The Army Medical Department
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1882

Malta Garrison

The average strength of the command was 4,619 men, exclusive of colonial troops. There were 3,715 admissions into hospital (804.3 admissions/1000 mean strength), with 41 deaths (8.88 deaths/1000 mean strength), including 3 invalids on their passage home to the Invalid Depôt at Netley. The Garrison Staff had an average strength of 90 men with 60 admissions into hospital and 3 deaths. Admissions into hospital were for fevers, rheumatism, venereal diseases and diseases of the respiratory, digestive and cutaneous systems.

129 men returned to England as invalids, with 42 of the invalids discharged from the service. The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the Royal Malta Fencible Artillery, was 241.82 men. The ratio per 1000 mean strength constantly sick was 52.35; the average sick time to each soldier was 19.11 days; the average duration of each case was 23.76 days.

On 22 Sep, 3 companies of Foot Guards arrived from England. On 2 Oct 1882, a detachment of the 2nd/Grenadier Guards consisting of 2 officers, 3 sgts, 1 drummer and 122 gdsm embarked on the transport Italy for Portsmouth.
On 2 Oct, a detachment of the 2nd/Coldstream Guards consisting of 2 officers, 4 sgts, 2 drummers and 127 gdsm embarked on the transport Italy for Portsmouth.
On 3 Oct, a detachment of the 1st/Scots Guards consisting of 2 officers, 5 sgts, 1 drummer and 126 gdsm embarked on the transport Batavia for Portsmouth.

There was an average of 163 officers, with 120 attacks of illness and 3 deaths; 12 were invalided to England. The main diseases were fever and digestive system disorders. Deaths were from pulmonary consumption, chronic laryngitis and concussion of the brain caused by a block dropping down on the officer's head while on board ship.

Soldiers' Families

There was an annual average of 270 wives, with 198 attacks of illness among them. One women died from a fractured skull after falling down a number of stone steps.

There were 468 children in the garrison with 239 admissions and 17 deaths. Deaths were from meningitis, tabes mesenterica, convulsions, teething, diarrhoea and debility.

Health of the Garrison

Fever accounted for 633 admissions into hospital with 14 deaths. Admissions were for:

  • 47 for nervous system diseases (3 deaths)
  • 41 for circulatory diseases (1 death)
  • 143 for respiratory conditions (6 deaths)
  • 525 for digestive diseases (4 deaths)
  • 505 for urinary problems
  • 386 for cutaneous diseases
  • 126 for rheumatism
  • 217 for syphilis
  • 44 for phthisis (5 deaths)
  • 558 for accidents (4 deaths)

A soldier died from a fall off the top of the Station Hospital Cottonera. There were 34 admissions for alcohol intoxication and 6 for delirium tremens (2 deaths). The increase in the amount of venereal disease was due to the arrival of new regiments in the command. The greatest number of admissions occurred in August after the landing of two regiments from England. Two cases of purpura occurred at Forrest Station Hospital, one of which, purpura haemorrhagica, proved fatal. 3 deaths under nervous diseases were due to apoplexy (2) and brain abscess. There was a sudden death from a rupture aneurysm of the aorta.

There were 12 admissions for eruptive fevers (11 measles and 1 chicken-pox). Continued fevers led to 594 admissions with 14 deaths. There were 78 admissions for enteric fever (13 deaths), 343 for simple continued fevers (1 death) and 173 for febricula. Enteric fever was more common in the Cottonera District, where there were 44 attacks with 8 deaths, followed by Valletta (27 attacks and 5 deaths), Pembroke Camp (5 attacks) and Citta Vecchia with 2 attacks.

Surgeon-Major James S Duncan who was in charge of the Cottonera Hospital blamed the rise in enteric fever to the large number of young soldiers in the garrison, who are well known to be more liable to the disease than men of mature age. Enteric fever was more common during Oct and Nov, but more deaths occurred in July.

There were 20 admissions for paroxysmal fevers, of which 5 were of remittent fever. There were no deaths. Ague occurred in the men of the 3rd/King's Royal Rifles who had arrived from South Africa. The fever was mild and of short duration.

Expeditionary Force to Egypt

Fort Chambray

Nationalist uprisings in Egypt instigated by Arabi Pasha, and the killing of Europeans on 11 June 1882, led to the influx of about 6,600 refugees into Malta. The British Fleet bombarded Alexandria on 11 and 12 July 1882. The refugees placed a considerable strain on the limited resources of the island. Money for their relief was raised in London through the Lord Mayor Fund, and clothing was collected in Malta through the Ladies Clothing Fund, led by Lady Houlton.

Between 13 July and 6 Sept 1882, two armies, one (24,000-strong) from Britain and the other (7,000-strong) from India, under the command of Lt Gen Sir Garnet Wolseley attacked Egypt.

Fort Chambray
Fort Chambray Hospital Gozo was prepared to accept the wounded from the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir Egypt (13 Sept 1882).

Deputy Surgeon General (local Surgeon General) Sir J A Hanbury KCB, was the Principal Medical Officer of the Expeditionary Force. He was accompanied by Surgeon Major Davie as secretary and Mr Pringle as Captain of Orderlies. A large staff of medical officers, (163 all ranks), was attached to the expedition which left Liverpool on 5 Aug 1882. Two surgeons were attached to each regiment of the Guards, and one to each regiment of cavalry and infantry, battery of artillery, company of engineers, and commissariat corps. Sanitary Officer Brigade Surgeon (local Deputy Surgeon General) J. Marston, Principal Veterinary Surgeon Inspecting Veterinary Surgeon Meyrick

Eight field hospitals attached to the Expeditionary Force in Egypt were either movable or stationary. The stationary hospitals were supplied with marquees; the movable hospitals with bell tents. They had tentage accommodation for 200 patients. The medical officers in charge were:

  • Brigade Surgeons
    • Edmund McGrath – No 1 Fd Hosp
    • Oliver Barnett – No 2 Moveable Fd Hosp
    • Henry Richard Lobb Veale – No 8 Stationary Fd Hosp
    • Eugene Francis O'Leary – No 4 Fd Hosp
    • Edmund Greswold McDowell – No 7 Stationary Fd Hosp
  • Surgeon-Majors
    • William Tanner – No 6 Moveable Fd Hosp
    • John Warren – No 5 Moveable Fd Hosp
    • John Henry Beath – No 3 Moveable Fd Hosp

Surgeon–Majors Sidney Keyworth Ray and Thomas Francis O'Dwyer were in command of No 1 and 2 Bearer Companies. The officers of the Army Hospital Corps were Captain F Philpot and a number of Lieutenants of Orderlies.

In 1882, the number of hospital beds in Malta was increased to accommodate the sick from Egypt. Hospital equipment was sent from Malta to Alexandria to set up a hospital of 400 beds in a large shed near the main wharf.

A hospital was established at Gozo (200 beds), with a capacity to increase the number of beds to 400. The hospital at Gozo was intended for wounded only, but ultimately sick soldiers were also sent there. It was equipped partly from stores at Malta and partly from home. In addition to the Movable and Stationary Field Hospitals, the steamship Carthage was specially fitted up as a base hospital on the seaboard of the Suez Canal for 220 patients. The SS Courland was also fitted out as a hopsital ship with 60 beds. It acted as a tender to the Carthage and transported invalids to Cyprus and Malta.

Each Field Hospital and Bearer Company had its regulated proportion of medical officers. Brigade Surgeon Manley VC, gazetted to the local rank of Deputy Surgeon General, embarked on the Catalonia as PMO of the Second Division. Deputy Surgeon General Lamprey went to Cyprus as PMO, and Brigade Surgeon Tippetts was sent to Gozo in charge of the base hospital. Twenty-nine nursing sisters were employed during the campaign. They served in Egypt, Cyprus, Gozo, or on board the hospital ship Carthage. Six of them belonged to the Army Nursing Establishment; six were from the National Aid Society; and 17 were specially engaged for the campaign.

The Indian contingent provided its own hospitals, staff, hospital-equipment, and transport. The troops disembarked at Ismailia on 22 Aug, and were at once pushed forward. On 24 Aug, a section of No 3 Field Hospital and No 1 Bearer Company moved out to join the troops in front; the former by rail, the latter by marching, as there was no animal transport available.

The subordinate medical establishment consisted of about 820 men of all ranks of the Army Hospital Corps. The men of the Army Hospital Corps, had not only to tend the sick and wounded within the hospital, but had also to haul equipment and stores from the ships to the hospital. So great was the demand on transport to provide ammunition, food, and shelter for the troops in front, that it was almost impossible to get anything else pushed forward. Medicines, medical comforts and surgical appliances, had to be sent up daily in small instalments, in the personal charge of medical officers or orderlies.

Military Nurses

Nurses of the ANS on ? HMS Orontes on their way to the Sudan Campaign. Left to right: Sr Burleigh, Dr Wilson, Sr Irving, Sr Ireland. In Aug 1885, Sisters Ireland, Norman, King and Burleigh were mentioned in the despatches of Sir Gerald Graham for their excellent service and unremitting care and attention rendered to the sick and wounded of the operations on the Nile and Suakin. (Courtesy AMS archives)

Between 1882 and 1885, about 35 female military nurses served in Egypt and the Sudan. The nurses were recruited from different hospitals with one female superintendent in charge.

One of the five nurses who proceeded with the Army on active service and ordered to go to the Battalion Surgical Hospital at Fort Chambray Gozo was Miss Clara Lee.

Royal Naval Hospital Bighi

Deputy Inspector General J N Dick RN took charge of the Royal Naval Hospital at Malta. He succeeded Deputy Inspector General George Birnie Hill who died from chronic dysentery at Malta on 6 Jan 1882. A memorial in granite and Sicilian marble was erected in the Naval Cemetery by his friends as a mark of esteem and respect.