The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1939


1st Malta (231) Infantry Bde

In Sep 1939, there were in Malta four British infantry battalions and one local regiment. The five regiments constituted 1st Malta Infantry Brigade, later 231 Brigade. The Maltese formations were the Royal Malta Artillery, which was an integral part of the regular British Army, and the King's Own Malta Regiment, a territorial unit. Both were expanded as part of the garrison.

The strength of the Malta Garrison on 30 June 1939 was 4,303 men and 237 officers. In addition, there were 1,552 local troops. By 1942, this number had increased to 11 British Battalions, 3 Maltese infantry battalions, 3 Regiments of Artillery, and a Home Guard of 3,000 strong. The number of service families in 1942 was 5,474.

In Nov 1939, the garrison was raised from a Brigade to a Division with Maj Gen Sir Sanford John Palairet Scobell as the GOC. The Brigades in the Division were:

  • 231 Infantry Bde, assigned to the Southern Sector under Brig L H Cox.
  • 232 Infantry Bde, assigned to the Northern Sector under Brig W H Oxley.
  • 233 Infantry Bde, formed on 30 July 1941 and assigned to the Central Sector under Brig I De La Bere.
  • 234 Infantry Bde, assigned to the Western sector under Brig F Brittorous.

In 1942, the Malta Army Service Corps, the Army Ordnance Corps, and the Army Pioneer Corps were raised on a territorial basis.

Health Notices

Fortress HQ Malta issued the following advice on the prevention of heat illness which was ridiculed by the RAMC:

Frequent drinking of sea water when bathing in the open sea is easy in Malta and should be encouraged.

Another equally hilarious health notice advised staying in bed in the morning:

After a restless night a refreshing sleep is often obtained in the morning hours, so that a very early revile is not to be recommended.

Women Doctors

In 1939, the first pioneer female doctors were brought into the army to look after the newly founded Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). As the ATS grew in size and male doctors became deployed elsewhere, female doctors took on more responsibilities that had little to do with the treatment of women soldiers.

First they took over the Blood Transfusion Service, then some were appointed Medical and Surgical Specialists to Static Military Hospitals. Female General Duties Officers were placed in medical charge of all male troops employed on the same station as the ATS. They wore military uniform and carried military rank.

Women doctors attached to the RAMC were not employed as battalion medical officers in the front line or in Field Ambulances. They received the same pay as male doctors, and were regarded as interchangeable with them. By 1945, there were 500 women medical officers attached to the RAMC.

Army Nursing

On the outbreak of the Second World War, the Reserve and the Territorial Army Nursing Service were mobilised and integrated administratively into the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service under the Matron-in-Chief.

There were 18 Queen Alexandra's nurses in Malta when war was declared. They was gradually increased to 50 nurses. In Aug 1941, they were given the opportunity of returning home or volunteering to stay on the island. Seven left: two to be married, four had served more than 5 years overseas and had no choice but to leave and one was medically boarded home.

75002 Lt V Vella Grech AD Corps

V Vella Grech
75002 Lt V Vella Grech AD Corps at RAMC Depôt Crookham Jan 1939

75002 Lt V Vella Grech was commissioned in the Army Dental Corps in 1938 as a Lieutenant on probation. He attended the Junior Officers entry course at the RAMC Depôt Crookham and was confirmed in rank in January 1939.

On 7 March 1944, Captain (Temp Major) V Vella Grech was appointed to a permanent commission. On 29 April 1944, he was Deputy Assistant Director of Dental Services (DADDS) Scottish Command. He was promoted Major on 1 July 1946; Lieutenant Colonel RADC on 7 March 1953; Colonel on 7 March 1961 and reached the rank of Brigadier on 13 May 1970. He retired on to retired pay on 13 July 1972.

William Harold Edgar CB OBE MD

In 1939, Surgeon Rear-Admiral William Harold Edgar was appointed officer in charge of the Royal Naval Hospital Malta, where he spent the first two years of the Second World War.