The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1909

Long Ward Valletta

Long Ward
The Long Ward was no longer in use after 1906. The number of patients infected with the Micrococcus melitensis fell sharply after the prohibition of drinking goats' milk. The few sporadic cases in the garrison were traced to the eating of white goats' cheese or drinking unboiled milk.
Long Ward
Plan of the Station Hospital Valletta (TNA:MPH 1/912).

The Long Ward of the Valletta Military Hospital was nearly 600 feet long and known as "20 A" and "20 B". The ceiling was supported by oak beams stretching across the width at close distance. At one time, the ward was inadequate to care for all the victims of Malta Fever. However, by 1909 there was not a single case of the disease in any of the Station hospitals.

The substitution of tinned milk for goats' milk and the boiling of milk had put an end to the scourge. In 1909, the building was vacated and handed over to the Army Service Corps as an unoccupied building. On 10 Mar 1909, the Warrant Officers and senior ranks organized a ball to mark the end of Malta Fever and the use of the Long Ward. The hall was decorated by men from HMS Exmouth, flagship of the Admiral Commanding.

Music was provided by the Prof Zammit String Band. The party of over 600 guests partook of a sumptuous supper, the tables being laid for 320 persons at each sitting. The Lieutenant Governor Sir Edward Merewether and Lady Merewether and Col McNeece, commanding the RAMC and PMO Malta, together with all the officers of the corps attended.

Sand-fly Fever

In 1909, Lt Col Birt Cecil arrived at Malta specifically to investigate sand-fly fever. In the course of eight months he investigated 285 cases of fever of unknown origin. Sand-flies were prevalent between April and September. This so called Summer Influenza presented with a fever lasting one to five days, severe pains in the head, back and limbs, and sometimes by gastric and intestinal upsets. Insects entered the barracks at night in great numbers. Their bites disrupted the men's sleep. They were acutely painful and not infrequently became infected.

Hitherto, sand-fly fever had been completely overshadowed by the more serious epidemics caused by the Micrococcus melitensis. With the disappearance of Malta Fever, sand-fly fever assumed prominence. Colonel J G MacNeece, PMO Malta and Crete, appointed a committee of RAMC officers to investigate every febrile case occurring among the troops stationed in Malta and Crete. The committee established that nearly all the ailments were due to a virus conveyed by the owl midge Phlebotomus papatasi, incorrectly known as a "sand-fly", which was a scourge in many parts of the islands during the hot weather, when the fever was prevalent. Birt discovered the breeding grounds of the pappataci. In his opinion sand-fly fever in Malta was identical with the pappataci fever of Dalmatia and Herzegovinia.

Floriana Barracks

Floriana Barracks

In 1909, Floriana Barracks consisted of an old and a new portion. The old barracks situated between the Civil Hospital and the former Poor House or Ospizio was not occupied except for some huts in Notre Dame Bastion. These overlooked the Quarantine Harbour.

Floriana Barracks
"A" and "B" Blocks Floriana Barracks constructed in 1903 with the first floor extension of 1911.

The new barracks, later called Lintorn Barracks, consisted of three modern blocks with corresponding out-buildings erected in 1903. Each block was built to the same plan and consisted of double stories with two rooms on each floor. "A" and "B" Blocks faced the parade ground in an easterly direction, "C" Block was built at right angles and faced north. To the left of "C" Block and within 10 yards of it, the ground fell away to a hollow leading to the Old Quarantine Gate.

Floriana Barracks
Floriana Fortifications with the location of the new and old Floriana Barracks

Between these blocks and the harbour on the west were three disused cemeteries. The foundations for "C" Block were constructed on a filled up hollow. Rations were cooked in the cook house which was common to "B" and "C" Blocks. All three Blocks were occupied for the first time in 1903. The huts in the Notre Dame Bastion Floriana were occupied by an infantry company and their band.

United Service Medical Society Malta Branch

The Fourth General Meeting of the USMS Malta Branch was held on 24 Mar 1909 in the disused Long Ward at the Military Hospital Valletta. Col McNeece presided. A number of clinical presentations were given, among which was one by Maj Crawford on the work of the Field Ambulance in Catona.

Privileged Leave

Medical Officers serving in Malta were allowed eight days privileged leave. This enabled them to broaden their horizons by visiting Africa, Sicily, Naples, and even Rome.

In 1909, the PMO observed that: in summer, in a hot debilitating climate like Malta, men quickly become hospitalized and the disease assumes the sub acute form, being barely if at all influenced by any form of treatment. In these cases, a change to our hill station Mtarfa, where there is an excellent modern hospital and the men can be allowed outdoor exercise, has been found to exert a most beneficial influence.


British troops deployed to Crete in 1897 as part of the Cretan International Force. The Young Turk revolution of 1908 enabled the union of Crete with Greece.

In 1909, Britain withdrew her troops from Crete. Consequently, three medical officers left Malta before completing their full tour of duty, and made way for three medical officers arriving from Crete.

New Civil Hospital

The population of Malta on 1 Apr 1909 was around 190,250. The Central Hospital Floriana (198 beds), the Santo Spirito Hospital Rabat (73 beds), and the Connaught Hospital for tubercular patients at Mdina (60 beds) provided a total of 331 beds or 1 bed for 575 people. The maternity ward was in an upper floor of the Central Hospital and had 26 beds.

In June 1906, Dr Micallef, Comptroller of the Charitable institutions, pointed out the inadequacy of the number of beds for the needs of the population. In 1909, the government proposed to build a new 450 bed hospital at Pieta' and close the existing three hospitals. Only the hospital for infectious diseases on Manoel Island was to be reprieved.

The new hospital was to be built on the pavilion system, with separate wards for the various classes of diseases. It was to serve as the clinical school for students in the faculty of medicine. The estimated cost was £65,000.

Zabbar Gate

Zabbar Gate
Zabbar Gate part of the Cottonera Lines 28 Aug 1670
Zabbar Gate
Zabbar Gate
Zabbar Gate barracks

In 1909, Zabbar Gate adjacent to the Cottonera Hospital, became the new Sergeant's mess 30 Coy RAMC.

Earthquake Calabria

Major Crawford Gilbert Stewart, and Captains Anderson Henry Stewart, Winckworth Harold Charles, Jones Percy Arnold Lloyd, and Surgeon Captain Robert Randon Royal Malta Artillery, were decorated by the King of Italy in recognition of their services with the Field Ambulance at Catona, after the earthquake in Sicily and Calabria.

Major Crawford G S was made Commander of the Crown of Italy. The others became Chevaliers of the Crown of Italy. They were decorated at the Palace Valletta by the Governor on 29 October 1909.

Fort Chambray Hospital Gozo

In 1909, Fort Chambray was temporarily reoccupied after lying empty for nearly three years. It had a non dieted hospital commanded by Lt Philip Smyly Stewart, who also gave a series of hygiene lectures to the troops. The married quarters at Chambray were popular with families in Malta requiring "a change of air".