Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison
James Hector
1841 – 1911

Assistant Surgeon James Hector MB (Aber 1864)

12 Dec 1841 [Paterson River New South Wales] – 23 Mar 1911 [Oxford]

Assistant Surgeon James Hector was the son of Captain Thomas Hector, who in early life had been an officer in the Royal Navy, but leaving that Service, joined the Merchant Service, and for some years commanded a ship trading between India and China. He subsequently settled in Australia.

He was educated at Aberdeen, attended the arts curriculum at Marischal College, from 1856 to 1860, thereafter studying medicine and graduating MB, CM, at the University of Aberdeen in 1864.

Service Record

30 Sep 1864 Commissioned Staff Assistant Surgeon.

Malta 21 Oct 1865 Arrived from England.

Malta 1866 On garrison duty.

Malta 1867 On garrison duty.

Malta 4 May 1868 Returned to England.

Malta 30 July 1868 Returned to Malta.

Malta 1869 On duty at Valletta Hospital, and at Upper Vittoriosa Hospital (Armeria). In September was placed in temporary medical charge of 1st/31st (Huntingdonshire) Regiment of Foot. Was quartered with the regiment at Pembroke Camp.

Malta 28 Jan 1870 Proceeded to England in HMS Lunison, in medical charge of troops, and was struck off the strength of the Malta Command.

9 Sep 1871 Assistant Surgeon 54th (West Norfolk) Regiment of Foot.

1 Mar 1873 Promoted Surgeon Army Medical Department on the abolition of the regimental medical system.

30 Sep 1876 Promoted Surgeon–Major Army Medical Department. He received the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief in India, and of the Director General, Army Medical Department, for his devoted zeal, during the epidemic of cholera at Murree, in 1876.

South Africa 1879 Served on the Zulu Campaign with a flying column, and in the operations against Sekukuni with the Transvaal Field Force, for which he was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 16 January 1880).

He was the first British Officer to command a Bearer Company in action. A draft of his report on the improvised Bearer Company, which he organised for service in the Campaign against Sekukuni, in the Transvaal in 1879, was found amongst his papers after his death. This report, written, as he states, at the suggestion of Colonel Henry Brackenbury, Chief of the Staff in the Transvaal, demonstrated the great advance in the administration and position of Army Medical affairs since that time, and in view of the fact that no mention of such an organisation as a Bearer Column or of Bearer Companies was to be found in the Regulations for the RAMC, until the publication of the Field Hospital Regulations promulgated by Clause 9 of Army Circular January 1878.

Colonel Brackenbury, writing to Hector on 21 December 1879, said: I have read this report with the greatest interest . . I shall always consider that the first trial of the Bearer Company system in action with our troops was a thorough and complete success, and I attribute that success first to the inherent excellence of the system, and secondly to the fortunate fact that your knowledge and zeal were brought to bear upon the organisation of this improvised Bearer Company.

In a speech made in the House of Commons on 1 March 1880, Colonel Stanley, Secretary of State for War, said: "There is another point in connection with the Medical Service to which I should like also to draw your attention. In the recent attack on Sekukuni's fortress the ambulances were for the first time fully organised, and it is satisfactory to know that this was attended by the best results under the direction of Surgeon Major Hector. It is important that I should draw attention to this, because it is a marked feature in field medical organisation. I believe I may refer to a letter written by Colonel Brackenbury, who describes more tersely than I can the advantages of the establishment of this column. He says: "It was a sight to see, for I suppose it was the first action fought by our troops in which it can be said that not a single fighting man left the ranks to bear the wounded to the rear. It was a trial, though on a small scale, and I am satisfied that the system is sound. Hector, I hope, will receive the appreciation he deserves." The more official report of the Principal Medical Officer states that so efficiently and rapidly did the corps perform its duty that no wounded man was left two minutes on the ground before he was, taken to the dressing station".

24 Mar 1880 As an appreciation of his valuable services in South Africa, Surgeon Major Hector was offered the charge of the Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot, a position usually held by a Brigade Surgeon, and on 13 May 1880, an intimation was sent to him that in consequence of the good service rendered by him during the war in South Africa his name had been placed on the roster for foreign service, 100 places from the top.1

1884 Was appointed Honorary Surgeon to His Excellency the Viceroy of India.

Nov 1885 Returned to England from Bengal, and was appointed to command the Depot and Training School at Aldershot vice Surgeon–Major Sidney Keyworth Ray. His services when in command of the depot of the Medical Staff Corps were warmly eulogised by the Principal Medical Officer on his relinquishing that command in January 1887.

26 Feb 1887 Granted retired pay with the honorary rank of Brigade–Surgeon.

As a retired officer, he was for many years employed as a Medical Examiner of recruits in the London district. For a considerable time he acted as Honorary Secretary to the Army Medical Annual Dinner.

17 Oct 1893 The designation of his substantive departmental rank was altered to that of Surgeon Lieutenant Colonel, under Gazette notification of 17 October 1893. He became Lieutenant Colonel under Gazette notification of 9 August 1898.