The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1911

Malta Garrison

The census of 1911 gave the strength of the Malta Command as 9,016 with 7,653 males and 1,363 females.

Sand-fly Fever

In May 1911, the Tropical Diseases Committee of the Royal Society proposed appointing a commission to undertake a systematic investigation of the disease commonly known as Sand-fly fever, transmitted by the Phlebotomus papatasi. The illness, though not generally fatal, caused much sickness during the summer throughout the Mediterranean. In 1911, the number of service patients increased. Soldiers falling ill were principally those who had recently arrived on the island.

Captain Philip Jauvrin Marett RAMC had for two years specialized in the natural history of the sand-fly and was therefore well qualified to carry out an investigation into the fever. In 1912, he continued his research into the Phlebotomus sand-flies in the Maltese Islands.

The Royal Society, however, felt that despite the work of the RAMC, an extended inquiry was more likely to result in breakthroughs, which would lead to successful preventive measures. The Royal Society inquired whether the Secretary of State for the Colonies would co-operate in appointing a commission under its guidance. The Royal Society would direct the investigation and suggest the names of scientific members of the commission.

Forrest Hospital

Forrest Hospital
Forrest Hospital St Julians.

In 1911, the small RAMC detachment of 12 men stationed at Forrest hospital gave a smoking concert with the permission of Lt Col Henry Lawrence Esmonde White. This was attended by the Suffolk Regiment which was shortly due to leave for Egypt.

Forrest Hospital had 31 beds. It had been earmarked to become a reception station for the Western District on completion of a new 180 bed hospital at Gebel Imtarfa.


When Italy wrested Tripoli and Libya from the Ottoman Empire cholera followed the refugees from the Italo-Turkish War (1911-12) to Malta. There were 112 cases among the civil population, with a mortality rate of 72%.

Zammit Clapp Hospital

Zammit Clapp Hospital was erected by Emilia Clapp nee Zammit, a distinguished Maltese lady noted for her benevolence and philanthropy. It was constructed in strict accordance with hygienic principles especially with regards to ventilation and drainage. The hospital stood in the open country, within the limits of St Julian's, overlooking Marsamxetto harbour, its only neighbour being the nursing home of the Blue Sisters.

The hospital was used exclusively by the nursing sisters wholly at their own expense for the treatment of the sick of both sexes of whatever creed or nationality, in accordance with the rules of the institution. On 23 June 1911, to commemorate the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary, the widow of Henry Lyman Clapp, gifted the hospital to the Maltese, which whilst helping to supply a long felt want might stand as a lasting memorial of that happy event.

The Deed of Donation conveyed the hospital and grounds to the Government of Malta under condition that it shall be enjoyed exclusively and in perpetuity by the Nursing Sisters of the Little Company of Mary. Emilia Zammit Clapp also reserved the right to construct a mortuary chapel on a site adjoining the hospital. This required the government to pass Ordnance No 111 suspending Article 67 of the Police Laws, which forbade the construction of cemeteries or graves within 200 yards of any habitation.

From 1911 to 1912, the Seamen's Hospital was annexed to the Central Hospital, Floriana so as to relieve congestion, as no funds were available for a new building. In 1912, patients formerly admitted to the Seamen's Hospital were transferred to the Nursing Sisters of the Little Company of Mary, popularly known as the Blue Sisters. The Government provided medical attendance, medicines as well as bedding and clothing.

The Malta Government paid the daily rate of 2 shillings and sixpence for every British or foreign seamen treated at the Zammit Clapp Hospital which it recovered from the shipowners through the Board of Trade. The money was paid to the Sisters of the Little Company to cover food, nursing, washing and attending the patients.

Military families at Malta were granted permission to be admitted to the Blue Sisters Home, if there was insufficient accommodation in the military or civil hospital. A woman or child was charged 2 shillings a day, a mother and child 3 shillings a day.

Malta Fever

The Governor of Malta made representations to the Secretary of State for the Colonies with regard to the use of the term Malta fever. The Governor pointed out that the disease which was called Mediterranean fever by some authorities and Undulant fever or undulating fever by others, so far from being peculiar to Malta, occurred all over the Mediterranean littoral. It was present in Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, Crete, Sicily, Italy, France, Spain, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripoli, as well as in other countries, such as India and South and Central Africa, which did not border on the Mediterranean Sea.

He urged that the name Malta fever was inappropriate and likely to operate to the disadvantage of the island by conveying the impression that Malta was the only place where it prevailed. The Governor's views were brought by the Secretary of State to the notice of the London and Liverpool Schools of Tropical Medicine and the Academy of Medicine in France, as well as the War Office and the Admiralty, with the result that all these institutions agreed to abandon the use of the term Malta fever.

Dr Albert Victor Bernard

On 27 Apr 1909, Dr Albert Victor Bernard was appointed assistant medical officer in the Central Civil Hospital Floriana on a salary of £50 a year. In 1911, he was proposed as the successor to Dr Critien as CGMO, subject to him obtaining the diploma in Public Health at University College Liverpool.

Bernard left for England on 16 Mar 1911, and was granted £150 to cover college fees, travel and all other expenses. He was obliged to enter into an agreement binding himself to serve the Malta Government for at least 10 years, and in the event of him failing to obtain the Diploma of Public Health to refund all expenses incurred for his training.

On obtaining his diploma, Bernard was to be appointed Medical Officer of Health from the date of his return to Malta. On 15 April 1911, Dr A V Bernard was appointed medical officer of health in the Public Health Department. His duties included giving special lectures with demonstrations to sanitary inspectors. In war he was responsible for implementing the Emergency Hospital Scheme for the wounded and gas casualties among the civil population.

Military Hospital Mtarfa

Mtarfa Military Hospital
In 1912, 15.5 acres of land (coloured yellow) were bought at Gebel Imtarfa at a cost of £2,661 for the new Central Hospital. (TNA:T 161/874)

In 1904, the Fourth Report of the Centralization Sub Committee of the Army Hospitals Committee condemned the Valletta Hospital and recommended the building of a new hospital on St Julian's Hill. The War Office had purchased a plot of land at St Julians in June 1900 to build a hospital of 140 beds for the Pembroke garrison. The site was however unsuitable for a Central Hospital, as it had no tram or rail links with Valletta. It was thus decided to dispose of the land at St Julians and purchase land at Gebel Mtarfa instead.

In August 1911, the War Office was granted authority to purchase 15.5 acres of land at a cost of £2,661. One owner, however, refused to sell his land. Nevertheless, the War Office took possession of the whole site, but agreed with the litigant to deposit the purchase price of £93 plus interest of 5% for one year in court, until the resolution of the dispute. No resolution was reached until Nov 1934.

Unknown to the War Office, the money that had been handed over by the Command Pay Office to the solicitor of the Crown Advocate had never been deposited into court and was assumed to have been fraudulently misappropriated by the solicitor.

The War Office, therefore, had no legal ownership of the disputed parcel of land until March 1939, when it reluctantly paid the owner the purchase price with interest of 5% for one year, and interest at 2.5% from 1912 to 1934, this being the rent on his land while the War Office had been in possession of his property.

Field Training

map Malta
Pre 1920 map of southern Malta showing the Cottonera Military Hospital and Fort Leonardo. Mtarfa barracks is shown but no hospital had yet been constructed.

On 26 Nov 1911, Major Evans Charles Robert commenced the training of 30 Coy RAMC in field work. This was extended over three weeks. The company was divided into four sections of 37 men each.

Preliminary training took place at Cottonera HQ, with the advanced training at Fort San Leonardo. Equipment was drawn from stores on 25 Nov 1911. The exercise established communications between Cottonera and Fort San Leonardo, a distance of over 2.5 miles with semaphore flags, 2 feet square, with the aid of binoculars.

Burials Baptisms 1911

Rinella Cemetery.
Rinella Cemetery.
  • 5 Mar Baptism of Mabel Mary Hill born on 30 January 1911, daughter of Mabel and Army Schoolmaster Allen Lemfriend Hill, of Mtarfa.
  • 14 Mar No 1463 Pte W E Durrant RAMC died of septicaemia from a carbuncle. He was buried on 15 March 1911 at Rinella Military Cemetery. The firing party was provided by the 2nd/Gloucester Regiment. Durrant had arrived in Malta in January 1911.