Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Gertrude Margaret Dobrashian
1887 –1975

19 Gertrude Margaret Dobrashian

MB BS (Lond 1911)

23 Jan 1887 [Constantinople] – 1975 [Brighton]

In May 1916, Dr Louisa Aldrich-Blake, Surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and Dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, approached all the women on the Medical Register asking them to say if they would be willing to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps. From the replies received, 48 lady doctors were enrolled. The first 22 medical women embarked for Malta on 2 August 1916; another 16 lady doctors embarked on the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Gloucester Castle on 12 August 1916.

The Director General Army Medical Services, Sir Alfred Keogh, was responsible for employing medical women and for dealing with illnesses among them. Women doctors, also referred to as lady doctors, were classed as civilian surgeons attached to the RAMC. Women serving as full time doctors in the Army and doing precisely the same work as their male colleagues had neither military rank nor status, but received the same pay, rations, travelling allowances and gratuity as temporary commissioned male officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. A uniform was not introduced until after April 1918. This was similar in appearance to that worn by the Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps (QMAAC) but with an RAMC badge on both lapels.

In October 1916, on hearing from the War Office that fifty more medical women were needed for service with the RAMC in English hospitals, Aldrich-Blake again negotiated with all the women who had qualified in the preceding ten years, and secured the requisite number in a very short time. On 20 October 1916, eleven medical women embarked on H.S. Britannic for Malta.

The casualties from operations in Gallipoli (25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916), and Salonica (October 1915 – 30 September 1918), were initially treated in Malta and Egypt, but in 1917, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to evacuate from Salonica and five General Hospitals, Nos 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65, mobilized in Malta for service in Salonica to which the medical women were attached.

Between August 1916 and July 1917, eighty two lady doctors served in war hospitals in Malta. They worked alongside their RAMC colleagues and carried out all but administrative duties. Their assistance was very highly appreciated. Their work was recognized in the King's Birthday Honours list of June 1918 when Dr Barbara Martin Cunningham MB ChB, Military Hospital Mtarfa, Mrs Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater MB BS, in charge of Military Families Staff and Department Malta and Miss May Thorne MD, in charge of Sisters' Hospital and Staff Department Malta, were awarded the Order of the British Empire for services rendered during the war.

Service Record

Dr Gertrude Margaret Dobrashian was the daughter of Gertrude Martha nee Gillett and her husband Dr Gabriel Sukias Dobrashian. Both were committee members of the Friends' Armenian Mission in Constantinople.

Dr Gertrude Margaret Dobrashian was educated at Cambray House in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire and at the London School of Medicine for Women. She qualified in London in 1911. Her name appeared in the Medical Directory for Scotland (Edinburgh) on 11 November 1911. Her residence was given as 32, Green Hill Road, Harlesden, London NW 10. She was House Physician at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and Resident Medical Officer of the Ransom Sanatorium Mansfield. In March 1912, Dr G. M. Dobrashian was elected member of the British Medical Association (Metropolitan Counties Branch).

July 1916 Dr G. M. Dobrashian was in the first group of women doctors to join the RAMC. She was contracted to work for 12 months as a Civilian Surgeon attached to the RAMC. Her salary was 24 shillings a day, including allowances, but excluding duty transport. A gratuity of £60 was awarded at the end of the contract, provided employment had not been terminated for misconduct. The majority of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

2 Aug 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

Dr G. M. Dobrashian was at Malta from August 1916 to 1 August 1917. She served as a Medical Officer and Registrar at Mtarfa Military Hospital. She investigated Bacillary Dysentery in patients from Salonica, so as to ascertain the relative efficiency of anti-dysenteric serum alone, in combination with saline, and of saline alone in the treatment of the disease. 395 patients with shigella dysentery were treated; eleven died. Anti-dysenteric serum was given to 176 patients whilst 172 received saline only. It was found that those who received serum made a more rapid recovery to convalescence than those who had saline alone.1

24 Jan 1917 Returned to England.

Dr Gertrude Margaret Dobrashian died in Brighton in 1975, aged 88 years.