The Malta Blitz — Casualty Evacuation June 1940 to December 1943
The Malta Blitz Casualty Evacuation June 1940 – December 1943
On 9 April 1937, Colonel John Smith McCombe DSO RAMC took up his post as Deputy Director of Medical Services (DDMS) Malta Command. The DDMS was the medical advisor to the General Officer Commanding Troops (GOC), and the chief of the Army Medical Services in the island. He was responsible for delivering medical care to the garrison, which on 30 June 1938 stood at 192 officers and 3,020 men. The DDMS had a small General Military Hospital of 100 beds and a Military Families Hospital of 24 beds at Mtarfa, a District Dispensary at Floriana, 15 Medical Officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), 78 Other Ranks (ORs) No 30 Company RAMC, and 13 Nursing Sisters of Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS).
Malta was considered a holiday posting. Overall, work was light and the island became one of the playgrounds of Europe. The garrison indulged in bathing, swimming, cricket, golf, tennis, and polo at the Marsa Sports ground. Five RAMC officers owned sailing yachts and were members of the Royal Malta Yacht Club. Local leave enabled them to widen their horizons by visiting Africa, Sicily, Naples and Rome. This idyllic life was sometimes interrupted by such events as the Second Italo–Abyssinian War of 1935. But these blips soon passed, and life on the island reverted to normal. The News and Gazette of the RAMC reported that Malta, like good wine, has improved with time. The Company at Mtarfa is the most happy and most sporting that any man could wish for.1
In September 1938, war almost broke out over the question of the Sudetenland, but this crisis too settled down. In September 1939, Adolf Hitler demanded the return of the Free City of Danzig to the Third Reich, and invaded Poland. Britain declared war on 3 September, but Italy, though linked to Germany with its Pact of Steel dithered, and did not enter the war until 10 June 1940.
On 22 August 1939, Malta was placed on a war footing. All stations were manned and everything was in readiness for the declaration of war on 3 September. Mtarfa Barracks was taken over as a hospital at the end of August 1939; in May 1940 it expanded to 1,500 beds based on an casualty estimate of 15% of a garrison of 10,000 personnel and their families. From September 1939 to June 1940, while Italy maintained her neutrality, Malta was little affected by the war and the life of the island returned to its quasi normal habits of peace time. Troops reoccupied their war stations on 17 April 1940, when Advanced Dressing Stations (ADS) and Medical Aid Posts (MAP) were established by 30 Coy RAMC and General Hospital Mtarfa.
The Naval Dockyard in the Grand Harbour and the aerodromes of the Royal Air Force became the main enemy targets. The Royal Air Force operated from Hal Far, a reconnaissance and base for the Fleet Air Arm. In 1937, Hal Far was the only functioning aerodrome with 177 men. RAF Station Luqa, (bomber, reconnaissance and fighter base), opened on 25 June 1940. It was gradually enlarged, so that by 31 December 1940 it had 521 men. RAF Station Ta' Qali, (fighter base), opened on 30 October 1940, with 262 personnel. RAF Station Kalafrana operated seaplanes; other planes flew from Marsaxlokk Bay and St Paul's Bay. Its strength in December 1937 was 605 men. In November 1942, Qrendi Aerodrome opened as a satellite station to Ta' Qali, but became an independent station in January 1943. Safi Aerodrome opened at the end of April 1943.
Maltese villages huddling the military bases were devastated in the ensuing blitz. In 1940, the civil population of Malta and Gozo totalled 270,755 of which 241,460 lived in Malta. At 33.26 per 1000 of the population the birth rate was high, but infantile mortality was appalling at 277/1000 in 1940. The birth rate dropped during the war years to 32.53/1000 in 1940, 27.09/1000 in 1941 and 25.15/1000 in 1942. Malta is 17 miles long and 8 miles wide, with an area of about 95 square miles. The island had a population density of 2,545 persons per square mile; there was thus nowhere to hide when the aerial bombardment began, other than into a subterranean world.
During 1941, and the first half of 1942, the wholesale levelling of homes forced a large section of the population to become permanent shelter dwellers. Their numbers swelled during long periods of almost continuous alerts, by temporary shelterers. Despite the construction of shelters by the Public Works and Shelter Construction Department, the havoc caused by the blitz of early 1942 was such that an ever increasing number of people had to live permanently in overcrowded refuges. The situation became more acute in April 1942 at the height of the blitz. The Chief Government Medical Officer (CGMO), Dr Albert Victor Bernard, commented:
The situation gave cause for anxiety. The mortality became high among young children and old people, the former succumbing mostly to intestinal disorders, the latter to heart conditions. The death rate for July 1940 rose to 38.27/1000 compared with 25.14/1000 in July 1939; in August it was 35.17/1000 against 21.11/1000 for the same month in the previous year.
In January 1942, there were less than 2000 shelters in Malta. These had become the only home for a considerable section of the population. The incidence of typhoid, diphtheria and tuberculosis rose, and in November 1942 an epidemic of infantile paralysis (poliomyelitis) broke out.
On 15 August 1942, Operation Pedestal, or the Santa Maria Convoy, entered the Grand Harbour. Four surviving merchant ships and one oil tanker, the Ohio, out of 14 ships which had left England, had successfully reversed a perilous situation, when the island was on the verge of starvation. The morale of the people had plummeted through food shortages and the enormous increase in the cost of living. The success of the Santa Maria Convoy led to optimism that the tide had turned, and that ships would henceforth flood into Malta.
On 11 January 1943, four merchant vessels, the Greystone Castle, Pierre S Dupont, O'Henry and Tosart brought in essential supplies. With Malta and the Mediterranean secured, the allies launched amphibious landings in North Africa (November 1942), Sicily (July 1943) and mainland Italy (September 1943). With the successes of the 8th Army and the fall of Tripoli in January 1943, the Maltese increased their wishful thinking, and shortened in their minds the duration of the war. By May 1943, they convinced themselves that the war had finally retreated from their shores, and was no longer their concern.
Casualty Evacuation — Medical Organization in the Field
The Field Medical Organization for the evacuation of casualties consisted of a Forward Area Collecting Zone or the Field Ambulance Area. The wounded were collected by regimental stretcher bearers and carried to the Regimental Aid Post (RAP), where the medical officer of the unit was located. Here, casualties were triaged, stabilised, and evacuated to the Advanced Dressing Station (ADS) by the stretcher bearers of the Field Ambulance (Fd Amb).
The Field Ambulance was the first RAMC medical unit to receive the wounded. It was composed of three companies, each equipped to work independently. Headquarter Company (HQ Coy) was the largest. It administered the Fd Amb and also functioned as a Main Dressing Station (MDS). The Fd Amb moved to the rear of the fighting troops. Once contact was made with the enemy, one of its companies opened an ADS and collected the wounded from the RAPs. There were two Field Ambulances in Malta during the war, No 15 Fd Amb and No 161 (East Anglian) Fd Amb.
The principal surgical unit in the Forward Area was the Casualty Clearing Station (CCS). This was a mobile tented unit which formed the connecting link between the MDS and the Base hospital. The CCS was equipped with an operating theatre, x-ray, a laboratory and had nursing orderlies for about 200 beds. It was sited about 10 to 15 miles behind the firing line, usually near a railway line, to enable it to evacuate its casualties by Ambulance Train. No CCS was established in Malta. In May 1943, during the planning for the invasion of Sicily (Op Husky), General Headquarters Middle East Land Forces (GHQ MELF) had planned to transform Malta into a glorified Casualty Clearing Station for the operation. The Admiralty, however, objected to having hospital ships clog the Grand Harbour, and No 33 General Hospital arrived instead to augment the existing hospitals.
Mtarfa General Hospital performed the duties of all the medical units in the field. It was an RAP for troops in Rabat and Mdina, an ADS, a MDS, a CCS, a Base Hospital and in addition ran a Motor Ambulance Convoy for patient transport. Some casualties arrived directly to the hospital; others passed through an ADS. No surgery was attempted in the Forward Area, most casualties reaching Mtarfa within an hour of wounding.
In Malta, the infantry was scattered in static locations guarding against enemy incursions by sea or air, so that the Fd Amb lost its mobility. The ADS became static, and opened a bedding down facility where minor sick were kept for an average of three to five days. It became a Medical Inspection Room (MIR), a Primary Reception Centre for casualties from Medical Aid Posts (MAP) and RAPs, and a treatment centre for soldiers infested with scabies and pediculosis. Its medical officers carried out routine sick parades for troops in their area of responsibility (AOR).
On 1 March 1943, both Fd Ambs were reorganized as Independent Brigade Group Field Ambulances. The Fd Ambs in Malta functioned more like Reception Stations, Camp Reception Stations, and Area Medical Inspection Rooms, than ADS and MDS. Thus, on 21 April 1943, DDMS Colonel William Kenneth Morrison, who had arrived in Malta on 27 November 1942, reorganized his medical units, so that MDSs and ADSs became Reception Stations and Camp Reception Stations. The medical establishment in Malta in 1943 was:
Medical Units directly under DDMS
39 General Hospital Mellieha GR 316347
45 General Hospital St Patrick's GR 441300
90 General Hospital Mtarfa GR 364252
Command Medical Store Depôt Mtarfa GR 364252
Convalescent Depôt San Pawl Tat Targa GR 410289
57 Field Hygiene Section St George's Barracks GR 457298
Area Malta North:
SMO HQ San Pawl Tat Targa GR 410289
Reception Station Gharghur GR 420291
Camp Reception Stations
Mgarr GR 335288
Wardija GR 365308
St Andrews GR 448293
Rabat GR 376243
Static Medical Inspection Rooms
Victoria Gozo GR 212438
Mellieha GR 332335
St Paul's Bay GR 376321
Siggiewi GR 404204
Tigné GR 479272
Attard GR 407254
Gzira GR 459270
Naxxar GR 410289
Area Malta South
SMO HQ Hamrun GR 445248
Reception Station Hamrun GR 445248
Camp Reception Stations
Zejtun GR 498211
Zabbar GR 503232
Static Medical Inspection Rooms
Floriana GR 470257
Tarxien GR 481221
Valletta GR 479257
Zurrieq GR 443181
St Elmo GR 486267
First Aid Posts (Docks Area Only)
Marina Pinto GR 475250
Mifsuds Verandha GR 469241
Boom Defence Depôt GR 471237
Mobilization of the Medical Profession for War Service
The Medical and Health Department was established in October 1937 through the amalgamation of the Public Health Department and the Charitable Institutions. Dr Albert Victor Bernard, as Chief Government Medical Officer (CGMO), was responsible for the organization of the Emergency Medical Services in the event of war.
In 1935, at the height of the Abyssinia Crisis, Dr A V Bernard, then Assistant Superintendent of Health, produced The Emergency Hospital Scheme for the treatment of wounded and gas casualties among the civilian population. In 1938, during the Munich Crisis, this scheme was reviewed, and was ready to be implemented at the outbreak of war with Italy. Mobilization of the Civilian Emergency Health Services began in September 1939, but was suspended when Italy did not immediately enter the war.
Guidance for the planning of medical services during hostilities, was laid down in the War Book, the first edition of which had been published by Sir Maurice Hankey in 1912. What was stipulated in the War Book, however, did not correspond with the actual situation on the ground. For example, Paragraph 8 Chapter IV, laid down that:
The CGMO will prepare in consultation with the DDMS as regards military requirements....a list of doctors available to undertake duty during an emergency......without prejudice to essential medical work, which will have to be maintained.
With about 150 Maltese doctors registered in the island, it was hardly feasible for the CGMO to find the number of practitioners required for duty with the military, without serious prejudice to the essential requirements of the civil population. Accordingly, on 14 April 1939, at an inter service meeting with Surgeon Rear Admiral Edgar RN, Surgeon Captain Shorten RN and Colonel McCombe, the CGMO recommended that extra service medical personnel be brought over from England. In 1939, the military medical establishment had already been increased to 26 RAMC Medical Officers, 150 ORs RAMC, and 18 Nursing Sisters, which made it unlikely that more would be posted to Malta.
The CGMO put forward the following Civilian Medical Practitioners to serve with the military. All the doctors on the list were private practitioners (P), apart from nine who also had part time Government posts (G).
Proposed Civilian Medical Practitioners to be attached to the Army (10):
Azzopardi Edgar — 40 Dingli Street Sliema (G)
Bugeja Alfred — 99 St Anthony Street Lija (P)
Camilleri Gerald G — 183 Rudolfo Street Sliema (P)
Camilleri Victor — Balluta Buildings Sliema (P)
Caruana Emanuel — 25 Victoria Avenue Sliema (P)
Cassar Charles G — 44 Strada San Paolo Valletta (P)
Ganado Walter — 51 Strada Mercato Floriana (G)
Mangion Joseph J — 49 Strada Miratore Floriana (P)
Ruggier Joseph G — 16 Strada Verdala Cospicua (P)
Zahra Neumann Charles — Lydia House Kent Street Sliema (G)
Proposed Civilian Medical Practitioners to be attached to the Navy (8):
Boffa Paul — Via Tarxien and Paola, Paola (P)
Bonello Robert — Strada Mezzodi Valletta (P)
Busuttil Frank — 18 Victoria Junction Sliema (P)
Testa Paul — 35 Strada Fianco Valletta
Vella Francis — 33 Eucharistic Congress Street Mosta (P)
Vella Saviour Prof — 219 Sanctuary Street Zabbar (G)
Proposed Civilian Medical Practitioners for HM Dockyard (2):
Hyzler Emanuel — 30 Piazza Maggiore Zejtun (P)
Casha Lawrence — 5 Strada Irlandese Vittoriosa (P)
Paragraph 12 Chapter IV of the War Book also stipulated that all existing dispensaries were to be utilized as First Aid Posts. It was, however, not possible to allocate a medical officer to each dispensary. Malta had 34 dispensaries, but only 27 District Medical Officers (DMOs), with some covering more than one dispensary. Thus, there were: two DMOs in Valletta; one DMO covering the dispensaries of Zejtun, Birzebbugia and Ghaxaq; one covering Luqa, Kirkop and Gudja; one for Rabat and Dingli; one for Naxxar and Gharghur. There was also a requirement to provide DMOs in Reception Areas to look after the large influx of refugees from the harbour areas.
The CGMO had 13 doctors to man his First Aid Posts, and 38 doctors for the Emergency Hospitals and General Practice needs. However, some were elderly men who could only work as part time medical officers. The number of medical officers laid down in the War Book as a median for emergency hospitals alone was 36 doctors.
The CGMO did his utmost to comply with the Governor's instructions to cut our clothes according to the cloth we have got. In May 1939, he submitted his list of civilian doctors to man The Emergency Hospital Scheme.
Proposed Civilian Medical Practitioners to man First Aid Stations (13). (P = Private Practitioners, G = part time with Government):
Auberge de France — Anthony Schembri Adami 280 St Paul's Street Valletta (P)
Auberge de Baviere — Bruno Cumbo 194 Strada Mercanti Valletta (P)
The Lyceum — Hugh Galea 173 Strada Mercanti Valletta (P)
Floriana — John Cesareo 41 Strada Mercato Floriana (P)
Senglea — Edgar Bonnici 254 Strada Due Porte Senglea (P)
Cospicua — Lawrence Mifsud Bonnici 1 Vicolo Sriedek Cospicua (P)
Sliema — Alfred W Azzopardi 11 Capua Street Sliema (P)
Marsa — Henry Sacco 78 Via Croce Marsa (P)
Hamrun — John Anastasi 110 Victoria Avenue Hamrun (P)
Paola — Paul Schembri 79 Strada Tarxien and Paola, Tarxien (P)
Msida — Arthur Colombo 60 Rue D'Argens Gzira (P)
Mosta — Ferdinando Calleja 146 Eucharistic Congress Street Mosta
Zabbar — Joseph Agius Muscat 83 Strada Reale Zabbar
Proposed Civilian Medical Practitioners for the Home to be set up under the Evacuation Scheme (2):
Baldacchino Joseph — 3 Strada Molin Qormi (G)
Maempel Frederick — 26 Via Boschetto Rabat (P)
Proposed doctors suitable for whole time service as resident medical officers in the emergency hospitals or to replace casualties or sick among the staff of the medical services (13). The year in paranthesis is that of their graduation:
Apap George — 62 Tower Road Sliema (G) (1922)
Bartolo Joseph — 14 Church Avenue Paola (P) (1922)
Navarro Edward H — 34 Lion Street Sliema (P) (1928)
Bajona Cettina — Hughes Hallett Street Sliema (P) (1934)
Bugeja Joseph — 45 Strada Reale Rabat (P) (1934)
Camilleri Sammut Gerald — 35 Gate Street Luqa (P) (1934)
Mifsud Bonnici Victor A — 9 A Strada San Paolo Rabat (P) (1934)
Sammut Michael L — 115 Valley Road Birkirkara (P) (1934)
Zammit Carmelo R — 51 Strada Cattedrale Sliema (P) (1934)
Portanier John — 381 Strada Reale Hamrun (P) (1937)
Busuttil Antonio — 3 St James Street Sliema (P) (qualified abroad)
Buttigieg Louis — Arcade Street Paola (P) (qualified abroad)
Sapiano Louis — 48 Strada Reale Rabat (P) (qualified abroad)
Senior doctors who because of age were only employed part time (22):
Mifsud Carmel Prof — 1D Strada Molini Valletta (P) (1883)
Busuttil Anthony — 28 Piazza Bonnici Cospicua (P) (1892)
Calleja Edward — 118 Strada San Domenico Valletta (P) (1892)
Cauchi Henry — 10 Piazza San Margherita Cospicua (P) (1892)
Stilon Alfred — 9 Strada Cristoforo Valletta (P) (1895)
Borg Carmel — 47 Windsor Terrace Sliema (P) (1895)
Busuttil Roger Prof — 82 Strada San Giorgio Cospicua (G) (1895)
Calamatta Carmel — 335 Strada San Paolo Valletta (P) (1895)
Critien Attilio — Hughes Hallett Street Sliema (P) (1898)
Ferro Edgar Prof — Balluta Buildings Sliema (P) (1898)
Gatt Joseph Major RAMC — 29 Boschetto Road Rabat (P) (1898)
Portelli Saviour — 153 Strada Mercanti Valletta (P) (1898)
Castillo Tancred — 6 Strada San Antonio Balzan (P) (1901)
Cecy Daniel — 69 Strada Reale Tarxien (P) (1901)
Grech Paul — 144 Strada San Rocco Birkirkara (P) (1901)
Mizzi Ruzar — 112 Via Congresso Eucaristico Mosta (P) (1901)
Randon Robert Surgeon Major RMA — 15 Piazza Fosse Floriana (P) (1901)
Marguerat Daniel — Calypso Old College St Julians (P) (1901)
Zanghi Charles A — 34 Strada San Pubblio Floriana (P) (1904)
Fabri Alfred — 33 Strada San Antonio Attard (P) (1907)
Hyzler Joseph Prof — 63 Strada San Domenico Valletta (G) (1913)
Harding Henry — 37 Strada Alessandro Valletta (G) (1916)
Mobilization of Civilians for War Service
The Malta Auxiliary Corps (MAC) was raised locally by the Governor as part of the Malta Defence Scheme. The men, though not soldiers, were subject to Military Law when attached to troops on active service. They provided the extra personnel required by the army, and served as cooks, general duties orderlies, telephone operators and ambulance drivers. They had no uniform but were provided with a military cap and identity discs. Those attached to medical units wore a white arm band with a red cross on their left arm. The RAMC had 28 drivers, 120 nursing orderlies, 10 clerks and 128 stretcher bearers. MAC nursing orderlies were paid 4 shillings 5 pence a day when employed on general duties in a hospital. A sanitary orderly earned 2 shillings 8 pence a day, the same pay as an unskilled stretcher bearer. Four pence a day were deducted from pay for rations provided by the War Department.
On 18 April 1942, at around eleven in the morning, No 6562 Carmelo Cutajar MAC was killed instantly while driving his doctor, No 175675 Lt Stewart Stanley Mair RAMC to Benghajsa HAA position. The vehicle received a direct hit when Lt S S Mair RAMC was on his way to attend casualties, thus becoming the first RAMC medical officer to be killed.
The Malta Auxiliary Corps was disbanded by the Governor on 28 April 1944, when there was no longer a shortage of labour.
The introduction of conscription on 20 February 1941, bolstered the number of personnel in medical units. Four Medical Boards, each consisting of one RAMC officer, one RMA medical officer and three civilian doctors provided by the CGMO, medically examined all the conscripts gathered at Fort Ricasoli. On 18 March 1941, the War Office approved the formation of a second Fd Amb, but pushed for the enlistment of Maltese into the RAMC to man it. On 4 April 1941, an advertisement appeared in the Times of Malta encouraging local lads to voluntarily enlist in the RAMC proper. In addition, the DDMS placed Surgeon Major Richard L S C G Casolani RMA on the Recruit Selection Board, in order to secure the better educated recruits for the RAMC (Malta) Section. Selection commenced on 28 April 1941, when the first nine recruits were engaged. By 31 May 1941, ninety-five men had been recruited.
The first cohort of 12 Maltese recruits for the RAMC (Malta) Section reported to the RAMC Training Centre at the Convalescent
Depôt, St Paul's Barracks. The first recruits passed out on 1 June 1941. No 1 Squad of 20 recruits was posted to 15 Fd Amb, No 2 Squad and No 3 Squad passed out on 23 June (63 men). On 1 July 1941, 63 recruits left the RAMC Training Depôt, Pembroke. Fifteen recruits went to 90 General Hospital, 30 recruits to 45 General Hospital, 8 recruits to 161 (EA) Fd Amb, and 10 recruits to 15 Fd Amb. By 31 August 1941, a total of 268 recruits had passed out through the Depôt for the RAMC (Malta) Section.
Among them were No 60088 Pte C Muscat, No 60198 Pte N Mangion, No 60187 Pte F Farrugia and No 60216 Pte J Gay Felice, who in September 1941, were all working in the Medical Stores, Mtarfa. Another recruit was No 60166 Pte Samuel Ginies who was attached to 161 (EA) Fd Amb. Major Phineas Weiner RAMC, second in command 161 (EA) Fd Amb, recorded how Pt S Ginies met his death:
In one of the raids on the Grand Harbour, we had our first fatal casualty. One of our Medical Aid unit Posts was situated in a building facing one of the walls adjoining the Upper Barracca overlooking the harbour. As can be imagined, it was an unhealthy spot during activity and wisely the staff always took shelter. During this raid the MAP was closely straddled by two near misses. One of the staff, a young Maltese was standing in the open watching, and he was instantly killed by the blast. Only a few days later, the building received a direct hit and was completely destroyed.
There were never enough doctors in Malta. On 28 July 1942, Brigadier Clifford T Beckett, Acting GOC Troops Malta, advocated enlisting all local newly qualified doctors into the military. In March 1943, the CGMO proposed a scheme, whereby newly qualified medical officers would go into the Royal Malta Artillery as surgeons for one year, before working in civilian practice. He considered a year with the army would greatly improve the outlook of these newly qualified doctors.
The shortfall in medical officers was filled by the DDMS granting Emergency Commissions in the Royal Malta Artillery. On 20 December 1940, the Governor was so dissatisfied with the lack of response from the War Office regarding adequate dental cover for the troops, that he authorised the DDMS to engage two Maltese dental surgeons, who were granted an Emergency Dental Commission, and two Maltese Auxiliaries (MAC) as dental clerk orderlies. In 1943, the following Medical officers of the Royal Malta Artillery were attached to service units:
Surg Maj Casolani R L – 90 General Hospital
Surg Capt Camilleri G – 15 Fd Amb
Surg Capt Tabone V – 15 Fd Amb
Surg Capt Said H – 15 Fd Amb
Surg Capt Sammut J – 15 Fd Amb
Surg Capt Mattei G – 15 Fd Amb
Surg Capt Bonello G V G – 161 (EA) Fd Amb
Surg Capt Testaferrata Bonici – 161 (EA) Fd Amb
The closure of the island's Emergency Medical Scheme between 1 October and 31 December 1943 released Maltese doctors, who became available for the army. In October 1943, the Army Medical Corps (AMC) Malta Territorial Force (MTF) was introduced by Government statute. The Governor granted local commissions in the newly created force. The Army Medical Corps (MTF) provided a new pool of medical officer reinforcements, which replaced the previous method of obtaining doctors through the granting of Emergency Commissions as Surgeon–Lieutenants in the Royal Malta Artillery. In October 1943, British medical personnel were gradually withdrawn from medical units, which became staffed by Maltese personnel of the AMC (MTF).
On 6 December 1943, five Maltese candidates for commissions in either the Royal Malta Artillery or AMC (MTF) were interviewed by DDMS Colonel
Cuthbert Scales, who had arrived in Malta on 27 December 1943. One applicant was rejected as medically unfit. The first four doctors to be granted a Government's commission in the AMC (MTF) were No 309495 Lt Portanier A J, No 309496 Lt Zammit Francis, No 309497 Lt Pullicino Francis Talbot, and No Lt Grima W V.
On 3 January 1944, the new medical officers of the AMC (MTF) were posted to 90 Military Hospital as their first command. An attachment to combatant units soon followed, so as to give them a grounding in military procedures. On 2 February 1944, Dr A L Galea, was interviewed by DDMS Scales, and became the fifth doctor to receive a Governor's commission in the AMC (MTF). On 15 February, the medical Officers of the AMC (MTF) returned to 90 Military Hospital as General Duties Medical Officers. Lt A J Portanier was posted to 2 HAA Regiment RMA on 22 July 1944.
On 24 October 1944, Lt W V Grima AMC (MTF) was released from the service at the request of the Lieutenant Governor following his appointment as Superintendent of Victoria Hospital, Gozo. On 26 April 1945, Capt A J Portanier AMC (MTF) and Capt A L Galea AMC (MTF) were among surplus medical officers in the AMC (MTF) who relinquished their commission. No 329446 Capt F G A Vella AMC (MTF) was not released until 15 April 1946.
On 6 July 1945. The London Gazette recorded that No 309497 Capt Francis Talbot Pullicino and No 309496 Captain Francis Zammit, both holding a Governor's commissions in the AMC (MTF), were granted an Emergency Commission in the RAMC in the rank of lieutenant, with seniority from 3 January 1944.
Casualty Evacuation — Civilian Population
The Civilian Emergency Medical Services Scheme (EMS) came into effect on 11 June 1940. It provided for four Casualty Clearing Hospitals and three Base Hospitals. The Casualty Clearing Hospitals were: the Central Hospital Floriana (100 beds); the Vincenzo Bugeja Hospital Hamrun (150 beds), which in September 1939, had been prepared as a hospital in a private Technical School; the Blue Sisters Hospital St Julians (150 beds) and the Mater Boni Consigli School Paola (200 beds). The King George V Merchant Seamen Hospital Floriana, admitted casualties of the Merchant Navy, but also offered to admit wounded from its immediate vicinity.
Workers injured in HM Dockyards while on duty were entitled to treatment in naval hospitals, but on the outbreak of war, the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi was integrated in a Combined Services Hospital at Mtarfa. On 14 April 1939, the CGMO agreed with the naval authorities for casualties from the dockyard to be admitted to St Edwards College, which was to be the Casualty Clearing Station for the Dockyard area. On 9 October, the casualty evacuation plan for Dockyard casualties was modified. Non seriously injured casualties were no longer to be admitted to St Edwards Hospital, but to the Poor House at Mgieret and the Farming School at Ghammieri, which were to be evacuated and converted into casualty hospitals. Those too ill to be moved to the Poor House (St Vincent de Paul Hospital), were to be admitted to St Joseph's Nuns School at Paola, which was also fitted up as a Casualty Station. The Poor House and the Farming School were to have a total of 450 beds, with 310 beds reserved for male patients, though not exclusively for Dockyard casualties.
Table I. Civilian Medical Establishments – July 1943
Max Bed Capacity
Table I: Civilian Medical Establishments – July 1943.
Surgical, medical, skin, VD, TB
Blue Sisters and Sacred Heart
Women medical, children, ENT, surgical casualties
Surgical, medical (non infectious)
A ward was run by SMO North Col Briggs OC 15 Ind Bde Gp Fd Amb for the troops in Gozo.
The three Base Hospitals were: St Aloysius College Birkirkara for male patients (400 beds), the Sacred Heart Convent St Julian's for female patients (400 beds), and the Adelaide Cini Orphanage Hamrun (100 beds). In June 1940, an Emergency Maternity Hospital was opened at Hamrun in a new wing of the Adelaide Cini Orphanage. In 1941, 1,387 inpatients were treated in this section of the Cini Hospital. In May 1941, incendiary bombs, and in September 1941 explosive bombs fell in the grounds of this hospital, but no shelters had been completed until November 1941. Special wards had also been set aside at the Mental Hospital, Attard for cases of War Neurosis. St Vincent de Paul Hospital was completely evacuated in 1941 when the patients were transferred to Gozo. In February 1943, the hospital was commandeered by 1st/Durham Light Infantry which they shared with 2,000 airmen who had been billeted there.
In 1941, bomb damage was sustained by the Leprosy Hospital (8 February), the Hospital for Mental diseases (15 April), the Central Hospital (4 May), and the Mater Boni Consigli Hospital, which had to be evacuated to the Hamrun Hospital. On 9 May 1942, four patients and three female nurses: Sister of Charity Alexandra Borda (Sister Rose), Hospital Attendant Carmela Muscat and Temporary Attendant Teresa Sammut were killed during the bombing of the Mental Hospital, Attard.
Table II. Civilian Casualties from 11 June 1940 to 31 December 1942
Deaths in Hospital
Table II: Total Civilian Casualties from 11 June 1940 to 31 December 1942.
11 June – 31 Dec 1940
1 Jan – 31 Dec 1941
1 Jan – 31 Dec 1942
The Emergency Medical Organization functioned well throughout the war. The CGMO was well pleased with the way the EMS withstood its first challenge:
On 11 June at 7 am, the first casualties were received in the Clearing Hospitals, following the first air raid that took place in the morning of this day. Another heavy raid occurred in the afternoon and although the strain on the Casualty Hospitals was acute even on the first day of hostilities, when work had to be carried out on throughout the whole day and night, the service went on without a hitch.
Military Casualty Evacuation
In 1938, Colonel John Smith McCombe, had sought to build a new Reception Station for St Andrew's Barracks, a Casualty Reception Block for Mtarfa General Hospital, a blast proof reception block with operative and X-ray facilities at Mtarfa, a new Families Hospital and Families Isolation Block at Mtarfa, and bomb proof medical stores. Financial restraints, lack of resources, and a failure to appreciate the need for such buildings delayed their construction, so that when war broke out the medical department found itself inadequately prepared to withstand the impact of war.
The DDMS had pressed for the construction of underground shelters for the staff and patients at Mtarfa. These were considered too expensive, and only slit trenches were dug around Mtarfa Hospital. Each trench could accommodate 15 men standing close together. Slit trenches were the only shelters available for staff and patients until April 1941, when over 40 miners were allocated to excavate some deep shelters for female nursing staff. Three tunnels and deep shelters were dug for the patients. However, these had not been completed by the time of the intense bombing of April 1942.
In September 1940, the request of the DDMS to convert the Sandhurst Block, St Patrick's Barracks into a 600 bed hospital, was met with scepticism. Major Phineas Weiner RAMC said that the project had been dubbed the Folly by the HQ Staff. When finished it became like a gleaming white mausoleum, a conspicuous landmark easily visible from the sky. However, as the number of troops on the island increased, it proved its usefulness as No 45 General Hospital, and justified the DDMS's foresight.
The DDMS repeatedly expressed his indignation at what he perceived was the intransigence of the HQ Staff, in failing to recognise the pivotal role played by the medical branch of the army in war. On 17 December 1940, he bemoaned:
I feel very bitterly indeed that in spite of all the lessons of history I still have to create the greatest unpleasantness in order to obtain even a small portion of proportionate medical requirements which should, in all reason, be conceded without question. It is derogatory to the dignity of the Medical Services that they should be treated, by a staff which does not properly appreciate their necessity, with a nonchalance which involves a fracas every time an endeavour is made to obtain even a modicum of their requirement for efficiency.
From 17 April 1940, until the arrival of 161 (East Anglian) Fd Amb on 14 January 1941, all medical aid posts were manned by 90 General Hospital and 30 Coy RAMC. Fortress Malta was divided into Infantry Defence Sectors (Table III). Advanced Dressing Stations were positioned in these sectors so as to clear battle and non-battle casualties from RAPs and MAPs. Casualties were transported by motor ambulance or bus ambulance to the ADS and onwards to 90 General Hospital.
The island was partitioned into Malta West and Malta East, with each area administered by its own sector Senior Medical Officer. Lt Col Henry Bryan Frost Dixon, officer commanding Mtarfa General Hospital, took on the additional role of SMO Area West; Major Alan Francis Heber Keatinge, officer in charge ADS Floriana, became SMO Area East. In November 1940, Major A F H Keatinge became Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services (DADMS) Malta Command and Captain B C Jennings RAMC (T) took on the role of SMO Area East.
Table III. Infantry Defence Sectors – June 1940
Name of Battalion
Table III: Infantry Defence Sectors – June 1940.
1st/King's Own Malta Regt
Mellieha OP Gr 3333
Tas Saliba Cross Road Gr 3429
2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers
San Pawl Tat Targa Gr 4128
St Thomas Bay
St Thomas Bay Bn
Near Hompesch Arch Gr 495226
Rd Junction Gr 4852233
G Coy 2nd/King's Own Malta Regt
Verdala Palace Gr 3621
Regimental Aid Posts
RAPs in Malta were purely regimental and did not have RAMC personnel. In June 1940, the small number of medical staff and the dispersal of battalions made it impossible to attach regimental medical officers (RMOs) to the five infantry battalions and the three Royal Artillery Regiments. Instead, a system of Area Medical Officers was instituted, with medical officers placed in ADSs and MAPs. Specially selected RAMC sergeants were embedded within regiments, and served as the first point of medical contact for the troops.
In 1940, RAPs opened in the following locations: (Gr = Grid on Malta War Office map dated 1933, scale 2 inches to the mile).
Ghajn Tuffieha Camp
Marfa Road Junction (Gr 316357)
Selmun Palace (Gr 352336)
St Paul's Bay (Gr 363322)
Post L.53 (Gr 402310)
Road House (Gr 424311)
Near Mosta Bridge (Gr 392283)
Verdala Palace (3721)
Fort Spinola (Gr 461289)
Tal Qroqq (Gr 445265)
Fort St Elmo
Marsa (Gr 466231)
Corradino (Gr 478236)
House on Road (Gr 527225)
House on Road (Gr 532210)
House (Gr 527211)
Fort Tas Silg
Marnisi House (Gr 503196)
Ghar Dalham (Gr 497187)
House near Addolorata Church (Gr 496175)
Mqabba (Gr 4319)
Zurrieq (Gr 643181)
Luqa (Gr 449204)
On 6 July 1940, RAP St Paul's Bay was operating from the West End Hotel, but on 13 August it relocated to the Government School St Paul's Bay. RAP Ghajn Tuffieha Camp moved to the newly constructed Medical Inspection Room, Ghajn Tuffieha Camp, where a rest camp had been opened on 14 July 1940. On 20 September 1940, an RAP was opened in the house of Anthony Scibberas at Santa Katerina Street, Zurrieq for the men of the 2nd/KOMR who were watching the coast, the Search Light position at Nigret and the AA position at Bubakra.
In 1942, as the intensity of enemy bombings increased, the GOC insisted on having medical officers stationed as RMOs to RAPs of the HQ of infantry battalions. From 7 April 1942, the following medical officers became embedded with the infantry:
Table IV: Regimental Medical Officers attached to Infantry Battalions from 7 April 1942
Table IV: RMOs attached to Infantry Battalions from 7 April 1942.
Capt P Louis
4th/Buffs Royal West Kent
Capt P D Griffiths
8th/Kings Own Royal Lancaster
Capt G M Heap
Capt R T Michael
Capt J M Barber
2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers
Capt T A G Reed
1st/Durham Light Infantry
Surg Lt H Said RMA
Surg Lt E V I Testaferrata Bonici RMA
St Pauls Bay
Capt C R Barker
Lt G F Houston
Capt L M Clayden
Capt F L Turner
Lt R Mitchell
2nd/Queen's Own Royal West Kent
Surg Lt H A Ferrante RMA
Medical Aid Posts
The Medical Inspection Rooms of peace time service were upgraded at the start of hostilities to serve as Medical Aid Posts. Most functioned as Casualty Collecting Post (CCP). They differed from ADSs in their inability to bed down soldiers. CCPs were established at (i) A Coy HQ 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers for the infantry positions in the Wardija Sector, (ii) at the Road House for casualties from the Beach Posts, (iii) at Fort Madliena for casualties from Fort Gharghur and Fort Madliena. The sick were gathered up and taken by medical transport to ADS St Andrews. Those of the artillery detachment at Fort Madliena and D Coy 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers were seen at the Road House at 09:00 hours. ADS St Andrews also admitted battle casualties from MAP Tigné. In October 1940, MAPs were located at:
Malta West MAPs:
Mellieha (Gr 332335) — Casevac via ADS Mgarr
Malta East MAPs:
Tigné Barracks — Casevac via ADS St Andrews
RN Bighi Hospital — Casevac via ADS Tarxien
RAF Sick Quarters Kalafrana — Casevac via ADS Tarxien.
RAF Sick Quarters Hal Far — Casevac via ADS Tarxien
Medical Aid Post Mellieha (Gr 332335) received the sick and injured from the RAP on Marfa Ridge and Selmun Palace. The following are a selection of casualties seen by MAP Mellieha:
(i) 16 July 1940: No 1080 L/Cpl Gauci C Coy 1st/KOMR suffered a gun shot wound to right index.
(ii) 8 August 1940: No 1559 Pte Muscat B Coy 1st/KOMR reported from RAP Selmun with a lacerated wound of his left hand obtained when a booby trap exploded near him.
(iii) 17 August 1940: No 1786 L/Cpl Brincat E Coy sustained a Gun Shot Wound of the 3rd and 4th fingers of his left hand.
(iv) 12 October 1940: No 4854 Gnr G Micallef 4 HAA Bty RMA was treated at MAP Mellieha for a Gun Shot Wound to the abdomen and right hand and was casevaced to Mtarfa General hospital.
(iv) 19 December 1940: No 6360 Pte Louis Gatt B Coy 1st/KOMR aged 35 years, died suddenly at Selmun Palace.
(vi) 7 March 1941: No 3932 L/Sgt H Buttigieg RMA received a guns shot wound to his hands and abdomen whilst handling a German bullet which exploded in his hands.
(vii) 28 March 1941: Lt Col Fox RE fractured his wrist following a motor cycle accident.
In April 1940, MAP Tigné Barracks opened under the command of Surgeon Lieutenant J Sammut Royal Malta Artillery. On 27 May 1940, Lt John Ross Gallie RAMC took over the running of the MAP and carried out morning sick parades for the troops and families.
MAP Tigné covered Tal Qroqq AA Gun Position, AA Bty 11 AA Regt RMA (T), Fort Tigné A Coy Royal Irish Fusiliers, and 13th Mobile Coast Defence Regt RA. In February 1941, C Coy 1st/Cheshire Regiment took up positions in the Tigné area, with 12 Platoon C Coy 1st/Cheshire Regiment taking over the responsibility of the beach posts from 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers.
On 29 March 1941, No 1587932 Gnr H A Savage No 222 Bty AA Bty 10 AA Regt RA was injured in the bombings of the barracks. He was casevaced to ADS St Andrews with a contused right foot.
On 27 June 1941 at 22:30, three battle casualties were treated at Tal Qroqq AA Gun Position. No 1503028 L/Bdr
Frederick John Hopkinson 27 Bty 7 HAA Regiment RA was killed; No 1503040 L/Bdr F Hart fractured his left femur and had burns to the abdomen; No 1531679 Gnr Williams had lacerations to his right hand and burns of his right leg. Their wounds were dressed at the MAP before being casevaced to 90 General Hospital.
MAP Tigné treated the casualties of the bombing of Tigné Barracks on 21 December 1941 at 11:00 hrs. All were from 484 Search Light Bty, and 4 SL Regt RA/RMA:
On 18 December 1940, a Medical Aid Post (MAP) was opened in a garage at Attard for troops in the Ta' Qali Area and HQ Infantry Bde. It had one stretcher bearer from 4th/Buffs and two from 8th/Manchester. Captain P Louis RAMC took over control of the MAP in February 1941. He was assisted by L/Cpl William RAMC, Pte Wildman RAMC, Pte Nock RAMC and one MAC driver.
One of the many hazards facing the civilian population was the large number of unexploded anti personnel mines, parachute mines and delayed action type fuse bombs. The task of rendering them safe fell to the Bomb Disposal Squads of the RAOC and to the men of No 24 Coy RE. On 23 May 1941 at 13:30 hours, an explosion was heard at Grid 397237 between Rabat and Zebbug, where a Bomb Disposal Unit was dealing with a mine. Commissioned Boatswain Lord Joseph Herbert Sheldon RN sustained severe head injuries and was killed instantly; Acting Temporary Electrical Lieutenant Antony Gusterson Rogers RNVR was badly injured and died shortly after he was reached by an ambulance from MAP Attard. In January 1941, Rogers and Sheldon had both been awarded the George Medal for gallantry and undaunted devotion to duty; on 19 August 1941, they received a Mention in Despatches, as a bar to their George Medal could not be awarded posthumously.
On 14 April 1941, four battle casualties occurred among the men of B Coy 4th/Buffs. The injured were casevaced to General Hospital Mtarfa from MAP Attard; where No 6096441 Pte James Boorman succumbed to his multiple injuries.
Advanced Dressing Stations
On 3 August 1940, the infantry was reorganized into a Northern Infantry Brigade (NIB) and a Southern Infantry Brigade (SIB). The dividing line being from the head of Msida Creek along Msida Valley Road to Grid 430260, thence to Gr 430230, to Gr 420230, and then down Gr 42 to the coast. NIB had its HQ at Melita Hotel, Attard, and was under the command of Brigadier W H Oxley. It included: 8th/Manchester Regiment, 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers, 1st/King's Own Malta Regiment and 2nd/King's Own Malta Regiment. SIB was commanded by Brigadier L H Cox and had its HQ at Luqa. It consisted of: 2nd/Devonshire Regiment, 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment, 2nd/Royal West Kent Regiment and 3rd/King's Own Malta Regiment.
On 10 November 1940, HMS Ramillies with a convoy of five ships arrived from Alexandria. HMS Barham and other ships arrived from England via Gibraltar with over 2000 army personnel on board including 4th/Buffs, 12th Field Regiment Royal Artillery and two medical officers, but no other medical personnel. With the latest arrivals, the Army garrison, excluding the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force, totalled over 16,000 troops. On 21 February 1941, the 1st/Cheshire and 1st/Hampshire Regiments arrived by cruiser from the Middle East.
On 3 February 1941, Areas Malta West and Malta East ceased to operate and were replaced by Areas Malta North and Malta South, corresponding to the two brigade areas. Casualty evacuation in Malta North became the responsibility of 15 Field Ambulance; that of Malta South, of 161 (East Anglian) Field Ambulance. Its commanding officer, Lt Colonel Gilbert Wolridge Rose, became Senior Medical Officer Area South; his HQ and Main Dressing Station (MDS) were at the Cow Sheds Hamrun. No 15 Fd Amb, commanded by Major Gordon Francis Edwards, had its HQ and MDS at Mosta, but this moved to Gharghur when MDS Mosta was demolished by the enemy on 21 March 1942.
By November 1941, the garrison had increased to: 25,000 soldiers, 2,000 Maltese Auxiliaries and 6,500 airmen. On 26 January 1942, the 1st/Durham Light Infantry, which had served in Tobruk, arrived from the Middle East. Malta Command became organized into four Infantry Brigades. The composition of the garrison on 30 June 1942 was:
1st Malta Infantry Bde
2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers
2nd Malta Infantry Bde
3rd Malta Infantry Bde
2nd/Royal West Kent
4th Malta Infantry Bde
1st/Durham Light Infantry
12 Fd Regt RA
26 Def Regt RA
4 Coast Regt RA
1 Coast Regt RMA
5 Coast Regt RMA
Heavy AA – 10 Hy AA Bde
4 Hy AA Regt RA
7 Hy AA Regt RA
10 Hy AA Regt RA
2 Hy AA Reg RMA
11 Hy AA Reg RMA
Light AA – 7 Lt AA Bde
7 Lt AA Regt RA
32 Lt AA Regt RA
65 Lt AA Regt RA
74 Lt AA Regt RA
3 Lt AA Regt RMA
4 S/L Regt RA/RMA
1 Tp Light Tanks
2 Tps Cruiser Tanks
1 Tp I Tanks
10/KOMR - 3 VP Coys
1 Aerodrome Guard Coy
3 PAD Plts
11 Fortress Defence Plts
24 Coy Fortress RE
16 Coy Fortress RE
1 Works Coy
2 Works Coy
173 Tunnelling Coy
127 Bomb Disposal Section
128 Bomb Disposal Section
Malta Signal Coy
32 Coy RASC
The evacuation of casualties from the RAPs and MAPs to General Hospital Mtarfa was through the ADS. Five ADSs operated from 17 April to 31 December 1940:
Malta East ADSs:
Villa Barbaro Tarxien (Gr 483221)
Rock Store Floriana
E Block St Andrews Barracks
Malta West ADSs:
Government School Mgarr (Gr 335288)
San Pawl Tat Targa (Gr 411289)
In January 1941, the medical evacuation of casualties became the responsibility of the two Fd Ambs. New Advanced Dressing Stations were opened, while others were reduced to MAPs. The medical units in April 1942 were:
15 Field Ambulance — Area North:
MDS Gharghur – 3 Officers, 6 ORs
Advanced Dressing Station (ADS)
Rabat – 2 Officers, 20 ORs
Mgarr – 1 Officer, 13 ORs
Wardija – 2 Officers, 40 ORs
Naxxar – 1 Officer, 40 ORs
St Andrews – 1 Officer, 25 ORs
Medical Aid Posts (MAP)
Tigné – 2 Officers, 11 ORs
Mellieha – 1 Officer, 10 ORs
Manoel – 0 Officers, 1 ORs
Attard – 1 Officer, 2 ORs
Gzira – 0 Officer, 4 ORs
Gozo – 1 Officer, 4 ORs
Siggiewi – 0 Officer, 3 ORs
161 (EA) Field Ambulance — Area South
MDS Hamrun – 4 Officers, 61 ORs
Advanced Dressing Stations (ADS)
Floriana – 1 Officer, 14 ORs
Luqa – 2 Officers, 26 ORs
Zabbar – 2 Officers, 32 ORs
Zejtun – 2 Officers, 24 ORs
Medical Aid Posts (MAP)
Valletta – 1 Officer, 6 ORs
Tarxien – 1 Officer, 8 ORs
Zurrieq – 0 Officers, 1 OR
Ricasoli – 0 Officer, 1 OR
ADS Villa Barbaro Tarxien
ADS Tarxien opened on 17 April 1940 in Villa Barbaro Tarxien (Gr 483221). It had a large catchment area which included the infantry detachment at Marsa, Wolseley Camp and Delimara Camp. In July 1940, the ADS was augmented by Villa Cecy (Gr 483221), which was within walking distance from Villa Barbaro, as the ADS did not have suitable accommodation to retain casualties.
On Tuesday 11 June 1940, during the first air raid by the Regia Aeronautica at 06:50 hours, the Cavalier of Fort St Elmo and the Corradino Gun Position were hit. Six RMA soldiers were killed at Fort St Elmo and one at French Creek:
Corradino Gun Position had three minor casualties which were treated locally, but No 872938 Gnr Thomas Peter Taylor 13th Bty 7 HAA Regiment RA was killed. In all there were eight alarms on the 11 June 1940. Two minor casualties from the final raid at 18:20 hours were the first to be treated by ADS Tarxien.
On 11 June, ADS Tarxien treated the blue on blue casualties of the three motor boats from HMS St Angelo which had mistakenly been fired upon by the coast defences. The survivors were picked up at RAP Della Grazia; two NCOs and one rating were evacuated to Mtarfa Hospital; five ratings were treated at the ADS for the effects of immersion and returned to their units following treatment.
During the air raid of 13 June, two casualties from 2nd/Devonshire Regiment and a civilian were treated and moved to hospital. No 7342748 Pte John Henry Slade and No 5615850 Pte Henry William James Kite were killed. On 26 June, incendiary bombs landed in the gardens of Villa Cecy injuring two civilians. These were given First Aid at the ADS and transferred to the civilian hospital at Hamrun.
Not all soldiers were psychologically robust in withstanding the interminable bombings. On 23 July, No 5724710 Pte Churchill C Coy 1st/Dorsetshire Regiment fired two bursts of his Lewis gun on the men of his company without hitting anyone, and then attempted to kill himself. He was evacuated to Mtarfa Hospital with a flesh wound to his right thigh. Similarly, not all the wounded dealt with by ADS Tarxien were inflicted by the enemy. On 29 July 1940, No 5619974 Pte John Henry Foote D Coy 2nd/Devonshire Regiment was accidentally shot by a soldier who was cleaning his rifle.
On 17 December 1940, a new ADS opened at St Joseph Orphanage Zabbar and Villa Cecy was handed over to 2nd/Devonshire Regiment. ADS Tarxien was reduced to a MAP under the administration of A Coy 161 (EA) Fd Amb at ADS Zabbar. On 24 January 1941, the men of 30 Coy RAMC were withdrawn from ADS Tarxien to form the nucleus of 15 Fd Amb in the north of Malta.
ADS Mgarr (Gr 335288)
ADS Mgarr opened in the Government Elementary School on 17 April 1940. Its medical establishment consisted of 1 Medical Officer RAMC (Lt J C Lees), 1 Sgt, 3 Ptes, 5 Malta Auxiliaries (MAC) Drivers and 1 NCO RASC. It also had one NCO and three men of the 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers attached as stretcher bearers. In January 1941, Captain P O'Donnell became Officer-in-charge ADS Mgarr.
ADS Mgarr looked after the sick from the RAPs at Marfa Ridge, Selmun, Ghajn Tuffieha Camp and Tas Saliba Cross Roads. On 20 June 1940, ADS St Pauls Bay moved from Villino Chapelle to San Pawl Tat Targa and ADS Mgarr extended its area of responsibility to Grid 38 East, to include the whole of St Paul's Bay. The bus ambulance collected all the walking sick from their RAPs at St Paul's Bay and Ghajn Tuffieha Camp, and delivered them to ADS Mgarr. On 31 May 1941, a treatment centre was set up at the ADS to retain soldiers infested with lice and scabies.
In war, the number of soldiers falling ill greatly exceeds those wounded or killed by hostile actions. All ADSs dealt with a mixture of battle casualties and non-battle casualties. From 27 to 31 October 1940, an epidemic of catarrhal jaundice broke out at Tas Saliba Cross Roads and Ghajn Tuffieha Camp among the men of HQ Coy 8th/Manchester Regiment. Seven officers and 14 ORs were admitted to hospital with jaundice. In addition, there was an outbreak of diarrhoea from contaminated drinking water. On 29 January 1941, a soldier died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp.
Among the Battle Casualties dealt with by MDS Mgarr were: a man killed by a land mine (27 January 1941); two RAF casualties, one dead (31 March 1941), an Italian pilot shot down over Mgarr with minor injuries (17 September 1940).
By December 1942, Camp Reception Station Mgarr became nothing more than a Scabies Camp Reception Station and was no longer needed. It was shut down on 28 July 1943.
ADS San Pawl Tat Targa (Gr 411289)
ADS St Paul's was established on 17 April 1940 in Villino Chapelle St Paul's Bay. Its medical establishment consisted of 1 Medical Officer (Surgeon Captain S F Mattei 1st/KOMR), 3 RAMC ORs, 5 Malta Auxiliaries (MAC) and 2 Drivers RASC. Sick Parades were held daily at the Road House (Gr 424311).
On 19 June 1940, ADS St Paul's moved to San Pawl Tat Targa with Surgeon Captain S F Mattei remaining in medical charge. It opened up in an old coach house building and a large garage with two side rooms. The medical officer found it difficult to keep the place clean, as it was far too exposed to the wind. A new building was laid out by the DDMS, which incurred great expenditure and a large amount of work for the Royal Engineers.
On 10 August 1940, the eastern boundary of ADS San Pawl Tat Targa was fixed at Longitude 42. Its catchment area extended from Salina Bay to Longitude 42, and included Fort Madliena, Gharghur and Salina Bay. Its Area of Responsibility encompassed: 2nd/KOMR at Fort Mosta, 40 Anti Tank detachment, C Coy 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers, Search Light (SL) Regiment Royal Artillery, two positions of 8th/Manchester Regiment and RAP Mosta Bridge.
On 11 April 1941, a Hurricane fighter was shot down and crashed on a farm house on the Salina Coast Road near the junction with St Paul's Bay Road. No 745800 Sgt Pilot Peter Harry Waghorn 261 Sqn RAFVR was recovered by the RAF Ambulance but did not survive. No 82685 Pilot Officer Peter Kennett RAFVR 261 Sqn was also shot down on 11 April 1941.
On 29 April 1941, three battle casualties of 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers were admitted to the ADS from Post R 15. One died in the ADS; the other two were transferred to General Hospital Mtarfa. On 25 May 1941, one battle casualty of 484 (Carmarenshire) Searchlight Bty 4 Search Light Regiment RA/RMA was admitted to the ADS from the Tower at Qalet Marku Search Light Position St Marks Tower Gr 422319) Bahar ic-Caghaq.
ADS Rock Store Floriana
On 17 April 1940, Rock Store, Casemate Bastion Floriana, which had been used for storing sandbags, was adapted as an MAP. It had the advantage of being underground, well protected by rock, but was dark as it lacked natural lighting. It was not popular with patients and the beds were rarely occupied. Its medical officer was responsible for the Floriana, Valletta, Tigné and Ricasoli areas. Tents were erected on the bastion outside the MAP from where the medical officer carried out his sick parades. The bus ambulance collected the sick from outlying detachments and also evacuated naval and RAF personnel from Valletta and Sliema.
On 22 May 1940, the Royal Engineers began to convert Aid Post Floriana into an Advanced Dressing Station. Captain Alan Francis Heber Keatinge took over the duties of medical officer in charge ADS Floriana.
On 11 June 1940, two wounded casualties sustained during the first Italian raid on Fort St Elmo, were evacuated to ADS Floriana, which was still in the process of completion. On 12 June, the families of RAMC personnel were evacuated from their married quarters in Floriana to Mtarfa. On 23 August 1940, the ADS evacuated three casualties from HMS Mohawk, which was part of the 14th Destroyer Flotilla escort in Mediterranean, directly to Mtarfa. On 2 October 1940, it evacuated ten Merchant Seamen injured by shrapnel on SS Cornwall. Two were treated at ADS Floriana before being moved to General Hospital Mtarfa. On 11 October 1940, an injured naval rating disembarked from HMS Imperial and was taken to General Hospital Mtarfa. HMS Imperial had hit a mine south of Delimara while on escort duties, and was towed into Malta by HMS Dercoy. On 22 December 1940, thirteen naval casualties disembarked from the Destroyer HMS Ilex, survivors of HMS Hyperion, and were transported to General Hospital Mtarfa. The Destroyer HMS Mowhak was sunk in April 1941 in the action off the Tunisian coast when five enemy transports and three escorts were sunk; 28 casualties were landed and taken to Mtarfa.
On 4 January 1941, a convoy consisting of SS Essex, which had the ordnance equipment for No 45 General Hospital, SS Clan MacDonald, SS Clan Cumming, SS Empire Song escorted by AA Escort HMS Bonaventure, and HMS Ocean sailed from Gibraltar for Malta. The convoy, with No 161 (East Anglian) Fd Amb on board, came under heavy air attack. No 7348929 Pte Kenneth Arthur Leslie Simper RAMC 161 (EA) Fd Amb died from severe head injuries, and was buried at sea. The aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious was hit; the Destroyer HMS Gallant struck a mine and most of the crew and 36 of its casualties were rescued by HMS Griffin.
On 10 January, at 20:30 hours, HMS Illustrious entered the Grand Harbour with a large number of Naval and Fleet Air Arm casualties. Nine injured officers and 92 ratings were landed at Parlatorio Wharf and transferred to General Hospital Mtarfa.
The first determined attempt to subdue Malta by aerial bombardment was launched on 16 January 1941, on HMS Illustrious berthed at Parlatorio Wharf. The aircraft carrier escaped destruction and left for Alexandria under its own steam on 23 January 1941, but the Three Cities were devastated by the onslaught of Thursday 16 January and Sunday 19 January. Henceforth, until late May 1941, when the Luftwaffe directed its attention to Crete, the battle for Malta raged incessantly.
A scheme for disembarking and transporting naval casualties had long been prepared and worked well. The DDMS mobilised all his army ambulances, denuding all medical units of their transports. The Destroyer HMS Griffin arrived at Canteen Wharf at 10:05 on 11 January 1941 with 26 casualties, including 12 cot cases, some badly burned, from the destroyer HMS Gallant, and four from the Cruiser HMS Bonaventure which had also been hit. These were evacuated by ADS Floriana directly from the Dockyard to Mtarfa.
On 13 January 1941, No 749561 Sgt James Reardon RAFVR 148 Squadron and 740543 Sgt Geoffrey Charles Hall RAFVR 148 Squadron were admitted with serious injuries and subsequently died; another five casualties were admitted from HMS Illustrious. On 16 January, three heavy raids by German bombers caused a further four casualties in their endeavour to sink HMS Illustrious. On 18 January, there were several air raids with five army casualties and 1 death. By 21 January, there were practically 900 patients in the only General Military Hospital on the island, which had insufficient accommodation for its staff. Tentage had been erected in the grounds, but had been blown away and damaged in a storm. The medical naval staff evacuated from the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi, exacerbated the overcrowding.
On 27 January 1941, No 161 (EA) Fd Amb took over the responsibility for casualty evacuation in Malta South. All 30 Coy personnel at ADS Floriana, with the exception of 3 Senior NCOs, were replaced by other ranks from 161 (EA) Fd Amb and returned to Area Malta North to form the nucleus of 15 Fd Amb. Lt Robert Rankin RAMC remained at Floriana attached to 161 (EA) Fd Amb as officer in charge ADS Floriana.
ADS Floriana was not immune to friendly or enemy ordnance. On 4 May 1941, at 11:00 hours two land mines fell in the Floriana area causing minor blast damage, nine non fatal casualties and nine fatalities, one of whom died shortly after his admission to the ADS from chest injuries. No 558073 Pte T W Brown was slightly injured. On 8 April 1942, a Spitfire crashed on the ADS; the pilot survived, sustaining only minor abrasions.
ADS St Andrews Barrack
On 17 April 1940, an Aid Post was opened at the Medical Inspection Room St Andrew's Barracks under the command of Captain Gordon Francis Edwards. Two medical officers, Lt Lionel Maurice Clayden and Lt Henry James Dismorr, six other ranks RAMC and three MAC orderlies were attached to Aid Post St Andrews. The following day, sick parades commenced at 08:30 hours at MIR St Andrews for A Coy 2nd/Royal Irish Fusiliers and at MIR St Georges Barracks for the troops of Reserve Battalion Spinola Battery. On 19 April 1940, daily sick parades were organised for the families by Lt L M Clayden in E block. From 17 May, all sick parades became centralised in E Block St Andrews Barracks. In July 1940, Aid Post St Andrews was upgraded to an Advanced Dressing Station.
St Andrews Barracks Pembroke became a Concentration and Evacuation Centre for military families. Service dependants were not forced to leave Malta. Those who had volunteered to depart, embarked on 20 May 1940 on HT Oronsay. On 15 June 1940, there were 500 families and 170 troops in St Andrews Barracks and another 500 Naval families and 100 Army families in St George's Barracks. There were eleven pregnant women in St George's Barracks (naval) and 28 pregnant women at St Andrews Barracks (army). Surgeon Captain Holtham RN looked after the families in his sick bay, E Block, St George's Barracks. RAF families were evacuated to a large house in Naxxar on the entry of Italy into the war under the watchful eye of the wife of the senior administrative officer. As invasion became less likely most of them dispersed to the Sliema area.
On 31 December 1942, there were 2,952 service wives and 5,112 service children in Malta, including the families of local troops. These lived a communal life in the empty barracks at Pembroke and were fed by the NAAFI. Families quartered at the Camerata Valletta and Paceville moved to Pembroke and Tigné on 20 May 1940. Families quartered in other locations remained in their homes. MIR Paceville, which looked after the families in that area, closed down on 20 May, once evacuation of the families from Paceville to St Andrews had been completed.
On 21 May 1940, E Block St Andrews Barracks was converted into a six ward Reception Station (RS). There were four female wards and two male wards, with a total of 60 beds (40 female and 20 male). The families ward was run by Sister Miss Stewart QAIMNS. A second nursing sister and 12 VADs were attached to RS St Andrews. A creche was opened on 30 June, manned by VADs, to look after the children of sick mothers. The Aid Post and RS St Andrews had a staff of 3 Medical officers, 2 QAIMNS, 13 ORs RAMC, 12 VADs, 6 MAC and 12 volunteers cleaners.
In July 1940, twenty children in St Andrews and St George's Barracks fell ill with infantile enteritis. Four infants died, two from exfoliative pemphigus and two from gastroenteritis.
DDMS Col J S McCombe was the prime instigator behind the construction of a Centralised Reception Station at St Andrew's Barracks. The DDMS wanted to concentrate the provision of medical care for the four barracks in the Pembroke area, namely: St Andrew's, St George's St Patrick's and St Paul's, in CRS St Andrews. Building commenced in May 1940, but the project was not completed until June 1941. On 16 June 1941, ADS St Andrews relocated from E Block to the new Central Reception Station.
On 28 January 1944, the reduction of troops in Malta released a number of RAMC officers for duty elsewhere, resulting in the closure of Camp Reception Station St Andrews and Dispensary. On 2 November 1948, the ground floor of the existing building became the Central Medical Inspection Room St Andrews. The first floor housed a SSAFA Sisters' Mess and accommodation for the Duty Medical Officer. Central MIR Room St Andrews was under the direction of No 371578 Captain W N Erskine RAMC, SMO Malta and Officer in medical charge of troops and families Pembroke Area.
On 3 October 1940, the DDMS inspected St Joseph Asylum, Zabbar and approved it for use as an ADS. The orphanage had a church with a large dome, a spacious hall with a marble floor from which led a long wide passage covered with large black and white square floor tiles. Leading from the corridors were three large rooms used as treatment rooms and wards. These had wide windows and tiled floors. Each doorstep was inlaid with the name of a benefactor. The wards were named Corbridge Ward and Lilburn Ward. Corbridge Ward was used as an additional treatment room; Lilburn Ward as a resuscitation ward. The church was prepared for the sitting wounded awaiting evacuation. Up the wide marble staircase were two rooms over the entrance hall with a small balcony, giving an uninterrupted view of the countryside. At the head of the stairs and immediately outside the anteroom was a life size statue of the Virgin Mary still in its glass case. At the rear of the building was a garden with orange and lemon trees. The garden had covered slit trenches, but these were only half completed by January 1941. An existing passage in the orphanage running through the center of the building, was converted into a shelter for bed bound patients.
In January 1941, A Coy 161 (EA) Fd Amb commanded by Major Phineas Weiner, opened the Dressing Station, but the beds were not fully equipped until the end of February. ADS Zabbar collected casualties from the RAPs at Fort Ricasoli (Gr 494261), San Pietru (Gr 510247), Fort Leonardo (Gr 528237), and Marsascala (Gr 525228). The staff consisted of five medical officers, with another two attached to MAP Tarxien. About 14 MACs served as cooks and drivers. ADS Zabbar had 20 beds; patients with minor illnesses or those needing treatment for skin infections were kept for an average of three to five days. Morning sick parades were arranged for local units, which saved on transport.
On 24 January 1941, two medical officers and 22 men of 161 (EA) Fd Amb moved into the Government School Zejtun, part of which had been taken over for use as an ADS in October 1940. ADS Zejtun had one long wide room with 20 beds; the rest of the building was used as accommodation for the infantry. The ADS had too many large windows, which all had to be blacked out and safeguarded against blast. Captain G Pickering was medical officer in charge of ADS Zejtun, which became operational in mid-February 1941.
On 2 May 1942, Zejtun Village was bombed. Thirty seriously injured casualties were treated at ADS Zejtun, once the civilian medical services became stretched. Camp Reception Station Zejtun closed down on 28 July 1943.
ADS Luqa (Quarry Tad Dawl GR 450203)
On 24 January 1941, B Coy 161 (EA) Fd Amb, commanded by Major K Murray Wood, opened ADS Luqa, which became operational on 7 April 1941. The ADS was precariously located in Tad Dawl Quarry to the north east of Mqabba, on the edge of Luqa aerodrome. Shelters and quarters had been dug deep in the face of the quarry. These offered a degree of protection against the numerous bombing raids on the runway.
The ADS received several near misses. In the raids of 1942, nursing in the wards became intolerable. A bomb landed on top of the shelter, but the forty feet of rock proved their worth. Two heavy bombs exploded in the grounds of ADS Luqa on 13 May 1941, causing damage to building and motor transport. There were no casualties, but the patients were evacuated to MDS Hamrun, with the ADS reopening four days later to admit patients to its 50 bed wards.
In February 1943, ADS Luqa served as a transit camp for patients waiting to be flown out to England. Previously, they had to return to the military hospitals, often in pitch darkness, whenever their flights were cancelled or delayed. On 27 February 1943, the transit ward held six invalids awaiting passage on the next available aeroplane out of Malta.
On 24 April 1943, ADS Luqa in Tad Dawl Quarry with its medical equipment and medical stores was handed over to the RAF Medical Services to be run as a Sick Quarters by the Royal Air Force. The army medical officer moved to MAP Zurrieq; the orderlies to MDS Hamrun. RAF Station Luqa, was responsible for the care of over 3000 men. Its underground and only sick quarters had been far too small and extremely noisy as it was next to the underground power station. The handover made an enormous improvement in the working conditions of the medical section. The RAF increased the number of beds in the quarry to 60 beds. Part of this accommodation was utilized for the reception of wounded of the Casualty Air Evacuation Centre during Op Husky. An underground crash room was also fitted up for the reception of casualties during air attacks.
ADS Wardija (Casa Sant Manduca)
ADS Wardija opened on 24 March 1941 in Villa Casa Sant Manduca with a skeleton staff under the medical charge of Lt D M Raynes. It became fully operational on 10 November 1941. It had 1 Cpl RAMC, 2 Ptes RAMC, 3 MAC General Duty Orderlies, 1 MAC Cook and 1 MAC Driver. Sick parades were held daily at Villino Chappel St Paul's Bay (Grid 376321) but were afterwards localised at ADS Wardija. The ADS covered an area which extended from the sea in the north, to Grid 38 (east), Grid 30 (south), and Grid 355 (west).
On 29 April 1941, enemy bombers and fighters approached St Paul's Bay area and were engaged by AA fire. A Ju 88 was hit and was subsequently attacked by a Hurricane fighter. Four members of the crew baled out over St Paul's Bay. The bomber crushed over Ghajn Tuffieha. Lt D M Raynes RAMC, immediately went by ambulance to the RAF Seaplane Base at St Paul's Bay awaiting the RAF launch which recovered two German Bomber Crew. They were treated for shrapnel abrasions to their faces, and rapidly transferred to C Coy HQ at St Paul's Bay to protect from an angry mob.
Main Dressing Station
The Field Ambulance organisation was not suited for Malta where troops were stationary. The Main Dressing Station and Advanced Dressing Station were functioning as a Reception Station and a Casualty Collecting Post respectively. On 8 January 1941, the Army Council disapproved of using the Fd Amb for such purposes. It considered the MDS as superfluous. Its preferred system for Malta was one based on Area Regimental Aid Posts supported by Advanced Dressing Stations or Reception Stations, with direct evacuation from them to the General Hospitals.
The War Office did not perceive the need for a third Fd Amb for Malta as requested by the DDMS. Instead, it suggested increasing the manpower of the two Fd Ambs in Malta and converting them into Independent Brigade Group Field Ambulances. On 1 March 1943, authority was granted to convert 15 Fd Amb and 161 (EA) Fd Amb into Independent Brigade Group Field Ambulances, but HQ Middle East did not have the manpower to bring them to War Establishment.
Among the many varied duties of the Fd Amb was the provision of medical cover for the unloading of merchant ships. Aid Posts were established at Barracca Lift Tunnel (481256), No 7 shed Marina Pinto (Gr 475250), Mifsuds Verandah Bonded store Wharf (Gr 469241), Boom Defence Depôt Marsa (Gr 471237). Each Aid Post was staffed by a medical officer, 1 NCO, 4 Nursing orderlies, one OR to act as runner, with a four stretcher WD ambulance at each post.
From 1 July to 30 Sept 1942, the Fd Amb dealt with 31 of the 124 wounded due to enemy action (22 British and 5 Maltese soldiers, 1 Merchant Navy and 3 RAF). During July to Sept 1942,
Table V. Casualties dealt with by Medical Units in 1942
Total Army Killed
Treated in Fd_Amb
Died in Fd_Amb
To GH Fr Fd_Amb
RTU Fr Fd_Amb
Army Treated in
RAF Treated in
RN Treated in
Others treated in
Table V: Casualties dealt with medical units in 1942. "Others" included civilian employees, Maltese Auxiliaries and families.
1 April – 30 June
1 July – 31 August
The total wounded from 1 July to 30 September 1942 was 1,071, with a total number of deaths of 377. From 1 January to 30 September 1942 there were a total of 1448 killed and wounded.
15 Fd Amb — Main Dressing Station Mosta
No 15 Fd Amb RAMC was formed in skeleton on 1 April 1941 from men displaced in the south of Malta by orderlies from the recently arrived 161 (EA) Fd Amb. It became a self contained unit on 17 May 1941. Captain Gordon Francis Edwards
was appointed officer commanding, with his HQ in Mosta. In July 1941, 20 Maltese recruits RAMC (Malta) were posted in from the Training depôt. Five RAMC Officers: Captain William Reynolds Macartney Morton, Captain Rupert Leo Hill, Captain R T Michael, Lt G A Wilson and Lt P K D Edmunds arrived from England as part of the staff for the Fd Amb. On 27 July 1941, Major/Acting Lt Col Thomas Fielden Briggs arrived from Gibraltar by Sunderland and took over the command of 15 Fd Amb.
MDS Mosta was bombed on the morning of 21 March 1942, during one of the many raids on Ta' Qali Aerodrome. T/45744 Sgt James Wright Ure RASC and 876491 L/Cpl Peter John Thompson RASC were killed, five Malta Auxiliary drivers were injured and taken to hospital. There were no RAMC casualties. The HQ of 15 Fd Amb moved to ADS Naxxar on 22 March, but later reopened at Gharghur, where an underground dressing station in a quarry was completed in October 1942. Camp Reception Station Gharghur shut on 17 September 1943. Also in the same month, the huts built by the Royal Engineers at San Pawl Tat Targa were taken over and equipped as an MI Room, known as MI Room Naxxar. This opened for sick parades on Wednesday 15 September 1943, with Captain R Christie RAMC as medical officer in charge.
On 9 May 1941, the cargo steamer SS Empire Song with munitions for the Middle East struck a mine off Malta with the loss of 18 of its crew. 120 survivors reached Malta; eighty were sheltered in MDS Hamrun (161 Fd Amb) and forty survivors went to MDS Mosta (15 Fd Amb).
15 Fd Amb – MDS Naxxar
ADS Naxxar opened to receive casualties on 10 November 1941. Among those passing through its doors were: two NCOs and two Privates who died following an explosion at Madliena Search Light Position on 8 November 1941; a Warrant Officer killed following a bomb explosion at Gharghur on 15 November 1941; No 160722 2nd Lt Norman Markinson Owen 11th/Lancashire Fusiliers who died on 20 November 1941, following admission to hospital for a surgical procedure; and one other rank admitted to hospital following a bomb explosion during training on the ranges.
In 1943, No 15 Fd Amb with its HQ at Naxxar (GR 412287) incorporated: Reception Stations Gharghur and Sliema, Camp Reception Stations St Andrews, Rabat, and Wardija, Medical Inspection Rooms Naxxar, Tigne, Gzira, Attard, Siggiewi and Victoria, Gozo. On 8 August 1943, 15 Ind Bde Gp Fld Amb moved from Naxxar and took over Bush Reception Station Hamrun (GR 445248) from 161 (EA) Ind Bde Gp Fd Am, which relocated about half a kilometer away to a second Reception Station at Hamrun, called Reception Station Bull.
On 27 August 1943, No 161 Fd Amb embarked on the HMT Neuralia for service overseas and15 Fd Amb took control of all the medical facilities in Malta. In addition to its primary role of attending to and evacuating casualties, 15 Fd Amb also acted as an Air Evacuation Holding Centre at Hamrun.
On 19 October 1943, No 15 Fd Amb was relieved of its operational commitments. A nucleus of the Fd Amb without its Maltese recruits, embarked on HMHS Dinard on 24 November 1943 and left Malta for Brindisi, Italy. On 23 October 1943, the remnants of 15 Fd Amb in Malta (that is 7 MOs and 143 Other ranks) were transferred to RAMC (Malta) to man one Reception Station, two Camp Reception Stations and seven Area Medical Inspection Rooms. Privates and NCOs of the new AMC (MTF) were used where possible as replacements for RAMC NCOs.
Reception Station Hamrun with its 60 beds closed in February 1945 when a Reception Station of 25 beds became operational at St Andrews Barracks.
161 (East Anglian) Fd Amb — Main Dressing Station Hamrun
On 14 January 1941, No 161 (East Anglian) Fd Amb became responsible for Area Malta South. Lt Col Gilbert Wolridge Rose commanding No 161 Fd Amb and his HQ Staff joined ADS Floriana on 17 January as Senior Medical Officer Malta South until the Cow Sheds at Hamrun were prepared as an MDS. The strength of the Fd Amb was 10 officers plus 4 attached medical officers of the Royal Artillery, 126 medical orderlies and 46 Maltese RAMC (Malta) Section.
MDS Hamrun was opened on 20 March 1941 in a cowshed or stock fattening depôt situated on the Hamrun to Qormi road, under the watchful eye of the chimney of Farsons Cisk Brewery. The ex-cow shed had a central courtyard, on each side of which were very large roofed sheds with stone walls. Each shed was divided by concrete partitions into communicating long rooms. Originally cows had been housed in them as was evidenced by troughs and rings for securing beasts. All had been cleaned, painted and white washed, but the pervading smell of a cow byre was impossible to obliterate. One of the sheds made an excellent ward for over 80 beds. In an emergency MDS Hamrun could accommodate up to 250 casualties by the additional use of stretchers. Other buildings housed a treatment room,an emergency operating theatre, canteen and sleeping quarters. Hamrun was considered a safe area and the men held the belief that they would come to no harm, so long as their protective chimney remain standing!
MDS at Hamrun had four officers RAMC and 61 Other Ranks. Its dependencies were: ADS Floriana (1 officer, 14 ORs), ADS Luqa (2 officers, 26 ORs), ADS Zabbar (2 officers, 32 ORs), ADS Zejtun 2 (Officers, 24 ORs), MAP Valletta (1 officer, 6 ORs), MAP Tarxien (1 officer, 8 ORs), MAP Zurrieq (1 officer, 1 OR), MAP Ricasoli (0 off, 1 OR).
On 28 February 1941, No 1 Dental Centre in Valletta was demolished by a parachute mine. L/Cpl John Charles Kelly ADC was killed and another dental orderly wounded. Most of the dental equipment was salvaged and dental centre opened temporarily at Floriana.
On 2 May 1941, at about 07:30 hours HM Destroyer Jersey struck a mine just outside the entrance to the Grand Harbour. Thirty five of the ship's company died and the ship sank, blocking the harbour entrance. Casualties and survivors were landed by boat at many points including Ricasoli, St Angelo, St Elmo and Customs House; just over 100 casualties were admitted to MDS Hamrun.
On 5 December 1941, the Luftwaffe once again replaced the Regia Aeronautica, and Malta was subjected to intermittent day and night bombardment without respite. There were many service casualties when the Regent Cinema was hit on 15 February 1942. Over 50 service casualties were were treated by 161 (EA) Fd Amb.
On 1 March 1942, the intense bombing on Manoel Island Submarine base and the aerodrome continued by day and night. Surgeon Captain Algemon Edgar Percy Cheesman RN SMO Lazaretto was killed together with his wife Doris Eileen, when their home at St Julian's was bombed. RAMC personnel at St Andrews worked under difficult conditions in treating and assisting in the extrication of other naval and army wounded who had been buried by the debris of the destroyed houses.
A convoy arrived on 23 March 1942 from Alexandria with 50 tons of medical equipment, but 10 tons of medical stores were lost on the SS Clan Campbell which was bombed and sank 50 miles south of Malta. SS Talbot and SS Pampas managed to enter the Grand Harbour while HMS Breconshire was hit and anchored in Marsaxlokk Harbour. On the 24th March, the enemy carried out intense raids on the dockyard and convoy. All the merchant ships were hit and set on fire before the medical stores had time to be unloaded. War HQ in Lascaris Barracks was hit killing the Chief Security Officer Col
Andrew D Clinch L/KOYLI and burying Staff Officer Lt Col Ellis under the rubble for four hours.
On 5 April 1942, the Medical Branch moved from War HQ to Mtarfa and took over the Commanding Officer's Quarters for use as a Medical Directorate. On 7 April 1942, War HQ, as well as the Opera House and King George V Hospital were all demolished. Patients from King George V Hospital were transferred to the Families Hospital Mtarfa. Dr R Y Stones, the Medical Superintendent of King George V Hospital, was taken on by the War Department as a CMP. He was commissioned Lieutenant RAMC on 22 June 1942 and reported for duty to No 39 General Hospital Mellieha, as a specialist in Radiology.
In March 1943, No 161 Fd Amb exchanged its area of responsibility with 15 Fd Amb and moved north. It also transferred its Maltese recruits RAMC (Malta) to 15 Fd Amb, and became composed entirely of British personnel. In May 1943, it reoccupied the former cow sheds in Hamrun. About 600 yards east of the cow sheds where a number of bull sheds used by a company of 4th/Buffs. On 13 June 1943, these two sheds were combined into a second Reception Station Hamrun with 400 beds.
On 27 August 1943, No 161 Fd Amb consisting of 13 officers RAMC, 1 officer AD Corps, 1 officer RASC, 218 ORs RAMC embarked on the HMT Neuralia for service overseas. It arrived in Tripoli on 28 August and in Alexandria on 9 September 1943.
Malta was administered by HQ Middle East Command until 31 May 1944. In October 1941, the Director of Medical Services Middle East Force (DMS MELF) fixed the hospital accommodation in Malta at 3,500 beds. This was based on 10% of ration strength, which on 11 August 1941 stood at 30,000 men. Four Military Hospitals had opened in Malta: 90 General Hospital (1200 beds), 45 General Hospital (600 beds), 39 General Hospital (600 beds) and 33 General Hospital, which remained an 8th Army asset and did not fall under the control of DDMS Malta Command.
The three General Hospitals provided a total of 2,600 beds. In the absence of an invasion, which the General Staff in October 1941 had estimated would produce 3,600 wounded, these beds were more than sufficient to meet the needs of the sick and wounded arising from enemy action. However, on 25 April 1942, 600 of these beds were lost when 39 General Hospital at St Paul's Barracks was put out of action. In 1942, the highest number of patients in hospital on any one day, including sickness and air raids, was about 1,500 or roughly 4.5% of the ration strength.
The number of battle casualties admitted from all the services to the military hospitals in 1942 was: January – 87, February – 201, March – 282, and April – 486.
In 1942, the number of required hospital beds was re-assessed at 2,800 beds. The actual total number of beds in February 1943 was 1,825; 600 beds in 45 General Hospital and 1,225 beds in 90 General Hospital. In 1943, the Malta Hospitals were emptied of their sick and made ready to receive an estimated 8,000 wounded from the beach landings in Sicily. The beach landings produced relatively light casualties. The total number admitted to the Malta Military Hospitals between 9 June 1943 and 28 November 1943 from Op Husky was 4,502 (wounded 1,556 and sick 2946 mainly malaria).
Table VI. Army Casualties due to enemy action by month from 1 April to 30 June 1942
Died Of Wds
Table VI: Army Casualties due to enemy action by month January to August 1942.
No 90 General Hospital Mtarfa Barracks
No 90 General Hospital was the peace time garrison hospital at Mtarfa, with the adjoining married blocks in Mtarfa Barracks. On 3 June 1940, 164 beds had been prepared in A Block Mtarfa Barracks so that the total bed accommodation amounted to 860 Army beds and 314 Naval beds, a total of 1174 beds. By 27 June 1940, the hospital had expanded to 1,260 beds, including 60 beds in the Families' Military Hospital.
The hospital became operational on 18 June 1940. It received its first enemy casualties on 22 June when an Italian bomber was shot down. Medical reinforcements arrived in October 1940, bringing 30 army sisters and as many RAMC officers. All the military staff were given acting promotion when the Hospital was elevated to No 90 British General Hospital. In June 1942, it only had 1,089 beds available, due to bomb damage to the hospital Barrack Blocks, of which only 640 beds were occupied (40 officer beds and 600 other ranks). In April 1943, a 100 Bed Basotho Section of a General Hospital was attached to No 90 General Hospital to look after the African and Mauritian Pioneers.
The Hospital was located a mere two miles from Ta'Qali Aerodrome. The married quarters and the Officers Mess overlooked the dispersal bays which encroached very close to the hospital perimeter. The hospital and Mtarfa Barracks was repeatedly hid during raids on Ta' Qali airfield.
On 13 February 1941, at about 20:30 hours, an enemy night raider dropped six bombs in the Barrack Hospital Area Mtarfa. One bomb scored a direct hit at the base angle of B Block which blew in the wall of the basement shelter killing four, and injuring eleven patients. Those killed were: No 5623724 Pte James Frederick Scott 2nd/Devonshire, Pte Robert McGill 3rd/KOMR and a soldier from 8th/Manchester. 5725052 Pte John Lancelot Wellman Dorsetshire Regiment died of wounds on 15 February.
On 13 April 1941, approximately 38 bombs fell on Mtarfa causing considerable damage to the Families Isolation Hospital and the old Medical Inspection Room in the Barrack Hospital. Three casualties: Sgt White 30 Coy RAMC, Pte Pearce and Pte Hobday both No 161 Fd Amb attached to No 30 Coy RAMC, resulted from this reprisal for an alleged bombing of an Italian Field Hospital in Libya by the Royal Air Force.
On 21 March 1942, between 10 and 11 in the morning, waves of German Bombers attacked Ta' Qali airfield and the aircraft dispersal points causing extensive damage to hospital buildings. The doors and windows of H Block (RAMC Personnel) were blown in by blast. A further bombing raid took place between 16:00 and 17:00 hrs when A Block received a direct hit, rendering half of it unusable. Seven soldiers of 1st/Durham Light Infantry who formed the guard outside the reception block were killed.
On 12 July 1942, bombs fell on Mtarfa causing yet more damage to ward accommodation and one officer and one other rank RAMC were wounded. Three patients were also wounded, two seriously. After the raid, there remained only 1,014 military and 75 Naval beds and the hospital could only expand to 1,368 beds instead of the envisaged 1,698 beds.
On 13 July 1942, at 17:15, more bombs fell on Mtarfa. Three fell in the garden in front of the Medical Directorate wounding Lieutenant Colonel William Ralston Duncan Hamilton. His wife was seriously injured and died during the evening in 90 General hospital. Col F Whalley and Major G F Edwards DADMS were slightly injured. On 5 September 1942, Lt Col W R D Hamilton was casevaced by air to England.
On 3 November 1942, at 04:45 hours, six bombs fell in the vicinity of the Sisters mess, one scoring a direct hit. Two nursing sisters were severely injured, Sister Miss Jamieson QAIMNS incurred a blast injury to her shoulder producing a fracture of the surgical neck of the humerus and the glenoid fossa; Sister Miss Marchant QAIMNS (R) suffered compression fractures of four lumbar vertebrae.
On 18 February 1943, P/206305 Sister Muriel May Masters QAIMNS, Sister in charge of 90 British General Hospital Families Section, was awarded the Royal Red Cross for exceptional devotion to duty at Malta. Her citation read:
Bombs have dropped on numerous occasions in the immediate vicinity of the Families Hospital and the sister's quarters have been demolished by a direct hit resulting in much damage to the hospital and fear among the patients. At all such times, she has carried on her duties with courage and supervised the removal of patients to a place of safety without any consideration for herself.
After the bombings of April 1941, deep shelters were provided with sleeping accommodation for patients and staff at Mtarfa by deepening the slit trenches and using some wells and catacombs. However, it was not until November 1941 that any of these shelters became available and most were unfinished. In the intensive bombings of March 1942, when 300 to 400 planes were over the hospital and Ta Qali daily, it was decided to evacuate the hospital and put every one in the unfinished tunnels. For 48 hours about 300 patients and staff stayed underground. Bed patients were wheeled down by a special ramp, others carried down by stretchers. The theatre was fitted up. After 48 hours, however, conditions below ground became intolerable. It was impossible to nurse patients with lack of water and light and all patients were returned to the wards. Many slept in the tunnels at night and remained in the hospital by day.
On 15 November 1942, 1 RAMC officer, 22 British ORs, one Italian officer and 14 Italian ORs were admitted to the General Hospital. These were the only survivors of an Italian transport carrying a large number of British Prisoners of War captured in Egypt from the 8th Army to Italy. The Italian transport, which had about 800 British Prisoners of War was torpedoed and sunk by a British submarine.
From 15 November 1942 to March 1943, Malta was gripped with an outbreak of Anterior Poliomyelitis which struck 483 patients. Of these 426 were children under the age of five years, the remaining 57 were servicemen. Two were from the Royal Navy, 27 from the Army, and 28 from the Royal Air Force. The first military case from 39 Squadron RAF who was admitted to 45 General Hospital on 13 December 1942; a second patient, also from the RAF (1435 Sqn) was admitted on 16 December, when an Iron Lung was borrowed from the Civil Medical Officer of Health. There were only five iron lungs on the island at the time. The mortality rate was high in the military (19.3%), and low among the civilians (3.5%), the chief cause of death being respiratory paralysis. Eighteen military personnel developed respiratory paralysis; twelve died.
Nursing reinforcements were flown in, as five sisters and six orderlies became infected. On 15 January 1943, Pte Hartley RAMC, an orderly from 39 General Hospital was admitted with mild acute anterior poliomyelitis. He had been manually ventilating polio patients from 30 December 1942 to 3 January 1943 when he fell ill on 2 January. Only two iron lungs were available at 90 GH Mtarfa, but the Royal Engineers managed to produce one run by a diesel engine.
On 30 December 1942, a ward with a Drinker Artificial Respirator was set aside in Isolation (F) Block 90 General Hospital. Patients were ventilated manually or mechanically. There were two types of ventilators, the Paul Bragg which only encircled and compressed the chest, and relied on the recoil of the chest wall for expiration; the Drinker Ventilator which enclosed the whole patient. In January 1943, Brigadier Archibald Douglas McAlpine MD FRCP, Advisor to the Army in Neurology, and on 1 March 1943, Professor Herbert John Seddon MD FRCS, Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at Oxford visited Malta to advice on how to best manage the sequelae of the disease.
On 14 October 1943, No 7391411 Sgt Harold Edward Fisher RAMC of 90 General Hospital, was awarded the British Empire Medal, in recognition for his services to polio patients. His citation read:
During the recent epidemic of anterior poliomyelitis, he has been in charge of the ward set aside for the treatment of acute cases. His skills and devotion to duty have been of outstanding merit and have largely helped to ameliorate the sufferings of his patients, especially of those for whom artificial ventilation was essential over long periods.
In September 1944, No 90 General Hospital was reorganised as a 600 bed hospital, with the surplus RAMC officer being sent to MEF. On 5 August 1946, No 90 General Hospital became No 90 Military Hospital. On 1 January 1947, No 90 Military Hospital was reduced from 300 to 200 beds. On 15 June 1947, the designation of the hospital was changed from No 90 Military Hospital to British Military Hospital Malta, on the authority of the DMS MELF.
No 45 General Hospital St Patrick's Barracks
On 9 September 1940, the DDMS took over the newly constructed Sandhurst Block for use as a 600 bed hospital. A foot bridge was erected above the kitchens at the back of the building to move stretchers straight into the surgical wards, as the stairs at the front of the building made it awkward to handle stretchers. On 15 January 1941, SS Essex brought the ordnance equipment for the hospital. On 24 July a convoy arrived from Gibraltar with 25 RAMC officers and 45 other ranks, out of a total expected 32 officers and 62 ORs; the rest arriving on 2 August.
On 28 July 1941, Colonel Frederick Whalley took command of No 45 General Hospital from Major Gordon Francis Edwards, who acted as Registrar. The hospital started to admit casualties on 26 August 1941, but the surgical theatres were not completed until 7 January 1942. On 30 June 1942, 45 General hospital had 600 beds, with the capacity to equip another 50 beds in an emergency, but only 383 were occupied (33 officers and 350 other ranks).
On 12 April 1942, No 45 General Hospital was hit by cannon shells from low flying aircraft; two patients were slightly wounded. On 14 April 1942, a case of small pox was confirmed at the hospital. The patient was isolated in a hut belonging to the Malta Rifle Club on the Pembroke Rifle Range, but unfortunately perished on 25 April, in the bombing of No 39 General Hospital. On 18 April 1942, an outbreak of diphtheria in the surgical wards temporarily shut down the hospital.
The large red cross in front of 45 General Hospital was completed on 8 June 1942. Work on it had commenced in July 1941, but the resulting red cross had been altered several times. One of a similar size was assembled out of loose stones and sand near the officers and sisters' quarters. It had taken four days to complete. The position of the Army Council on the use of the Red Cross was that the Red Cross Emblems in practice afforded protection only when the hospital was likely to be of value to the enemy or when the enemy feared reprisals. The general principle using the emblem was not abandoned, but the ultimate decision to use on military hospitals in any form visible from the air, lay with the local military commander after consultation with the RAF.
On 25 April 1942, there were three heavy attacks on the St Andrews area as well as on most other camps and barracks through out the island. Mellieha Camp Medical Inspection Room received a direct hit and was completely destroyed; similarly the Coy Aid Post at Ghajn Tuffieha Camp also sustained severe damage.
Miss E R Palmer QAIMNSR was on duty alone in the officers' ward in I Block, when a bomb exploded in the ward. A portion of the wall and roof collapsed killing 1st Engineer A Montgomery Merchant Navy. She had already protected helpless patients in the adjacent room by covering them with mattresses when Miss J E Palmer, having previously got her own ward cleared, arrived to help to move out the patients. The attack took place while the orderlies were at dinner, leaving only a skelton staff on duty. The hospital Registrar, Maj A F M Keatinge, and Matron Miss J S M Pollock QAIMNS supervised the work of removing the helpless patients to the ground floor. Both were commended for their courage and devotion to duty.
The two nursing sisters, P/892 Sister J E Palmer and P/893 Staff Nurse E R Palmer QAIMNSR demonstrated total dedication and commitment to their patients. They remained in the ward next to the one which had received a direct hit, and protected their helpless patients with mattresses, from falling debris. When the rescue party reached them during the bombing, the two Miss Palmers then proceeded to help the patients onto the stretchers and remained in the ward until the last patient was taken away to the shelters.
On 5 July 1942 a Staff Sgt Walter Cousens T 15 Fd Amb was accidentally injured by an explosion of an anti personnel bomb whilst on the ranges. He sustained abdominal wounds and died later. Two soldiers from the Royal Irish Fusiliers, one of whom was John Joseph Turnbull were also killed by anti personnel bombs on 5 July.
One case of Anterior Poliomyelitis was admitted to 45 General Hospital on 2 January 1943 (RAF). On 3 January, a second case was on artificial ventilation. On 4 January another case of polio was admitted to 45 General Hospital, but further cases went to 90 General Hospital in order to get maximum benefit from the Iron lungs.
The maximum number of patients ever admitted to 45 General Hospital was 503 patients on 25 February 1943. This was the highest figure since the opening of the hospital, and was partly due to the temporary closure of the Convalescent Depôt which was in the process of transferring to Ghajn Tuffieha. By March 1943, the number of patients in 45 General Hospital had dropped to 340. On 7 March 1944, No 45 (UK) General Hospital embarked on HMHS Dorsetshire and sailed for Italy.
No 39 General Hospital St Paul's Hutment
On 28 September 1941, No 39 General Hospital arrived unexpectedly with a convoy from the west. It had 24 officers (6 Army Dental Corps), and 350 ORs RAMC under the command of Colonel Alistair Cameron MacDonald. No 39 General Hospital had been incorporated in Leeds on 10 September 1941, and embarked on 16 September from Swansea, Birkenhead and Glasgow. On 27 September, the convoy was attacked by Italian torpedo bombers off the coast of North Africa, as it approached Sicily. Imperial Star was hit and sunk with the hospital equipment. HMS Nelson and Dunedin Star were also hit and damaged. One of the crew sustained a compound fracture of his leg necessitating amputation. but died of shock and severe haemorrhage.
The only suitable accommodation for the hospital was the hutments in St Paul's Barracks occupied by the Convalescent Depôt and the Royal Irish Fusiliers. These were moved elsewhere and on 20 October 1941, the Royal Engineers set about preparing the ground for the hospital. No 39 General Hospital opened on 1 February 1942 with six surgical wards equipped, but the acute surgical reception and one operating theatre were not ready until 20 February. On 11 April 1942, the hospital had only 306 beds out of its establishment of 600 beds. There were 16 tent foundations adjacent to its location, left over from the last war, and it was decided to build huts over them to make space for more beds. The Hospital did not resemble a hospital from the air and gave more the impression of an army depôt. It had vehicles around it, and was closely adjacent to barracks to the south of it.
On 25 April 1925, three concentrated attacks were made by a large number of dive bombers dropping 500 to 2000 lb bomb on the hospital area. No 39 General Hospital was destroyed. That morning, at 7:15 hrs, the kitchen and dining room were the first to be hit killing a cook, No 7379046 Pte Denis Blanksby, and wounding the kitchen staff (Sgt Johnson, Cpl Spence, Pte Anderson, Pte Crowther, LCpl Fineberg).
Several patients and staff were injured in the slit trenches. Among these were Captain Vincenzo Tabone, a future president of the Republic of Malta, Cpl Jones and LCpl Searby. Bed patients were transferred to 45 General Hospital. The hospital was attacked a second time at 12:45 hrs, when seven men of 39 General Hospital were killed when a 2000 lb bomb hit their slit trench near E block. The dead were:
A third attack took place at 17:45 hrs causing further damage. There were 227 patients in hospital on the day of the attack with 30 bed bound patients. The total killed at 39 General Hospital were eight RAMC other ranks and four patients, and injured were 14 patients, 9 RAMC other ranks and 3 attached staff. No shelters were available other than slit trenches, and the hospital relied on its Red Cross display for its immunity from attack.
The ward orderlies remained at their posts, placing helpless patients under beds or otherwise protecting them with mattresses. In Ward 2 (Surgical), this saved a number of lives when the roof collapsed killing three patients. The following were commended for their courage and coolness, which set an excellent example to all: No 86284 T/Maj E E Spring, No 7257147 S/Sgt W H Kemp RAMC, No 7380209 S/Sgt G W Britton RAMC, No 7390856 Cpl T Delly RAMC, No 7363982 LCpl G H Wallor and No 7390822 Pte George Lupton RAMC.
On 18 February 1943, Pte G Lupton RAMC was awarded the British Empire Medal for his role during the bombing of 39 General hospital. His citation read:
On the morning of 25 April 1942, Pte Lupton was a nursing orderly on an acute surgical ward, when the first bombing attack took place on the hospital. The only shelters in the hospital area were slit trenches unsuitable for bed cases. Pte Lupton immediately set about protecting the bed patients by placing them under beds and covering them with mattresses, and by his example greatly encouraged these helpless men. The ward received a direct hit and the roof and a wall collapsed. Three patients were killed but Pte Lupton's work undoubtedly saved the lives of several others. Pte Lupton was himself buried and pinned down by a steel girdle, but although suffering from an extensive laceration of the scalp, when he was rescued, his first thought was for his patients. He showed a fine spirit of self sacrifice and devotion to duty.
No 39 General Hospital was rebuilt as a 300 bed hospital in the Infantry Training Camp, Mellieha. The hospital was ready to accept patients on 14 March 1943. By the time it opened its role had diminished considerably, as enemy raids over Malta had virtually ceased. Miss Brady K M QAIMNS became Matron of 39 General Hospital, Mellieha. On 14 July 1943, a military cemetery was opened for the hospital at the bottom of the road from Mellieha village to Mellieha Bay.
In January 1944, No 39 General Hospital acted as a Base Hospital for 720 Yugoslav Partisan patients from Italy, of whom 13 were female patients. The wounded Yugoslavs were sent to Malta to relief pressure on the beds in Italy.
No 39 General Hospital closed down on on 25 March 1944. On 8 April 1944, it left Malta and returned to New Deckmont Camp, Cambuslang Near Glasgow, where they arrived on 23 Apr 1944.
No 33 General Hospital Ghajn Tuffieha
No 33 General Hospital arrived in Malta on 1 June 1943 under the command of Col William Calthrope Mackinnon to support the invasion of Sicily. It opened at Ghajn Tuffieha on 3 July 1943. The DMS at HQ MEF wanted to use Malta not as a hospital base, but as a Casualty Clearing Station Area, using existing hospitals and additional hospitals sent from the Middle East. He had intended to evacuate the hospitals in Malta with his hospital ships prior to the invasion of Sicily, so as to maximise the number of available beds. The existing hospitals were to increase from 2,600 beds to 3,700 beds, and another hospital was required to make up the remaining 1500 beds.
If Malta was to be used as a Casualty Clearing Station, four hospital carriers each holding 300 cases were to bring in 1,200 cases daily from Sicily and Italy. These would be subsequently removed from Malta by six hospital ships each carrying 600 cases. Every third day, each ship was expected to take 1200 cases to the mainland hospitals in Tripoli. The Royal Naval authorities absolutely refused to allow Malta to be used as a Casualty Clearing Station, due to the fact that when full combined operations were in progress, it would be impossible to unload and load ambulance carriers and hospital ships, in addition to the very great amount of other traffic in the harbours.
By the end of June 1943, only 155 patients had been admitted to the hospital. On 16 July 1943, No 33 General Hospital packed up its 300 beds and embarked Syracuse on 5 August 1943.
Epilogue – Op Husky
The struggle for supremacy in the Mediterranean was virtually over by May 1943, but the military hospitals in Malta were not stood down. The island once again took on the mantle of the Nurse of the Mediterranean. The hospitals were to be expanded to receive an expected 6,000 to 8,000 casualties, that the landings on the Sicilian beaches were estimated to generate. Vice Admiral Malta gave a provisional estimate of 2,000 naval casualties alone. This turned out to be an over estimate, as the highest number of naval casualties never exceeded 657 patients.
The initial assault involved simultaneous landings in the South East and South West of Sicily before dawn on D Day, with the intention of capturing landing grounds and secondary ports as a preliminary attack on Catania. Eight assaults were to be carried out by the Military Task Force composed of British, Canadian and United States Forces. The assaults were to be preceeded during the night of D-1D Day by paratroop attacks at selected points behind the beaches.
In March 1943, it was decided to base about 30,000 troops in camps in Malta during the preparatory phase of Op Husky. Eleven camps for 1000 troops each were prepared at: Camp 1 and Camp 2 (Marfa), Camp 3 (Ghajn Znuber), Camp 4 (Mellieha), Camps 5 and Camp 6 (Tas Saliba), Camp 7 and Camp 8 (Wardija), Camp 9 and 10 (Gomerino), Camp 11 (Ta' Zuta). The labour for preparing the camps was provided by
Basotho, Mauritian and Palestinian Companies of the Pioneer Corps. Between April and June 1943, there were in Malta: 1345 Mauritanians, 534 Palestinians and 1189 Basotho soldiers.
The Malta garrison of 35,000 was supported with 2,600 beds, a number considered to be the absolute minimum by the DDMS. Making his appreciation for the total of 65,000 troops on the island, the DMS calculated that he needed another 3800 beds. The existing military hospitals, the Convalescnet Depôt and the two Field Ambulances were to provide the necessary 5,800 beds. No 39 General Hospital Mellieha (Gr 316347) was to expand to 900 beds; No 90 General Hospital Mtarfa (Gr 364252) to 1700 beds; No 45 General Hospital St Patricks (Gr 441300) to increase from 600 to 1200 beds by converting the garages into wards; and 33 General Hospital Ghajn Tuffieha (Gr 315305) to increase its 1200 beds to 1800 beds.
No 161 Ind Bde Gp Fd Amb augmented its beds from 90 to 580. By placing all personnel into tents and using local accommodation, No 15 Ind Bde Gp Fd Amb from 272 to 380 beds. The Convalescent Depôt with a staff of 23 and 250 beds opened at San Pawl Tat Targa (410289) alongside the HQ of 15 Fd Amb, and was to expand in tents to take 1000 men as a reception station for minor casualties walking cases only.
The Naval Hospital in Malta with its 100 beds could only increase by another hundred to 200 beds. Another 600 beds were to be established in the Elementary School at Sliema with the potential of increasing to a 1000 beds. If required, a further hospital was envisaged for Wolseley Bty (Gr 524188) in buildings and in tents.
Gozo had three American Spitfire Squadrons (100 Spitfires) and 1,978 troops. The newly constructed Gozo aerodrome was occupied by the 31st Pursuit Group USAAF, and later by 66 (K) Squadron USAAF for about a month. The USAAF had its own medical officer but the British troops stationed in Gozo (No 3231 Servicing Commandos, No 2862 Light AA Regiment and a small HQ Section) were looked after by the RAF in the form of Flt Lt F B Cockett and two orderlies with an ambulance. A tented ward and a crash marquee were set up and arrangements were made to admit all RAF and USAAF cases to the Civil Hospital at Victoria. The wards were staffed by medical orderlies of the RAF and RAMC personnel and American medical officers. Those patients needing further treatment were transferred by naval launch to the army hospitals in Malta.
The medical plan for the reception of casualties, was for 15 Ind Bde Gp Fd Amb to convert the Government School, Sliema into a triage centre. On 15 June 1943, Sliema school became a Reception Station under the medical charge of Major Charles Vernon Light RAMC. All casualties, other than those disembarking at St Paul's Bay and Mellieha Bay, were to be processed through this triage centre. The Malta Pioneer Corps provided the stretcher bearers.
Sliema Government school was prepared as a 500 bed reception station. The Engineers fitted a kitchen and an operating theatre. The school was found very suitable, being composed of two rectangular blocks of two stories divided into two squares. The basement extended round two sides of the building. The ground floor of the school became the reception, resuscitation and evacuation area, while the upper floor had 250 beds where casualties could be detained until the hospitals were ready to receive them. Owing to the shortage of medical personnel, reinforcements of infantry were used for the general duties of the station. A staff of five officers, 54 ORs RAMC, and 40 infantry were earmarked for the centre. Capt J R Bolton, Capt G F Houston, Capt W F A Oakes RAMC and Rev C O Kennedy were all attached to RS Sliema which became ready to accept casualties on 9 July 1943.
Heavy air raids were expected by the enemy in an attempt to disrupt preparations for Op Husky. As most of the troop reinforcements were in the open under canvas, casualties were expected to be high. On 16 July 1943, there was an air raid during the night, when bombs were dropped near Command HQ at Pembroke and also in Sliema and Valletta, but no serious damage was sustained.
Malta prepared to receive 400 casualties a day for the first few days of Op Husky, and to hold them for at least two weeks. A hospital ship would not be expected until D+14 days. Light crafts were to distribute casualties among four carriers, which in turn were to do seven hour runs to Malta each with 300 lying cases. Each carrier was to do two runs in 36 hours. Twice weekly, six hospital ships were each to evacuate 600 sick and injured from Malta to Tripoli.
In June 1943, an Air Evacuation Centre (AEC) was completed for the evacuation of casualties. An advanced party of No 21 Mobile Field Hospital arrived at Luqa temporarily, but played no active role, and the Casualty Air Evacuation scheme was maintained entirely by RAF Luqa personnel. It was run by Flt Lt C Swan and No 1107115 Cpl A Harkness. Flt Lt Brockman RCAF often flew up to Leontini, South East Sicily close to the front line, and brought back casualties needing urgent evacuation.
On 9 July 1943, the first landing crafts were seen passing off HQ Malta Command Pembroke at 15:00 hrs. The sea was very rough with a strong North West breeze. British and Canadian troops landed at Pachino, Sicily at 03:00 on 10 July 1943. By 20:00 hrs the first three walking wounded casualties arrived at 45 General Hospital. These included malaria cases as well as injured Prisoner Of War. A soldier of the Black Watch was brought back to Malta from the Sicilian beaches. He had been vomiting violently in the landing craft during his passage to Sicily, but recovered sufficiently to retain food, and be sent back to Sicily. Sadly, he was subsequently found dead in the landing craft. A postmortem examination revealed a right sided spontaneous pneumothorax; he had no evidence of lung disease.
On 10 July 1943, 40 survivors of the Glider Pilot Regiment returned from landing operations in Sicily after their gliders had ditched into the sea. They were treated for immersion at the Dressing Station in the Dockyard and transferred to Reception Station Sliema by ambulance cars of 161 Fd Amb.
The Hospital Ship Talamba with two surgeons, Capt R A King RAMC and Capt W W Wiggins-Davies RAMC, arrived off Sicily on 10 July and closed in to within two miles of the Beach Aid Post. At 16:00 hrs, two waves of heavy bombers dropped numerous bombs about a mile from the ship on some transports and other ships close to shore. At about 17:00 casualties started to arrive in various small crafts from transport ships and the beaches. By 22:00 hrs there were between 150 and 200 patients on board of whom about a quarter required urgent surgical treatment but only 10 required prolonged resuscitation. At about 22:00 hours, the ship was bombed and sunk after 15 minutes. HMS Uganda picked up about 70 patients and survivors and transferred them to Malta.
Table VII. Casualties evacuated to hospitals in Malta from Op Husky
Table VII: Casualties evacuated to hospitals in Malta. A total of 2655 casualties were brought to Malta by hospital ship and by the Air Evacuation Service. Another 1566 casualties from Sicily and Italy passed through Luqa aerodrome, but were not admitted to the Malta hospitals
On 20 July 1943, the last air raid over Malta bombed the Grand Harbour and the coast near St George's Bay. The AA Barrage was very heavy and a large number of shell splinters fell close to 45 General Hospital. The beach landings were lightly opposed and the large number of expected casualties never materialised. On 2 August 1943, Reception Station Sliema was closed and the school returned to the Civil authorities. Henceforth, all casualties were ferried straight to hospital from their landing sites. On 2 August, ten medical officers proceeded to Sicily as reinforcements. The number of beds in Malta were reduced from 7,200 to 4800.
After the fall of Sicily the allies landed in Southern Italy on 3 September 1943. On 8 September 1943, Marshal Pietro Badoglio, who had replaced Mussolini on 25 July, signed an armistice which called for the Italian Fleet to surrender at Malta on 10 September 1943. The war for Malta had finally come to an end. By September 1945, the bulk of the Maltese men conscripted into the services were released into civilian life with all being demobilized by 31 July 1946.
The medical resources on the island were scaled down so that in 1948 the Medical Establishment for the garrison was: No 30 Coy RAMC Mtarfa (GR 369254), Reception Station St Andrews (GR 458269), MI Room Floriana (GR 473258), MI Room Tigné (GR 476254), Military Families Hospital Mtarfa (GR 378257), MI Room St Elmo, MI Room Military Corrective Establishment, and MI Room 2 AA Regt RMA.
The following were honoured for their services during the blitz (London Gazette 14 October 1943):
CBE: 24268 Colonel F Whalley DSO
MBE: 111999 Capt (T/Maj) H G G Bernstein
ARRC: 202336 Sister S M Gough QAIMNS
ARRC: 808207 Mob Nursing member M Agius St John's Amb Bde
BEM: 7391411 Sgt H E F Fisher RAMC
Mentioned in dispatches
133957 Capt (T/Maj) C J Cellan Jones RAMC
107765 Capt (T/Maj) W O Macfeat RAMC
87378 Capt C V Light RAMC
183138 Capt R Mitchell RAMC
7262729 WOI F E Euston RAMC
7263174 WOII J Henderson RAMC
7380636 Sgt H Burnley RAMC
7391357 Sgt H L Clark RAMC
208208 Sister K M Perkins QAIMNS
W/808226 Mob Nursing Sister M Dingli VAD
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