Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Mary Edith Martin
1875 –1948

29 Mary Edith Martin

LRCP LRCS (Ed) LFPS (Glas 1902) LSA (Lond 1902) MPC (1908)

19 July 1875 – 19 Apr 1948 [Hove]

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 Edith Martin studied medicine at the London School of Medicine for Women, qualifying in 1902. She held the appointments of Assistant Medical Officer and resident licensee of the Fenstanton Private Asylum, Streatham and was Assistant Medical Officer and resident licensee at Bailbrook House, Bath.

1907 House Surgeon at Lewes Road Hospital Brighton.
Formerly Senior Medical Officer Victoria Settlement, Liverpool.

16 May 1907 Elected member of the Medico-Psychological Association of Great Britain and Ireland.

Apr 1911 Appointed Assistant Medical Officer Lindville Private Asylum, Cork.

July 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 was not terminated for misconduct. The majority of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

12 Aug 1916 Embarked from Southampton for Malta on the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Gloucester Castle as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

12 Aug 1916 – 12 Nov 1917 On duty at Malta. Dr Helen Anne Greene in her account of the Medical Women in Malta and Egypt dated 8 April 1921 states that Dr Edith Martin organised a mental hospital while serving in Malta.

Following her service with the RAMC, Dr Edith Martin became a visiting physician to the Lady Chichester Hospital for Early Nervous Diseases, Hove.

18 Jan 1923 At the meeting of the Sussex Branch of the British Medical Association held at the Lady Chichester Hospital, Dr Edith Martin showed a patient with a phobia that she was becoming blind. The patient had consulted innumerable eye specialists, and was always wanting her glasses changed, though assured that they were correct and that only a slight condition of myopia and astigmatism was present. She improved when treated by suggestion and mental analysis. Dr Martin pointed out that suggestion alone was rarely enough in such cases; the immediate symptom may be cured, but another substituted, and some form of sublimation is necessary for a permanent cure.1

19 Apr 1948 Died at Hove, aged 72 years. She left £11,442 in her will.