Inspector General James Brown Gibson
KCB (1856) QHP (1859) MD (Ed 1826)
1805 – 25 Feb 1868 [Rome]
14 Dec 1826 Appointed Hospital Assistant, vice John Stewart Graves who became Assistant Surgeon 38th Foot.
Dec 1826–1827 At Fort Pitt Chatham for six weeks.
1827–1835 Posted to the West Indies. Landed at Barbados and proceeded immediately to the
unhealthy colony of Demerara, (Guyana). Took part in the subsequent war in Barbados. As a consequence of the departure of sick medical officers, he was left for several years in charge not only of his own regiment, but also, of the whole civil and military staff at George Town British Guinea, 300 military labourers, a company of the 1st West Indian Regiment, a detachment of the Royal Artillery as well as the 86th Regiment.
12 Jan 1829 Appointed Assistant Surgeon 25th (The King's Own Borderers) Regiment of Foot vice Assistant Surgeon James Stuart who died on 31 Dec 1828.
1836 Returned to England and arrived at Cork. Served at the depôt of his regiment at Cork Barracks for two months, as this had no medical officer.
11 Mar 1836 Appointed Assistant Surgeon 17th Light Dragoons vice Assistant Surgeon Henry Goffe Parken placed on half-pay. Served with them until 1841 when he became a Staff Surgeon of the Second Class.
The rank of Staff Surgeon of the Second Class was equivalent to that of a surgeon in the infantry. Staff Surgeons 2nd class, however, looked after the staff of a garrison and not regimental soldiers, unless they were attached to a regiment by the PMO.
2 July 1841 Appointed Staff Surgeon of the 2nd Class. Posted to Malta.
Malta 28 Dec 1841 Arrived at Malta as Staff Surgeon 2nd Class.
Malta Feb-Apr 1842 Detached on duty with 19th (1st Yorkshire, North Riding) Regiment of Foot in Cottonera.
Malta 15 Aug 1843 Transferred from Staff for duty with the 2nd Reserve Battalion 42nd Royal Highland Regiment of Foot. While a staff surgeon, Gibson was in charge of the hospitals of two regiments. There was no General Hospital at Malta. Hospital care was based on the regimental system where each regiment looked after its own sick in its regimental hospital.
Staff Surgeon Gibson was first placed in charge of the 19th Regiment in consequence of the absence of the surgeon. He was then in charge of the Reserve Battalion 42nd Highlanders which came from England and the other battalion from Corfu. He subsequently had the general duties of the staff and was physician to General Sir Patrick Stewart and his family. He was also in medical charge of the commissariat, headquarters staff and all the civil officers on the staff of the Malta Garrison.2
Malta 1844 Three weeks before he left Malta, he was gazetted surgeon to the 17th (Duke of Cambridge's Own) Lancers. He continued to do the duties of a staff surgeon until he left for England to join his regiment.
Malta 5 Apr 1844 Embarked for England on appointment to 17th Lancers. Remained with them until 19 May 1854 when he landed at Kulali with the Expeditionary Army to Turkey.
19 May 1854 Staff Surgeon of the 1st Class. In May 1854, he joined the staff of the Duke of Cambridge as his personal physician. Attached to the Highland Brigade. Proceeded with the brigade and the Duke of Cambridge who commanded the First Division, to Bulgaria and from thence to the Crimea. He was present at Alma, Inkermann, Balaclava, and the siege of Sebastapol. Was made CB for his services and received the Turkish Medal and the Crimea medal with four clasps.
Accompanied the Duke of Cambridge to Malta and on several stages of the journey back to England. When the Duke of Cambridge's health was sufficiently recovered Gibson expressed his readiness to the Director General AMS Andrew Smith to return again for service in the field.
1 Feb–19 May 1855 In England.
1 May 1855 Promoted Deputy Inspector General.
Malta 1 June 1855 Returned to Malta. Officer in charge of the Convalescent Hospital for invalids from the Crimea at Fort Chambray Gozo.
Malta 27 May 1856 Left for England.
Arrived in England on 2 June 1856 where he was appointed PMO Aldershot.
July 1857 Deputy-Inspector of hospitals and PMO Aldershot.
Received the Most Honourable Order of the Bath (CB), for his services in the Crimea. Medical officers became eligible for the Order of the Bath from 1850 (London Gazette 16 August 1850).
31 Dec 1858 Promoted Inspector General.
1859 Appointed Honorary Physician to the Queen.
7 Mar 1860 Appointed Director General Army Medical Department.
His administration of the Army Medical Department was, in many respects, disastrous. Succeeding Mr Alexander, who was the beau ideal of an independent, large minded administrator, and who had assisted at the birth of the important series of sanitary and medical reforms which followed the Crimean war, Dr Gibson entered office at a time when a strong military reaction was setting in against various concessions which had been made to the medical officers.
Bending to these influences, he allowed many of the most important privileges to be quietly nullified, and thus became extremely unpopular, and had the pain of seeing his department fall into such disesteem in the profession that it was becoming necessary to resort to various shifts to recruit to the army medical service. Ultimately, a committee was appointed, which set right most of the grievances complained of. But Sir James Gibson hardly had time to recover his popularity, before failing health and the expiration of his first term of office led to his retirement.
Those who knew him well, spoke highly of his honourable character and kindness of disposition. If he had not the skill of administering his great department with firmness and success, he yet made himself personally much respected, and won the friendship and esteem of the chiefs of the army, no less than of a large circle of acquaintance.1
1865 Appointed an Ordinary Member of the Military Division of the 2nd Class or Knight Commander of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, (KCB).
30 Mar 1867 Retired to half-pay having completed 41 years service on full pay.
25 Feb 1868 Died in Rome where he had gone for the benefit of his health, having suffered much from pulmonary and cardiac disorders. He was 63 years old.
- Entry No: 4212. Johnston W. Roll of Commissioned Offices in the Medical Service of the British Army. Vol 1 (20 June 1727-23 June 1898), Aberdeen (1917).
- Biographical details of Medical Officers of the British Army on full pay (1826–1840).
- TNA:WO 25/3900, Records of Service - Officers of the Medical Department (1790–1847).
- 1Obituary Brit Med J (1868), 1; 375: 235 (Published 7 Mar 1868).
- 2Evidence of James Brown Gibson to the Committee dated 15 July 1857, pp 312-320. Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire into the regulations affecting the sanitary condition of the army. The organisation of military hospitals and the treatment of the sick and wounded. London George Edward Eyre and William Spottiswoode 1858.