The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1868

Malta Garrison

Connaught Hospital
Vilhena Palace used as a Military Sanatorium, and then as a civilian sanatorium or the Connaught Hospital. It is built around three sides of an open courtyard, the fourth side of which has a screen with a heraldic gate.

The average strength of the garrison exclusive of colonial troops was 5,377; there were 4,597 hospital admissions (855/1000 mean strength) with 102 deaths (18.97/1000 mean strength) including 6 invalids awaiting their discharge. 13 of the deaths took place out of hospital. Three deaths occurred in the Army Hospital Corps and ten deaths in the Royal Artillery. The 1st/24th and the 61st Regiments both had an extremely high death rate. Of the seven deaths, three were from a fractured skull, one by sunstroke, one by downing, two were suicidal cut throat, one while in detention in the Military Prison, and the other death was in a mentally ill inpatient awaiting to be invalided to England.

Continued fevers were the cause of more than half the admissions and of nearly all the deaths. Admissions and deaths began to increase in May and peaked in June and Sept. There were 1,106 admissions (205.7/1000 mean strength) during the year with 34 deaths (6.32/1000 mean strength). There were 24 admissions (4.5/1000 mean strength) for paroxysmal fever with no deaths. Dysentery and diarrhoea accounted for 453 admissions (84.2/1000 mean strength) with 3 deaths (0.56/1000 mean strength).

Inspector General Joshua Paynter believed that drinking to excess had been a very fertile cause of disease. During the year, 224 invalids were returned home from the Mediterranean Commands (Gibraltar 108, Malta 106) and 147 were discharged from the service. Tubercular disease was the most prominent cause of invaliding and discharge (Gibraltar 26, Malta 21), followed by diseases of the circulatory system, chiefly hypertrophy and valvular heart disease (Gibraltar 13, Malta 13). Under diseases of the digestive system (Gibraltar 11, Malta 15), there were 12 men discharged for hernia, nine of them were sent home from Malta, six being gunners of the Royal Artillery with from 5 to 9 years' service.

During the year, the average constantly non-effective from sickness was 239 men (44.45/1000 mean strength). The average sick time to each soldier was 16.22 days; the duration of the cases of disease being 18.98 days.

Explosion of Gun Powder Magazine

barracks St Angelo
Royal Artillery barracks at Fort St Angelo. (TNA:MFQ 1/330)

In 1868, six gunners died in the explosion of an expense magazine at Fort St Angelo. Four other unrelated deaths occurred in the Royal Artillery during the year. One was killed by the sheers falling upon him while engaged in lowering a gun into a ditch. Another died when a gun-carriage fell upon him and fracturing his pelvis, one drowned and the fourth shot himself.

Mdina Sanatorium

Tower of the Standard
St Pubulius Square Mdina with the Torre dello Stendardo. The escutcheons are those of the Municipality of Malta and of Grand Master De Vilhena.

The Tower of the Standard stood opposite the main gate of Vilhena Palace. It was used as a quarter for the porter of the military sanatorium and other servants of the establishment. During 1868, the Royal Engineers fitted new glazed pipes to replace the old stone drains of the sanatorium. The sick were transported in ambulances or wagons from their respective regimental hospitals to the Sanatorium. There was sufficient accommodation for 80 sick men, and five sick officers. Men either recovered and were returned to their regimental hospitals, or were invalided back to England. The majority of admissions were convalescents from fever.