower St Elmo Barracks the previous year, was fitted into the barracks of the infantry at Floriana, and in that of the Royal Engineers at St Francis Barracks.

Ophthalmia was prevalent in the garrison. All those with sore eyes were sent either to the Sanatorium at Citta Vecchia or to Gozo. The PMO attributed its cause to the generally insufficient supply of water and to the distant and inconvenient location of the lavatories in relation to their respective barracks.

Families Hospital

Inspector General Thomas David Hume strove very hard to improve the conditions of married families in the garrison, which had no special female military hospital. Hume recommended the conversion of an existing large mess hut and two smaller ones adjoining it on the Crownwork Floriana, for use as a female hospital.

In Oct 1862, these huts were fitted out to accommodate 14 patients. Very little extra expense was incurred by the conversion. This provided much comfort for the sick, and facilities for more careful treatment and nursing.

Addolorata Cemetery

Chaplain Addolorata
Anton Buhagiar was the first chaplain of the Addolorata Cemetery from 1870. He was also Apostolic Delegate of the Holy See to Haiti, Venezuela and Santo Domingo in 1890.

The new cemetery of Santa Maria on the hill of Tal Horr in the outskirts of Paola, was laid out in 1862. It was completed in 1868.

On 10 May 1869, the government prohibited further burials in churches within Valletta, Floriana, and the Three Cities, although burials for the clergy, the archbishop, parish priests and nuns were allowed. The first burial in the new cemetery took place on 23 January 1872.

Medical School Fort Pitt

The fourth session of the medical school at Chatham started on 1 Apr 1862. It finished on 31 July 1862. Seven Surgeons and Assistant Surgeons, and 19 candidates attended the examination in August. The fifth session commenced on 1 Oct 1862, and ended with an examination in Feb 1863. Twenty seven candidates, including five regimental medical officers, attended the course of lectures and practical instructions. In 1863, the Royal Victoria Hospital opened at Netley. The medical school moved from Chatham, and became co-located with it.

Ordinance 1862

In 1862, the Government proposed an Ordinance for the registration of births, marriages and deaths in the Public Registry of Malta. On the recommendation of the Admiral, Commanding-in-Chief, the military were exempt on the grounds that naval deaths were recorded in the naval registers and any registration for local purpose was unnecessary and might become a source of trouble.

In 1873, Article 274 of Ordinance No 1 was passed. Under its provision, the Army and Navy were exempt from registering military deaths in the Public Registry. In 1895, the military authorities were in favour of registering army deaths in the Public Registry, but the naval authorities still objected and the status quo remained. The issue was revised in 1909.