The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1867

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the garrison was 4,919 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 4,247 admissions into hospital (863 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 119 deaths (24.19 deaths/1000 mean strength), of which 100 occurred in hospital, 17 out of hospital and 2 among the invalids on their passage home and at the Invalid Depôt at Netley.

The admissions were very high in the 1st/8th, 14th and the 64th; the deaths highest in the 1st/8th, 14th and the 31st. The 8th was on the island during the whole year; the 64th arrived from Ireland in February; the 31st in June and the 14th in the end of August.

In 1867, the average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 230 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 46.76; the average sick time to each soldier was 17.07 days; the average duration of each case was 19.77 days.

During the year, miasmatic diseases from infections accounted for 2,164 admissions into hospital (439.9/1000 mean strength) with 68 deaths (13.83/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 24 admissions for parasitic conditions
  • 44 for tubercular diseases with 6 deaths
  • 175 for respiratory conditions with 4 deaths
  • 217 for digestive diseases with 7 deaths
  • 71 for nervous system diseases with 3 deaths
  • 75 for circulatory diseases with 9 deaths
  • 11 for urinary problems with 1 death
  • 268 for venereal diseases
  • 358 for accidents with 11 deaths

There were 5 suicides from self inflicted gun shot wounds. Of the 11 accidental deaths, three men drowned and six died from fractures, two sustained by falls out of windows. Miasmatic diseases accounted for more than half the increase in mortality.

There were 3 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (0.6/1000 mean strength), 1125 for continued fevers (228.7/1000 strength) with 39 deaths (7.93/1000 strength), 339 for dysentery and diarrhoea (68.9/1000 strength) with 7 deaths (1.42/1000 strength), 278 for ophthalmia (56.5/1000 strength), and 244 for rheumatism (49.6/1000 strength). There were 4 admissions (0.8/1000 strength) for eruptive fevers. Rheumatism was in many instances the sequel of an attack of fever. There were 27 cases (5.5/1000 strength) of spasmodic cholera with 22 deaths (4.47/1000 strength).

Spasmodic Cholera July – Nov 1867

Cholera 14th
Cholera Memorial 14th Regiment (Ta' Braxia Cemetery)

In July 1867, two women and the captain of an Italian vessel which had arrived in Malta from Sicily, where spasmodic cholera had broken out, died at the Lazaretto. Subsequently, choleriac diarrhoea appeared among the civilian population, and one severe case of cholera was reported in the 64th Regiment at Zabbar Gate Barracks. No further cases occurred until 23 August, when a woman at Valletta fell ill and died 73 hours later.

On 30 August, the wife of a private soldier of the 1st/60th Regiment died from cholera at Pembroke Camp. On 2 Sep, Private John Riley 14th Regiment aged 22 years, died 9 hours after falling sick; at the same time several cases of choleraic diarrhoea developed in the 60th Foot and two in the 14th Foot, but all recovered.

On 4 Sep, a child of a sergeant of the Royal Engineers died within 8 hours of falling ill; on 5 Sep Private Richard Corr 14th Regiment, aged 18 years, died on the same day. On 6 Sep, four more cases broke out in the 14th Regiment which was moved out of barracks and encamped on the musketry range. Three men from the 14th Regiment died on 6 Sep and two on 9 Sep. On 10 Sep a child and on 11 Sep two men of the 14th died of cholera. On 14 Sep, the detachment at Pembroke Camp, with the exception of the married people, was moved to Gozo. Before its removal one man was sent to hospital and died the following day. On 16 Sep and on 17 Sep two women of the regiment who had been left behind died. On 18 Sep, a child which had become too ill to be moved to Gozo died and on 19 Sep a sergeant of the Royal Engineers, died at Pembroke Camp. The last death in the 14th Regiment was on 20 October.

Cholera also struck an artilleryman at Valletta on 11 Sep; a man of the 1st/8th encamped at Floriana on 17 Sep and a man of the Head-Quarters 14th Regiment at Fort Manoel on 18 Sep. On 26 Sep a private of the 1st/8th at Floriana died and on the 29th the wife of a gunner at Fort Salvatore. In Oct, 8 men were attacked of whom 5 died, 3 women of whom 1 died and 3 children of whom 2 died. Two fatal cases subsequently occurred in the 10th Brigade on the 18 and 20 November.

There were in total 22 deaths among the men from cholera and 6 from choleraic diarrhoea, all the latter occurring in September. The distribution of the deaths were: 15 in Sept, 5 in Oct and 2 in Nov. Among the women, the average number of which was 551, there were six cases of cholera and 4 deaths. There were 9 deaths among the 880 children in the garrison.

An outbreak occurred in Saint Dominic's Convent at Valletta in Sep when 10 of the 26 friars fell ill. The epidemic was short and mild, for a clean bill of health was issued on 28 Oct 1867.

The youngest son of General (later Field Marshal) Sir Patrick Grant died during the cholera epidemic of 1867. In May 1867, Grant had replaced Sir Henry Storks as Governor and Commander-in-Chief in Malta.

Water Shortage

There was always a shortage of water on the island. Water tanks were dry in many villages and the inhabitants were supplied from barrels and water carts. In 1867, the Governor Sir Henry Storks, recommended the digging of bore holes. Artisan wells were dug at Qormi and other villages which supplemented the water gathered from roofs and stored in underground tanks.

In 1867, John Lawson submitted his report on the drainage and sewage disposal system in Valletta and the three cities.