The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1956


Malta's apparent lack of viability was one of the factors which influenced the attempt to effect decolonization through integration with the UK. In 1956 a referendum returned a majority vote in favour of integration of Malta with the United Kingdom as proposed by the Labour party under Dom Mintoff.

Mintoff wanted complete integration into the United Kingdom with the right to send three MPs to Britain's House of Commons in London.

Op Poker and Op Musketeer (6 Aug – 22 Dec 1956)

ambulance landing casualties
Ambulance landing casualties from the aircraft carriers on 10 Nov 1956 (RAMC/1187).

On 26 July 1956, Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal. On 5 Aug, Britain mobilised 2 (BR) Corps. On 5 Nov it launched a parachute assault on Port Said with three brigades, one Bde of 3 Inf Div from UK, 3 Cdo Bde (RM) from Malta and 161 Ind Para Bde from Cyprus. The total force consisted of 16,480 men. There were 94 battle casualties with 8 deaths and 890 admissions into hospital of which 369 were for enteritis and 108 for accidental injuries.

No 5 General Hospital deployed to Limassol Cyprus with 600 beds. Increments of No 40 General Hospital reinforced the Military Hospital at Mtarfa to the extent of 300 beds. No 23 Para Fd Amb moved to Cyprus in HMS Theseus on 5 Aug 1956. No 15 Fd Amb with 3 and 4 Field Surgical Team and No 2 CCS (150 beds), with its equipment already prepositioned at Malta for Op Poker, accompanied the landing troops in support of the operation.

Casevac out of Egypt was to hospitals in Cyprus by air and to the RN Hospital Bighi and Mtarfa Military Hospital by sea. The aircraft carriers Ocean and Theseus acted as hospital carriers after they had disembarked their troops. Both carriers were fitted up to take 70 casualties. They reached Malta on 10 Nov and disembarked their casualties. Ambulance cars were hoisted on board, driven to one of the lifts, lowered into the hangar and reversed into the wards. They were then hoisted by the ship's crane and landed on to the wharf.