The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1872

Malta Garrison

In 1872, the average strength of the garrison was 4855 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 4,505 admissions into hospital (928 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 44 deaths (9.06 deaths/1000 mean strength), of which 3 occurred out of hospital and 3 among the invalids on their passage home and at the Invalid Depôt at Netley.

Of the corps present throughout most of the year, admissions were very high in the 1st/18th Foot, and deaths greatest in the 1st/13th Regiment.

75 invalids returned to England; 56 being subsequently discharge from Netley. 15 invalids returned home because of scrofula and phthisis, 11 for digestive conditions, 12 for nervous disorders, and 6 for cardiac conditions. The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 232 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 47.8; the average sick time to each soldier was 17.49 days; the average duration of each case was 18.85 days.

Health of the Garrison

Febrile diseases accounted for 1,187 admissions into hospital (244.5/1000 mean strength) with 19 deaths (3.91/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 64 for nervous system diseases with 1 death
  • 61 for circulatory diseases with 5 deaths
  • 201 for respiratory conditions with 4 deaths
  • 697 for digestive diseases with 3 deaths
  • 253 for urinary problems with 1 death
  • 354 for cutaneous diseases
  • 246 for rheumatism
  • 167 for syphilis
  • 68 for phthisis with 7 deaths
  • 500 for accidents with 2 deaths

There were 29 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (6.0/1000), 1,133 for continued fevers (233.4/1000) with 19 deaths (3.91/1000) and 9 admissions for eruptive fevers (1.9/1000), all due to measles which was brought to the station by the 18th Regiment in January.

Under the heading continued fevers were included: cerebro-spinal fever (1 case), enteric fever (29 cases), 6.0/1000 strength, with 10 deaths, 2.06/1000 strength, simple continued fevers (650 cases), 133.9/1000 strength, with 9 deaths, 1.85/1000 strength, and febricula (453 cases), 93.3/1000 strength, with no deaths. The data for continued fevers includes 30 admissions and 1 death in the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery. Continued fevers caused the admissions and deaths of: 46 officers (1 death), 68 women (1 death) and 55 children ( 3 deaths).

Paroxysmal fevers were extremely rare in the garrison. Only 6 admissions per 1000 strength were caused by them, none fatal; most were relapses contracted elsewhere.

Medical officers observed that attacks of febricula and simple continued fevers were more numerous among unacclimatised men, than in those with longer service in Malta. Intemperance and exposure to the heat were held to be the chief cause of the fevers; febricula is now believed to have been caused by sandfly fever.

In the severe cases of simple continued fevers, the febrile symptoms were very protracted with a very high temperature being present for an unusually long but variable period. Relapses after the complete absence of fever for several days was not uncommon, and occurred about the 14th day. Gastric irritability was often present. Orchitis, rheumatism and severe and persistent neuralgia were frequent sequelae and convalescence was almost always protracted. Those dying of this condition had a very friable and congested spleen. These infections were most likely due to Brucella melitensis.

During the year, a total of 170 officers were admitted into hospital with a total of 6 deaths, 392 women with 9 deaths and 875 children with 84 deaths. Of the deaths among the children, 26 were from diarrhoea, 19 from debility, atrophy, marasmus and tabes mesenterica, 8 from diphtheria, 8 from measles, 6 from fevers, 3 from nervous conditions and 4 from pulmonary diseases; the remaining 10 were from various causes.

Addolorata Cemetery

The new cemetery of Santa Maria, on the hill of Tal Horr in the outskirts of Paola, was commenced in 1862, and completed in 1868. On 3 May 1869, the government banned burials in churches within Valletta, Floriana, and the Three Cities, although the archbishop, parish priests and nuns were exempt. An extension of the prohibition to villages was resisted and burials in village churches were not disallowed until 18 October 1974. The first burial in the Addolorata cemetery took place on 23 January 1872.

Sewage Three Cities

On Mar 1872, the commission which had been appointed by government on 22 Dec 1871, to report on the state of the sewers of the three cities concluded that the present system of sewage and drainage of the cities is most imperfect and most prejudicial to the health of the daily increasing population, and quite opposed to the sound principles of hygiene. The commission recommended for immediate steps to be taken to rectify these defects.