The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1880

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the Command was 4,885 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 4,187 admissions into hospital (857.1 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 49 deaths (10.02 deaths/1000 mean strength), including 3 invalids on their passage home or at the Invalid Depôt at Netley.

88 NCOs and men were returned to England as invalids; 58 were finally discharged from the service. The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 227.45 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 46.56; the average sick time to each soldier was 17.04 days; the average duration of each case was 19.88 days.

There was an average of 182 officers, with 130 attacks of illness and 3 deaths; 12 were invalided to England. The prevailing diseases were febricula (32), enteric fever (4) (1 death), simple continued fever (4), remittent fever (4), measles (2), diphtheria (1) (1 death), rheumatism (11), diarrhoea (11), dyspepsia (7), accidents (12). One death was from apoplexy.

Health of the Garrison

Fever accounted for 1,018 admissions into hospital (220.4/1000 mean strength). Admissions were for:

  • 53 for nervous system diseases with 3 deaths
  • 40 for circulatory diseases with 5 deaths
  • 222 for respiratory conditions with 1 death
  • 732 for digestive diseases with 3 deaths
  • 435 for urinary problems
  • 370 for cutaneous diseases
  • 163 for rheumatism
  • 172 for syphilis
  • 38 for phthisis with 8 deaths
  • 431 for accidents with 6 deaths

Admissions from nervous diseases were for neuralgia (10), mania (10), dementia (10), sciatica (5), epilepsy (4) and epileptic vertigo (3). Two deaths were from apoplexy and one from embolism of the cerebral arteries. There were 63 admissions for taenia solium with gastrointestinal deaths from jaundice, liver abscess and enteritis. Urinary problems were secondary to gonorrhoea (358 admissions) with 42 urethral strictures. The accidental deaths were from drowning, fractures, cut throat and two from gunshot wounds.

There were 60 admissions for paroxysmal fevers (12.3/1000) with 2 deaths (0.41/1000). The increase in paroxysmal fevers was attributed by the PMO to the arrival during October of the half battalion 1st/20th Regiment from Cyprus; nearly all the cases having occurred in that corps. There were 17 cases of eruptive fevers (3.5/1000) with 1 death (0.20/1000) from small-pox. There were 2 cases of small-pox and 15 of measles.

Continued fevers accounted for 900 admissions (184.2/1000 strength) with 18 deaths (3.69/1000 strength). There were 53 enteric fever (17 deaths), 20 simple continued fever (1 death) and 27 febricula. 42 out of the 53 cases of enteric fever occurred between July and December.

Soldiers' Families

There was an average of 370 wives in the garrison with 295 attacks of illness in women and 3 deaths. The prevailing diseases were febricula (32), enteric fever (3) (1 death), simple continued fever (6), measles (3), rheumatism (18), phthisis pulmonalis (4) (1 death), bronchitis (15), diarrhoea (27), dyspepsia (15), tonsillitis (11), taenia solium (7), child birth (10), general debility (43). There was one death from meningitis.

There were 582 children with 531 admissions and 35 child deaths. Admissions were for measles (103) (3 deaths), diarrhoea (94) (7 deaths), dysentery (8), bronchitis (52) (3 deaths), febricula (39), general debility (37) (5 deaths), scarlet fever (8), whooping cough (11), teething (16) (2 deaths), convulsions (9) (4 deaths), and diphtheria (2) (17 deaths). There were 2 deaths from anaemia, 2 from meningitis, and a death each from phthisis pulmonalis, tabes mesenterica, croup, pneumonia, dysentery and abscess.

Sanitary Ordinance

The Sanitary Ordinance of 1880 established an independent Sanitary Officer and provided for a Sanitary Board with full powers to decide on all sanitary matters. An Ordinance of 1880, barred physicians and surgeons from dispensing medicines without special permission from the Medical Board.

Police physicians and physicians who had obtained the Government's Warrant to exercise both the medical and the pharmaceutical professions before 1 Jan 1873, were exempt from this regulation.


On 5 Jan 1880, Admiral and Commander-in-Chief Sir Geoffrey T Phipps Hornby complained to the Admiralty of the inconvenience to HM ships of having the Indian Troopship placed in quarantine. Hornby expected the military surgeons sitting on the Board of Health to overrule the votes of the local medical men. The Governor objected to the admiral's remarks that: the naval interest were so largely injured in deference to local feelings, that it may induce their Lordships to insist on a more reasonable procedure and greater attention to that which constitutes the sole interest of England in this island, namely the use of the arsenal and coaling station.

Gas Lighting

The PMO, Surgeon General William Alexander Mackinnon CB, reported that gas lighting had been installed in the married quarters at Upper St Elmo Barracks.