Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison
Welch Francis Henry

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883 Surgeon Colonel Francis Henry Welch
FRCS (Eng 1871) LSAL (1860)
2 May 1839 [Stansted Essex] – 25 Oct 1910 [Southborough Kent]


Surgeon Colonel Francis Henry Welch obtained his medical education at the London Hospital, where in 1860, while a medical student, was awarded the gold medal. He entered the Army Medical Department as an Assistant Surgeon on 1 April 1861 and retired in 1895. In 1888, he served in the Hazara Expedition; he was mentioned in dispatches and received the Frontier Medal with clasp.

From 1871 to 1876 he was Assistant Professor of Pathology at the Army Medical School Netley. He contributed a number of medical papers including:

  • Report on the cholera epidemic of 1865 in the Maltese Islands. AMD Report Vol 5:310.
  • On granular lids. AMD Report Vol 5:494.
  • On pneumonia. AMD Report Vol 9 (1867).
  • Tabulation of forty one cases of syphilis from the necrological register at Netley. AMD Report Vol 12 (1870).
  • Tabulation of twenty four cases on lesions of the heart and blood vessels. AMD Report Vol 15 (1873).
  • Observations on Leprus americanus and its change of colour on the advent of winter, Proceedings Zoological Society of London 1869.
  • On the presence of the encysted echinorhynchus in man. Lancet 1872 vol 100 p 703.
  • On filaria, Lancet 1873 vol 1 p 336.

Sir William Osler said that he was the first pathologist to prove that syphilis was the chief cause of aneurysm.

Service Record — Francis Henry Welch

1 Apr 1861 Staff Assistant Surgeon. Gazetted on 17 Sept 1861, the commission being antedated to 1 April 1861.

1 Apr 1861–10 Oct 1862 On duty in the United Kingdom.

17 Nov 1861 Reduced to half-pay due to a reduction in the establishment.

28 Mar 1862 Restored to full-pay and posted to Malta.

Malta 27 Oct 1862 Arrived from England.

Malta 28 Apr 1863 Appointed Assistant Surgeon 1st/22nd (Cheshire) Regiment of Foot. Exchanged from the Staff with Assistant Surgeon John Adcock 22nd Foot.

Malta 1864 On duty with his regiment. Held the view that the seasonal prevalence of enteric fever in Malta was the consequence of increased rainfall saturating the porous rock with moisture and surface flushing and dislodgement of material from drains and sewers contaminating the water in the tanks.

Malta 1865 On duty with his regiment.

Malta 20 Feb 1866 Contributed to the proceedings of the Malta Society of Archaeology, History and Natural Sciences. Presented a lecture on a burial discovered near Qrendi by Staff Surgeon Andrew Leith Adams.

Malta 22 Mar 1866 Left for New Brunswick.

24 Mar 1866–28 May 1869 On duty in North America.

29 May 1869–18 Nov 1871 On duty in the United Kingdom.

18 Nov 1871 Appointed Staff Assistant Surgeon vice Staff Assistant Surgeon Edward O'Connell who moved to 22nd Foot.

Dec 1871–1876 Moved to the Army Medical School Netley in December 1871 as Assistant Professor of Pathology.

1872 Won the Alexander Memorial Gold Medalist for his essay on Pulmonary Consumption.

1 Mar 1873 Promoted Surgeon.

19 Mar 1876 Promoted Surgeon Major.

Ian 1877–1882 Served in Madras.

May 1882 Returned to Netley. Won the Alexander Memorial Gold Medalist for the second time for his essay on Enteric Fever its prevalence and modifications, aetiology, pathology and treatment, as illustrated by army data at home and abroad. Recipients of the Alexander Prize had been: Myers (1869), Welch (1872), Porter (1875) Martin (1878) and Welch (1882)

24 Feb 1887 Promoted Brigade Surgeon, vice John Henry Hunt, deceased. Surgeon Major David Charles Grose Bourns who had been placed on half-pay in April 1876, was reappointed to full-pay vice F H Welch.

Jan 1888 Moved from Netley to Bengal. Served On the Black Mountain Expedition with the Hazara Field Force.

5 Apr 1892 Promoted Surgeon Colonel.

Sept 1892 Moved from Cork to Devonport as PMO.

1894 PMO Devonport.

1 May 1895 Retired. He was under orders for service in India, but was exempted on notifying his intention to retire on completing three years in his present rank, which qualified him for the full pension.

Aug 1899 Attended the sixty seventh annual meeting of the British Medical Association held at Portsmouth where he commented on the debate on the Prevention and treatment of syphilis in the Navy and Army. Colonel Welch summarised his conclusions as follows:

  • That the army is a reflex of the condition of the community generally as to incontinence and disease, and that the moral advance and reduction of disease in the community will be reflected in the services.
  • that the Contagious Diseases Acts, despite defects in administration, brought about a reduction in disease, and especially much moral good in rescue work, reduction of prostitution, reduction in solicitation and temptation, and improved state of our streets.
  • that the present state, especially abroad, is such as to require measures of prevention.
  • that all public measures of prevention must lie in the control of prostitution.
  • that the authorities abroad should be allowed a free hand in meeting the local conditions which pertain.
  • that voluntary hospitals, while in themselves good for cure, are inadequate for prevention.
  • Colonel Welch believed that syphilis needed to be attacked from all sides — morally, socially and hygienically. It could be prevented in two ways, hygienically through curtailing the lineal descent of the virus and socio-morally through curtailing prostitution. He said that the evidence accruing during the last thirty-five years had concluded that through surveillance of prostitution and segregation of the affected it was possible both to reduce the prevalence of the disease and to diminish its virulence.

    Nov 1900 Placed in medical charge of troops in the Home District.

    May 1901 Relinquished the medical charge of troops in the Home District.

    Aug 1904 At 8 Brandram Road, Lee, Blackheath SE where he acted as treasurer on behalf of Miss E B Pellatt's support fund. Miss Pellatt of the London School of Medicine for Women and Licentiate of the Society of Apothecaries qualified in 1893. She acted for a time as Curator at the London School of Medicine for Women and was Clinical Assistant at the Royal Eye Hospital, Southwark. In 1895, she became a member of the Guild of St Luke and decided to devote herself to medico-missionary work abroad, and to that end prepared herself by learning Arabic at Zanzibar. In 1896, she joined the St Philip's Mission at Cape Town, under the Society of St John the Evangelist. Her professional duty lying mainly among the Mohammedan Malays there located.

    She continued with this mission until February 1903, when a severe chest affection necessitated her temporary transfer to England, and she was hoping to return to South Africa in December quite fit for a great deal more work when optic neuritis commenced in both eyes. In February 1904, it became evident that loss of sight would result no vision at all being left in the right eye and very little more than perception of light in the left. And this is the hopeless physical state in which she now is, while her general health is far from what is desirable.2


  • Drew R., 1968. Entry No: 5986. Medical Officers in the British Army 1660 – 1960. Volume 1: 1660 – 1898. London: Wellcome Historical Medical Library.
  • RAMC/PE/3/27/Drew. Manuscript for Drew's Roll.
  • TNA:WO25/3901, Records of Service – Officers of the Medical Department (1790–1847).
  • Succession Book Vol 12. Returns of service of medical officers in the Regular Army.
  • The Cholera As It Appeared In Malta In 1865, Br Med J (1866), 2; 302: 409-410 (Published 13 October 1866).
  • Surgeon A Leith Adams and Assistant Surgeon R H Welch 1st/22nd Regiment, Report of the cholera epidemic of 1865 in the Maltese Islands.
  • Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1883), 1216 (Published 15 December 1883).
  • Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1887), 701 (Published 26 March 1887).
  • Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1887), 910 (Published 23 April 1887).
  • TNA:WO 76/212/64 (image 220 of 257), Service Record no 64, Cheshire Regiment 1838–1887.
  • 1Welch F.H., Quarantine in Malta Br Med J (1887), 2; 1405: 1250 (Published 3 December 1887).
  • Welch F.H., Cholera epidemics in Malta Br Med J (1883), 2; 1196: 1063 (Published 1 December 1883).
  • Welch F.H., Enteric Fever its prevalence and modifications, aetiology pathology and treatment (Published London 1883).
  • Welch F.H., Comments on the prevention and treatment of syphilis in the navy and army Br Med J (1899); 2:1076, (Published 21 October 1899).
  • Granular ophthalmia. Army Medical Department Report for 1869 Vol XI p 436. London 1871.
  • 2An appeal on behalf of Miss E B Pellatt. Br Med J (1904); 2:405 (Published 20 August 1904).
  • Obituary Br Med J (1910) 2:1475 (Published 5 November 1910).
  • Obituary J R Army Med Corps (1910), XV; 6: 115 (Published December 1910).