The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1876

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the garrison was 4,539 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 3,644 hospital admissions (802.8/1000), with 40 deaths (8.81/1000), including 7 invalids on their passage home or at the Invalid Depôt at Netley. There were 69 men of the Garrison Staff and Departmental Corps with 3 deaths. Half of the deaths were from enteric fever.

95 men were invalided from Malta; 58 were discharged from Netley. The average number constantly non-effective through sickness, excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 198.94 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 43.83; the average sick time to each soldier was 16 days; the average duration of each case was 19.93 days.

There was an average of 217 officers, of whom 130 were sick; 3 died and 9 were invalided to England. Fever caused most of the admissions. Deaths among the officers were from apoplexy (2) and hepatitis with liver abscess (1). 3 officers were invalided to England due to hepatitis.

Health of the Garrison

Fever accounted for 667 admissions into hospital (146.9/1000 strength) with 17 deaths (3.75/1000 strength). Admissions were for:

  • 66 for nervous system diseases with 3 deaths
  • 79 for circulatory diseases with 7 deaths
  • 176 for respiratory conditions with 5 deaths
  • 684 for digestive diseases with 5 deaths
  • 194 for urinary problems
  • 297 for cutaneous diseases
  • 267 for rheumatism
  • 154 for syphilis
  • 35 for phthisis with 4 deaths
  • 615 for accidents with 4 deaths

There was 1 suicide. Of the accidental deaths, 1 was from drowning, 2 by skull fractures and 1 by injury of the spine from a fall in the gymnasium. Nearly half of the diseases of the nervous system were for neuralgia, 15 for epilepsy and 12 for various forms of mental disease. One of the deaths was due to encephalitis and two from apoplexy. Palpitations gave 79 admissions. Six deaths were due to aneurysm. There were 3 deaths from hepatitis, acute liver atrophy (1) and peritonitis (1).

There were 29 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (6.4/1000) with 1 death (0.22/1000), 613 for continued fevers (136.1/1000) with 15 deaths (3.30/1000) and 4 for eruptive fevers (0.9/1000), mainly scarlet fever.

Enteric fever caused 49 admissions with 13 deaths. Two deaths were recorded as simple continued fever. In one, the symptoms were similar to those of enteric fever, mainly loss of appetite, great weakness, fever aggravated at night and attended with severe frontal headaches, flushed face and sleeplessness, morning and evening fluctuations of temperature, frequent attacks of epistaxis, eventually diarrhoea, delirium, stupor and death.

Soldiers' Families

There was an average of wives 429 and 834 children in the command. 201 women and 531 children fell ill; 4 women and 41 children died. Fever caused 30 admissions; one woman had enteric fever; 20 had diarrhoea. Deaths in women were from: enteric fever (1), choleraic diarrhoea (1), apoplexy (1) and aneurysm of the aorta (1).

Children sickened from: eruptive fever (13), enteric fever (3), simple continued fever and febricula (57), whooping cough (2), diphtheria (8), phthisis (3), conjunctivitis (50), bronchitis (80), dysentery (3), diarrhoea (83), taenai solium (10), general debility (24).


In 1876, the branding of deserters and soldiers of bad character was repealed. The tattoo was placed below the soldier's left armpit, with an apparatus fitted with a set of small needles in the shape of the letter D or BC. The last man to be branded was Pte Black 42nd Regiment.

Duchess of Edinburgh

On 4 Nov 1876, Dr William Playfair, obstetric physician of King's College Hospital, arrived at Malta to attend the Duchess of Edinburgh in her approaching confinement. On 25 Nov 1876, he attended San Antonio Palace Attard, and at five minutes past six in the evening, delivered the Duchess of Edinburgh of a daughter, Victoria Melita.

Bugeja Institute

On 20 Apr, Lady Van Straubenzee laid the foundation stone of the Instituto Bugeja, at Fleur de Lys. The institute was founded by Marchese Vincenzo Bugeja for the education and training of destitute female children. It was completed in 1880.

Volunteer Ambulance Department

The VAD originated in 1876 as the Volunteers Sick Bearers'Association. It was officially recognised by the War Office in 1882. Members were instructed in ambulance duties, and the proper treatment of wounded in the field. They used the drill from the official Red Books of instruction and system adopted by the Army Hospital Corps at Aldershot, so as to be able to work with the regulars in time of need.

Royal Warrant 28 Apr 1876

All new entrants to the Army Medical Department were to be on a short service commission of 10 years. At the end of this period, six were to be selected annually for promotion to the higher ranks. The rest were to return to civilian life with £1000 in lieu of a pension on retirement. The examination for promotion to the rank of surgeon-major was abolished. The Royal Warrant did nothing to encourage recruitment. In 1876, when 38 vacancies arose in the department, only 12 applied, of whom five had been previously rejected. The Royal Warrant of 1876 was replaced by that of Nov 1879, which got rid of the short service system.


In 1876, it was decided to protect Marsaxlokk harbour with a fort on the hill of Tas Silg. Fort Delimara was commenced in Jan 1876 and completed on 31 December 1888.

Dr S L Pisani

On 1 Oct 1876, Dr Salvino Luigi Pisani relinquished the Chair of Anatomy at the University. He was succeeded by Dr Stilon Hamilton as Professor of Anatomy and Descriptive Histology.