The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1908

Sanatorium Citta Vecchia

The former palace of the Grand Master De Vilhena was equipped as a hospital through the generosity of HRH The Duke of Connaught and Strathearn, Field Marshal Commanding-in-Chief British Troops and High Commissioner in the Mediterranean. The hospital was opened by King Edward VII on 22 Apr 1909 and named The Connaught Hospital.

On 28 Oct 1908, the Executive Council of Government recommended equipping the building used by the military authorities as a Sanatorium at Notabile, which had recently reverted to the Government of Malta, so as to reduce the excessive overcrowding at the Civil Hospital Floriana.

The Duke of Connaught generously offered to provide £800 for the purpose. It was estimated that about £2000 a year would be needed to maintain 60 beds.

Prof Salvino Luigi Pisani

Prof Salvino Luigi Pisani was educated at the University of Malta, graduating as a medical doctor in 1850. In 1853, he completed his studies in Scotland and became a Licentiate of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh.

In 1858, he entered government service as Professor of Anatomy and Histology and subsequently held various university appointments. In 1885 he became Chief Government Medical Officer, and took charge of the Public Health Department when it was established in 1895.

In 1895, Prof Salvino Luigi Pisani was made a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in recognition of his services and professional attainments. He retired in 1901 and died on 27 Oct 1908 after a prolonged illness.

Infantile Enteritis

Infantile enteritis was responsible for the majority of infant deaths in the garrison. Enteritis was attribute to a high atmospheric temperature, filth, insanitary surroundings and improper feeding by mothers. Flies played a large part in the spread of disease.

Enteritis left a child so debilitated, that it weakened it, and was left unable to resist other diseases. This increased its chance of dying. Admissions and deaths from enteritis in Mtarfa were:

  • 1905: Admitted 20, deaths 5
  • 1906: Admitted 3, deaths nil
  • 1907: Admitted 3, deaths nil

In the rest of the garrison, excluding Mtarfa, admissions and deaths from enteritis were:

  • 1905: Admitted 60, deaths 13
  • 1906: Admitted 85, deaths 13
  • 1907: Admitted 62, deaths 12

Deaths among children from causes other than enteritis were:

  • 1905: Mtarfa 11, Rest of Malta 46
  • 1906: Mtarfa nil, Rest of Malta 29
  • 1907: Mtarfa nil, Rest of Malta 25

Families at Mtarfa were encouraged to maintain a high standard of cleanliness of their married quarters so as to reduce morbidity from enteritis. Mothers were instructed to wash their hands after handling clothes and cleaning their baby. The sanitary officer instituted the following measures:

1. The quarters, and in particular the water closets, were inspected weekly. Latrine brushes were placed into every quarter and their daily use advised. The verandas of the quarters were thoroughly scrubbed weekly.

2. Food was covered with gauze to keep off flies and dust. Small wire gauze meat safes were supplied to each quarter.

3. Mothers were advised on how to feed and clothe their children. Only tinned milk was available which came in small tins costing 2 1/2 d and large tins at 5d. To save money mothers bought the large cans of condensed milk. However, as this was too much to consume in a day and with no refrigerator to keep it cool, the milk quickly turned sour. Mothers were directed to open the tins by making two small holes in the lid and to keep the tins in vessels containing cold water with the lids covered with gauze when not in use.

4. To prevent spread of enteritis cases were isolated and the stools, soiled linen and clothes disinfected. No visitors were permitted to enter the house during an illness.

United Services Medical Society - Malta Branch

In Jan 1908, a General Meeting of the Naval and Military medical officers was held in Valletta to consider the formation of a Malta Branch of the United Services Medical Society.

The society held its second meeting on 6 May 1908. A third meeting was held on 10 Dec 1908, when Capt H St M Carter read Notes of two cases of ruptured bladder successfully operated on by Maj C C Fleming. Both patients had fallen 30 feet out of a barrack window into the rocky ditch, one sustaining a fractured pelvis, the other a fractured lumbar vertebra.

Messina Straits Earthquake

earthquake relief party
Hospital Staff of the Earthquake Relief Party Catona (J Roy Army Med Corps p 290.). The unit sailed in HMS Duncan to Gatano Calabria.

On 28 Dec 1908, at around 5 in the morning Malta received a severe earth tremor which was followed two and a half hours later by a tidal wave. This rose to a height of 7 feet in the harbours, flooding the road at the end of Pieta Creek. In the evening news reached Malta from Sicily of the calamity that had befallen its northern neighbour.

A Field Ambulance mobilized from Malta to succour the victims of the earthquake which had totally destroyed Messina (pop. 150,000) and Reggio di Calabria (pop. 50,000). About 100,000 inhabitants were estimated to have perished in the rubble and accompanying tsunami.

The following sailed on HMS Duncan to Catona on New Year's Eve: Maj Crawford Gilbert Stewart, Capt Anderson Henry Stewart, Capt Winckworth Harold Charles, Capt Lloyd Jones Percy Arnold, Surgeon Capt Randon Robert, Lt (QM) Morrison, Sister McCreery QAIMNS, Sister Hartigan QAIMNS, and 55 other ranks RAMC.

13 Maltese Civil Surgeons, all volunteers, distinguished themselves. They proceeded at very short notice to Sicily, several abandoning their medical practice at pecuniary loss to themselves. These were: Michele Asphar, Albert Victor Bernard, Placido Biasini, Salvatore Borg, Salvatore Ellul Grech, Edgar Henry Ferro, Paolo Grech, Francesco Jaccarini, Salvatore Muscat, Emmanuele Said, Robert Samut, Giuseppe Wirth, Carlo A Zanghi and the chemist Alfonso Charbon.

Baptisms 1908

  • 17 Nov Emily Elizabeth Dibb born 6 November 1908, daughter of Emily and CSM Henry Dibb Gymnasium Staff, resident at Strada Franco Valletta.