The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1962

Combined Services Hospital (CSH)

David Bruce Naval Hospital
The David Bruce Military Hospital and Officer's Mess 1954 (AMS Archives)

The foundation stone of Mtarfa Military Hospital, had been placed in 1915 by Gen Sir Leslie Rundle. The hospital was completed in 1919, and the RAMC took possession in 1920.

In Oct 1962, the David Bruce Military Hospital was handed over to the Royal Navy Medical Services, and the RAMC severed its ties with Malta. The buildings transferred from the War Office to the Admiralty were the Main Hospital Block, St Oswald's Church, the Married Quarters, the Isolation Hospital, the Maternity Wing, and outbuildings. These were all self contained areas within their own boundaries. From Nov 1962, the Navy assumed responsibility for Service hospital facilities in Malta.

David Bruce Naval Hospital
Foundation stone 6 Jan 1915 laid by Sir Leslie Rundle Governor and C-i-C Malta.

After the 1939–45 war it became evident that the size of the military force in Malta did not justify the retention of two general hospitals.

The Royal Naval Hospital Bighi had a peace time establishment of 261 beds, capable of expansion in war to 354 beds, but had no maternity beds or isolation ward. The David Bruce Military Hospital Mtarfa had 235 beds, of which 53 were obstetric beds located in a wing separate from the main hospital building. The hospital had only one operating theatre which was not air conditioned, while facilities for out patients were limited.

David Bruce Naval Hospital
Officers Commanding David Bruce Military Hospital. Board now at the Institute of Naval Medicine Alverstoke (Courtesy Col D Vassallo RAMC)

In 1957, the working party of the Ministry of Defence Medical Services Coordinating Committee, decided on economical but not medical grounds, that Bighi should serve as the CSH. However, a revision of their estimates carried out in 1960 by the Manager Navy Works Malta found that their costings had been based on unreliable data.

In March 1960, a new report recommended that the David Bruce Military Hospital should be the future CSH. This was approved in Jan 1961, but the Defence White Paper of Feb 1962 outlined a naval draw down. With less troops on the island, a hospital of 206 beds would be sufficient for service needs.

The final decision to modify the military hospital at Mtarfa was taken in 1967. The Royal Naval Hospital Mtarfa re-opened on 2 Oct 1970.

The pathologist at the David Bruce Military Hospital was Maj (Miss) M M Munro RAMC. In 1960, Miss Munro had worked at the David Bruce Laboratories England. The administrative officer was Capt Rayner and the QM was Capt (QM) D J Finlayson. Lt Col U A Dowling QARANC served as matron.

Service rundown

The Defence White Paper of 1962 reduced defence costs to 7% of Britain's GNP. This was to be achieved by reducing overseas spending by £35 million per year. Malta was no longer required as a major naval base as the defence requirements west of Suez were to be met from bases in the United Kingdom.

Malta was to be reduced as a forward operating base. Service rundown was announced at the beginning of Oct 1962. Following representations from the Malta Government, the UK Government agreed not to start the rundown until 1 Jan 1963 but refused to extend the rundown period beyond 1967.

The Main Guard Valletta closed on 24 April 1962.

Malta Elections

Elections were held in Malta on 19 Feb 1962. The Nationalist Party won 25 seats to the Malta Labour Party 16 seat. The the new premier Dr George Borg Olivier travelled to London towards the end of Mar to discuss Malta's future constitutional development.

On 20 Aug 1962, the Maltese Prime Minister formally requested the independence of the Maltese Islands within the Commonwealth.