The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1875

Malta Garrison

In 1875, the average strength of the garrison was 4,505 men, exclusive of colonial troops.

There were 4,084 admissions into hospital (906.54 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 36 deaths (7.99 deaths/1000 mean strength), including 11 among the invalids on their passage home or at the Invalid Depôt at Netley. 152 invalids were sent home from Malta during the year; 85 invalids from Malta were discharged from the Royal Victoria Hospital, Netley.

The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 194 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 42.21; the average sick time to each soldier was 15.42 days; the average duration of each case was 17.34 days.

The annual average strength of the officers in the Malta Command was 226, of whom 130 were placed on the sick list, 2 officers died and 13 were invalided to England.

Of the cases of sickness among officers, 36 were febrile, 2 for enteric and 16 for simple continued fever. The deaths during the year were from enteric fever and the other was in an officer invalided because of a tongue ulcer.

Sanitary State of the Three Cities

The sanitation of Valletta and the Cottonera was poor. All the sewers opened into the various harbours. With no tidal currents to wash the sediment out to sea, the sewage deposited itself at the bottom of the harbour producing nuisances.

The PMO, Surgeon General Fraser, stated that a main sewer was being laid to receive the sewage of the Three Cities with its outlet into deep sea water, to the east of Ricasoli. It was afterwards intended to join on a main sewer from Valletta and Floriana, paid for jointly by the Imperial and Local Government.

The drainage works were commenced in 1875, and completed in 1885. They cost in the region of £101,377. The project was supervised by Captain Tressider, and was carried out in the face of opposition from the elected members of the Council of Government.

Soldiers' Families

The average annual strength of wives of soldiers in the command was 422 with 824 children of the non-commissioned officers and men. During 1875, 263 women and 611 children fell ill. Two women, and 44 children died during the year. Two women suffered from enteric fever and one from cerebro-spinal fever which ended fatally. The other death was from consumption.

Sickness in children was from: febrile illnesses (96), eruptive fever (15), enteric fever (1), simple continued fever and febricula (35), remittent fever (14) one of which ended fatally, diphtheria (27) of which 6 ended in the death of the child, conjunctivitis (165).

Other childhood deaths were from tuberculous meningitis (1), anaemia (1) and convulsions (3). Teething was returned as the cause of 3 deaths and general debility of 7 deaths. There were 97 cases of diarrhoea with 12 deaths.

Barracks were now provided with married quarters having wash houses with fixed or movable tubs with water laid on from cisterns and pumps, and latrines and ablution rooms.

Health of the Garrison

Febrile diseases accounted for 602 admissions into hospital (153.5/1000 mean strength) with 11 deaths (2.44/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 43 for nervous system diseases with 1 death
  • 146 for eye diseases
  • 80 for circulatory diseases with 10 deaths
  • 251 for respiratory conditions with 6 deaths
  • 847 for digestive diseases
  • 232 for urinary problems
  • 296 for cutaneous diseases
  • 279 for rheumatism
  • 176 for syphilis
  • 52 for phthisis with 11 deaths
  • 535 for accidents with 4 deaths

Included under the diseases of the nervous system were 18 cases of neuralgia, one of the complications of brucellosis. Rheumatism was reported as arising after an attack of fever. It was another sequelae to brucellosis, although the PMO attributed it to the absence of fireplaces in the barrack rooms which were damp, cold and draughty in winter.

Two-thirds of admissions for circulatory disease were for palpitations.

There were 36 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (8.0/1000 strength), 634 for continued fevers (140.7/1000 strength) with 11 deaths (1.25/1000 strength) and 1 for eruptive fevers (0.2/1000 strength). Under the group returned as continued fevers enteric fever caused 25 admissions with 11 deaths. Admissions for enteric fever were greater in autumn.

Of the 36 cases of paroxysmal fevers; 4 were from ague and 32 were returned as remittent fever but a few were subsequently altered to enteric fever.

There were 205 admissions for simple continued fevers; predominantly more in the 42nd and 101st and least in the 71st Regiment. The Principal Medical Officer remarked that much of the fever which was common in the hot seasons arose as a result of the men being confined to their barrack rooms from sunrise to sunset and not having a suitable head wear to protect them from the sun.

Febricula caused 404 admissions during the second and third quarters of the year when the fever was common.

Capt Thomas Dynon 16th Lancers

Paymaster Captain Thomas Dynon was born on 3 July 1817 and died at Malta on 31 March 1874. He had served with the 16th Lancers during the Campaign in Afghanistan under Lord Keane, including the siege and capture of Ghazni. He had also served at the Battle of Maharajpore on 9 Dec 1843 and also in the Sutlej Campaign in 1846 including the Battles of Buddiwal, Aliwal and Sobraon (Anglo-Sikh War).