The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1812

Malta Garrison

In 1812, a Commission of Inquiry recommended that Malta should be granted Crown Colony status.

On 25 Oct 1812, the Malta Garrison consisted of 8 Field officers, 28 captains, 83 subalterns, 3,932 rank and file, 30 on passage to Malta, 614 at Home, 4624 Establishment.


In 1812, Lord William Bentinck was requested to deploy part of his garrison from Sicily to the Eastern coast of Spain. Bentinck, however, could not afford to weaken his garrison while Murat waited across the Straits of Messina ready to pounce on the island. In addition, Bentinck had planned his own expedition to Genoa in the hope of precipitating a spontaneous uprising against the French.

In preparation for this expedition, Bentinck called for all available troops from Malta to be sent to Sicily. In 1812, Malta served as a place of confinement for countless prisoners of war, and Oakes feared that the weakening of his garrison would not leave him with sufficient troops to guard them.

At that time, it was common practice to enlist men for the foreign levies from prisoners of war. Thus, in 1813, two hundred and fifty two men from amongst the Neapolitan prisoners, formerly in the employment of the French, who were in detention at Fort Ricasoli, volunteered for Bentinck's Italian levy.

Medical staff officers were also recalled from Malta to serve with Bentinck's expedition, but these were not allowed by the Board of Health to enter Sicily while the plague still raged in Malta.

Hospital Mates

Hospital Mates were ordered to the Army Depôt on the Isle of Wight, where they received their warrants. There, they reported to the Principal Medical Officer, who employed them wherever their services were required. The junior medical officers were usually attached to the General Hospital, and instructed in their duties under the direction of the PMO.

Those appointed by commission had £4 19s 6d deducted from their first pay as a fee for their commission. The sum was deducted from the amount of pay issued in advance to those who embarked from the Isle of Wight.

On 19 Mar 1812, the Army Medical Board instructed Inspector of Hospitals Moore, that whenever hospital mates embarked at the Isle of Wight for foreign service, they were to hand a letter to the PMO of the service for which they are intended containing an account of their qualifications, with such remarks as their conduct while under your orders shall warrant. It has been formerly noticed that every hospital mate sent to the depôt must be held amenable for any service. It is, however, the desire of the Board that as far as possible those possessed of the best acquirement shall be selected for West Indies and similar important station, and you are to understand that the hospital mates appointed by Warrant are considered Temporary only, being ineligible for promotion until they shall have qualified themselves to obtain a commission as Commissioned Hospital Mates for General Service.