The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1870

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the garrison was 4,799 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 3,165 admissions into hospital (659 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 48 deaths (10.00 deaths/1000 mean strength), of which 6 occurred in hospital and 8 among the invalids on their passage home and at the Invalid Depôt at Netley.

The Royal Engineers had the highest proportion of admissions; the 31st Regiment the highest deaths.

172 invalids were returned home, of whom 117 were discharged at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley. Phthisis and rheumatism were common causes for invalids being sent to England.

The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 157 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 32.72; the average sick time to each soldier was 11.94 days; the average duration of each case was 18.11 days.

Garrison Strength 1 Jan - 31 Dec 1870
1870 Strength 1st day mth Admitted to hosp Deaths
Jan 5357 244 2
Feb 5516 235 2
Mar 5512 245 6
Apr 5513 253 2
May 5323 273 5
June 5253 323 (102 fever) 3
July 5398 373 (119 fever) 4
Aug 5358 378 (103 fever) 4
Sep 5345 422 (84 fever) 7
Oct 5329 299 (46 fever) 2
Nov 5253 299 2
Dec 5247 295 4
Garrison Strength on the first day of the month, showing number of admissions to hospital per month, and the number of deaths recorded. (TNA:WO 334/77)

The average number of women during the year was 530.19. There were 51 cases of simple continued fever and 5 cases of febricula among them.

The average number of children was 869.42. There were 50 cases of simple continued fever, and 34 cases of diphtheria among them; 15 children died of diphtheria.

The average strength of the officers was 237.91. There were 34 cases of simple continued fever among them. Admissions for febrile attacks were highest during June, July and August.

Health of the Garrison

Febrile diseases accounted for 650 admissions into hospital (135.5/1000 mean strength) with 7 deaths (1.46/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 42 for nervous system diseases with 4 deaths
  • 39 for circulatory diseases with 8 deaths
  • 202 for respiratory conditions with 2 deaths
  • 516 for digestive diseases with 9 deaths
  • 157 for urinary problems with 2 deaths
  • 296 for cutaneous diseases
  • 283 for rheumatism
  • 38 for syphilis
  • 41 for phthisis with 8 deaths
  • 460 for accidents with 3 deaths

There were 3 suicides and two homicides. Two of the accidental deaths followed fractures of the skull from falls and one by drowning. Of the suicides one was by gun shot, one by drowning and one by multiple injuries caused by the soldier throwing himself from a window.

There were 9 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (1.9/1000) with 1 death (0.21/1000), 633 for continued fevers (131.9/1000) with 6 deaths (1.25/1000) and 1 for eruptive fevers (0.2/1000). Of the continued fevers, 449 cases were simple continued fever with 6 deaths, and 215 cases of febricula. Only 5 cases of remittent fever were recorded. The incidence of continued fevers dropped during the year. This was attributed by the PMO to the suspension of all fatigues, drills and non essential working parties, reducing overcrowding by having the men sleep under tents and the long sojourn of regiments in the command. There was more rheumatism than in 1869 with the highest numbers in the 48th and 52nd regiments. In the majority of cases rheumatism followed an attack of continued fever.

The PMO Paynter Joshua regarded drinking to excess as the cause of all evils. I am so firmly convinced said he of its being a very common cause of diseases, that I attribute the great admissions into hospital, either directly or indirectly, to intemperance. During 1970, 198 admissions into hospital were the result of intoxication with alcohol.

Cottonera Military Hospital

Cottonera Hospital
Cottonera Hospital near Zabbar Gate or Notre Dame Gate
Cottonera Hospital
Cottonera Hospital
Plan of Cottonera Hospital Cottonera Hospital on St James Bastion (TNA WO 78/2815)

On 16 Nov 1870, the Collector of Land Revenue informed the Chief Secretary to the Government, that 3 plots of land had been purchased at Cottonera, near the Zabbar Gate. Contracts had been ratified, and the plots were at the disposal of the military authorities. The hospital was designed and constructed by the Royal Engineers for 148 patients. It was completed on 28 Aug 1873, at a cost of £21,000, which included the purchase of the land.

Cardwell Reforms

Under the Cardwell system of army reorganisation of 1870, the regimental surgeon ceased to remain part of the regimental establishment. Surgeons and assistant surgeons merged with Staff Medical Officers to form one corps. Those on regimental duties were henceforth attached for duty with their regiment, and were supervised and controlled by officers of their own service. The use of numbers to identify Foot Regiments was discontinued.

Victoria Lines

Victoria Lines
Victoria Lines
The Dwejra Lines, to protect the southern part of Malta, were completed in 1881.

The construction of the Victoria Lines across the island along a series of scarps known as the Great Fault, brought the greater part of the island within its defensive system and provided much needed work. They were built between 1870 and 1899. In 1897, on the occasion of Queen's Victoria Diamond Jubilee, the Lines were renamed the Victoria Lines.

Families Pembroke Camp 1870

The women and children of the detachments of the 87th and 52nd Regiments attending the annual instruction in Musketry, and the families of the sergeants and markers of the Musketry staff occupied Pembroke Camp. There were on average 46.50 women, and 79.33 children. with 14 sick women (0 deaths), and 55 sick children (7 deaths). Four children died in the first part of the year (2 Bronchitis, 1 Diarrhoea, 1 Tonsillitis); three children died in the last part of the year (1 Bronchitis, 2 Diarrhoea).

Maltese Medical Degree

In 1870, the General Council of Medical Education and Registration of the United Kingdom, refused to register medical degrees from the University of Malta, on the grounds that no foreign or colonial diploma can be registered under the Medical Act 1858, that was not obtained prior to the passing of that Act.

On 14 June 1870, Assistant Surgeon Frederick Nathan, Royal Naval Hospital Malta, complained that his Maltese degree was worthless, and petitioned the Governor to intervene.

Having recently after a prolonged course of study passed the several examinations and obtained the degree of Doctor of Medicine in the University of this island, on the understanding that it was on the same footing as the universities at home, I find that although its lectures and academic course generally are recognised by several universities in Great Britain, including those of London and Edinburgh, yet that the degree, since the year 1858, has been excluded by the Medical Council from the British Medical Register, even when, as in my case, a practitioner is already enrolled in the register by virtue of two British qualifications in Medicine and Surgery respectively. As this restriction renders the degree worthless, I beg to represent the fact for the consideration of His Excellency the Governor, with a view to the matter being rectified.

Dr J Schembri, Rector of the University of Malta, certified that the petitioner, having performed a regular course of study in an accredited medical college of the United Kingdom, has been duly admitted to the respective examination by our Medical Faculty according to the Statute of the University, and after passing four exams on all subject matter agreeably to the order of the medico-surgical curriculum, a diploma and a certificate have been granted to him. Now, the Medico-Surgical Faculty of the University of Malta being recognised by the University of London, and placed on the same footing which, I believe, is not the case with foreign and colonial universities, it appears but equitable if our Government has the means to claim that the Medical Diploma granted by our University be registered in the British Medical Register.

Diphtheria — Smallpox

Diphtheria made its appearance in Malta in 1869. The epidemic persisted through to 1870, proving fatal to a large number of children.

Small pox also broke out among the civil population towards the end of the year and spread to the military community. The military families had been vaccinated against small pox and suffered lightly.