Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Mary Muriel Griffin Iles
1875 –?

71 Mary Muriel Griffin Iles

MB BS (Lond 1899) MD (Lond 1901) DPH (RCPSI 1906)

c.1875 – ?

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 Mary Muriel Griffin Iles received her medical education at the London School of Medicine for Women. She qualified MB BS London in 1899.

1896 Passed her examinations in Organic Chemistry (Honours Second Class) of the MB Examination of the University of London.

1899 Passed her examinations in Obstetric Medicine (First Class) of the Intermediate Examination in medicine of the University of London.

15 Apr 1915 Dr Mary Muriel Griffin Iles was one of the medical officers in Mrs St Clair Stobart's tented Hospital in Kragujevatz, Serbia, under the auspices of the Serbian Relief Fund. The hospital at Kragujevatz was evacuated in October 1915, when the country was overrun by German and Austrian troops and the unit had to retreat from Serbia over the mountains of Montenegro and Albania. Dr M. M. Griffin Iles was held a prisoner of war.

Aug 1916 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.

1 Sep 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

14 Sep 1917 On duty at Malta from 1 September 1916 to 14 September 1917.

1917 Did not renew her contract and left for India at her own expense.

1923 The Medical Directory lists her address as Compton, Wolverhampton.