The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1805

Malta Garrison

On 1 Aug 1805, the Malta garrison consisted of a total of 6,903 officers and men. There were: 244 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 422 Non Commissioned Officers, 3,278 Rank and File fit for duty. 52 Commissioned and Warrant Officers were absent and 389 Rank and File were sick.

On 25 Apr 1805, Alexander Ball notified Earl Camden of the consolidation of the Maltese Battalions into one battalion for General Service in the Mediterranean, with an English Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel and Adjutant.

On 15 Apr 1805, the three Hospital Clerks on the Mediterranean establishment of the Island of Malta sent a memorial to the Secretary-at-War for an increase in their pay.

On 27 Aug 1805, Maj Gen Villettes was informed that as the pay of a Purveyor Clerk had recently been fixed at 5 shillings a day, the Army Medical Board did not feel authorised to recommend any higher rate of pay to persons holding such appointments.

On 30 Oct 1805, however, the Secretary-at-War authorised a daily rate of pay of 7 shillings 6 pence to Purveyor Clerks who were engaged on an expedition.

In 1805, the Rev John Miller was appointed Chaplain to the Forces at Malta. He retained his appointment until 1813.


In 1805, part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was taken by France and renamed the Parthenopaean Republic. The Neapolitan Bourbons fled Naples to the safety of Sicily.

On 17 Apr 1805, Lt Gen Sir James Craig embarked the 39th, 44th, 58th, and 81st Regiments, two squadrons of the 20th Light Dragoons, and three companies of artillery and sailed for Malta. His orders were to secure Sicily, irrespective of the wishes of the reigning Bourbons, support the Austrians and co-operate with the Russians against the French in Italy.

The transports entered Valletta on 18 July. The men, sweltering in their red tunics, found the heat oppressive. Craig contracted a pretty smart but short attack of fever which left him with a pain in his chest. He found the heat unbearable, and declared Malta to be a vile hole.

With such a large number of troops, General W. A. Villettes soon run out of suitable accommodation, and had to place the men in every available casemate and magazine. Saint Calcedonius in Floriana, which had been refurbished and returned to the clergy during the withdrawal of the troops from Malta, was once more used as a billet and as a regimental hospital for the Floriana barracks. The Provincial Battalion and the Royal Regiment of Malta vacated their barracks in Cottonera and occupied St Augustine's Convent Rabat and the former palace of the Grand Master in Mdina.

On 3 Nov 1805, 6,021 troops embarked on Sir James Craig's Expedition which reached Naples on 20 November. Two British regiments remained in Malta to bolster the garrison, which had fallen to 3,528 men.

In addition to four companies of the Royal Artillery of just under 400 men, the garrison consisted of the 39th and 44th Foot, amounting to little more than 1500 men, Dillon's Regiment of about 450 men, composed in great part of Spaniards and Italians, Froberg's Levy of about 500 men of various nationalities, but mostly Greeks and Albanians and without officers.

Craig was unable to assist the coalition forces as by the time he reached Naples, the French had defeated the Austrians and occupied Vienna on 13 Nov; the Russians had been crushed at Austerlitz on 2 Dec 1805.

On 19 Jan 1806, Craig re-embarked his men, and reached Messina on 22 January. The troops disembarked on 16 February. The 81st Foot were withdrawn from Malta for the defence of Sicily. Craig returned to England, and, the command of the army in Sicily devolved to Major General John Stuart. The British presence in Sicily lasted till June 1815.

Craig's Expedition to Naples
Regiments Strength R&F Sick
20th Light Dragoons 293 26
Royal Artillery 240 00
Royal Engineers 11 02
20th Foot 697 67
27th Foot 957 54
35th Foot 902 67
58th Foot 859 37
61st Foot 740 54
De Watteville 624 43
Royal Corsican Rangers 680 46
Royal Staff Corps 18 00
TOTAL 6021 396
Return of a Corps under orders for service commanded by General Sir James Craig KB Valletta 14 Aug 1805. Total 6,021 Rank and File, 234 officers, NCO 387, Trumpeters and Drummers 147, Sick of which half were expected to be fit to rejoin their regiments 396.

Hospital Mates

In Sep 1805, Inspector of Hospitals Franklin, expressed his concerns to the Surgeon General on the very small numbers of Hospital Mates on the establishment.

The Surgeon General, however, could not act independently and sought permission from the Secretary-at-War, who in turn sought the consent of HRH the Commander-in-Chief as to whether additional hospital mates were to be sent out to Malta for eventual service in the Mediterranean.

In the meantime Sir Craig's force had arrived at Malta with a considerable medical staff, among whom were 12 hospital mates. The Secretary of State warned that should this staff, however, be taken on to another service by Sir James Craig, the same dearth of hospital mates will exist at Malta, with no probability of any being added from Gibraltar, where only two remain unattached to regiments.

On 17 Sep 1805, Surgeon General Keate was informed that HRH the Commander-in-Chief did not think it was necessary to send out any more Hospital Mates to Malta.