The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1863

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the garrison was 5,757, exclusive of the colonial troops. There were 3,832 admissions into hospital (666/1000 mean strength), with 42 deaths (7.31/1000 mean strength), of which 30 occurred in hospital, 9 out of hospital and 3 among the invalids on their passage home and at the Invalid Depôt at Fort Pitt.

The average number constantly sick, excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 246 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 42.73; the average sick time to each soldier was 15.59 days; the average duration of each case was 23.43 days.

78 invalids were returned to the Invalid Depôt at Fort Pitt, Chatham for discharge, 20 of whom had tubercular disease; 56 men were returned home for change of climate, 27 of whom after an attack of ophthalmia.

Miasmatic diseases from infections accounted for 1,626 admissions into hospital (282.4/1000 mean strength) with 9 deaths (1.56/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 86 admissions for parasitic conditions
  • 66 for tubercular diseases with 11 deaths
  • 217 admissions for respiratory conditions with 3 deaths
  • 167 admissions for digestive diseases with 2 deaths
  • 72 admissions for nervous system diseases with 4 deaths
  • 30 admissions for circulatory diseases with 2 deaths
  • 13 admissions for urinary problems with 2 deaths
  • 254 admissions for venereal diseases
  • 441 admissions for accidents with 2 deaths
  • 4 suicides

22 soldiers were admitted to hospital after receiving corporal punishment. One of the accidental deaths was by drowning and the other from a fractured skull caused by a fall from a battery. Of the four suicides, three were from gunshot wounds and one by a young soldier throwing himself over the ramparts.

There were 9 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (1.6/1000 mean strength), 660 for continued fevers (114.6/1000 strength) with 6 deaths (1.04/1000 strength), 232 for dysentery and diarrhoea (40.3/1000 strength) with 3 deaths (0.52/1000 strength), 449 for ophthalmia (78.0/1000 strength), and 168 for Rheumatism (29.2/1000 strength). There were 3 admissions for eruptive fevers, predominantly small pox, with no deaths. The reduction in the incidence of venereal disease was attributed to an efficacious police surveillance of the prostitutes.

Army Medical Department

In the early 17th century, the administration of the military was entrusted to a committee of the Privy Council, the clerk of which was the Secretary-at-War. He approved expenditure, advised the sovereign on military matters, ordered troop movements, countersigned military warrants and attended to the routine needs of the army. However, he had no authority over the Ordnance Board or the Commander-in-Chief. The Secretary-at-War at the Horse Guards was the parliamentary representative of the army and the Commander-in-Chief.

In 1794, a separate department, that of the Secretary of State-for-War was created, with the Rt Hon Henry Dundas (July 1794 to Mar 1801) at its head. This Department was known as the War Department. In 1801, the business of the colonies, previously carried out at the Home Office were transferred to the Secretary-for-War, who became the Secretary of State-for-War and the Colonies.

In 1854 a separate Secretary of State for the Colonies was appointed and the former Secretary of State-for-War and the Colonies became Secretary of State-for-War. In Feb 1855, the Secretary of State-for-War took over the duties of the Secretary-at-War, the last Secretary-at-War being the Rt Hon Sidney Herbert.

The Medical Department was subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief in matters of discipline and to the Secretary-at-War for financial approval. It was subdivided into the Army Medical Department and the Ordnance Medical Department with a Director General at the head of each.

The War Department was abolished in May 1863, on the creation of the War Office in Jan 1863. The Board of Ordnance was abolished and the Army Medical Department absorbed into the War Office. On the formation of the War Office, Inspector General James Brown Gibson held the post of Director General Army Medical Department, Inspector General Thomas Galbraith Logan was head of the Sanitary Branch (1859), Deputy Inspector General Thomas Graham Balfour was head of the Statistical Branch (1859-73), Deputy Inspector General Henry Mapleton was head of the Medical Branch, Medical Department, War Office (1859-64).

Army Medical School

The Army Medical School was opened at Fort Pitt Chatham, by the Rt Hon Secretary of State for War Sidney Herbert, in Oct 1860. The school remained at Fort Pitt during its first five sessions and was established there, as the Fort was the principal invaliding hospital of the army. In Apr 1863, the medical school moved to the Royal Victoria Hospital Netley.

The sixth session of instruction opened on 15 Apr 1863 and ended in August with the examination. The Army Medical School trained 45 officers every six months, following admission of the candidates through a competitive examination held at Chelsea. There were 29 officers on probation for the British Service and 14 for the Indian Service.