Lady Doctors
Of the Malta Garrison
Martha Jane
Moody Stewart
1884 –1965

28 Martha Jane Moody Stewart

MB BCh BSc BAO (Belf 1915)

5 Feb 1884 – 20 Oct 1965 [Johannesburg]

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 Martha Jane Moody Stewart was the third daughter of Mr W. J. Stewart and Mrs Stewart, of the Manor House, Castlefin, County Donegal, Ireland. After taking a BSc degree at the College of Science in Dublin, she went to Queen's University, Belfast, and graduated MB BCh at a special war examination in December 1914. She also became a Bachelor of Obstetrics (BAO). Dr Martha J. M. Stewart held the post of House Surgeon at the Birmingham Maternity Hospital and at the Worcester General Infirmary.

The Medical Directory of 1923 lists her address as Laurel Hill, Castlefin Co. Donegal.

1 Apr 1915 Joined Mrs St Clair Stobart's, tented hospital in Kragujevatz, Serbia, under the auspices of the Serbian Relief Fund. Dr Martha J. M. Stewart was in charge of a surgery in the country, until recalled to Kragujevatz in October 1915, when the country was over run by German and Austrian troops. The hospital was evacuated at the end of October. The unit retreated over the of Montenegro and Albania, with part of the Serbian Army and other doctors and nurses, eventually arriving back in London on 23 December.

The Serbian Relief Fund (SRF) maintained in Serbia five complete Hospital Units: Lady Paget's, Cornelia Lady Wimborne's, Mrs Stobart's, the First and Second British Farmer's Hospitals. The last three were mobile units, specially organised and equipped to deal with either wounded soldiers or infectious diseases like typhus. In addition, the SRF sent nurses to Mrs Hardy's Hospital at Kragujevatz, and a contingent of nurses to the typhus colony formed by Lady Paget at Skopje.

Dr Martha J. M. Stewart was awarded the Order of St Sava by the King of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes for her work in Serbia.

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. Most 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.

1 June 1917 Embarked for Salonica.

1 June 1917 – 31 Aug 1918 Served at Salonica. Relinquished her contract on 31 August.

After the war Dr Martha J. M. Stewart had a practice in London for a short time, but soon married Dr Webb and settled at 47, Garden Road, Orchards, Johannesburg. She had two daughters. When her husband became assistant general manager of the Standard Bank in Pretoria they went to live there, and on his retirement returned to Johannesburg.

20 Oct 1965 Dr. Martha J. M. Stewart-Webb died in hospital in Johannesburg, aged 82 years. She had been a skilful and sympathetic doctor and a highly respected citizen of Johannesburg. She left a husband, and two daughters, both married.