Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison – 1889

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Malta Garrison – 1889

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the Command was 6,516 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 3,579 admissions into hospital (549.3 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 40 deaths (6.13 deaths/1000). The Garrison Staff had 35 men with 5 hospital admissions.

149 men returned to England as invalids; 60 of whom were discharged from the service. The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the RMA, was 239.86 men (36.81/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 13.44 days; the average duration of each case was 24.46 days.

There were 189 officers, with 101 attacks of illness. There were no deaths, but 5 officers were invalided home.

Admissions were for: continued fevers (25), of which 1 was enteric, debility (56), rheumatism (12), digestive disorders (10), injuries (21).

Soldiers' Families

There were 289 wives, with 210 attacks of illness and 4 deaths. Admissions were for: continued fevers (42/3 deaths), of which 1 was enteric, debility (41), rheumatism (10), nervous disorders (8), respiratory (17/1 death from tubercular), digestive disorders (38), generative system disorders (21).

There were 445 children with 471 admissions and 44 deaths. Admissions were for: measles (87/3 deaths), whooping cough (41/3 deaths), simple continued fever (44/2 deaths), debility (16/2 deaths), conjunctivitis (18), bronchitis (60/3 deaths), teething (24/2 deaths), diarrhoea (76/12 deaths).

Child deaths were from convulsions (6), enteritis (3), tubercular disease (2), premature birth (1), and dysentery (1), scrofula (1) peritonitis (1) pneumonia (1), diphtheria (1).

3 Sep 1889 Child Albert Datlan, aged 11 months, son of Thomas Datlan and Elizabeth nee Russell was buried in Pietà Military Cemetery.

Sickness of the Duke of Edinburgh

The British Medical Journal of 4 May 1889 reported that: The illness from which the Duke of Edinburgh has now been suffering for the last month is an attack of Maltese Remittent Fever. About the middle of March, His Royal Highness had a slight attack, but, after a few days at sea, he at once recovered. He somewhat unwisely returned to Malta, and became indisposed during the first few days of April, and on the 5th was compelled to take to his bed on board the Alexandra.

He has since suffered from a well-marked attack of remittent fever, which, though of some severity, the temperature having risen as high as 103.7 F (39.8 C), has been entirely without any abdominal or other complications. Sir Oscar Clayton, who was directed by the queen to proceed to Portsmouth to meet the Alexandra, found his patient, who had been successfully treated by Fleet-Surgeon McLean, sufficiently strong to warrant his removal to London on April 28th. The Duke was able to walk from the ship to the train.

Since his arrival at Clarence House he has had a sharp exacerbation of the fever, which was only to be anticipated, as the Maltese type of Remittent Fever is of very uncertain duration, but not infrequently lasts fully six weeks. This exacerbation has now passed away, and the Duke maintains his strength, sleeps well, and has never lost appetite. In short, the case is an ordinary attack of pure Maltese remittent fever, without any typhoid or other complication. Sir Oscar Clayton ha been able to give an absolutely favourable prognosis as to ultimate recovery, though the duration of the illness is at present doubtful.

Health of the Garrison

Fever accounted for 580 admissions into hospital with 19 deaths. Admissions were for:

  • 46 for nervous system diseases (4 deaths)
  • 57 for circulatory diseases (1 death)
  • 132 for respiratory conditions (1 death)
  • 529 for digestive diseases (5 deaths)
  • 15 for urinary problems
  • 227 for generative disorders
  • 237 for cutaneous diseases
  • 156 for rheumatism
  • 84 for primary syphilis
  • 82 for secondary syphilis
  • 350 for gonorrhoea
  • 14 for phthisis (1 death)
  • 515 for accidents (5 deaths)
  • 13 for alcoholism (3 delirium tremens)
  • 9 for parasitic diseases (taenia solium)
  • 108 for debility

There were 7 admissions for eruptive fevers (6 measles), 18 for enteric fever (7 deaths), 31 admissions for dysentery (1 death) and 10 for malarial fevers of which 6 were ague and 4 remittent fever (2 deaths). There were 545 admissions for simple continued fever (10 deaths) distributed as follows: Cottonera (271/8 deaths), Valletta (178/2 deaths), Forrest (47), Fort Chambray Gozo (37), Citta Vecchia (12).

The medical officer in charge of the Cottonera Station Hospital remarked that although Malta fever is now admitted to be a distinct fever, yet many cases so nearly approach the character of enteric fever, that it is almost impossible at times to distinguish between them.

The PMO remarked that a large proportion of the cases of primary syphilis was supplied by batteries and regiments which had arrived in the Command during the year. Many of the cases of debility and rheumatism were the sequelae of fevers.

A soldier died when he accidentally drank a strong solution of oxalic acid used for cleaning clothes; another survived a suicidal attempt with an overdose of laudanum. There were two deaths by drowning, one suicide from cut throat followed by jumping over the bastion, one from fractured skull from the accidental bursting of a shell, and one from a tear of the external iliac artery caused by a man falling over a tent rope and smashing a glass bottle in his trousers pocket.

31 Oct 1889 Pte R Hunt, aged 36 years East Lancashire Regt was buried in Pietà Military Cemetery.

12 Nov Pte John Morris, Gloucestershire Regt, aged 22 years was buried in Pietà Military Cemetery.

Wooden Huts

In 1889, a number of wooden huts were erected at Floriana, Fort Manoel and Fort Tigne to house the 1200 men who had arrived from England during the summer. The construction of a stone barracks was also authorised.


  • Hart H. G. 1889. The New Annual Army List for 1889 corrected to 31st December 1888. London John Murray.
  • Statistical, Sanitary and Medical Reports of the Army Medical Department. Army Medical Department Report for 1889 Vol XXXI. London 1891.
  • Wismayer J M, The History of the King's Own Malta Regiment. (Malta 1989); 117-131.
  • TNA:WO 73/38, Monthly Returns of the Malta Garrison (1 January – 1 June 1889).
  • TNA:WO 73/39, Monthly Returns of the Malta Garrison (1 July – 1 December 1889).
  • Illness the Duke of Edinburgh, Brit Med J (1889) 1; 1006 (Published 4 May 1889).
  • Naval and Military Medical Services. Brit Med J (1889) (Published 25 May 1889), 1206.