Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Mary Martin
1889 –1958

16 Mary Martin

MB ChB (Ed 1915) DPH (1921) DTMH (1921) MD (1930)

1889 [South Africa] – 9 Oct 1958 [Cape Town South Africa]

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 Turton nee Martin was the eldest daughter of the Rev Robert Martin, of Seymour, South Africa. She studied medicine at Edinburgh University, graduating MB ChB in 1915. In 1921, she took both the DPH and the DTM&H of the English Royal Colleges and in 1930 proceeded to gain her MD. After graduation, Dr M. Martin held the appointments of House Surgeon and Senior Resident Medical Officer at the North Staffordshire Royal Infirmary and House Surgeon at the Golden Square Ear, Nose and Throat Hospital, London. Dr M. Martin became Senior Pathologist in the Colonial Medical Service Uganda.

July 1916 Dr M. Martin 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. She worked as a specialist in ear, nose, and throat attached to the RAMC in Malta but was invalided from Malta.

1917 On duty in Malta.

24 Feb 1918 Embarked for Egypt.

24 Feb 1918 – 1 Feb 1919 Served in Egypt.

Feb 1919 On duty at Royal Herbert Hospital Woolwich (Eastern Command).

1921 After demobilisation Dr M. Martin entered the Colonial Medical Service and went to Uganda as assistant bacteriologist. Five years later she was promoted senior bacteriologist, a title which was subsequently changed to that of senior pathologist. She held the post until she retired from the service in 1937.

1921 – 1936 Served with the Colonial Medical Services in Uganda from 1921 to 1936. She married while serving in the Colonial Medical Service.

1930 While in Uganda she proceeded to the MD in 1930 and studied law, being called to the Bar by the Inner Temple.

1939 On the outbreak of the second world war, Dr M. Turton offered her services to the government, holding temporary appointments first, under the Essex County Council, and later, in the Ministry of Pensions. After the war she returned to South Africa, where she died in 1958.