The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1904

Malta Fever Commission

Goats at St George’s Bay with St George’s Barracks in the background. (Courtesy QA Archives photo album 1914-1918).

On 25 Jan 1904, a commission with representatives from the Admiralty, the War Office and the Malta Government was appointed to investigate the life history of the Micrococcus melitensis. The commission was under the supervision of an Advisory Committee of the Royal Society. Its aims were to determine how the germ entered the body and the factors which favoured its spread. A Sub Committee of the Tropical Diseases Committee was formed consisting of Col David Bruce (Chairman), Fleet Surgeon Bassett-Smith, Dr Klein, Dr C J Martin and Dr Sidney Martin.

The Sub-Committee appointed the following members: Maj W.H. Horrocks, Staff Surgeon E. A. Shaw RN, Dr Themistocles Zammit, Dr Ralph W. Johnstone, Capt J Crawford Kennedy, Staff Surgeon R T Gilmour and Lt Col A. M. Davies.

Dr R. Johnston joined the committee on 30 June 1904. He was detailed from the local Government Board to take part in the inquiries into the fever in Malta. He was paid £500 with a subsistence allowance of 30 shillings a day and travelling expenses. Capt Crawford Kennedy was appointed a member of the committee towards the end of the year. Staff Surgeon Gilmour RN gave his spare time to the service of the commission. Col David Bruce arrived at Malta on 13 June and returned to England on 14 July.

In 1903, Mediterranean Fever had been very prevalent among the families of the 1st/King's Royal Rifle Corps quartered in the newly erected Floriana Barracks. Those of the Royal Engineers occupying the quarters completed in autumn 1903, situated on the other side of the road nearer Valletta, also suffered severely. In 1904, there were 320 hospital admissions and 12 deaths from Malta Fever.

Army medical officers believed that the infection was airborne and that the micrococcus lay dormant in the soil and spread when the soil was disturbed. Thus the turning over of the soil during the building of Floriana Barracks in 1903 was blamed for an outbreak of Malta Fever among the families in the Floriana married quarters. July was considered to be the prevalent month for the fever. Barracks, bedding, and personal clothing which had been in actual contact with a patient suffering from Malta Fever were disinfected. It was noted that those in constant contact with patients contracted the disease, presumably because they drank the same milk served to their patients. In 1903-04, Shaw and Gilmour at Bighi Hospital proved the existence of the micrococcus in the blood of those infected with Malta Fever.

Ghajn Tuffieha Camp
Ghajn Tuffieha Camp 1906 (RAMC/793/4/4).

In 1904, four sisters of the nursing staff, and 19 NCOs of the RAMC fell ill with Malta Fever. In addition a number of cases broke out at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp. However in Mar 1904, the PMO remarked that unfortunately the garrison had several men afflicted. Three nursing ladies and four officers and a lot of troops went down with it.

The PMO had insufficient men to allow them time to investigate Mediterranean Fever. He commented that although his young officers were very keen on investigating the disease, it was quite impossible to have them all at Headquarters. He had a staff of only twenty-one officers. These had to take it in turn to provide medical support to the outlying camps and to Gozo.

Of his twenty-one officers, three were on sick leave, two were in Crete, seven were at out stations and one was the sanitary officer. The PMO pointed out that his officers were occupied mainly with looking after the needs of the countless families in the districts rather than engaged in hospital work. In addition, two of his officers were on duty to the north of the island where two camps had been recently established.

Malta Garrison Strength

The average strength of the garrison was 9120 men. There were 245 officers, 567 women and 928 children. There were 505 admissions and 9 deaths among the women, 5 from Malta fever and one each from puerperal septicaemia, valvular heart disease, bronchitis and lung abscess. There were 693 admissions and 49 deaths among the children. 28 deaths from enteritis, 3 from pneumonia, 2 each from whooping cough, meningitis, diphtheria, lung tubercle prematurity and burns. The Royal Naval Hospital Bighi had the following staff:

  • Medical Staff
    • Deputy Inspector General H T Cox
    • Deputy Inspector General Bentham (PMO).
    • Staff Surgeon Ernest C Lomas MB DSO
    • Surgeon Edward T Meager
    • Surgeon Robert S Gilmour
    • Surgeon Walter K Hopkins
    • Dispenser in charge of stores J Hart
    • Dispenser H H Sturch
  • Nursing Sisters
    • Miss Isabella Smith (Acting Head Sister)
    • Miss Evangelina Harte
    • Miss Emily W E Valentine
    • Miss Ethel R Whittington
    • Miss Agnes E Allsop
    • Miss Mabel J Barker
    • Store Matron Mrs Ellen E S Paul
  • Nurses Soldiers and Sailors Families Association
    • Miss Mills, 11 Strada San Giuseppe Cospicua
    • Miss Shaw, 11 Strada San Giuseppe Cospicua
    • Miss Smith, 70 Strada Fosse Floriana
    • Miss O'Connor, 70 Strada Fosse Floriana
    • Miss Geary (Boheme), Victoria Avenue Sliema
    • Miss Pople E, St Augustine Avenue Rabat

Hospital Overcrowding

In 1904, 5161 patients were treated in their barracks so as to reduce overcrowding in hospitals. The diseases treated locally were: local infections (1213), simple continued fever (771), diarrhoea (695), colic (104), skin disorders (660), boils (250), eczema (211), diseases of connective tissues (355), debility (234), diseases of the ear nose and throat (148), respiratory infections (117), and rheumatism (113).

Baptisms Garrison Church 1904

  • 11 Sep George Leonard Sutton born on 15 July 1904, son of Joyce and Army Schoolmaster George William Sutton.
  • 25 Sep Ivor Percival Trevor Morgan born on 8 September 1904, son of Elsie Percival and Sgt Arthur Richard Morgan of Warrant Officers Quarters, Mtarfa.

Burials Mtarfa Military Cemetery 1904

  • 8 June Arthur Vincent Messenger aged 7 mths (St Nicholas Cottonera)
  • 27 June J. Charles William Farmer aged 7 mths (Mtarfa MQ)
  • 2 July Amelia Susan King aged 6 mths (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 22 July William George Jenner aged 1 yr 16 days (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 24 July Alfred George King aged 1 yr (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 28 July George Frederick Hills aged 1 yr 7 mths (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 31 July Lancelott Pridmore aged 1 yr 5 mths (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 7 Aug Rose May Turner aged 1 yr 7 mths (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 17 Aug Annie Frances Craig Cooper aged 7 mths (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 15 Aug John William King aged 11 days (Mtarfa Barracks)
  • 30 Nov John Guthrie aged 2 mths son of Robert Guthrie (Mtarfa Barracks)

On 27 Sep 1904, Surgeon Henry Edward Raper RN died at the Royal Naval Hospital Malta of Mediterranean Fever. He was 30 years old and had been appointed Surgeon on 23 May 1898.

Burials Pietà Military Cemetery 1904

  • 27 Apr Female child of SSgt William Rob Connolly, aged 9 months.
  • 29 May Infant William David Fuller, aged 4 months of St George’s Barracks Pembroke.
  • 2 June Female child of Ernest Henden, aged 6 months.
  • 15 Oct Infant Winifred Louisa Devenport, aged 7 weeks of No 3 Married Quarters Floriana.
  • 22 Oct Still born child of Walter Lawrence Page, of Floriana.
  • 5 Nov Still born child of Sgt Gilbert, of the Camerata Valletta.
  • 9 Nov Mrs Rose Payne, aged 46 years 7 months, of Verdala Barracks.
  • 15 Nov Female neonate of Henry James Bailey, aged 16 hours, of Fort Tigne.

Sanitary Inspectors

The army sanitary officer was appointed a member of the civil Sanitary Commission. The Sanitary Commission met periodically to deal with matters affecting the sanitary welfare of the island. In Jan 1904, there was a reorganisation of the Sanitary Branch of the Maltese Health Department.

Sanitary Inspectors lacked the necessary qualifications to enable them to carry out their duties in a satisfactory manner. In Mar 1903, it was decided to send them to England to undergo a course of training in one of the recognised Schools of Hygiene, and thus obtain the Diploma of Public Health.