The Royal Army Medical Corps
And the Malta Garrison

The Malta Garrison – 1917

Plague 1917

A small plague outbreak broke out in 1917, when 8 were infected and 4 died. Over three months, the microbiologist Maj William Broughton Alcock RAMC and Prof Themistocles Zammit examined over 1500 rats from around the Grand Harbour; 15 rats were found to be infected. The brown grey rat Rattus norvegicus was the predominant species but it was being ousted from the sea shore by the imported Rattus rattus.

Black-Water Fever

Malaria and black-water fever were endemic in Macedonia. Between Oct 1916 and Apr 1917, sixteen cases of black-water fever occurred in soldiers invalided to Malta from Macedonia during the preceding five months. There were three deaths.

Black-water fever patients were treated at St Andrew's and St David's Hospitals. Capt Adam Patrick RAMC recounts his experiences of using intravenous injections of quinine bihydrochloride and antimony tartrate from Feb 1917 to July 1918 in patients from the Salonica army who had been transferred to a Malta hospital.

Temporary Commissions RAMC

Cottonera Hospital
Lt Col T Mackenzie, Maj Hamilton, Capt Anderson Capt Adam Patrick at Cottonera Hospital Aug 1917 (Courtesy Mary Muscat's WWI photo album).

In May 1917, the Secretary of War announced that the contracts of medical men appointed to temporary commissions in the RAMC and also renewals of contracts of officers of military age, were to last until the end of the war, or until their services were no longer required.

Medical men who were unfit for general service or garrison duty abroad, but fit for service at home, were granted temporary commissions and retained at home stations for as long as they remained unfit for service abroad.

Aubrey Goodwin (1889 – 1964)

Mr Aubrey Goodwin OBE MD FRCS was obstetric surgeon to the Westminster Hospital and gynaecological surgeon to the Chelsea Hospital for women and the Prince of Wales General Hospital Tottenham. He qualified MB BS London in 1913.

He served from 1914 to 1919 in the RAMC and saw service in Salonica and Malta, where he was staff officer to the Director of Medical Services Malta Command. He retired with the rank of captain.

Colonel William Thorburn CB

Col William Thorburn consulting surgeon to the Manchester Royal Infirmary was consulting surgeon to the forces in Malta and Salonica. He served at Malta from 1 Aug 1915 to mid Sept 1917. During this period, except for occasional visits to Mudros and Suvla and the winter of 1915 – 1916 which he spent at Salonica, he was fully occupied as consultant surgeon in the base hospitals of Malta.

George Basil Price CMG MD FRCP

Dr George Basil Price (Bristol 6 June 1871–10 Mar 1939) was commissioned a temporary officer in the RAMC. He arrived in Malta as a lieutenant, was shortly promoted to the rank of captain, and by 1918 he was a lieutenant colonel with the local rank of colonel and in charge of Mtarfa Military Hospital of 1,800 beds.

Although essentially a clinician, he spared no efforts to become conversant with the intricacies of the administration of an army hospital. For some months he was also acting consulting physician to the Malta Command; for his services during the war he was awarded the CMG.

Ernest G B Starkie

In 1915, Dr Ernest G B Starkie offered his services to the RAMC and was sent to Malta, where he performed much valuable surgical work. Unfortunately, he contracted dysentery, which ultimately led in his death in 1926.

George Robert Bruce (SR) 1884–1962

Dr George Robert Bruce served with great distinction as sanitary officer and later senior sanitary officer for Malta. His work in the organization of military hospitals and in the control of undulant fever was outstanding. He was twice mentioned in despatches and appointed OBE.

Lt (QM) Reginald William Cole RAMC

R W Cole
Lt (QM) Reginald William Cole MBE RAMC Depot Crookham July 1938. (801/18 Photo Album RAMC Mess Aldershot 1903)

Lt (QM) Reginald William Cole MBE RAMC was born at Devonport on 7 May 1887. He enlisted in 1901 and was commissioned from the ranks as a Lt (QM) on 21 July 1931. He was promoted Captain (QM) on 1 August 1838 and Major (QM) on 22 July 1940.

He served in France with the BEF (1914–1915) before being posted to Malta (1915–1917).

He moved to Italy in 1917 and served in Egypt (1920–1924) and China (1930–1931). He died on 11 June 1950.

British General Hospitals for Salonica

63th BGH Salonica
63 General Hospital Salonica.

The casualties from Salonica (Oct 1915 – 30 Sep 1918), were initially treated at Malta and Egypt.
In 1917, however, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to evacuate from Salonica, and five General Hospitals, the 61st, 62nd, 63rd, 64th and 65th, mobilized in Malta for service in Salonica. They had 1040 beds each completely equipped and staffed from Malta. The hospitals left for Salonica on May 1917.

In Aug 1917, there were 227 labourers from Malta in Salonica.

61 British General Hospital

On 25 June 1917, St Patrick's Military Hospital was reconfigured as 61 General Hospital. The medical and nursing staff consisted of: 12 Officers, 8 lady doctors, 38 female nursing staff, 3 Warrant Officers (one QM) and 204 other ranks. Lt Colonel A Kennedy RAMC commanded.

On 4 July 1917, the hospital left Malta on HMT Abbassieh escorted by HMS Aster and HMS Azalia. About 13 miles off Malta its two escorting vessels struck mines, resulting in the sinking of HMS Aster. HMT Abbassieh and the remaining escort returned to Malta and anchored off Marsaxlokk.

On 6 July 1917, HMT Abbassieh with 61, 62 and 64 General Hospitals sailed off escorted by HIM Japanese destroyers J and K. The staff were given their first inoculation against cholera. They arrived at Suda Bay Crete on 9 July, where they were issued with quinine grs X, as prophylaxis against malaria. They entered Salonica (ThesSalonica) harbour on 11 July 1917.

62 British General Hospital

On 2 May 1917, St David's Military Hospital re-established itself as 62 General Hospital. Its staff was: Lt Col Carr C H, Commanding Officer, Capt Prance C H G, Capt Leigh B H, Capt Glen D, Capt Barrett W C P, Capt Morgan R J, Capt Gore W G, and Lt (QM) Percy J W.

The lady doctors were: Dr Hollway E B, Dr Murphy J L, Dr Fergus A G, and Dr Murray M D. In addition were a Matron, 8 sisters, 1 staff nurse (nursing reserve) and 15 VAD, 1 Warrant Officer, 3 Staff Sergeants, 11 Sgts, 5 Cpls, 5 LCpls and 111 RAMC privates.

62 Br GH closed on 31 Oct 1917. Its staff was distributed among No 61, 28, 67 and 43 General Hospitals.

64 British General Hospital

64th BGH Salonica
Aerial view of 64 General Hospital Salonica (Cotter collection)

64 Br GH was formed on 28 Apr 1917. The staff marched to All Saints Camp where they waited for their passage to Salonica. On 1 June 1917, some of the hospital staff embarked on HMT Abbassieh but the medical officers, all the lady doctors, and women nursing staff and the whole equipment were left in Malta due to lack of accommodation on the transport.

The men who embarked were: Lt Thomson T M (wards), Lt West H O (wards), Lt Garland G, Lt (QM) Cotter James and Lt (QM) Wilmshurst W J.

In Oct 1917, a violent storms blew over the marquees of 18 wards placing 540 beds out of action. The patients were transferred to 29 General Hospital.

64 GH closed on 12 Dec 1917 until the tentage was repaired; it reopened on 17 Apr 1918. Its lady doctors were moved to 49 Stationary Hospital.

65 British General Hospital

65 Br GH was formed on 20 June 1917 from the staff of St David's Military Hospital. It sailed for Salonica on 6 July 1917. It arrived there on 11 July and set up at Hortiack.

The women doctors were Lepper E H, Gellathy J H, Fox I E, Haigh E, Craig E M D, Hurdon E, and McEnery M J.

Ghajn Tuffieha Convalescent Camp

George Lane
Convalescent Camp Ghajn Tuffieha (Courtesy Joseph Camilleri)

Lt Col George Lane RAMC was a Major, Special Reserve Officer, who was granted the temporary rank of Lt Col while in command of Camp Hospitals. He was promoted Major in Oct 1914 and placed on the retired list on account of ill health contracted on active service in Nov 1918.

In July 1916, Maj G Lane was appointed Commandant of the Military Convalescent Camp Hospitals at Ghajn Tuffieha. The camp for over 5000 convalescents was built by the men themselves. It took nearly twelve months to complete. Each camp was equipped with a hospital, workshops, a poultry yard to provide fresh eggs and chickens, and some ten acres of potatoes cultivated by the convalescents.

The aim was to provide the convalescents with good food and recreational activities so as to facilitate their recovery from their injuries before being returned to their units or invalided back to England.

Church Army Soldier's Club

In January 1917, the premises known as The Big Drum, at No 11 Greenfell Street St Julians were fitted out as a soldiers' club by the Church Army. The club opened its door for the first time on 1 February 1917.

Army Audit Staff

The Audit Office in Malta closed on 26 April 1917. In August 1914, Malta and Egypt together had 8 Directing Staff and 7 Subordinate Staff of the Army Audit Staff.

Baptisms 1917

  • 11 Feb Labourer James Warburton born 22 January 1894, son of Catherine and Robert Warburton of No 33 George Street Birkenhead, was baptised in the Cottonera Military Hospital.
  • 15 Apr Pte John Erie Lindsay 2/15th County of London Regt (Prince of Wales Own Civil Service Rifles), born 16 May 1897, of the Cottonera hospital, son of Helen and William Henry Lindsay was baptised in the Cottonera Military Hospital.
  • 26 June James Salier Aveling born 26 May 1917, son of Harriet Mary and Charles James Aveling Staff Surgeon RN of No 22 Strada Leone, Floriana was baptised at the Barracca Church Valletta.