Of the Malta Garrison
73rd (Perthshire)

The 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment

The 73rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot was raised in Perthshire in 1780 as the 2nd Battalion of the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment. In 1786, the Second Battalion became an independent regiment as the 73rd Regiment.

In 1862 the word Perthshire was added to its title to become The 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment.

On 1 July 1881, The 73rd (Perthshire) Regiment amalgamated with the 42nd Royal Highland (The Black Watch) Regiment to become the Second Battalion of The Black Watch (Royal Highlanders).

The 73rd Regiment of Foot

1828 – 73rd Foot

Between 10 October 1828 and 17 January 1829, the 73rd and the 23rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers were encamped on Europa Flats during the prevalence of the contagious fever which visited Gibraltar in 1828. Out of 9 officers and 196 men of the 73rd who fell ill, only 35 men and two officers died, one of which was Assistant Surgeon John Gordon Fraser who fell a victim to his zeal for the service.1

1829 73rd Foot

20 Dec 1829 On 8 December, HQ Coy 37th Foot embarked on the transport Henry Porcher. Its progress was hampered by severe weather. On 11 December HQ Coy had to return to Gibraltar. It sailed again on 15 December and disembarked at the Lazaretto on 1 January 1830. The Service Companies (504 men) embarked at Gibraltar on the transports Lord Suffield and Stentor and reached Malta on 20 December. They too performed quarantine at the Lazaretto.

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1830 73rd Foot

1 Jan 1830 HQ Coy entered quarantine at the Lazaretto. The Service Companies remained at St Elmo Barracks during the year.

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1831 73rd Foot

1 June 1831 Strength: Six companies, Rank and File 482 (Effectives), 515 (Establishment).

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1832 73rd Foot

1832 The 73rd occupied the Cottonera District. Its Depôt was in Jersey. The commanding officer, Lt Col McNair, did his very utmost to prevent his men from frequenting the port area of the town, thereby reducing the incidence of venereal diseases in his corps.

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1833 73rd Foot

St Elmo
Plan of Fort St Elmo dated 3 Dec 1836 showing both Upper and Lower St Elmo Barracks (TNA:MFQ 1/296).

1833 The 73rd occupied Lower St Elmo Barracks Valletta. The ground floor of the barracks was damp and not fit for habitation. It was used as school rooms, Sergeant's Mess rooms and Quarter Master's stores. Women and children also occupied one of the lower rooms due to insufficient accommodation in the barracks.

Between 1 January and 31 December 1833 the regiment had an average strength of 26 officers and 472 rank and file. Eleven soldiers died during the year.

Lower St Elmo
The three storey infantry barracks at Lower St Elmo Valletta.

The 73rd consisted predominantly of Irish soldiers (265 men); there were 122 Englishmen but only 85 Scots. Its troops were the most robust in the garrison; their average age being 27 years, their average height 5 feet 8 inches. Flogging was used to discipline the men. Four men were flogged during the year. A soldier who was punished for absenting himself from barracks while in a state of intoxication, did not seem to have learned his lesson. Following his recovery in hospital, he repeated his offence, and was flogged for a second time. Another was flogged for lifting his hand and striking the sergeant of the guard while being a prisoner at the time; a third for selling his uniform accessories; a fourth for striking a sergeant while at chapel while in a state of intoxication. Three-quarters of all the floggings in the army were related to drinking alcohol to excess. The men drunk in their regimental canteen or in the grog shops outside their barracks. Delirium tremens, a neurological condition associated with alcoholism, was as common among the officers as the men. It had been a particular problem when the regiment had been stationed at Gibraltar.

There were 813 admissions to the regimental hospital during the year. This was almost twice the admission rate for 1832, when 416 were under treatment. Their surgeon attributed the large number of cases of acute catarrh and the doubling of the incidence of venereal diseases, as compared to the previous year, on the insanitary state of the barracks.

Acute catarrh was very prevalent in the 73rd during winter and summer. The 94th Regiment, which was also quartered at Lower St Elmo Barracks, seemed to have escaped it. 130 cases of Catarrhus Acutus had been admitted within the year. The disease appeared in an epidemic form, affecting the native population as well as troops. It first appeared among the 42nd in the early winter of 1832, when the regiment was stationed at Floriana Barracks. It then spread to the 7th soon after the regiment relieved the 42nd at Floriana in the beginning of 1833. Acute Catarrh next appeared in the 73rd and 94th stationed at Lower St Elmo Valletta when it prevailed in the barracks of the 42nd; the officers of the corps almost entirely escaped it. In many instances catarrh was accompanied by a cutaneous eruption similar to urticaria. The PMO remarked that Acute Catarrh was the same disease as the influenza which had prevailed in Malta and in almost every part of Europe during that year.

During 1833 the regimental hospital recorded the following diseases:

Fever was very prevalent during the hot summer months. The disease was attributed to intemperance and exposure to the sun, or a combination of both. In most cases the fever was of the common continued type of the ephemeral kind. Remittent fever was rare among the troops in Valletta, and was often a relapse of malaria contracted out side Malta. Malaria had been known to have occurred at Marsa at the head of the Grand Harbour. Soldiers stationed at Floriana Barracks were recorded to have more remittent fever than troops quartered elsewhere.

The officers of the 73rd Regiment fell ill with remittent fever whenever they were stationed at Floriana. This was attributed to noxious air arising from the deposition of vegetable and marine effluvia emanating from stagnant water at the head of the Grand Harbour close to Floriana. Surgeon George Martin recorded that prior to 1833, malaria had been prevalent every autumn in the village at to the head of the harbour, from which the inhabitants had fled to escape its presence. Henceforth, the place became known as "the deserted village". Remittent fever subsided once the Marsa area had been drained and cultivated.

Thirty seven cases of rheumatism were in hospital in 1833. The sick were treated with warm baths, purgatives, antimonials, and Dover Powder. It was assumed that the condition was contracted while the men were on guard duty. Assistant Inspector of Hospitals John Davy described acute rheumatism as those cases such as commonly occur in Malta, and chiefly in the winter season, marked generally by pain and difficulty of motion, and some derangement of general health, and very rarely indeed attended either by redness or swelling of the affected part or by a pyrexial state. The texture affected appears to be more commonly the muscular fibre. The disease yields readily to treatment but is apt to recur.2

There were 65 women and 94 children in the regiment; 3 women and 7 children died in 1833. The deaths among the women were from hepatitis (2 †) and dysentery (1 †). An epidemic of measles prevailed during autumn and winter, few children escaping its ravages. Seven children died in 1833; two from chronic diarrhoea. Surgeon George Martin ascribed infant deaths to teething and parental neglect. Two deaths were due to dentition, and three from Febris complicating dentition. Surgeon Martin credited the high infant mortality in the garrison to dentition and worms. The former appears to be the most prominent noted Martin. In fact I put it down almost as a general rule that children in the act of dentition of a tender age, who are removed from the nurse, from whatever cause, have every chance of falling victims to the sufferings they experience in that process, particularly in summer, and I have invariably recommended the mothers on this occassion to either persevere in nursing as long as possible, or to procure another nurse for the infant. In summer, the process of dentition is attended with greater fatality than in winter, probably due to greater irritability produced by the exposed heat.2

Worms affected most children, as well as the whole garrison. Ascaris lumbricoides was the commonest species, but tapeworm was also frequent. Children infested with tapeworm became wasted and emaciated and died of malnutrition (tabes). An infusion of the root of the pomegranate, or oleum Terbinthine combined with mucilage given in a little milk, was effective in expelling the parasites.

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1834 73rd Foot

12 Apr 1834 The Service Companies, (17 officers, 466 men, 60 women and 94 children), embarked for Corfu on the transport Jupiter. The 73rd was relieved by the 53rd Foot from Gibraltar.

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