The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1869

Malta Garrison

Garrison Strength 1 Jan–31 Dec 1869
Month Strength 1st day of month Admitted to hosp Deaths
Jan 5730 253 2
Feb 5710 191 2
Mar 5690 274 4
Apr 5670 273 3
May 5664 263 3
June 5667 322 4
July 5512 563 4
Aug 5500 514 4
Sep 5485 359 4
Oct 5478 255 6
Nov 5393 256 8
Dec 5390 208 2
Garrison Strength on the first day of the month, showing number of admissions to hospital per month, and the number of deaths recorded.

In 1869, the average strength of the garrison was 5,027; there were 3,294 admissions into hospital. The average number constantly in hospital during the year (mean daily sick) was 179 or a ratio of 35.61 per 1000 mean strength. There were 49 deaths, 34 in hospital, 9 sudden deaths out of hospital and 6 among the invalids awaiting their return to England. These gave a proportion of 655 admissions and 9.75 deaths per 1000 mean strength. The proportion of admissions with fevers to garrison strength was 19.01; it had been 22.89 in 1867, and 21.06 in 1868. The average sick time to each soldier in 1869 was 13 days with the average duration of cases being 17.87 days.

Ninety seven invalids or 19.2 per 1000 of mean strength were returned to England during the year. Twenty had tuberculosis and were listed under the heading Scrofula, Phthisis and Haemoptysis, 13 had a disease of the circulatory system; 11 of the nervous system, 9 of the digestive system, 6 of the organ of locomotion, 6 had a respiratory disease and 6 were invalided because of debility. Invalids were transferred from the regimental hospitals in Valletta and Vittoriosa to the Sanatorium at Citta Vecchia, for the benefit of change of air. In 1869, there were 195 admissions to the Sanatorium at Citta Vecchia, with two deaths.

Health of the Garrison

In 1869, there were 904 admissions for Continued fevers with 3 deaths and 29 admissions for paroxysmal fevers with 1 death. Of the 904 cases admitted, 19 were returned as enteric fever with one death, 734 as simple continued fever with two deaths and 151 as febricula. Most of the paroxysmal fevers occurred in the 48th Foot which had 42 out of 49 cases.

The 48th Foot and 52nd Foot also had an undue proportion of admissions from continued fevers. The 48th had 269 admissions per 1000 of mean strength; the 52nd had 449 admissions per 1000 of mean strength but without deaths. The ratio of admissions among the rest of the garrison was only 106 per 1000 mean strength. Most deaths occurred during June to September when the 48th was quartered in Isola Gate, San Francesco de Paola and Polverista Gate Barracks, and the 52nd in Forts Ricasoli, Salvatore and Zabbar Gate Barracks. This increase was attributed to these regiments being in Malta for their first summer, and to the 52nd being composed of extremely young men.

The PMO, Inspector General Joshua Paynter discounted climatic influences as the sole cause of illness among the troops. He attributed disease to excessive alcohol consumption. I am so much impressed with the feeling, said he, of it being so very common a cause of disease, that I attribute the very great majority of admissions into the hospital as being the result, either directly or indirectly of intemperance..

Paynter concluded that it was impossible to determine what influence was exerted by the local climate on the health of the troops, when no proper care was taken to protect them against disease consequent on bad barrack accommodation. He remarked, that the Maltese climate prolonged the convalescent stage of ill soldiers. Paynter affirmed that disease among the troops was caused by:

  • Drinking to excess.
  • Eating large quantities of unripe fruit.
  • Insufficient supply of pure water.
  • Badly constructed, overcrowded, and ill ventilated barrack rooms.
  • Leaking latrines and urinals.
  • Dampness of rooms in winter without any means of drying and warming them.
  • Insufficient lavatory and bath accommodation.
  • Insufficient means of cooking the food to produce a varied diet.
  • Badly located barracks with poor sanitation in their vicinities.
  • Small, poorly lit, and inadequately ventilated guard rooms and cells.

Married Quarters

The availability of married quarters varied greatly. In some parts of the command there was a great scarcity of accommodation for married soldiers; in other areas there were comfortable quarters. Some married families were housed in wooden huts located at some distance away from their regimental barracks. The huts were hot in summer, and cold and damp in winter. Occasionally, several married families were placed together in barrack rooms. The families of the Royal Artillery lived in the Camerata building opposite the Valletta Military Hospital.

Soldier's Rations

Troops were charged five pence a day for their rations which was supplied by the Commissariat Department. This consisted of 1 and 1/4 lb bread, 1 lb of fresh or salted meat, 1/6 of an ounce (oz) of tea, 2 ozs of sugar, 1/2 oz of salt, and 1/36 of an oz of pepper.

In addition the regimental mess purchased from a civilian contractor, potatoes, green vegetables, rice, milk, flour and peas. For these additional articles, a certain sum was stopped from the soldier's pay by the officers commanding companies or batteries. Beef was universally the only fresh meat issued to the troops. Ale, beer, Sicilian wines, brandy and other spirits were sold in regimental canteens.

Burial Laws

On 3 May 1869, burials were prohibited in Valletta and the Three Cities. An extension to the prohibition of burials in village churches was discussed in the 1890s but opposed by the country people. Burials within churches and crypts were finally prohibited on 18 Oct 1974.

Staff Assistant Surgeon Orr

Staff Assistant Surgeon Orr arrived in Malta on 5 May 1869, in medical charge of officers and troops on board the SS Sicilian. He left for Gibraltar on 13 May.