Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison – 1916

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Malta Garrison – 1916

Gallipoli and Salonica

The casualties from operations in Gallipoli (25 Apr 1915–9 Jan 1916), and Salonica (Oct 1915–30 Sept 1918), were initially treated in Malta and Egypt.

In 1917, however, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to evacuate from Salonica and five General Hospitals, the 61st, 62nd, 63rd, 64th and 65th, mobilized in Malta for service in Salonica.

The number of sick and wounded treated in Malta from May 1915 up to Feb 1919 was: 2,538 officers, 14 nursing sisters, and 55,439 other ranks, a total of 57,991 from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and 2,930 officers, 467 nursing sisters, and 74,733 other ranks, a total of 78,130, from the Salonica Expeditionary Force.

In June 1916, the medical personnel in Malta consisted of 165 medical officers, 403 nurses and 1,827 other ranks.

In Aug 1916, 48 women doctors were sent to Malta. More lady doctors arrived in Nov 1916, bringing the total number of lady doctors employed in Malta during the Gallipoli and Salonica campaigns to 80.

Dysentery and Malaria

During the summer and autumn of 1916, many cases of dysentery which proved to be bacillary were admitted into Tigné hospital from Macedonia.

The officers assigned to investigate and treat dysentery cases in Malta were: Capt J Speares RAMC; Surgeon Peter Paul Debono a civil surgeon attached to the RAMC; Capt Coleman RAMC and Capt Todd RAMC who both collected sera; Lt Col Price RAMC OC Mtarfa Hospital, where dysentery patients were also received and Lt Col O'Sullivan RAMC, Director of Laboratories at Malta.

From July 1915 till June 1916, Capt R P Garrow MD DPH worked at the Military Infectious Hospital Mtarfa investigating the source of enteric fever. The majority of patients with enteric fever were admitted to Mtarfa from Gallipoli with a few from Mudros and Salonica. The bacteriology work was carried in Malta by Capt N Campbell RAMC.

On 17 Oct 1915, Surgeon General Babtie VC, Principal Director of Medical Services Mediterranean Expeditionary Force Egypt and Malta held a meeting at Alexandria to discuss the treatment of acute dysentery.

In July 1916, an outbreak of malaria in Macedonia brought more sick to Malta. Weekly convoys arrived with a number of sick varying from 718 to 2,587 per week. Hospital beds and convalescent depôts were gradually increased to 25,570 by adding tentage to the hospitals formed in 1915.

Captain James Kirk MD

Captain James Kirk MD was a visiting ophthalmic surgeon who between 1916 and 1917 spent eight months in Malta as an ophthalmic specialist to the Forces. He examined a very large number of soldiers from the Salonica Expeditionary Force infected with malaria presenting with eye symptoms.

Patients complained mainly of interference with vision and night blindness, although non diagnosed refractory errors were found to have a non malarial cause. Another ophthalmologist serving in Malta was Dr A D Griffith who was officer in charge of the Military Hospital at Hamrun.

Ghajn Tuffieha Barracks

Recreation halls were built at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp and at Pembroke for convalescing troops. Australian Hall was erected in Nov 1915 on a central site between St Andrew's and St Paul's Hospitals. The Australian Branch of the British Red Cross gave £2000 for its construction. The building was erected by the Royal Engineers and was opened on 22 Jan 1916 as a recreation hall for 2,000 convalescent patients in the St Andrew's, Pembroke and St George's area.

The hall was managed by the Young Men's Christian Association and the British Red Cross. Between the wars and during the Second World War it was used for shows for the forces. Later the hall served as a cinema and for concerts by visiting Entertainments National Service Association (ENSA) parties.

Surgeon Lt Col John Grech
MRCS LRCP (1871 – 1948)

Surgeon–Lt John Grech was born in Malta on 22 Apr 1871. He was the brother of Dr S Grech of Cospicua. He was commissioned in Army Medical Department on 29 July 1895, promoted Captain on 29 July 1898, Major on 29 Jan 1907, and Lt Col on 1 March 1915. He served as an ADMS during the Great War.

On 3 June 1916, he became the first Maltese RAMC officer to receive the Distinguished Service Medal for his services during the war.

NO 35 Field Ambulance (XI Div)

35 Field Ambulance was one of the three field ambulances of XI Division, the others being the 33rd and 34th. It was commanded by Lt Col Hugh Murray Morton RAMC. It embarked at Davenport on SS Ionic on 5 July 1915 to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force. It arrived at Malta on 17 July on its way to Alexandria and Gallipoli and entered the Grand Harbour as the troopship Lake Michigan, HMT Transylvania and HMAT Karoo were leaving with troops. The officers were briefly allowed ashore and explored Valletta. On 6 August 1915, 35 Fd Amb came ashore at Suvla Bay with 32nd Infantry Brigade, 33rd Inf Bde and 34th Inf Bde, all part of XI Division.

35 Fd Amb had a strength of 10 officers, 2 Warrant Officers and 195 Other Ranks RAMC. It had 10 Ambulance Wagons, 6 General Service Wagons, 4 General Service Limbered Wagons, 3 Water Carts and 1 Maltese Cart. Attached men of the Army Service Corps looked after the transport animals.

The Fd Amb had a Tent Division and a Bearer Division. The Bearer Division was under the command of Lt H G Frayer RAMC with A Section Bearers under charge of Lt David Hamilton Hadden RAMC, B Section Bearers under charge of Lt G D Read RAMC, and C Section Bearers under charge of Lt Donald Charles Scott RAMC. Each Section Bearer had 1 officer, 1 Sgt and 40 to 41 men. The Bearer Div was equipped with 60 stretchers, 21 surgical haversacks, 18 shell dressings haversacks, 27 water bottles and 6 medical panniers, 6 canvas buckets and 1 pick shovel.

The Bearer Sections cleared the casualties from the Regimental Aid Posts to the Main Dressing Station. On 14 August, Capt G D Read RAMC was medevaced to the Blue Sisters Convent Hospitals Malta. Capt D C Scott RAMC also fell ill on 13 August and was casevaced to Malta, but rejoined his unit on 15 October 1915.

The Tent Div of the Fd Amb had all the medical and surgical equipment to form the Dressing Station and Advanced Dressing Station.

14 Casualty Clearing Station supported XI Div during the landing at Suvla Bay on 6 August 1915. It ferried the casualties received from the Fd Amb by boat to the hospital ship. The CCS retained patients slightly wounded or suffering from minor complaints for a few days. After treatment the casualties were either returned to their units or moved up the chain to a Field Hospital. The CCS performed life saving surgery; it kept the Fd Amb free of casualties after they had been dressed and splinted, enabling it to advance with its Division.

Pte Andrew D Brown

No 245 Pte Andrew Drinnan Brown RAMC (TF) 1st Lowland Field Ambulance died at Malta on 29 September 1915 and was buried at Msida Cemetery Grave No 5 Row 17B.

Canvas Rot

In the latter part of 1916, Maj Gen Sir M. T. Yarr, DDMS Malta Command, ordered an investigation into canvas rot found in the tents of the hospitals and convalescent camps in Malta. The tents had been made of manufactured cotton and linen fabrics which was prone to be colonized and destroyed by mildew.

Awnings at Malta lasted a year. The sails of navy ships had developed a similar problem and the Admiralty had submitted samples of the awnings to a firm of textile experts for analysis. These reported that the material was of good quality and that no increase life could be expected even if higher grade quality were provided.

Untreated canvas became colonized by destructive moulds. The principal agents of destruction of canvas composed of cotton and flax were fungi of the genus Macrosporium and Stemphylium. The temperature and humidity encouraged the growth of the fungus which spread more rapidly between the months of Oct and May when the combination of rain warmth and humidity encouraged its growth.

Lt Col James Currie Robertson

Lt Col James Currie Robertson was Sanitary Commissioner with the the Government of India. In 1916 he arrived at Malta to take charge of measures to deal with an epidemic of plague. He was so successful in his task that Field Marshal Lord Methuen specially thanked the India Government for his services.

Dr Howard H Tooth

Dr Howard H Tooth MD FRCP was consulting physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital and the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic. During the early part of the Great War he commanded the 1st London Territorial General Hospital, which was staffed by colleagues from St Bartholomew's Hospital. He remained its commanding officer until 1916, when he was sent out to Malta as consulting physician to the forces, with the temporary rank of Colonel AMS.

He was twice mentioned in dispatches and was created a CB in 1918. During the final year of the war he was appointed consultant physician to the British Forces in Italy.



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