The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1898

Royal Army Medical Corps

RAMC Warrant
Royal Warrant 23 June 1898 creating the RAMC.

On 23 June 1898, the officers below the rank of Surgeon Major General serving in the Army Medical Staff amalgamated with the Warrant Officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Medical Staff Corps to form the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Malta Command (including Crete)

Camp Madalene
Madalene Camp and fort 1898. (The Navy and Army Illustrated Vol VI No 71 page 279 published 11 June 1898).

The average strength of troops in the Malta Command, exclusive of the Royal Malta Artillery was 7,390. An additional 1,701 men were in Crete as part of the international occupation of the island. Barrack and hospital accommodation was insufficient. The barracks at Fort Manoel was too close to the Lazaretto and the cattle quarantine station, which at times had between 380 to 550 head of cattle, and the huts were overcrowded. In October, the camp at Fort Delimara, where the men were under canvas, was wrecked by a hail storm.

There were 7,093 admissions into the Malta hospitals with 67 deaths. Crete had 2,424 admissions with 51 deaths. 364 men returned to England as invalids; 93 of whom were discharged from the service. In Malta and Gozo, the average constantly sick excluding the RMA, was 414.11 men. The average sick time to each soldier was 19.39 days; the average duration of each case of sickness was 18.52 days.

There were 270 officers, with 244 cases of illness and 5 deaths (3 enteric fever, 1 pneumonia, 1 gun shot in Moslem outbreak in Kandia). 21 officers were invalided home. Among the officers there were 60 simple continued fever, 19 Mediterranean fever, 28 malarial fevers, 10 enteric fever, 18 injuries, 13 hepatic disorders, 9 bronchitis, 8 rheumatism and 7 influenza.

The unfavourable health statistics were attributed by the PMO to the arrival in the Command of troops from the Nile Campaign, the occupation of Crete and the Moslem outbreak in Sep, and the large number of young soldiers and special enlistments in the new battalions sent to Malta.

In 1898, fever accounted for 2,091 admissions into hospital. There were 74 deaths. Admissions were for: simple continued fevers (60), Mediterranean fever (19), Malarial fevers (28), injuries (18), enteric fever (10/3 deaths one in Crete), hepatic conditions (13), bronchitis (9), diarrhoea (9), rheumatism (8) and influenza (7).

Malta had 2 admissions for eruptive fevers (1 small pox and 1 for Scarlet fever). The fatal case of small pox occurred in a soldier living in a hut near the civil infectious hospital at a time when small pox was prevalent among the civil population. There were 62 admissions for enteric fever, (10 from Mtarfa, 9 from Pembroke Camp, and a large proportion in men returning from Crete), with 24 deaths. Two men of the RAMC contracted the disease while attending on enteric patients.

The medical officer in charge of the Cottonera Hospital remarked on the prevalence of sore throat, which he attributed to the insanitary condition of the barracks in the Cottonera district.

Forrest Hospital
Forrest Hospital St Julian's Bay 1906. The hospital was not large enough to accommodate the sick from Pembroke Camp and the wards had to be supplemented by tents. The lease on the building expired in 1900 (Wellcome images RAMC Muniment collection).

There were 1,383 admissions for malarial fevers of which 1,360 were ague and 23 remittent fever. 1146 of the ague and 14 of the remittent fevers occurring at Crete. There was 1 death from remittent fever in Malta. Maltese mule drivers in Crete appeared to have been more susceptible to malarial fever than the soldiers.

There were 1,893 admissions with 9 deaths for continued fevers. The medical officer in charge of Forrest Hospital attributed the large number of admissions of simple continued fever to his hospital to the increase in troops under canvas at Pembroke Camp and especially to the presence of young soldiers and special enlistments in the station. He also observed that the disease frequently occurred in men under treatment in tents but not among those in wards.

There were 23 admissions for gunshot wounds, of which 5 were accidental, the rest occurring in Sep in Kandia during the Moslem uprising. Of 15 deaths from local injuries, 11 were due to gunshot wounds, nine during the Moslem outbreak, seven of which died instantly, one from a negligent discharge of a revolver in Crete and one suicide in Valletta. An accidental death followed an explosion of a cartridge at gun practice; six soldiers drowned.

Two deaths were from falls of the ramparts in Fort Ricasoli and Fort Chambray Gozo, another was from a compound fracture of the femur due to an accident while dismounting a gun at Upper St Elmo.

During 1898, the Sanatorium at Citta Vecchia (Mdina) treated 821 patients, as compared with 581 in the previous year. 535 patients were admitted directly from Mtarfa, the rest (286 patients), were transfers from various stations, including 66 patients from Crete.

Soldiers' Families

Four families were accommodated in good quarters in Fort Manoel, but the lack of sufficient places forced many married families to live in insanitary lodgings. In the Sliema districts, the quarters were mainly hired lodgings which were unsatisfactory on account of cesspits.

There were 436 wives, with 301 attacks of illness and 7 deaths. Deaths were due to enteric fever (2), Mediterranea fever (2), lung tubercle, dilatation of the heart and Bright's diseases. Admissions were for: simple continued fevers (55), Mediterranean fever (19/2 deaths), debility (52), bronchitis (19), dyspepsia (16), diarrhoea (11), anaemia (11), enteric fever (2/2 deaths), diseases peculiar to women (25). A women became infected with, but recovered from small pox at a time when the disease was prevalent among the civil population.

There were 759 children with 454 cases of sickness and 26 deaths. Admissions were for: simple continued fever (72/1 deaths), Mediterranean fever (16), diarrhoea (78/7 deaths), bronchitis (65/2 deaths), eruptive fevers (28) of which chicken pox (26), cowpox (1) and scarlet fever (1), debility (21), intestinal inflammation (21/11 deaths), 18 conjunctivitis and enteric fever (2). Deaths were from tuberculosis (2), meningitis (2), pneumonia (1).

The women's sanatorium at Citta Vecchia, established in 1895, was taken over entirely by the War Office on 14 Feb 1898. It was furnished, dieted and administered as a hospital for soldier's wives and children. The establishment was intended as a convalescent place only and was not adequate for the nursing of acute conditions.

The following was baptised in 1898:

  • 19 Jan Godfrey Brian Charles Parish born 20 Nov 1897, son of Caroline Mary and Army School Master Charles George Parish of St Elmo Valletta.

The following were buried in Pietà Military Cemetery in 1898:

  • 20 July Infant Rosie Winifred Daisy Ready aged 6 months, daughter of A W Ready.
  • 29 Aug Infant Annie Montford aged 7 months, of Mtarfa.
  • 29 Sep Pte John E Booker aged 25 years, of the Grenadier Guards.

Army Reinforcements

On 14 Jan 1898, the Council of the Malta Government offered to raise 1000 Maltese men for General Military Service in Egypt.

On 21 Jan 1898, new orders were published to encourage recruitment, whereby men serving for 3 years were allowed to extend for 7 years and receive a bounty of £2. Those who had served for 7 years were allowed to serve for 12 years. A limited number of Guards Reservists were encouraged to join their Colours without being required to refund the deferred pay or gratuities given to them on being transferred to the Reserve List.


On 25 Mar 1898, the Peninsular and Oriental Line abandoned Malta as a port of call for their large homeward bound steamers.

This was forced upon them by the local authorities who were imbued with the most eccentric and old world notions of the value of quarantine as a preventive of disease. Their ships bypassed Malta and sailed straight from Port Said to Marseilles.

Royal Naval Hospital Bighi

Staff Bighi Hospital
The PMO, Surgeons and Nursing Sisters of Bighi Royal Naval Hospital 1898. (Navy and Army Illustrated Vol VII No 97 page 273, dated 10 December 1898.)

On 9 Apr 1898, Deputy Inspector General James Hamilton Martin brought to the attention of Admiral Sir J O Hopkins the need to expand the cemetery at Bighi.

The portion of the cemetery set apart for officers had room left but for six or eight more graves. The men's ground was expected to be full after two or three years. DIG J H Martin urged the purchase of land at a short distance from the hospital.

Funds for a Royal Naval Cemetery estimated to cost £1830, were not available. It was, however, proposed to vote money in the annual estimates for 1899-1900 for the purchase of land, to be laid out as a cemetery.

On 16 June 1898, the Naval authorities proposed to buy Villa Portelli for £4,925. The dwelling was near the Naval Hospital and was in an ideal location to serve as the residence for the Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals.

On 14 Nov 1898 the administration postponed the purchase of the property. On 31 Oct 1901, Villa Portelli with the adjacent land at Rinella Creek was purchased for £13,000.

The medical establishment of the RNH Bighi was composed of: Deputy Inspector General J H Martin (in medical charge), Chaplain Rev R D Lewis, Surgeon T Austen, Surgeon T E Honey and store keeper and cashier Mr D J Low RN. The four nursing sisters were: Miss Mary J Pinnager, Miss Florence A Moore, Miss Florence H Porter, and Miss Amy Munn. The ward staff consisted of one chief sick berth steward (Mr Hannaford RN), one first steward, four second stewards and 14 sick berth attendants. The average number of patients was 150 to 200.