Military Hospitals Malta during the Great War 1914 — 1918
Military Hospitals in Malta during the Great War
Outbreak of War Malta Command — the first 30 days
The assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand at Sarajevo on 28 June 1914 triggered off a cascade of events, the repercussions of which touched virtually every household. During the Great War, Maltese Labour Battalions served in Mudros and Salonica and a Cyprus Contingent of the King's Own Malta Regiment of Militia served outside Malta. But the prime contribution of the Maltese Islands to the war effort was a humanitarian one. Malta became the nurse of the Mediterranean.1 It received the sick and wounded from the Dardanelles (25 April 1915 – 8 January 1916) and from the campaign in Salonica (5 October 1915 – 30 September 1918).
On 29 July 1914, six days before Great Britain formally declared war on Germany, Deputy Director Medical Services (DDMS) Malta Command Colonel Michael William Russell RAMC recalled his medical officers and men of 30 Coy RAMC from leave. He also placed his four hospitals, Cottonera (278 beds), Mtarfa (55 beds), Forrest (20 beds) and Valletta Hospital in the Precautionary Stage to war. The Valletta Hospital had been used for the sick of the Royal Malta Artillery (26 beds) and as a Military Families Hospital (10 beds). On the declaration of war, he mobilized his Field Ambulance with its three sections to their respective war stations. A Section joined Fortress Reserve at Attard; B Section moved to Bir id-Deheb; C Section deployed to Iz-Zebbiegh near Mgarr. Ambulance wagons were positioned at Mtarfa (2 wagons), Mellieha Camp (1 wagon), Ghajn Tuffieha Camp (1 wagon) and Bir-id-Deheb (2 wagons).
On 6 August 1914, the Royal Malta Artillery Hospital at Valletta and the Cottonera Military Hospital were shut in compliance with the Defence Scheme for Malta. Their staff and patients were transferred to the new Mtarfa Barrack Hospital which was set up in Blocks A, B, C and D. Only a dispenser, a cook and a steward remained in Valletta to man the Military Families Hospital. Mtarfa Hospital was evacuated of all venereal cases. Those able to do duty were discharged to the ranks; the remaining 20 patients were transferred to Forrest Hospital which was expanded by the addition of tentage. On 17 August, Forrest Hospital had 69 venereal cases. Mtarfa Officers mess was reserved for the nurses of the QAIMNS under Matron Miss Jane Hoadley RRC QAIMNS.
On 8 August, two non-dieted Clearing Hospitals were opened, one at Zabbar Gate under Major Henry Lawrence Weekes Norrington RAMC and Dr R Busuttil, and another in A Block Floriana Barracks, under Surgeon Major Alfred Eugene Mifsud RMA. The staff for these hospitals and for the outlying forts was provided by the St John Ambulance Association (StJAA) in accordance with para 101 Malta Mobilisation Order. Forty-eight civilian doctors, 13 lady nurses and 97 trained male nurses (bearers) including 6 pharmacists, 6 compounders and 6 cooks volunteered for service through the St John Ambulance Association.
On 6 August 1914, the first of eight medical practitioners and 16 men of the StJAA were employed under the provisions of the Defence Scheme and were sent to Cottonera Hospital to be issued with their uniforms. The Maltese Civil Surgeons in military hospitals wore the ordinary officer's uniform, but with the St John's badge on their collar and black tabs on the collar lapels. They did not wear a Sam Browne belt as they were not commissioned officers. The civil surgeons spent a few days in a military hospital to familiarise themselves with military procedures. They were then attached to a Field Ambulance to learn the rudiments of field sanitation, before being posted to outlying forts or Clearing Hospitals. Among those appointed were: Lt Col (retd) Richard P Samut RAMC, Doctors R Busuttil, Paolo Grech, J Ellul, B Bonello, Hyzler, A Paris (vice Hyzler who left to attend his civilian patients), A Azzopardi (at Fort Ricasoli), L Frendo, R Balzan, S Ellul Grech, E Said, E H Ferro, G C Anastasi, E Borg, A Frendo, J Inglott, M Micallef Eynaud. Dr P Boffa with two civil subordinates deployed to Zurrieq Camp.
On 18 August 1914, the Field Ambulance returned to barracks and demobilised on 30 August. All civil surgeons and Voluntary Aid enrolled personnel were discharged on 22 August in consequence of the withdrawal of the troops from Malta. On 3rd September, the 2nd/Royal Warwickshire Regiment and the 1st/Royal Welch Fusiliers left Malta on the SS Ultonia. On 11 September, the 2nd/Scottish Rifles, the 2nd West Yorkshire and the 2nd Middlesex Regiments, as well as a number of regular RAMC officers, left Malta for France.
On 13 September 1914, the 1st/London (City of London) Field Ambulance (T) (201 all ranks), disembarked at Malta under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Richard Reginald Sleman RAMC (T).
Outbreak of War — Arrival of the wounded
In January 1915, the War Council approved a naval attack on the Gallipoli Peninsula. In February and March 1915, British warships bombarded the Turkish forts. These operations, as well as a half-hearted attempt to push through the Straits minefields failed. The army was then ordered to capture the guns from the land side.
On 25 April 1915, the 29th British Division landed on the beaches of Cape Helles, on the most southerly point of the Gallipoli Peninsula. The Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) disembarked to the north of Gaba Tepe on the western shore of the peninsula, about 14 miles north of Cape Helles. The troops landed on the beaches in the face of a well prepared and determined enemy. The number of casualties was higher than expected.
Casualties in the opening phase of the Dardanelles Campaign 25 April – 31 May 1915
Killed Other Ranks
Wounded Other Ranks
Died wounds Officers
Died wounds Other Ranks
Died disease Officer
Died disease Other Ranks
Royal Naval Div
Royal Naval Div
Table 1 "Wounded" means "type of wound casualties" not "number of individuals wounded". A soldier with a head and arm injury was counted as two.2
The HQ Staff at Mudros, on the island of Lemnos, had made inadequate preparations for the landings. They had assumed that the Turks would be driven back; that the men would make a rapid advance; and that it would be possible to establish hospitals on shore for collecting the wounded. Their estimate of the number of casualties was a mere 3,000.
Lieutenant Colonel Alfred Ernest Conquer Keble RAMC, Assistant Director of Medical Services (ADMS) at GHQ Mediterranean Expeditionary Force (MEF) refused to accept the casualty estimates. In the absence of the Director Medical Services (DMS) Surgeon General William George Birrell, who did not reach Mudros until 18 April, Keble prepared a medical plan for 10,000 casualties. This provided for the accommodation of 1,995 serious cases on two hospital ships, and for the collection of 7,300 not seriously wounded. However, Keble's plan relied on there being hospitals on the beaches. Without them, the wounded had to be evacuated by sea, without any possibility of separating the serious cases from those lightly injured.
So inadequate were the medical provisions for the reception of the sick, that an indignant Surgeon General Sir Neville Howse VC DMS Australian Imperial Force (AIF) asserted that he personally would recommend his Government when this war is over, under no conceivable conditions to trust the medical arrangements that may be made by the Imperial Authorities for the care of the Australian sick and wounded.3
On 8 July 1915, Sir A Markham asked the Under Secretary for War why the Secretary of State for War refused to give his consent to private persons sending out to Egypt private hospitals at their own expense; and whether as a consequence when the wounded from the Dardanelles arrived at Alexandria they were sent to the German Hospital to be nursed by German nurses? Mr Harold Tennant replied that private hospitals were not and are not now required in Egypt. The arrangements for the reception of the wounded at Alexandria are adequate in all respects.4
During the landings on Sunday 25 April 1915, there were no Casualty Clearing Stations or Base Hospitals at Cape Helles and only two hospital ships at anchor off the coast. B Section of 87th Field Ambulance disembarked on Y Beach, Cape Helles with the 29th Division; C Section landed on X Beach Cape Helles. Y Beach was nothing more than a small strip of sand below a precipitous cliff gashed with steep, crumbling rocks and scrub covered gullies. First ashore on Y Beach were the men of the King's Own Scottish Borderers, followed by the South Wales Borderers, the Plymouth Battalion of the Royal Marines and B Section Bearers of 87th Field Ambulance under the command of Major C H Lindsay RAMC (T). A dressing Station was erected under the lee of the cliff.
The men used picks and shovels to excavate the gullies and establish sheltered treatment posts. The Bearer Sections of the Field Ambulance collected the wounded from the regimental aid posts. These were evacuated to the Advanced Dressing Station and onwards to the Casualty Clearing Station, the most important of which was near Lancashire Landing on W Beach, Cape Helles to where B Section of 87th Field Ambulance had been moved from Y Beach. From here, the wounded were embarked on lighters at a landing stage that was perforce also used to unload ammunition and supplies for the army. These lighters were towed by steam pinnaces to the hospital ship lying a mile or two off shore, and, without changing stretchers, were slung on to the ship by cranes. The hospital ships ferrying the injured to the Field Hospitals in Alexandria and Malta, took three and four days respectively to reach their destination.
Sir Ian Hamilton's despatch of May 1915, highlighted the difficulties faced by the Medical Services in collecting the casualties.
The Royal Army Medical Services have had to face unusual and very trying conditions. There are no roads, and the wounded who are unable to walk must be carried from the firing line to the shore. They, and their attendants, may be shelled on their way to the beaches, at the beaches, on the jetties, and again on their way out in lighters to the hospital ships. I can only express my own opinion that efficiency, method, and even a certain quiet heroism have characterised the evacuation of the many thousand of our wounded.8
Transports or black ships were used to carry patients, a purpose for which they were never intended. They were neither adequately staffed nor equipped. On some of the black ships the wounded were exposed to the sun and heat, without food or drink for sixty to seventy hours. Horses and the wounded shared the same transports to Alexandria. The transports did eventually improve. More hospital ships, (painted white with a red cross), became available for the landings at
Suvla Bay on 6 August, when the British 11th Division disembarked to the north of ANZAC Cove. Nonetheless, allegations were still made that during the landing of troops at Suvla Bay, the steamship Aragon conveyed 1,200 men from Gallipoli to Alexandria, a journey of five days, with only two surgeons on board.5 Seven Army and three Naval Hospital ships transported the wounded between the Dardanelles, Alexandria and the United Kingdom. In May 1915, another three ships were employed on so called ferry service.6
One of the hospital ships was the HMHS
Soudan, a converted transport with bed accommodation for 202 cases and arrangements for 100 more beds in an emergency. Its Senior Medical Officer was Fleet Surgeon Trevor Collingwood MVO. On 25 February 1915, HMHS Soudan arrived at Tenedos and received 7 patients with shell wounds from the Agamemnon. From 25 February to 19 March, it admitted 137 naval casualties from the bombardment of the outer forts of the Straits. On 22 March, HMHS Soudan left the Dardanelles for Malta where 113 cases, including 76 wounded, were landed at the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi. Deputy Surgeon General James Lawrence Smith RN and Fleet Surgeon Bishop RN reported that 40 cases including shrapnel wounds had been received at Bighi on 25 March. Between 25 February and 2 May 1915, HMHS Soudan had treated 733 casualties of whom 570 were wounded and 163 ordinary medical and surgical cases.7 On 25 April 1915, HMHS Soudan was at the entrance of the Dardanelles to await casualties from the beach landings. By evening, 10 military officers and 342 soldiers had been received.
The first convoy of 600 badly wounded soldiers reached Malta on 4 May 1915, on HT Clan McGillivray. The men were under the medical care of Captain V Benjafield Australian Medical Corps (AMC). Of these, 160 severe cases were admitted to Valletta Hospital; the remainder went to Tigné Hospital to be treated as convalescents. The Clan McGillivray moored in Sliema Creek where the slightly injured were disembarked to Tigné Steps, while the rest were taken off in lighters to Pietá. They were then moved by ambulance wagons and motor cars to Valletta Hospital. Dr Alice Hutchison, chief medical officer of the Second Serbian Unit of the Scottish Women's Hospital commented:
This was a day of waiting. The past preparations were made, beds made, dressing tables ready, dressings cut up, the wards bright with flowers and sunshine. At last, at 5 o'clock the bell clanged; the first batch of wounded had arrived. Down the long, stone corridor they came. A giant, gaunt and unkempt, led the van, towering over the little Maltese orderlies who supported him, his bandaged foot held stiffly in front of him. Ragged, dirty, hungry looking, some joking and others doggedly dejected, those who could walk trooped in. Quite silently followed the procession of stretchers with their still burdens. Until late in the evening they came; one by one the beds were filled while doctors and nurses dressed wounds many of which had remained untouched since first-aid was given at Gallipoli ten days ago.11
There was no end to the number of casualties arriving at Malta. On 5 May, 394 military wounded arrived in the HS Sicilia under the medical care of Lt Col Gimlette IMS. 200 of these were sent by lighter to Cottonera Hospital, the remainder to the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi. The worst cases were placed on the regulation stretcher and were swung on to lighters in a cot by means of a crane. Another 30 wounded disembarked from the HS Somali.
HT Aragon arrived on 6 May with 641 cases on board under the medical charge of Lt McLoughlan RAMC. The patients were sent to Cottonera Hospital (20), Valletta Hospital (126); Tigné (250), St Georges (240) and the Blue Sisters (5 officers).
On 12 May, about 700 cases arrived in HT Caledonia bringing the total number of sick and wounded in the island to 2,593. The sick and injured disembarked at Marsamxett Harbour, near the Sliema Landing Stage. Minor cases were sent to St George's Hospital and cot cases to St Andrew's Hospital.
On 17 May HS Soudan proceeded to Gaba Tepe to receive 314 wounded from the ANZAC Contingent. The less severely wounded were transferred to HS Galeka, an army hospital carrier. On 24 May, HS Soudan arrived in Malta from the Dardanelles. It disembarked 85 NCOs and men who were sent to Cottonera Hospital, 7 officers to St Andrew's Hospital, 128 cot cases to Valletta Hospital. One casualty, Sgt Frederick Lane, died in harbour. HS Soudan also had seven wounded Turkish Prisoners of War who were admitted to Cottonera Hospital. On 26 May, Sergeant Halil Mohamed, one of the Turkish POWs, died at Cottonera hospital and was interred at the Ottoman Cemetery Marsa on 28 May 1915.
On 17 May, 773 wounded arrived from Egypt in the HT Braemar Castle and were transported mostly to Mtarfa and St Andrew's Hospitals by the Army Service Corps (ASC).
On 18 May, the Royal George brought 353 cases; the Southland brought another 776 cases, all from Alexandria. Dr Hutchison's diary entry for 20 May reads:
Our patients are a cheery lot. Many of them are members of the brave Australian Contingent who did so much to help in the first terrible days of landing at Gallipoli and thrilling tales they tell of the happenings of those historic hours. Up and down the long wards they fling chaff and repartee to their comrades, wounds are a joke, pain a little bit of the day's work making them all the more eager to get back to the fighting line. Many are soon up and about in corridors and courtyard, lightly and comfortably clad in pyjamas and military caps; bandaged legs give the opportunity for fine competitions in hopping or the one-legged jump. And what must be the horror of the shades of the Knights when their old grey courts, those decorous courts in which one pictures the ritual of coloured procession and the solemn music of Gregorian chants, echo to the sound of the latest rag-time, the jingle of Tipperary or Who's your lady friend ?11
On 23 May 1915, HS Glengorm Castle arrived and embarked 200 sick and wounded for England.
On 28 July 1915, the British Prime Minister stated in the House of Commons that the total number of casualties among the naval and military forces engaged in the Dardanelles from the landings in April to 18 July, was 37,982. Of these, 8,099 were killed (officers 562, men 7,537), while the wounded numbered 29,883 (officers 1,375; men, 28,508).9
In October 1915, a combined Franco–British Force landed at Salonica (October 1915 – 30 September 1918) to assist Serbia in its war against Bulgaria. The campaign in Gallipoli was abandoned in early January 1916. Thus, the number of casualties arriving at Malta decreased so that by the end of March 1916, there were 20,000 beds but only 4,000 patients. In April 1917, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to continue evacuating casualties to Malta from Salonica. The Hague Convention gave belligerents the right to stop and search hospital ships in order to ensure that no advantage was taken by them of carrying troops or munitions clandestinely on board. Officers commanding German submarines justified the sinking of hospital ships in consequence of their contravention of regulations which entitled them protection.
Thus, five General Hospitals, Nos 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65 were mobilized at Malta for duty in Salonica. Their medical officers, nurses and RAMC personnel were drawn from St Patrick's, St Paul's, St David's, Floriana and Spinola hospitals. On 6 July 1917, HMT Ship Abbassieh with Nos 61, 62, and 64 General Hospitals sailed out of Marsaxlokk Harbour escorted by two destroyers. It arrived at Salonica, (Thessalonika) Harbour, on 11 July 1917.
The total number of sick and wounded treated in Malta from 4 May 1915 to February 1919 was: 2,538 officers, 14 nursing sisters, and 55,439 other ranks, a total of 57,991 from the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, and 2,930 officers, 467 nursing sisters, and 74,733 other ranks, a total of 78,130, from the Salonica Expeditionary Force.10
Expansion of the Military Hospitals – March 1915
There were two main expansions of the hospitals. The first took place in March 1915 when beds had to be found for venereal cases arriving from Egypt; the second was a massive increase in the number of beds to treat the casualties from the Gallipoli landings of 25 April 1915.
On 3 March 1915, the number of beds at Cottonera and Forrest Military Hospitals was increased by 500 to receive venereal patients from Egypt. It was assumed that only venereal patients would be arriving from Egypt and plans were devised accordingly. Forrest Hospital was expanded to 80 beds and was commanded by Major James Charles Gordon Carmichael. Authority was only received on 3 April to sanction an increase in the accommodation at Forrest Hospital to 160 beds and Mtarfa to 400 beds.
The task of organising the hospitals fell on Acting Colonel Richard Reginald Sleman RAMC (T) commanding officer 1st London (City of London) Field Ambulance (TF). On 14 September 1914, Sleman took over the duties of Deputy Director Medical Services (DDMS) from Colonel Michael William Russell. He was assisted by Lt Col Charles Chevin Cumming RAMC who acted as Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services (DADMS). The Royal Engineers, commanded by Lt Col Seaman RE undertook most of the renovation works. Colonel R R Sleman remained in post until July 1915, when Surgeon General Hayward Reader Whitehead arrived form England. In April 1916, the Surgeon General moved to Salonica and was succeeded by Surgeon-General Michael Thomas Yarr.
On 11 March 1915, Colonel Sleman submitted detailed plans for accommodating an additional 3,500 patients at Cottonera and Valletta Hospitals and at St George's and St Andrew's Barracks. Work commenced on 20 March on converting the Long Ward of the Valletta Hospital for 200 beds. On 24 March, Mtarfa Barracks were handed over to Captain Andrew Elliot RAMC (T). On 29 March, a work party consisting of a sergeant and 16 men of 2nd/3rd London Regiment reported to Mtarfa to help get the hospital ready. The following buildings were also identified as being suitable for hospitals:
St Elmo Government Elementary School — 200 beds
Flores College Strada Forni Valletta — 35 beds
Auberge d'Aragon — 40 beds
Auberge de Bavière — 75 beds
Dragonara House St Julians — 40 beds
Government Elementary School Sliema — 300 beds
Zammit Clapp Hospital (on payment) — 60 beds
On 22 March 1915, Professor Salvatore Cassar Professor of Surgery in the Royal University of Malta and surgeon to the Central Civil Hospital Floriana offered his services as a surgeon, including those of six medical men and 18 students as dressers. On 1 April, Drs Grech and R Samut commenced working at Forrest Hospital while Dr Busuttil, Dr Said and Dr Ferro went to Mtarfa as civil surgeons attached to the RAMC. Civil medical practitioners holding temporary commissions in the RAMC were entitled to rations or allowances in lieu.
On 25 March, 19 cases of venereal disease were transferred to Forrest Hospital from HT Andania and Alaunia. Six boy scouts who wished to qualify for the War Badge were allowed into Forrest Hospital and carried out errands for patients.
On Monday 31 March 1915, about 500 sick Australian and New Zealanders, all venereal cases, arrived from Egypt on HT Atlantia. The worst cases with suppurating buboes, numbering about a 100, were sent by the Markham to St Julian's Bay and then taken off by stretchers to Forrest Hospital; the remainder of about 400 minor cases were sent to Mtarfa Hospital in two special trains. All gonorrhoea cases were admitted to Mtarfa Barracks; all cases of syphilis went to Forrest Hospital St Julians' Bay. Once recovered, the sick of the Australian Contingent were returned to Egypt. On 25 April, 30 convalescents embarked on HT Bamora and rejoined their units in Alexandria.
Expansion of the Military Hospitals – Mediterranean Expeditionary Force
On 28 March 1915, HT Arcadia stopped at Malta with Surgeon General William George Birrell AMS Headquarters 29th Division on board. The DDMS informed him of what hospital accommodation was available at Malta. Subsequently, the Governor and Commander-in-Chief Field Marshal Lord Methuen cabled the War Office and offered the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, beds for 4,500 sick with a staff of 33 civil surgeons, 17 trained nurses and 34 semi-trained nurses. However, by 22 April only 500 beds were actually available with a possibility of expanding to 1,200 later. The total number of sick in the hospitals in Malta on 4 April was 624 including 521 venereal cases. By 26 April, it had dropped to a total of 553 patients.
At a conference held by the Governor at the Palace Valletta, DDMS Sleaman stated that 500 cases could be accommodated at Cottonera and Valletta Hospitals. Sufficient buildings to accommodate an additional 3,000 had also been identified but these required medical and nursing staff from England. He also recommended to train six probationers at Cottonera Hospital. The probationers were to be 23 to 38 years of age and be granted an allowance of £20 per annum with a pound a quarter paid in arrears for uniform upkeep. They were to be vaccinated against small pox and inoculated against enteric. Twenty probationary nurses were accepted for training at Cottonera Hospital as Voluntary Aid Detachments. All applicants to join the Military hospitals as nurses were to be made through Mrs Mifsud, Lady Superintendent St John Ambulance Brigade Valletta.
On 30 April 1915, Lord Methuen was notified that 1,000 sick and wounded were being sent to Malta from the Dardanelles. The HT Glen McGillivray with 600 slightly wounded and the Hospital Ship Sicilia with 400 cases were on their way. In the meantime medical personnel for 1,200 beds for Malta left England.
On 3 May 1915, Chief Engineer Seaman and Lt Col Charles Chevin Cumming inspected St Andrews, St Georges, Tigné and Forrest Hospital and concluded that St Georges Barracks was the least suitable for cot cases. On 15 May, an appropriate building was selected in Tigné and St George's Barracks and prepared as an operating theatre. Eight blocks at St Andrews Barracks had been refurbished and were ready for occupation. A conference held at the Palace Valletta on 13 May 1915, attended by Sir Frederick Treves and Sir Courtauld Thompsn BRC, decided to utilize the Jesuits College at Sliema (St Ignatius College) and the Bugeja Institute at Fleur de Lys. On 14 May, Chief Engineer Seaman accompanied by Professor Edoardo Magro, of the Faculty of Architecture at the university, visited the Institute and arranged for it to be taken over.
Military Medical Units in Malta during the Great War 1915 – 1919
2 May 1915
6 Jan 1919
St George's Barracks
6 May 1915
31 Oct 1917
St Andrew's Barracks
9 May 1915
14 May 1915
29 Aug 1917
4 June 1915
30 Apr 1917
Blue Sisters Hospital
6 June 1915
30 June 1917
8 June 1915
5 July 1917
All Saints Camp
12 June 1915
Auberge de Bavière
15 June 1915
14 Aug 1917
St Ignatius College
2 July 1915
Sisters' Hospital Floriana
10 July 1915
25 July 1915
1 May 1917
St Elmo Schools
12 Aug 1915
15 Aug 1915
27 Apr 1917
Ghajn Tuffieha Camp
15 Aug 1915
St Paul's Hutments
25 Aug 1915
27 Apr 1917
St John's School
1 Sep 1915
9 Oct 1917
Fort Chambray Camp
4 Oct 1915
13 Mar 1916
6 Nov 1915
27 Apr 1917
6 Nov 1915
19 Feb 1916
16 Nov 1915
21 Dec 1918
San Antonio Palace
8 Dec 1915
19 Mar 1916
9 Dec 1915
17 Apr 1916
1 Feb 1916
5 Sep 1917
War hospitals and Convalescent Camps during World War I10
Between 24 and 26 May 1915, Chief Engineer Seaman and DDMS Sleman inspected a number of buildings to ascertain their suitability as hospitals. Among those seen were: a Monastery at Pieta, a Government School at Sliema, a Monastery at St Julians, a House at Paola, Saura Hospital, Cini Institute Santa Venera, the Palace Valletta, San Antonio Palace, the Examination Hall Strada Cristoforo and various sites for the establishment of huts and canvas hospitals. Lord Methuen decided to erect a hut camp to the north of St Andrew's Barracks and to relocate the two territorial battalions which were under canvas at Pembroke to Ghajn Tuffieha, so as to make room for a canvas camp.
The actual number of available beds varied greatly. In August 1915, Malta had accommodation for 7,044 patients. In March 1916, when the needs of the Gallipoli campaign had been met, it had amounted to 13,500 and was reduced to 12,000. In July 1916, an outbreak of malaria among the troops in Macedonia brought more sick to Malta. Weekly convoys arrived with a number of sick increasing from 718 to 2,587 in successive weeks. To accommodate them, the beds in hospital and convalescent depôt were gradually increased to 25,570 by adding tentage to those hospitals formed in 1915. The highest figures were reached in October 1916, when the demands of the Salonica Force made it necessary to increase the number of beds to 24,570 beds. However, thereafter, the numbers began to fall until by September 1917, there remained only 5,943 patients many of whom were convalescent. To the end of August 1917, the total number of men treated in Malta was about 125,000. Of these, approximately equal numbers came from Gallipoli and from Salonica, the greater majority of serious surgical cases coming from Gallipoli.
War Hospitals in Malta 1915 – 1918
The mildness of the Maltese climate allowed many of the wounded to be treated in the open air. Balconies and verandahs became extensions to the main wards. No intact medical or surgical units were sent to Malta and the hospitals were organised using local resources. The Ospizio Depôt Stores of the Army Ordnance Department manufactured not only bedheads and bedside tables but also special splints, crutches, diet trays and disinfecting tubs. On 17 May 1915, a large quantity of timber was purchased by the Ordnance to meet the demand for hospital furniture.
The hospitals, of which there were 24 at one time, were variously located and varied also in the extent of their accommodation. In August 1915, the Station Hospital Cottonera had 374 beds and that of Valletta 400 beds; 685 beds were in civil buildings such as schools and auberges; 3,589 were in stone built barracks; and 1,996 under canvas. The great majority of these hospitals were provided with operating theatres and as far as possible surgical cases were kept in stone buildings or transferred there for their surgery. An X-ray apparatus was provided in all the more important buildings. Pte Walter Henry Scott (1892 – 1971) from Leicester was one of the radiographers working at Malta, possibly at St Andrew's Hospital. Scott arrived in Malta in 1916 and embarked for Salonica in 1917 with No 63 General Hospital.
Most of the laboratory work was carried out in centralised laboratories, but the most important surgical hospitals of Cottonera and Tigné and the isolation hospital at Mtarfa each had their own fully equipped pathological departments. The majority of the hospitals were under the command of territorial or temporarily commissioned officers and practically all the civil medical officers and medical and surgical specialists held temporary commissions.
The kind of medical conditions seen in the hospitals depended very much on the phase of the campaign in which the soldiers had been injured. There were three main phases. In Phase One, which ran from Spring 1915 to the end of December 1915, the vast majority of patients came from Gallipoli. During this period, the conditions of the campaign on the peninsula called for a rapid evacuation and allowed very little surgical aid before arrival at Malta. Voyages of several days had to be endured by even the most gravely injured. Under such conditions wounds arrived in an advanced stage of sepsis. Towards the end of the Gallipoli Phase disease became more prominent than wounds and in the closing months, except for a group of frost bite, the surgical casualties were not excessive in numbers. The last of the Gallipoli patients were evacuated in Spring 1916.
During Phase Two, which covered the Salonica Expeditionary Force, the sick did not arrive in Malta until the close of 1916. Owing to the existence of hospitals in Salonica surgical cases were dealt in theatre and never arrived in Malta in an acute or serious condition as those arriving from Gallipoli. The summer of 1916, provided a large number of medical casualties, mainly malaria of predominantly the Plasmodium vivax type with a few Plasmodium falciparum. In the second half of 1916, at least 75% of all admissions were for malaria. Some of the dysentery cases required surgical drainage of liver amoebic abscesses.
In Phase Three, which was the period after the autumn of 1916, the number of casualties from Salonica also decreased so that surgical work at the hospitals took on the routine work of a General Hospital in peace time.
Royal Naval Hospital Bighi
The naval medical services in Malta were commanded by Deputy Surgeon General James Lawrence Smith RN. There was good co-operation between the two medical services. The military offered temporary loan of personnel and the use of the military hospitals for sick naval ratings. In May 1915, all existing naval and military beds were pooled and made available for either service, depending on need. The Royal Naval Hospital Bighi was thus able to release 200 beds for the first influx of patients from Gallipoli. On 3 May 1915, 16 nurses of the Scottish Women's Hospital started work at Bighi Hospital. On 3 August 1915, five medical men were sent to work there, among whom was Dr P Debono.
On 20 August 1915, No 1315 Pte William Boyle 4th Field Ambulance C Section 33 years, labourer, was admitted to the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi. He arrived from ANZAC Gallipoli on HS Valdivia with influenza. He recovered and on 6 September was transferred to one of the convalescent camps. On 26 September 1915, he embarked at Malta for Egypt on HT Kawa and rejoined his unit at Mudros.
Surgeon Herbert Mather Jamieson RNVR died at Malta on 26 September 1915, 33 years. He graduated MB Aberdeen in 1904, and for a number of years served as surgeon in the mercantile marine. At the beginning of the war his ship was commandeered for the transport of Australian troops to Gallipoli, and he volunteered for service with it. He was wounded off Gallipoli, but after recuperating for some time at home, he rejoined his ship, and died while serving at Malta. He was buried at Ta' Braxia Cemetery.17
Military Hospital Cottonera
Cottonera Military Hospital near Zabbar Gate was opened on 28 August 1873. It had a capacity of 148 beds. It was the main hospital and HQ of 30 Coy RAMC in Malta until 29 June 1920, when the staff moved to Mtarfa Military Hospital. In 1929, it was offered on lease by the War Office to house St Edward's College.
In April 1915, Station Hospital Cottonera became a war hospital for surgical patients. It increased its bed capacity to 277 beds by utilising verandahs and RAMC barracks rooms. A further expansion to 802 beds was achieved in October 1916, by pitching tents in the hospital grounds. Staff known to have served at Cottonera Hospital in 1917 were: Sister Taylor, Captain McWalter RAMC, Captain E W Newland RAMC, Captain Wheeler RAMC and Captain Adam Patrick RAMC.
On 4 February 1918, Colonel Sir Charles Ballance ligated the first part of the left subclavian artery in a soldier of the Dublin Fusiliers who had developed a traumatic aneurysm. In July 1916, the soldier had been wounded by a bullet above the left clavicle. On 13 January 1918, he was admitted to Cottonera Hospital from Salonica under the care of Lt Col Dundon RAMC with a numb and painful arm. X-rays showed a bullet still lodged in his chest above the right seventh rib with an aneurysmal sac of the subclavian artery. Colonel Ballance assisted by Captain James Anderson RAMC operated to remove the aneurysm; Lt Colonel Herbert John Shirley gave the anaesthetic. The patient made an uneventful recovery, complicated only by an attack of tertian malaria.22
On 16 August 1915, No 454 Cpl Howard Taylor McKernA Coy 4th Battalion 1st Infantry Brigade AIF 21 years, a farmer, died of wounds at the Cottonera Hospital. On 12 August, Cpl McKern was transferred to Malta from 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station Mudros on the hired transport Dunluce Castle. McKern had sustained a compound fracture of his left tibia and fibula from a shrapnel received in the fighting on Lone Pine Ridge. The wound became septic, resulting in the death of Cpl McKern form toxaemia and gas gangrene. He was buried at Pieta Cemetery by Padre L Alford. Matron Harris and Sister Walsh communicated with his family regarding the disposal of his belongings.
On 26 October 1915, No 568 Pte Percival Charles Merritt 11th Battalion 3rd Infantry Bde AIF, 29 years, died at the Military Hospital Cottonera from enteric fever. He was admitted to 1st Field Ambulance AIF on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 4 September 1915, from where he was transferred to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station at Mudros, Lemnos. On 5 September he embarked for Malta on the HS Neuralia. He was admitted to the Cottonera Military Hospital on 10 September, but died on 26 October. He was buried by Padre H P Dodd at Pieta Cemetery.
New Mtarfa Barracks Hospital
Mtarfa Barracks was commenced in 1891 and completed in 1896. Seven new two storey blocks were occupied at the beginning of the year. A small hospital of 42 beds was also built at the same time as the barracks. The hospital opened in June 1901 and was used for all minor cases amongst the troops stationed there and at Fort Bingemma. During the Gallipoli Campaign, this small hospital became absorbed within the large war hospital which opened in Mtarfa Barracks.
On 24 March 1915, Blocks A (209 beds), B (209 beds), C (98 beds) and D (98 beds) Mtarfa Barracks were handed over to Captain Andrew Elliot RAMC (T) who became officer in charge Mtarfa Barrack Hospital.
On 3 April 1915, authority was received to increase the accommodation at Mtarfa to 400 beds and that at Forrest Hospital to 160 beds. Some of the married quarters were also prepared to admit cases of infectious diseases. On 8 May, the hospital was visited by Sir Frederick Treves and Colonel Sir Courtauld Thomson, Chief British Red Cross Commissioner for Malta. Sir Frederick Treves suggested using a trolley to move patients to and from the operating theatre. On 17 May, Mtarfa Barracks Hospital received its first convoy of 221 wounded. As more beds were required the hospital rapidly expanded, so that it had 1,853 beds by October 1916.
On 28 May 1915, a ward was set aside for enteric cases but from July to September, the hospital was reserved for the treatment of infectious diseases. It admitted patients with the enteric group of diseases, predominantly Bacillary dysentery as most soldiers had been protected against typhoid. Vaccination against typhoid alone, however, did not confer protection against the paratyphoid group of diseases, unless the troops had been vaccinated with a combined typhoid/paratyphoid A and B vaccine.
Between July 1915 to July 1916, Capt R P Garrow RAMC MD DPH worked at the Military Infectious Hospital Mtarfa investigating the source of enteric fever. He later became Medical Officer of Health in Chesterfield and Hornsey. Major W Broughton–Alcock RAMC was officer in charge of the laboratory Mtarfa Military Hospital.
The majority of patients with enteric fever were admitted to Mtarfa from Gallipoli with a few from Mudros, Salonica and Malta. Bacteriological work was also carried out at the hospital by Capt N Campbell RAMC and Dr Gertrude Margaret Dobrashian who in 1916 was a medical officer and registrar at Mtarfa. Other women doctors attached to the Mtarfa military hospital were Constance Muriel Astley Maer and Barbara Martin Cunningham.
The Military Infectious Hospital Mtarfa was commanded by Temporary Lieutenant Colonel George Basil Price RAMC. On enlistment, Dr G B Price received a temporary commission as a Lieutenant. He arrived in Malta and was shortly promoted to captain. By 1918, he held the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Although essentially a clinician, he spared no efforts in becoming conversant with the intricacies of the administration of an army hospital. For some months he was also acting consulting physician to the Malta Command.21
Mtarfa Barracks Military Hospital closed down in February 1919.
On 21 July 1915, No 1386 Pte George Alexander MercerC Coy 9th Infantry Battalion AIF, 28 years, a miner, died at Mtarfa Military Hospital of enteric. He disembarked at Malta from the HS Gascon on 18 July 1915 but failed to improve. He was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre A G McKinnon on 22 July 1915.
On 28 July 1915, No 1712 Pte Clifton Bluntish 5th Infantry Battalion AIF 19 years, a labourer, was admitted to Mtarfa Military Hospital from the HS Sicilia with dysentery. Pte Bluntish recovered and was transferred to Ghajn Tuffieha Convalescent Camp on 9 October. On 13 February 1916, he embarked for Cairo on HS Simla but was admitted to No 1 Australian Hospital Heliopolis on 19 February 1916 with appendicitis.
On 21 September 1915, No 497 Pte William John BurnesB Coy 19th Infantry Battalion AIF 34 years, a labourer, died of peritonitis and appendicitis at Mtarfa Hospital. He had been admitted to hospital at ANZAC on 19 September 1915 and transferred to Malta on HS Gascon. He was listed dangerously ill on 20 September and died on 21 September. He was buried at Addolorata Cemetery. He left a nine year old son and a six year old daughter.
Military Hospital Valletta
The Military Hospital Valletta had been the main hospital for troops in Malta until it was superseded by the Cottonera Hospital, which opened in 1873. After 1905, the number of soldiers falling ill with Mediterranean Fever declined so sharply, that the hospital was used only as a Military Families Hospital and a regimental hospital for the Royal Malta Artillery.
On 22 March 1915, the Royal Engineers converted the Long Ward to accommodate 200 patients. The work was completed by 25 April, when the Long Ward was ready for occupation. On 27 April, the Medical Officer in charge of the hospital was authorised to equip it with an additional 340 beds. On 30 April, the Military Families Hospital was transferred to the Auberge d'Aragon. On 3 May 1915, 15 nurses of the Scottish Women's Hospital started working at Valletta Hospital when the first batch of wounded arrived from Gallipoli.
In January 1917, the Valletta Military Hospital was commanded by Major Timothy William Octavius Sexton RAMC with Miss Brown as Matron. Major Sexton left for Salonica on 26 May 1918. Another commanding officer was Lt Col Slaughter RAMC. A Lieutenant Gillies RAMC was also reported to have served at the Valletta Hospital.
Women doctors associated with the hospital were: Dr Elizabeth Jane Moffett Dr Helen Beatrice De Rastricke Hanson, Dr Margaret Bernard Dobson and Doctor Isobel Addey Tate. Dr Tate, Serbian Relief Fund attached to the RAMC, was the daughter of Mr John Tate of Portadown and Mrs Isabella Tate of Belfast. She received her medical education at Queen's College Belfast graduating MB BCh BAO (RUI) in 1899. She obtained her MD three years later and her DPH in 1904. At the beginning of the war she volunteered for work in Serbia and was afterwards engaged at the Graylingwell War Hospital Chichester. She arrived in Malta in August 1916. She initially served at St Paul's Camp Hutment Hospital before moving to the Military Hospital Valletta, where she took charge of the bacteriological laboratory.
Dr Isobel Addey Tate died of typhoid fever at 11 am on Sunday 28 January 1917, at her residence No 5 Victoria Junction Sliema. She was buried with full military honours at Pieta Military cemetery on 30 January 1917.18 A wreath was laid by her colleagues from Valletta Military Hospital and the orderlies and staff of Ward 20 A and Ward 20 C.19
Dr Elizabeth Jane Moffett worked in ophthalmology with Temporary Captain J Kirk RAMC MD (Ed) Specialist Ophthalmologist Malta Command. During Spring 1917, a convoy of 80 young seriously ill soldiers arrived at the Valletta hospital from Macedonia with acute war nephritis. All had oedema with blood and albumin in their urine. Moffet and Kirk carried out repeated examinations of their patients' fundi and described the retinal exudation and optic nerve swelling associated with the disease.20
On 6 September 1915, No 1368 Pte Ernest Percy Wright 12th infantry Battalion 3rd Bde AIF, 23 years, a labourer, died at the Military Hospital Valletta from septicaemia. Wright had been wounded at Gallipoli on 7 August when he sustained a compound fracture of his right leg from an exploding bomb. He was admitted to No 3 Advanced Dressing Station ANZAC Base, transferred to No 1 Australian CCS, and embarked on the Dunluce Castle on 7 August. He disembarked at Malta on 12 August where he was listed dangerously ill. He died of septicaemia on 6 September. Pte Wright was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre E E Smith.
On 1 September 1915, No 537 Pte Alexander McKinnon 1st Light Horse Regiment AIF Machine Gun Section 31 years, a miner, died of wounds at Valletta Military Hospital. Pte McKinnon had proceeded to join the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on the Gallipoli Peninsula on 9 May 1915. He was shot in his right thigh on 7 August. He disembarked at Malta from the hired transport Dunluce Castle on 12 August and succumbed to his wounds. Pte McKinnon was buried at Pieta Cemetery by Padre A G McKinnon. He left his personal effects to his sister, Mary McKinnon who in July 1915 was working at the City Hospital Little Bromwich, Birmingham, England. In May 1916, Mary was at the Military Hospital Thornhill, Aldershot.
St Andrew's Barracks Hospital
St Andrew's Barracks was built in 1903 but not occupied by troops until April 1905. On 14 March 1915, the barracks and the huts were inspected by DDMS Sleman who found that hospital accommodation for 1,000 patients could be provided there. On 13 April, Chief Engineer Seaman and the DDMS once again visited St Andrews Barracks and arranged for the necessary work to be undertaken to adapt the barracks as a hospital. On 15 April, the 2nd/2nd (City of London) vacated the barracks and work commenced on 19 April.
The hospital consisted of nine separate blocks of buildings with 144 beds in each. Blocks A to H were converted into surgical wards and Block J into a medical ward. The detention cells served as a dispensary, the school as an isolation hospital. In addition tentage was erected in the grounds for overflow patients and as accommodation for the men of the RAMC. Four medical orderlies shared one tent.
St Andrew's Barracks Hospital was taken over by the RAMC on 4 May 1915. It provided 845 beds. On 8 May, Major James Charles Gordon Carmichael RAMC was appointed officer commanding St Andrew's Hospital. He had arrived in Malta with his family on 29 January 1914, and had served as medical officer attached to 2nd/Cameronian (Scottish Rifles) at Mellieha Camp and had been officer in charge Forrest Hospital St Julian's. Major Carmichael left for France on 24 April 1917, leaving his family in Malta.
On 9 May 1915, the hospital was visited by Sir Frederick Treves who made suggestions regarding the ventilation of the operating theatre and the conversion of an adjoining shed for sterilising all dressings. The first 300 wounded arrived on 12 May. St Andrew's Barracks Hospital expanded to 1,158 beds, including 60 beds for officers in the officers' mess. Between October 1916 and April 1917, sixteen soldiers invalided to Malta from Macedonia during the preceding five months developed Black-Water fever. There were three deaths. The patients were treated at St Andrew's and St David's Hospitals.
From May 1915 to February 1916, it had admitted 9,506 patients, of which 1,636 were enteric and paratyphoid, 2,793 dysentery, 2,620 general disease and only 2,457 battle casualties.St Andrew's Barracks Hospital closed on 21 January 1919.
On 29 July 1915, No 56 Pte
George Edgar NurcombeA Coy 4th Battalion 1st Infantry Brigade AIF 19 years, a gas fitter, died of enteric. Pte Nurcombe arrived at Malta from Gallipoli on HS Gloucester Castle and was admitted to St Andrew's Hospital on 20 July 1915. He died of enteric fever on 29 July and was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre E Smith.
On 7 November 1915, No 403 Pte Edmund Connor 28th Battalion AIF 42 years, an engine fitter of locomotives, died at St Andrews Hospital from dysentery. He developed diarrhoea on 24 October and was admitted to 3rd Field Ambulance Gallipoli from where he was transferred to 13th Casualty Clearing Station on 27 October. He arrived at Malta on 2 November on the HS Rewa. He was listed as dangerously ill on 3 November and died on 7 November. Pte Connor was buried at Addolorata Cemetery by Padre T A Harker.
St George's Barracks Hospital
St George's Barracks was built in 1895 on the western side of St George's Bay. The company blocks were on two levels with the exception of blocks G and H. From 1904 to 1906, they were occupied continuously by one battalion. In 1906, St George's Barracks became a depôt for troops attending the annual musketry camp. The accommodation blocks were occupied for short periods at a time by detachments of different corps. The barrack rooms were infested with sand flies and mosquitoes. St George's Bay was the common bathing place for troops quartered at St Andrew's and St George's Barracks. One of the nursing sisters serving at St George's Hospital contracted Kala Azar (Visceral Leishmaniasis).
On 21 March 1915, St George's Barracks was assessed by DDMS Sleman as being capable of accommodating 520 patients. On 1 May, St George's Barracks was vacated and prepared to receive minor cases as a non-dieted hospital. It became a fully dieted hospital in September, when the number of beds increased from 840 to 1,000. St George's Hospital covered a large area as the majority of the wards were small, holding about 10 patients each. On 6 May, St George's Hospital received its first convoy of 237 patients. Between July and September 1915, St Andrew's, St George's and St Paul's Hospitals were almost exclusively used for dysentery and enteric cases. In July 1916, a further expansion took place by erecting tentage. In September 1916, St George's Hospital held a maximum of 1,412 beds. It closed down in October 1917.
On 8 August 1915, No 612 Pte William Robert Boyle 12 Battalion AIF 28 years, a labourer, was wounded by shrapnel in his leg and right shoulder. He was initially admitted to 3rd Field Ambulance from where he was transferred to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station. On 15 August Pte Boyle embarked on the HS Dunluce Castle. He was admitted to St George's Hospital on 12 August. On 26 August Pte Boyle was transferred on the HS Carnsbrook Castle to 4th London General Hospital Denmark Hill, England. On 22 August 1916, Pte William Robert Boyle was killed in action near Poziers, France.
On 15 November 1915, No 308 L/Cpl Frederick Keith LookerA Coy 22nd Battalion AIF 29 yrs, a bank clerk, died of jaundice. He fell ill with influenza on 24 October 1915 and was admitted to 6th Field Ambulance at ANZAC. On 28 October he was transferred to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station. On 2 November he embarked on HS Rewa and was admitted to St George's Hospital intensely jaundiced. He was listed dangerously ill on 13 November. L/Cpl Looker became comatose and died on 15 November. He was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre H Wheeler. His brother, Sergeant W R Looker 5th Battalion, also served at Gallipoli and died in France in 1916. His sister, Margaret Effie Looker, enlisted on 4 August 1915 as a staff nurse and served with No 2 and No 14 Australian General hospital in Egypt, France and England with the Australian Army Nursing Service.
Fort Tigné Hospital
Tigné Barracks was a relatively new barracks which was taken over by the Royal Garrison Artillery in 1896. In 1913, the old wooden huts at the barracks were gradually replaced with modern barrack blocks. Three new blocks of married quarters, containing two to five rooms each for 21 families were also completed.
Tigné Barracks consisted of four blocks of three storeys each. Each floor in every block had four rooms which became 12 bedded wards and two small rooms used by the sisters and orderlies. On 1 May 1915, instructions were received to equip Tigné Barracks as a Convalescent Hospital. On 4 May, the first group of 370 slightly wounded patients reached the hospital. These were followed with another 200 cases on 6 May. At this time the hospital staff consisted of 1 Regular medical officer, 6 civilian surgeons, 1 RAMC and 12 civilian nursing orderlies.
On 20 May 1915, an operating theatre were built at Tigné and St Georges Barracks. In June 1915, Tigné Barracks Hospital was upgraded to a fully dieted hospital and reopened on 14 June as a surgical hospital with 600 beds. The officers mess was adapted into an officers hospital with 40 beds. The married quarters became the accommodation block for nursing sisters and orderlies. From September 1916 to July 1917, the number of beds was expanded by the erection of marquees in the hospital grounds. Tigné Barracks Hospital closed on 6 January 1919.
Surgeon–Major Robert Randon RMA was officer commanding Military Hospital Tigné. His adjutant was Captain Reginald Wilton Treon Clampett MB (Univ Dub) who had been promoted from Temporary Lieutenant to Temporary Captain in June 1916. Captain Clampett relinquished his commission in August 1919. One of the women doctors at Tigné Hospital was Dr Beatrice Coxon.
Boy Scouts, who wished to obtain their War Badge were used as general messengers in military hospitals. They were employed at Bighi, Floriana, Valletta, Cottonera, St Andrew's, Tigné Verdala and the tea rooms at Sliema. The scouts ran errands and did odd jobs for the patients besides taking specimens to the Central Laboratory for examination and X-ray plates to outlying hospitals.
During the summer and autumn of 1916, many cases of bacillary dysentery were admitted to Tigné hospital from Macedonia. The officers involved in dealing with dysentery cases were: Capt J. Speares RAMC; civilian surgeon Peter Paul Debono attached to the RAMC; Capt Coleman RAMC and Capt Todd RAMC who both collected sera, Lt Col Price RAMC, OC Mtarfa Hospital and Lt Col O'Sullivan RAMC, Director of Laboratories at Malta. Dr Walter A Gilmour CBE MD FRACP DPH also served in the RAMC as a pathologist and bacteriologist in Malta, Salonica and Italy.
Dysentery is a general term applied to conditions characterised by the passage of blood and mucus in the stools. In amoebic dysentery the mucosa and sub mucosa of the colon is invaded with the parasite Entamoeba histolytica. Bacillary dysentery is due to infection of the wall of the colon with a variety of organisms. The two main groups are the Bacillus dysenteriae (Shiga) group, which gives rise to an intensely acute and severe form and the Bacillus dysenteriae (Flexner) group, which gives rise to a milder clinical type. The main complications of dysentery are acute hepatitis and acute liver abscesses (amoebic dysentery), perforation of the colon and gangrenous proctitis (either infection), and synovitis with effusion into the large joints (Bacillary dysentery only).
On 3 October 1915, Major William Aberdein Malcolm RAMC (TF) died in Malta of enteric fever contracted at the Dardanelles. He was the fourth son of George Malcolm of Dundee. He was educated at Edinburgh, where he graduated Bachelor of Medicine (MB) and Master in Surgery (CM) in 1883. After filling the appointments of house-surgeon and general superintendent of the Ayr County Hospital, he became surgeon to the North Islington and Holloway Dispensary. He was successively anaesthetist, casualty officer, registrar, and clinical assistant in the skin department at the Great Northern Central Hospital. Malcolm was also medical officer to the Post Office, and honorary medical officer to the Charity Organization Society. He was a Fellow of the London Medical Society, a member of the Harveian Society, and a past president of the North London Medico–Chirurgical Society. He joined the 11th (County of London) Battalion of the London Regiment (Finsbury Rifles), as Lieutenant and Medical Officer on 21 October 1902, and attained the rank of Major on 21 November 1914.
Diarrhoeal diseases formed one of the largest problems in Gallipoli. In the summer of 1915, Cape Helles was synonymous with the red flux of dysentery. During June, July, August and September 1915, there was a low rainfall accompanied by a comparatively high temperature and an abundance of flies. This created ideal conditions for the spread of fly borne diseases such as the enteric group of diseases and viral hepatitis. From October onwards, the fall in temperature and the increased rainfall decreased the incidence of diarrhoea remarkably, while amoebic dysentery was replaced with bacillary dysentery. The incidence of paratyphoid A infections which caused a more severe diarrhoea than infections with paratyphoid B also increased.
On 26 November 1915, No 456 Pte William McKinnonB Coy 25th Battalion, 32 years, a labourer, died of wounds. He had sustained a shrapnel injury to his abdomen on 2 November 1915. He was admitted to 16th Casualty Clearing Station at ANZAC from where he was transferred to Malta on HS Devanha. He was admitted to Tigné Military Hospital on 12 November and was listed dangerously ill on 23 November. Pte McKinnon died on 26 November 1915 and was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre W Cowan.
On 2 October 1915, No 2026 Pte Archie McPhee 16th Battalion AIF 36 years, a sleeper cutter, died of wounds at Tigné Hospital Malta. He had been shot in the knee on 27 August 1915 and was transferred from Gallipoli to Mudros. He disembarked at Malta on 4 September from HS Devanha. Pte McPhee died of his wounds and was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre W G Pearce.
St Paul's Camp Hutment Hospital
St Paul's Hutment Hospital consisted of 850 beds in 34 modern huts of the special War Office pattern for hutment hospitals. The huts were shipped from England and erected on high ground near St Andrew's Barracks overlooking the rifle ranges at Pembroke. They had no verandahs and were not suitable for the hot Maltese summer. The Royal Engineers provided concrete bases for all the huts, a large stone kitchen, water carriage throughout the entire hospital and electric light.
The first convoy of 153 patients arrived on 25 September 1915, but the full complement of 792 beds was not ready until the end of October. A YMCA marquee was erected in the hospital grounds in early November 1915. RAMC orderlies were in charge of the wards until nursing sisters arrived for duty in early November. The hospital admitted patients from Salonica with malaria and dysentery. Phlebotomus or sand fly fever was also common. This was a self limiting febrile illness with severe frontal headaches treated by the early administration of opium.
Major Surpell RAMC was officer in charge of St Paul's Camp Hutment Hospital; Miss Clements was Matron. In 1816, Dr Isobel A Tate worked at St Paul's Hospital before moving to the Military Hospital Valletta. Dr E A Seale was another doctor attached to the RAMC for a year who worked at St Paul's Hospital.
By January 1916, the hospital was practically empty and some of the wards were closed down; it only had 180 patients in February. St Paul's Hospital closed down in May 1916. The remaining patients were transferred to other hospitals, while the marquees were struck and packed away. The hospital staff left on 29 May for All Saints Convalescent Camp.
Hamrun Technical Institute Hospital
The Technical Institute at Hamrun was built in 1912 and except for the basement had not been used. It was situated on the western outskirts of the town. On 11 May 1915, DDMS Sleman and Lt Col Seaman RE visited Hamrun Technical College and found that the premises could be converted into a temporary hospital, once baths and gas cooking apparatus were installed. The Hamrun Hospital was opened in June 1915 and run by the British Red Cross Society. It had 106 beds. It received its first patients on 10 June 1915, every bed being filled in less than an hour. In November 1915, it was converted into an officers hospital with 80 beds and came entirely under the control of the military authorities.
Lt Arthur Donald Griffith FRCS RAMC (T), an ophthalmologist, was officer commanding. On 10 March, he received additional pay as specialist while working as an ophthalmologist in Malta. The nursing duties were performed by No.1 Mediterranean Nursing Unit – a voluntary body of ladies organised by Lady Ian Hamilton. The hospital closed in July 1917.
Auberge de Bavière Hospital
The Auberge de Bavière in Valletta was the headquarters of the Command Paymaster and had been an Officers' Mess for the infantry in Lower St Elmo Barracks. On 21 May 1915, the pay office relocated to No 9 Strada Zecca and the Auberge was handed over to the Royal Engineers. It was ready to receive casualties on 15 June. It had a hundred beds which were increased to 155 in August 1915. Surgical cases of a very severe nature were admitted to the Bavière Hospital. During the autumn of 1915, it received most of the serious perforating injuries of the head. Of the 33 cases under the care of Colonel William Thorburn, 15 died from meningitis while 18 recovered sufficiently to be sent to England. Twenty–four cases of compound fractures of the skull required surgical intervention. There were only a small number of patients with injuries to the spinal cord but many with peripheral nerve injuries. Most of the spinal casualties were sent to England without any surgical intervention, other than an occasional laminectomy to relieve pressure on the spinal cord. The Auberge de Bavière Hospital closed on 14 August 1917.
On 31 July 1915, No 502 Tpr Frank VendyC Coy 4th Light Horse Regiment AIF, 24 yrs, a saddler, died at the Auberge de Bavière Hospital. Frank had sustained a compound fracture of his skull on 21 July 1915. He was admitted to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station and transferred to Malta on 29 July on HS Sicilia, where he was listed as dangerously ill. He died of wounds received in action at Gallipoli. On 2 August Tpr Vendy was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre W G Pearce.
On 14 August 1915, No 1389 Cpl Frederick Hanson Merry 1st Battalion AIF, 23 years, a grocer, died at the Auberge de Bavière Hospital. Merry had been hit in the head by a piece of shell at Lone Pine on 6 August. He was transferred to Malta on 12 August on HS Dunluce Castle but died of his wounds.
Floriana Barracks Hospital
Floriana Barracks consisted of an old barracks situated between the Civil Hospital and the former Poor House or Ospizio, and a new barracks, called Lintorn Barracks, after the Governor of Malta General Sir John Lintorn Simmons (1884 – 1888). The latter consisted of three modern blocks with corresponding outbuildings which were erected in 1903. Each block was built to the same plan and consisted of double stories with two rooms on each floor. A and B Blocks faced the parade ground in an easterly direction, C Block was built at right angles and faced north. Between these blocks and the harbour on the west were three disused cemeteries. On 22 May 1915, No 20 Piazza Maggiore was taken over by the engineers and adapted for nurses quarters.
On 25 May 1915, the 2nd/4th (City of London) vacated Floriana Barracks; on 26 May instructions were issued to convert Floriana Barracks into a hospital. On 3 June, Floriana Barracks was transformed into a hospital with 600 beds, which increased to 700 beds in November 1915. The barrack rooms made excellent wards for 25 cases each, the NCO's bunk becoming a duty room. The Officers Mess in the former Floriana Market became a nursing sisters' home. The adjoining residences of the Commanding Officer and of the Commander Royal Engineers were shortly afterwards turned into a hospital for 30 sisters. The women doctors were accommodated in the married quarters of Floriana Barracks.
On 9 June, the first 249 patients arrived and a further 236 were admitted on 14 June 1915. The hospital treated mainly surgical cases. It was commanded by Lt Col Kennet Bruce Barnett with Miss Osborne as Matron. Another officer who commanded Floriana Hospital and Ghajn Tuffieha Camp was Lt Col Edward Leopold Rowse RAMC (T) of Putney who served in Malta from 1915 to 1918. One of the women doctors attached to Floriana Hospital was Ethne Haigh.
Floriana Barracks Hospital closed in April 1916 but reopened in September 1916 with 704 beds. In December 1916, it increased its beds to 1,304 through the use of hospital marquee on the parade ground. The hospital finally closed on 30 April 1917.
On 5 December 1915, 1796 Pte Edgar Gordon McLeanA Coy 27th Battalion AIF, 21 years, a steamboat officer, died at the Military Hospital Floriana. He had sustained a gun shot wound to his abdomen at Gallipoli on 25 November 1915 and was admitted to 16th Casualty Clearing Station. Pte McLean was transferred to Malta on 3 December on the HS Glenart Castle. He was listed as dangerously ill on 4 December and died of his wounds the following day. He was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre M A Farren.
On 13 September 1915, no 1781 Pte Brady Felix John 18th Battalion AIF, 21 years, a deck hand, died at the Military Hospital Floriana. On 27 August 1915, Pte Brady had been shot in his chest and shoulder in Gallipoli. His lung was perforated. He was transferred to Mudros and onwards to Malta on HS Nile on 5 September. He was admitted to Floriana Hospital on 9 September, listed dangerously ill on 10 September and died of his wounds. He was buried at Addolorata Cemetery on 14 September.
St Ignatius College Hospital
In 1878, the Protestant College and School of the Missionary Society in St Julians was taken over by the English Jesuits and named St Ignatius after the founder of the Order. Adjacent to it, in Old College Street was the Jesuit's Church of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which opened in 1881. The Jesuit's College closed down in July 1907 and remained unused for many years.
On 11 May 1915, DDMS Sleman and Lt Col Seaman RE accompanied Sir Frederick Treves and Sir Courtland Thompson BRC on an inspection of the Jesuit's College and Bugeja Institute and found that with alterations both premises could be converted into temporary hospitals. On 13 May, a conference was held at the Palace Valletta in the presence of Sir Frederick Treves and Sir Courtland Thompson BRC and the DDMS, where it was decided to put the Jesuit's College and Bugeja Institute in hand for hospitals. In April, the Royal Engineers refurbished the building converting it into St Ignatius Military Hospital with 155 beds. An operating theatre with an X-ray room were installed.
St Ignatius Hospital was initially used as a surgical facility. The first batch of 84 patients arrived on 2 July 1915. In 1917, the hospital was adapted to take mental patients. St Ignatius Hospital closed in January 1919. One of the woman doctors working as a surgeon at St Ignatius hospital was Dr Isabella Stenhouse. Dr Stenhouse qualified in 1913 from Edinburgh University where she won the Dorothy Gilfillan prize for the most distinguished woman medical graduate of the year. On 24 July 1916, she was contracted by the Army Medical Department for a period of twelve months on a salary of twenty four shillings a day, inclusive of all allowances, except travelling expenses on duty. A gratuity of £60 was payable at the end of her contract. In 1915, a major in the RAMC received 28 shillings a day in pay and field allowances while a civilian medical practitioner, newly recruited into the New Army, was given 24 shillings a day. Dr Stenhouse arrived in Malta in August 1916 and embarked for Egypt on 4 May 1918.
St David's Hospital
St David's Hospital was a tented hospital for 1,000 beds constructed near St Andrew's barracks, close to St Paul's Hutments and All Saints Convalescent Camp. The rocky ground for the large hospital marquees was levelled by the engineers and roads, paths, gardens, kitchens, ablutions, baths and stores were constructed. Drains were also laid down.
On 25 July 1915, St David's Hospital was ready to receive 500 patients. By August, it had become fully equipped for 1,000 beds. Initially, St David's admitted mild surgical and convalescents, but like all other hospitals it was soon busy with the ever increasing stream of dysentery and enteric cases. In April 1916, the number of beds was reduced to 400, but in July 1916, it was increased once again up to a maximum of 1,168 beds.
Between October 1916 and April 1917, sixteen soldiers invalided to Malta from Macedonia during the preceding five months developed Black–Water fever. There were three deaths. The patients were treated at St Andrew's and St David's Hospitals. The medical staff at St David's Hospital were: Lt Barrett RAMC and Dr Hollway Edith Blake. From February 1917 to July 1918, Capt Adam Patrick RAMC treated patients with malaria from Macedonia with intravenous quinine bihydrochloride and antimony tartrate23.
On 2 May 1917, St David's Military Hospital mobilised as No 62 General Hospital. It arrived at Salonica on 11 July 1917. The staff included: Lt Col Carr Charles Henry, Commanding Officer, Capt Prance C H G, Capt Leigh B H, Capt Glen D, Capt Barrett W C P, Capt Morgan R J, Capt Gore W G, and Lt (QM) Percy J W. The lady doctors were:
Drs Hollway Edith Blake, Murphy Josephine Lillie, Fergus Annie Grange, and Murray Mary Dorothea. In addition there were a Matron, 8 sisters, 1 staff nurse (QAIMNSR) and 15 VADs, 1 Warrant Officer, 3 Staff Sergeants, 11 Sgts, 5 Cpls, 5 L/Cpls and 111 RAMC ptes. No 62 General Hospital embarked for Salonica on the HMT Ship Abbassieh in July 1917 and arrived at Salonica on 11 July 1917.
On 27 September 1915, No 281 Pte Cassidy William Leslie 18th Battalion AIF, 18 years, a labourer, was admitted to St David's Hospital with diarrhoea and debility. He arrived in Malta on the hired transport Dunluce Castle. On 1 November he was well enough to be transferred to Ghajn Tuffieha Convalescent Camp. He embarked for Alexandria on 20 December 1916. On 17 June 1919, Pte Leslie was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in the field.
On 31 August 1918, during the operation against Mont St Quentin near Péronne he showed total disregard to his own safety when he attended the wounded under heavy machine gun and shell fire. A party of engineers were repairing a bridge which was being heavily shelled. The bridge was hit and there were a number of casualties. Cassidy and two others at once went to their assistance, dressed their wounds and assisted them to the Dressing Station. They then returned and carried other wounded men away while under constant shelling. Later when their company sustained heavy casualties, Cassidy and others carried from the front line many wounded while under heavy machine gun and shell fire. They worked continuously for 10 hours saving the lives of a number of wounded men who would have died had they not been moved at once.
On 18 July 1915, No 207 Cpl Charles Edward Bromley 7th Battalion AIF, 25 years, a Fitter, disembarked at Malta from Gallipoli from the HS Gascon. He was admitted to Tigné Military Hospital with severe conjunctivitis. On 2 August he was transferred to St David's Hospital and when he had recovered sufficiently was moved to All Saints Convalescent Camp. Cpl Bromley left Malta for Egypt on 23 March 1916 on the HS Essequibo. On 27 March 1916, he was admitted to 3rd Australian General Hospital with dysentery. In July 1917 he was posted to the Armourers' School at Woolwich. On 11 August 1918, Cpl Bromley married staff nurse Elsie Rose Edwards at Woolwich Register office. They returned to Australia in November 1918.
St Patrick's Hospital
St Patrick's Hospital was similar in equipment, size and general features to St David's. The hospital marquees were laid out on terraced fields some distance from the sea, but the ground was open and easily drained. The ground floor of a large farm house was adapted to take hospital stores, while the rooms on the first floor were converted into a Sisters' Mess. The hospital had a recreation hall for patients. On 15 August 1915, St Patrick's Hospital received 466 minor walking cases which were transferred from other hospitals. By the end of month the hospital had filled up 978 of its 1,000 beds.
On 25 June 1917, St Patrick's Military Hospital was reconfigured as No 61 General Hospital. The medical and nursing staff consisted of: 12 officers, 8 lady doctors, 38 female nursing staff, 3 Warrant Officers (one QM) and 204 other ranks. Colonel A. Kennedy was officer commanding. On 4 July 1917, No 61 General Hospital left Malta on HMT Abbassieh escorted by HMS Aster and HMS Azalia. About 13 miles off Malta its two escorting vessels struck mines, resulting in the sinking of HMS Aster. HMT Abbassieh and the remaining escort returned to Malta and anchored off Marsaxlokk. On 6 July 1917, HMT Abbassieh with 61, 62 and 64 General Hospitals sailed off escorted by HIM Japanese destroyers J and K. It entered Salonica (Thessalonika) harbour on 11 July 1917.
On 10 October 1915, No 300 Tpr Thomas Charles Edwards 12th Light Horse Regiment, 26 years, a Settler, was admitted to St Patrick's hospital with dysentery. He fell ill at Gallipoli on 4 October and was admitted to 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station from where he embarked on the HS Assaye for Malta. He recovered from his illness and on 20 November was admitted to All Saints Convalescent Camp. On 2 December 1915, he embarked on HMT Nile and returned to his unit. On 17 April 1919 Cpl Edwards was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
On 25 September 1918, during the attack on Semakh he displayed conspicuous gallantry in capturing enemy positions single handed. He captured fourteen of the enemy and all through showed a fine example of dash, courage and devotion to duty.
No 187 L/Cpl Leslie Featherstone Australian Provost Corps, 18 years, a farmer, disembarked at Malta from Gallipoli from the HS Assaye. He was admitted to St Patrick's Hospital on 10 October 1915 with Rheumatic Fever. On recovering he was transferred to All Saints Convalescent Camp from where he rejoined his unit on 7 December 1915.
St Elmo School Hospital Valletta
In July 1915, two civil Government Schools, St John's and St Elmo, which occupied the site where now stands the Evans building in Merchant Street Valletta, were refurbished and converted into a hospital. St Elmo school was destroyed by bombings in the Second World War which also demolished the nearby historic Nibbia Chapel. The basements were used for stores. School children were moved to the old barrack rooms at Fort Lower St Elmo. St Elmo Hospital became operational on 12 August 1915. It had 218 beds with the verandah running along the class rooms accommodating an extra 100 beds. The hospital admitted mainly surgical casualties. It remained a surgical hospital even when the rush of enteric cases had transformed most of the other surgical units into medical ones. Miss Stones was Matron of St Elmo Hospital. The hospital closed in 1918.
On 16 February 1918, Dr Sarah Marguerite White MD MS assisted Colonel Ballance in an operation to remove a bullet from the right ventricle of the heart of No 75965 Tpr Robert Hugh Martin Derbyshire Yeomanry. Tpr Martin, 21 years, had been wounded on 14 November 1917. He had exploratory surgery at 40th Casualty Clearing Station Hospital Salonica, from where he was transferred to No 63 General Hospital Salonica. On 13 January 1918, Tpr Martin was admitted to St Elmo Hospital with the bullet still in his right ventricle. On 16 February, an attempt was made to remove it. Lt Colonel Herbert John Shirley gave the anaesthetic. The bullet lay near the apex of the heart on the right side of the posterior inter–ventricular groove inside the ventricle. Col Ballance, assisted by Dr White, removed the bullet with a pair of artery forceps introduced into the cavity of the right ventricle. Tpr Robert Hugh Martin survived the operation but died on 14 March from sepsis.24
On 4 October 1915, No 1662a Pte Boag Henry Ernest 18th Battalion AIF 25 years, a pitman, was wounded in his right thigh by a bomb shrapnel at Gallipoli. He was transferred to Malta on HS Assaye from 1st Australian Casualty Clearing Station. On 10 October, Pte Boag was admitted to St Elmo Hospital, and on recovering was transferred to St Peter's Convalescent Camp Ghajn Tuffieha. He was discharged from St Peter's on 20 December 1915 and returned to Egypt on HT Bornu on 8 January 1916.
St John's Hospital Sliema
St John's School in Sliema was commenced in 1908 and completed in 1910. It had been used for a short time as barracks for troops but these left on 22 August 1915. On 1 September 1915, the children from the Government Elementary School were moved to the Carmelite Convent in Balluta Bay and the school became St John's Military Hospital. 50 school rooms arranged on two floors around a quadrangle made excellent wards for 400 patients, which, with the addition of the verandahs provided ample accommodation for 510 patients. St John's hospital had its own operating theatre and X-ray room and had been fitted out as a surgical hospital. However, it had to become a medical hospital to cope with the large number of enteric cases arriving at Malta. In September 1916, St John's Hospital increased its beds to 520 beds. It closed in October 1917.
On 22 September 1915, No 1131 Pte Kenneth Bayliss B Coy 17th Battalion AIF, 18 years, a machinist, was admitted to St John's Hospital from HS Somali with gastritis. On 10 October, he was moved to Mtarfa Hospital. He recovered and was transferred to Ghajn Tuffieha Convalescent Camp on 29 November. Pte Bayliss returned to Egypt on 4 January on HT Bornu. On 14 April 1916, he was admitted to No 3 Australian General Hospital Abbassia with pulmonary tuberculosis and was invalided home to Australia on HS Kawowna.
Staff Nurse Dorothy Mortimer Watson TFNS died at St John's hospital on 13 March 1917. Her name is commemorated on the Harrogate Hospital War Memorial.
Fort Manoel Hospital
In October 1915, the barracks and 35 old wooden barrack huts on the northern slope of Fort Manoel facing Sliema became a military hospital and an isolation station for contagious diseases. Twenty eight of the huts were used as wards; the rest as operating theatres, dispensary and recreation areas. The buildings around the barrack square were converted into stores, offices, quarters for sisters and the VAD detachment and an officers' mess. The lazaretto on Manoel Island was used as an officers hospital of 80 beds.
In February 1917, Manoel Island Hospital had 850 beds, but expanded to 1,184 beds by the erection of 38 hospital marquees on the parade ground between the hutments. Manoel Island was also prepared to serve as a military quarantine station for cases of cholera and smallpox, if the need arose. The sisters' quarters and mess were briefly used as a small infectious hospital for sisters, but in February 1916, this small hospital closed down and reopened at St George's Hospital.
On 5 November 1915, the first 50 patients infected with scabies were isolated in tents on Manoel Island. On 3 December 1915, another 195 patients were admitted. The casualties included a number of Indian Native troops. Manoel Island Hospital closed on 2 December 1918.
Lt Colonel Herbert John Shirley, Consulting Anaesthetist Malta Command was in charge of the Manoel Military Hospital. Colonel Shirley had enlisted and served with the British Expeditionary Force as a lieutenant colonel in the 2nd/5 Lancashire Fusiliers. In 1917, he exchanged to the RAMC. At the end of the war he served as the Senior Medical Officer in a motor transport division of the Royal Army Service Corps. He retained his military rank when as a brevet colonel he commanded the Artists' Rifles.
Spinola Camp Hospital
In October 1915, a site at Spinola on St Julian's Bay Sliema, where an old fort formerly stood, was taken over to be used as a hospital. The old fort consisted of four empty gun emplacements, three magazines, one married quarter and a few small buildings. Around the fort was a moat; between the moat and the sea was an area of very rough and irregular rocky glacis where hospital marquees were pitched. The fort was adapted for administration and stores. A kitchen was provided in a wide passage in the centre of the fort; the underground magazines became linen, pack and clothing stores where an ablution and bath room were made in the two large gun emplacements.
Spinola Hospital opened in early November 1915 but was not actually used till January 1916 and then for 169 patients only. It was initially equipped with 300 beds. By the end of December 1915, it had received 1,022 patients. It was closed in March 1916 but re-opened with 300 beds in September 1916. It expanded to a maximum of 1,168 beds in October 1916.
Dr Oscar M de Jong (1888–1924) was born in Ardwick, Manchester in 1888. He was the son of Dr E M de Jong. He was educated at Manchester where he graduated MB ChB with honours in 1914. He took the DPH the following year and was offered a research fellowship in the Faculty of Public Health of Manchester University, but was unable to accept due to military service. During the war de Jong served in Salonica, Malta and England. He was an Honorary Clinical Assistant in the skin department of the Liverpool Royal Infirmary, and medical officer to the venereal diseases clinic at the Royal Southern Hospital, Liverpool. In 1923, he presented a paper on the aetiology of dermatitis affecting baker's hands, where he showed that those who mixed flour soaked in a salt solution were at risk of developing a salt crystal dermatitis.25 Dr de Jong was an assistant director of the clinical laboratory of the Manchester Royal Infirmary, and assistant Medical Officer of Health at Liverpool and Salford. On 18 January 1924, Dr de Jong died at his residence Eversley Blundellsands, 26 Rodney Street Liverpool, from pneumonia.26
Some of the medical and nursing staff of Spinola Hospital were incorporated into No 64 British General Hospital. This deployed to Salonica on 1 June 1917 on HMT Abassieh. The hospital staff were: Captain Douglas (pathologist), Captain H G R Jamieson (assistant pathologist), Dr M A H Stewart (assistant surgeon), Captain H G Johnson (anaesthetist), Captain H C Smythe (radiographer and dermatologist).
Fort Ricasoli Hospital
In October 1915, Fort Ricasoli was converted into a hospital of 800 beds, of which 224 were in 8 barrack rooms and 576 in tents pitched on the large parade ground. The hospital received its first casualties on 6 November 1915. By the end of the month it had admitted 503 sick. Another 942 patients were admitted in December 1915 and January 1916. No further admissions to Fort Ricasoli Hospital were made after 27 January 1916. The hospital closed down at the end of March 1916.
On 16 November 1915, no 74 Tpr Robert James McCreedy 2nd Light Horse Regiment Machine Gun Section AIF, 24 years, a Shunter, died at Cottonera Hospital. On 29 May 1915, Tpr McCreedy sustained a shrapnel injury to the right side of his face. On 31 May, he embarked at Gallipoli on HS Neuralia. He arrived at Malta and was admitted to St Andrew's Hospital on 5 June 1915. On 26 June he was transferred to the depôt at Fort Ricasoli and returned to the Gallipoli Peninsula on HS Ascania on 19 July 1915. On 7 November 1915, he had a severe attack of cholecystitis and was admitted to hospital at Gallipoli. He was transferred to Malta on HS Devanha on 12 November with jaundice but was certified as having died of pneumonia at Cottonera Hospital on 16 November 1915. Tpr McCreedy was buried at Pieta Military Cemetery by Padre A G McKinnon.
Blue Sisters Hospital
In May 1915, the Mother Superior and Nursing Sisters of the Little Company of Mary offered their services and beds in their nursing home Casa Leone XIII and the adjoining Zammit Clapp Hospital. The sisters were known as the Blue Sisters from their distinctive blue veils. The hospital opened on 6 May 1915 with 50 beds for officers. The charge of maintenance of officers and others at Blue Sisters Hospital and Villa Dragonara was 2s 6d a day.
In June 1915, Pte Arthur Behrend East Lancashire Regiment, 18 years was admitted to the hospital with dysentery. In his book Make me a soldier, Behrend mentions a Giovanni Rutter, a doctor at the Blue Sisters' hospital who was said to have had a characteristic beard.
Convalescent Camps Malta 1915 – 1919
Convalescent Depôts received officers and men who required no further medical or surgical intervention and who although not yet fit for duty were likely to become so in a reasonable short time. The Convalescent Depôts ensured that acute beds in military hospitals were not blocked by those who no longer needed them. The patients admitted to these establishments had not only to be well enough to look after themselves, but also, be able to contribute to the construction and running of the camps.
The British Red Cross Society, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the Church Army and private individuals all co-operated to create an ambiance where the troops could relax, read newspapers, write their letters and recover their strength. The Malta Union Club placed a portion of their premises at Ghar id-Dud Sliema at the disposal of the Ladies Committee to serve as tea room. In November 1915, the Australian Branch of the British Red Cross Society donated £2,000 for the construction of Australia Hall. The building was erected by the Royal Engineers on a central site between St Andrew's and St Paul's Hospitals. It opened in January 1916 as a recreation hall for 2,000 convalescents in the St Andrew's, Pembroke and St George's catchment zone. The hall was managed by the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) and the British Red Cross Society. In May 1916, however, Australia Hall was placed under the sole management of the British Red Cross Society.
All Saints Convalescent Camp
On 8 June 1915, Lieutenant Colonel Mabin from New Zealand, was ordered to prepare a camp for 1,000 convalescents. The camp was later expanded to 1,600 by the addition of extra tentage. All Saints Convalescent Camp occupied rough and rocky ground rising well above the sea. It was situated near St Andrew's Barracks and the camps and hospitals of St Paul's and St David's. It overlooked the Pembroke Rifle Range. Only two permanent buildings existed which were used for stores. Most of the work of leveling the ground and cutting drains in the rock was accomplished by the convalescents themselves. The Royal Engineers assisted with the erection of two kitchens, ablutions and drying rooms and the necessary sanitary work. Water had to be laboriously carted from St George's Barracks and the water ration was limited to one gallon per head for almost a month. The situation only improved when the engineers assembled a 5,000 gallon tank.
On 12 June 1915, the first batch of 420 convalescents were admitted from Tigné Hospital. By 29 June there were over 1,000 men in the camp. As water was scarce those who were able to, were encouraged to keep clean by sea bathing. Only a skeleton staff was maintained and practically all the camp work was undertaken by the convalescents. Parades for bathing, Swedish drill, and route marches were established, and soon the men became fit enough to return to their units. In March 1916, All Saints Camp moved to the site of Spinola Camp Hospital which had closed down.
Fort Chambray Convalescent Camp Gozo
In October 1915, Fort Chambray in the neighbouring island of Gozo opened as a convalescent camp for 400 rank and file. It supplemented the over crowded camp of All Saints. Fort Chambray Camp Gozo had its own journal The Fort Chambray Gazette. The camp was rather isolated as the convalescents had to cross the channel between Malta and Gozo if they wanted to meet their regimental comrades. Fort Chambray Convalescent Camp processed 1,579 men, who were all returned to active service. It was shut in March 1916.
Convalescent Camp Ghajn Tuffieha
In August 1915, work began on converting the military camp at Ghajn Tuffieha into a convalescent hospital for 5,000 patients. Early in August, the Governor, Lord Methuen ordered a portion of the camp at Ghajn Tuffieha to be opened as a disciplinary compound for those causing trouble in the hospitals. The camp was in its very early stages of development and the rooms had trestles and boards but no mattresses. Consequently when the first batch of 400 trouble makers arrived on 8 August, they were not too pleased to learn that they had to sleep on the hard ground. The following morning they complained vociferously to the Governor, who had unwisely visited the detention compound. Through his intervention, however, sufficient blankets and beds were transported to the camp on 9 August. By the end of the month Ghajn Tuffieha Camp had 2,000 beds, which increased to 3,000 in September.
Lieutenant Colonel Maurice RAMC was placed in charge of the camp. Three camps were formed initially with a central headquarters. The Engineers provided kitchens, ablution rooms, and necessary sanitary conveniences. In July 1916, Major George Lane RAMC (SR) was appointed Commandant of the Military Convalescent Hospitals at Ghajn Tuffieha. In October 1914, Captain Lane was promoted Major and granted the temporary rank of Lieutenant Colonel while in command of the Camp Hospitals. In November 1918, he was placed on the retired list on account of ill health contracted on active service.
Colonel Lane expanded the camp to house 5,000 convalescents. This was built by the men themselves, and took nearly twelve months to complete. A number of self supporting camps were established each named after a saint: St Peter's, St Lawrence, St Barnabas, St James, and St Anthony. Each camp took a thousand convalescents and had its own quartermaster. A medical officer took charge of each camp. An assistant medical officer was placed in those camps with over a 1,000 convalescents. The medical officers administered the camps and ensured the men were fit to return to active service. Each camp was organised to be as self supporting as possible. The staff of the Convalescent Depôt included a Headquarters staff with offices for the commandant, adjutants, paymaster, camp quartermaster, sanitary officer and camp sergeant major with a chief clerk and his clerks drawn from the convalescents. The camp workers cooks, nursing orderlies, mess orderlies were all selected from the convalescents.
Each camp had its own vegetable garden and a ten acre plot was set aside for the cultivation of potatoes. The camp also had a poultry yard to provide fresh eggs. A number of workshops were built by the convalescents under the supervision of a convalescing officer of the Royal Engineers. Printing and tailoring workshops were constructed. Items produced at the workshops were sold to the public and any money raised was added to the welfare fund. The men also organised theatrical groups and produced a Christmas Pantomime. The British Red Cross Commissioner provided a motor lorry to take the men to the near by recreation rooms erected by the Church Army.
The camp included a cot hospital consisting of three or four special huts with accommodation for 100 cases. The hospital had its own dispensary, kitchen, pantry, pack store and bathroom. The camp hospital admitted only minor sick. Those who had not improved within a couple of days were returned to the military hospitals. Four dental officers attached to the RAMC worked in the hospital. Ghajn Tuffieha Convalescent Camp closed in January 1919.
Mellieha Convalescent Camp
In November 1915, the infantry camp at Mellieha Bay was prepared by the Royal Engineers as a convalescent camp. On 19 January 1916, 100 hospital beds and 500 convalescent beds were ready and on 30 January the whole of the first camp was completed. Patients started to arrive on 31 January and shortly amounted to 1,050 patients. St Michael's Mellieha Convalescent Camp closed in August 1917.
Verdala Convalescent home
In December 1915, Verdala Palace in the grounds of the Boschetto Gardens was converted into a convalescent hospital for 30 officers. It was open from December 1915 to April 1916.
San Antonio Palace Convalescent home
In January 1916, San Antonio Palace became a rest home for 60 nurses from the military hospitals and from the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi. It provided the over worked nurses with a well deserved and much needed respite. The home closed on 19 March 1916.
Villa Dragonara St Julians
Villa Dragonara near St George's Bay was made available as as a convalescent home for 12 officers by Marchesa Scicluna, who also generously donated £100 a month for its upkeep during a period of 12 months. The home was used from May 1915 to August 1917 and was administered by the British Red Cross Society.
Hospital Staff Malta 1915 – 1919
On the outbreak of war, the average strength of the Malta garrison was 5,977 men. The peacetime establishment of the RAMC in Malta in 1914 was 23 officers including 2 quartermasters, 150 other ranks RAMC and 12 nursing sisters of the Queen Alexandra Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS).
In April 1915, there were only 9 medical officers, 14 nurses QAIMNS and 220 RAMC rank and file on the island. These were augmented with twenty-seven civilian doctors, 11 nurses, and 65 male nursing orderlies of the Malta St John Ambulance Brigade. It was fortuitous that on 28 April, the 2nd Unit of the Scottish Women's Hospital had stopped at Malta while on its way to Serbia. This had four lady doctors, eight matrons, 30 fully trained sisters and 20 V.A.D.s (Voluntary Aid Detachment). One of the woman doctors was Alice Hutchison. On 30 April, she was informed that her hospital was to remain in Malta to nurse the wounded, who were daily expected from Gallipoli. The staff were offered quarters at the Camerata Valletta. They were distributed between Royal Naval Hospital Bighi (16 nurses) and Valletta Military Hospital (15 nurses). The 2nd Scottish Women's Medical Unit was paid £250 1s 8d for its services. It left Malta for Serbia on 23 May 1915.
Medical Officers in Malta 1914 – 1919
The war hospitals which mushroomed in Malta were staffed by a large number of British civilian medical practitioners who, prior to the introduction of conscription, volunteered their services to the military. Malta was not necessarily their first destination of choice. One volunteer who found himself in Malta penned his umbrage in the British Medical Journal of 5 April 1919.
I volunteered for France in 1915 and was told by the authorities that my application was accepted. Afterwards, I received a communication to the effect that medical officers were urgently required for Malta and that I could not be sent to France. On my arrival I found it a hotbed of enteric and dysentery. I sailed with others in April 1915 and did not escape until February 1916 notwithstanding frantic attempts to achieve active service. Nurses and VADs lived under canvas and had a comparatively rough time.
Many medical officers were sent to Malta in 1914–1915 in spite of their requests to be allowed to serve elsewhere, but the fact that they were early volunteers and not conscripts was not recognized by the War Office. The doctors were further enraged when they were informed that their service in Malta or in a hospital ship in the Mediterranean during 1914–1915 did not qualify as service in a theatre of war for purposes of the award of the 1914–1915 Star. One medical officer remarked that Malta was as much a theatre of war as many parts of France in 1915 and Cairo. Aggrieved wrote:
It was not my choice that I was sent to Malta. On the voyage out we were attacked by submarine, and just missed by the torpedo launched at us. Later the ship in which I sailed was sunk. I went from Malta to Sicily in a hospital ship; that ship was sunk, and the third ship in which I returned from Sicily to England was also sunk. Meanwhile in Malta we were exposed to dysentery, malaria, and diphtheria, and amongst the officers in my mess were others who had had thrilling submarine experiences.12
A considerable number of doctors had remained in Malta since the beginning of the campaign and were never moved away from it, or returned to England on leave. The Government stated that it would consider applications for transfer to other theatres from those who had served longer than 18 months, but would not actively bring home on leave those who had been in Malta for more than 18 months and employ them on duty at home or in France.
The number of medical officers, consisting in the first instance of some half a dozen of the RAMC with the 1st City of London Field Ambulance, was increased by the addition of medical officers of the KOMRM and the RMA and by that of civil practitioners, as well as drafts from England and a certain number of those returning from Serbia or going to Egypt. On 11 April 1915, Dr E F Elliot arrived from Servia and offered his services as a Civil Surgeon and was accepted. He also had seven nurses prepared to take up duty at the end of April. On 1 April 1915, Dr Scicluna, Chief Government Medical Officer, also volunteered his services to the Army Medical Department during the war, and his services were also accepted. In total, twenty-six local civilian medical practitioners held temporary commissions in the RAMC. They were allowed free occupation of public quarters, where available. On 25 May 1915, a provisional company, No 2 Malta Coy RAMC was formed from the personnel in Malta.
On 9 May 1915, a party of RAMC Regulars arrived from England consisting of 25 officers and 158 men. On 29 May, H. T.
Shropshire arrived with 5 officers and 160 other ranks RAMC. The officers were accommodated at No 111 Strada Lucia Valletta and sent to Mtarfa; of the men, 40 proceeded to Mtarfa, 10 to St George's Barracks and 101 to St Andrews.
On 19 May 1915, the S. S. Orsova brought from England 36 Temporary Lieutenants RAMC, 49 Nursing Sisters and 242 NCOs and men. 16 of the Nursing sisters were sent to the Royal Naval Hospital Bighi to relieve the Scottish Women's Medical Unit that had been at work since 5 May.
By the end of May 1915, the number of sick and wounded in Malta exceeded 4,000. More medical personnel disembarked, so that by the end of the month there were: 82 officers, 219 nurses and 798 rank and file RAMC. By the end of September 1915, the medical personnel had increased to 240 officers, 567 nurses and 1,760 other ranks.
Lady Doctors in Malta during the Great War
The attitude of the War Office with regards to the position of women doctors was that lady doctors were required for the civilian population, particularly for women and children, rather than the army which was already adequately supplied with medical aid. By May 1915, more than 5,000 medical men had volunteered their services during the war and 3,100 had been actually appointed. There was thus no shortage of medical officers at home or at the front. However, as more doctors were required for the New Army, the military reluctantly engaged women doctors, but held firm in refusing them commissions. The Director General Army Medical Service, Sir Alfred Keogh, was responsible for employing them and for dealing with illness among them. Women doctors serving as whole time doctors in the army for service at home and abroad received the same pay, rations, travelling allowances and gratuity as temporary commissioned officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. Those serving for home duty only on temporary engagements were treated in the same way as civilian medical men similarly employed.
Eighty four lady doctors were sent to Malta to work alongside their RAMC colleagues. The women doctors carried out all but administrative duties. Their assistance was very highly appreciated and their work was recognised in the King's birthday Honours list of June 1918 when Dr Barbara Martin Cunningham MB ChB Military Hospital Mtarfa, Mrs Katharine Rosebery Drinkwater MB BS in charge of Military Families Staff and Department Malta and Miss May Thorne MD in charge of Sisters Hospital and staff department Malta were awarded the Order of the British Empire for services rendered in connection with the war.
On 4 November 1919, at a meeting of the London Association of the Medical Women's Federation the women doctors gave an account of their experience of working with the RAMC in Malta. Miss Elizabeth Herdman Lepper talked about a fulminating case of cerebral malaria in which the symptoms began 4 hours before death and showed microscopical preparations from the post mortem material. She then described a case of Black Water fever and one of liver abscess secondary to amoebic dysentery. Dr Dorothy Christian Hare reported on cases of paratyphoid fever occurring in Malta in the latter months of 1916. All the cases presented were mild and uncomplicated. Dr Elizabeth Hurdon described some of the cases under her care in Malta and Salonica. Dr Effie Marion Douglas Craig gave an account of her work in Malta and Salonica and referred to the great prevalence of malaria and scurvy among the Serbs. Dr Mary Alice Blair described some of the features of life in a camp and the way in which infections were avoided in cases of dysentery. No cases occurred among the hospital staff during the winter months in the camp to which she was attached.
No Army Dental Corps existed during the Great War as the Government did not see the need to establish one. Dental surgeons were appointed who devoted their whole time to the troops. In other circumstances dental work was undertaken by selected civilian dental surgeons on terms arranged between them and the local military authorities, subject to a limit laid down by the War Office. A number of whole time dental surgeons received temporary commissions. There were forty-eight qualified dental surgeons serving abroad, and forty-eight at home in the rank of lieutenant. There were also ninety-three honorary consulting dental surgeons at home. No consultants in dentistry were appointed to serve in Malta. The Army had no laboratory for supplying dentures, but in certain places, including France, there were dental mechanics' shops for making and repairing dentures. At other places dentures were supplied by civil dentists on terms arranged locally.
Civilian Consultants in Malta during the Great War
At the outbreak of war 24 civilian Consultant Advisers were appointed by the War Office to serve with the British Army in France.
They were granted the rank of colonel and received the pay of their rank. In June 1915, the appointments of consultants to the army in the field was extended to the British Forces in the Mediterranean. Consequently, the following consultant physicians and surgeons were appointed and sent to Malta:
Colonel Charles A Ballance MVO MS (Lond) FRCS — Surgeon to St Thomas' Hospital arrived on 30 May 1915.
Colonel Howard Henry Tooth MD FRCP Consulting Physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital and the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic.
On 16 December 1916, the University of Malta conferred the Honorary Degree of MD on Colonel Charles A Ballance, Colonel William Thornburn, Colonel Archibald Edward Garrod, and Colonel Howard H Tooth. In May 1916, Temporary Colonels Ballance, Purves Stewart, Thorburn and Charters Symonds were appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) for distinguished service in the field. In April 1916, Colonel Charters Symonds was transferred to Salonica.
Colonel Howard H Tooth MD FRCP held the post of Physician to St Bartholomew's Hospital and the National Hospital for the Paralysed and Epileptic. During the early part of the Great War he commanded the 1st London Territorial General Hospital, which was staffed by colleagues from St Bartholomew's Hospital. He remained its commanding officer until August 1916, when he was sent out to Malta as consulting physician to the forces with the temporary rank of Colonel AMS. He was twice mentioned in despatches, and was created CB in 1918. During the final year of the war he became consultant physician to the British Forces in Italy.
Colonel William Thorburn was consulting surgeon to the Manchester Royal Infirmary and consulting surgeon to the Forces in Malta and Salonica. He served at Malta from 1 August 1915 to mid September 1917. During that period, except for occasional visits to Mudros and Suvla and the winter of 1915 –1916 which he spent at Salonica, he was fully occupied as consultant surgeon in the base hospitals of Malta.
The consultant physicians (Purves Stewart, Gulland, Garrod, Tooth) carried out their work much as they did in England while the consultant surgeons (Ballance, Charters Symonds, Thorburn) personally performed nearly all the more serious operations. In addition to consulting and operating, a good deal of time was occupied in instructing and lecturing the less experienced medical officers in the command. During the winter months, a fortnightly conference gave valuable opportunity for the interchange of ideas. The meetings were well attended and as nearly every branch of medicine was represented by some qualified practitioner they were educational to all. On 17 December 1915, Colonel Charles Ballance read a paper on The principles of treatment in gunshot wounds of the head at a meeting of the Conference of Medical Officers of the Malta Command in the Council Chamber of the Palace Valletta.13
The following medical officers were brought to the attention of the Secretary of State for War for their valuable services rendered in connection with the war:
In January 1919, Dr Albert Victor Bernard MD DPH, Assistant Medical Officer of Health at the Public Health Department was brought to the notice of the Secretary of State for the Colonies for valuable services rendered to the Army Medical Department in Malta. Major General Michael Thomas Yarr DDMS Malta Command applauded Dr Bernard's capabilities:
In his capacity of Acting Honorary Secretary, Lecturer and Examiner to the St John Ambulance Association of Malta, he has trained a considerable number of ladies and orderlies in first-aid and nursing duties, involving over 200 lectures, demonstrations and much clerical work, all given in his spare time, in addition to his official duties as Assistant Medical Officer of Health. The ladies thus trained as local VADs have been of great service in augmenting the Army Nursing Staff during periods of heavy hospital work in the Island; the orderlies helped to augment the RAMC rank and file in the early days of hospital work in Malta, and since then have served in Salonica as Medical Orderlies with the Maltese Labour Corps. In order to provide Civil Surgeons for duty at hospitals and with troops, Doctor Bernard has kept a detailed list of all local doctors available for this purpose, and has made himself thoroughly familiar with their qualifications and any special aptitude they possess for military work. He has always carefully selected doctors asked for by me and has fully met my demands; waiving all civil claims on the local medical profession when the military needs have been urgent. Doctor Bernard's help in all these directions has been most valuable and I consider he deserves the highest praise for his entirely freely-given services.28
Army Nursing Service in Malta 1915 – 1919
Army Nursing was the remit of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (Reserve) (QAIMNSR), and the Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS).
In March 1902, Army Order 67 abolished the Army Nursing Service (ANS) which consisted of 88 lady nurses supplemented by an Army Nursing Service Reserve. The ANS was replaced by the QAIMNS. A Matron-in-Chief administered the new organisation. Miss E. H. Becher held the post of Matron-in-Chief from April 1910 to August 1919.
The QAIMNS reserved the right to appoint all nurses in peace and war to military hospitals. In the event of war, however, qualified nurses of the Army Nursing Service Reserve were given priority. All Military Hospitals had to have a matron from the QAIMNS or TFNS. The Red Cross paid all expenses including doctor's fees in their own hospitals, but the War Office appointed a regular officer in charge.
The Army Nursing Service Reserve (ANSR) was recognised by Army Order dated March 1897. It came under the direct control of the War Office and had no official connection with the QAIMNS. The ANSR was employed in military hospitals at home and abroad. In 1910, the QAIMNSR took over the role of the ANSR.
The Territorial Force Nursing Service (TFNS) was inaugurated at the beginning of 1909. It had its own Matron-in-Chief and served the 23 Territorial General Hospitals. Staff Nurses of the TFNS received a salary of £40 per annum and were obliged to be fully qualified nurses with a certificate of not less than three years in a recognised training school.
The colour of the nurses' cape differentiated the various nursing organisations. The Regulars wore a scarlet cape; the Reserves wore a grey cloak with a touch of scarlet with a grey hat, and red, white and blue ribbon. The TFNS also wore a grey cape with scarlet facings but with a silver letter T at the corner of their cape. The service badge appended to the cape's right lapel also differed. The Reserves bore a letter R within a circular ring; the TFNS had two inter twined letters A, cypher of Queen Alexandra. Matrons wore red cuffs while nursing sisters and staff nurses had white cuffs. A nursing sister was further distinguished from a staff nurse by the addition of two scarlet bands, one inch wide above each cuff. Overseas Service Chevrons pointing upwards were also worn on the right sleeve to denote service undertaken overseas since 4 August 1914. Nursing officers, like women doctors, were not granted commissions. They were only entitled to the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Military Medal, rather than the Military Cross, as they did not hold the sovereign's commission.
On 7 May 1915, Miss A. B. Wohlmann QAIMNS arrived from London with 38 nurses of the QAIMNS by P&O Nyanza. The nurses were allocated to: Valletta (8), Cottonera (6), St Andrews (24).
On 25 May, the Tunisian arrived with 63 nursing staff. These were distributed as follows: 19 to St Andrews, 20 to Mtarfa and 24 to Valletta Hospitals. On 27 May, another 40 nurses attached QAIMNS were posted to Malta. Some of the sisters at Malta were detailed for duty on the Hospital Ships sailing between Mudros Bay and Malta. On the voyage out, the wards were prepared and beds made up in preparation for the reception of patients - wounded, enteric and dysenteric. With some 500 cases on board the sisters were kept busy on the return journey to Alexandria or Malta.
In addition to military nurses, there were also in Malta nurses working under the Joint War Committee of the St John Ambulance Association and the British Red Cross. The nurses wore a circular cloak with double front and distinctive badge. The Joint War Committee accepted nurses with only two years' training and paid them £40 per annum as staff nurses. This was resented by nurses of the TFNS who saw semi trained nurses being given the same status and remuneration as those fully qualified. There was not much they could do, however, for as the law stood, nurses were classed as domestic servants. Until Parliament passed an Act of Registration, they had no rights of protection from the competition of the unskilled.
On 8 May 1915, Miss E. M. Lusted and Miss B. M. Campion, members of the staff of the Registered Nurses' Society, who had been working at the 4th London General Hospital, Denmark Hill left for Malta. Miss Millicent Acton, Matron of the Lewisham Infirmary, who since August 1914 had acted as Matron of the 1st London General Hospital, Camberwell, also led a party of nurses from the same hospital to Malta on the same day.
On 15 May 1915, the the following nurses left for Malta on the P&O S. S. Mongolia: Miss Louisa F. Conyers, Miss
Rachel Ferguson, Miss Florence M. Gibson, Miss Annie Leask, Miss Annie M. Lundy, Miss Annie McDiarmid, Miss Sara Parker, Miss Caroline Rudd, Miss Emily Rutledge, Miss Emily J. Townley, Miss Mary C. Trower, Miss Mary Tuslingham, Miss Dorothea R. Watson, Miss Anna Watt, Miss Elizabeth White.
On 1 November 1918, Malta had 56 QAIMNS (Regulars and Reserves) nurses and 83 TFNS nurses. The care of so many sick, however, would not have been achievable without the assistance of the Voluntary Aid Detachments (V.A.D.s) drawn from the British Red Cross Society and the Ambulance Department of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Nurses had misgivings upon the admission of partially trained women into the hospitals. The VADs had received some kind of training and possessed the certificates of their parent organisation in ambulance work, first aid and home nursing. They undertook most of the menial work; without their voluntary aid, the wards would not have functioned.
Ward work was physically and mentally exhausting. No sooner had one group of patients been cleaned, fed and watered that another cohort took its place. Nurses worked long hours in far from ideal circumstances. Hospital equipment was in short supply, kettles were few and boiling water scarce. Most of the ordinary necessities of a hospital were lacking and nurses had to become adept at improvisation. The medical and nursing staff had not only had to cope with the smells of suppurating wounds and gas gangrene, but also, with the emotional turmoil of seeing so many young lives wither away to an early grave.
What some experienced on the wards scarred them physically and emotionally for the rest of their lives. The risk of being maimed or killed was a perpetual reality. The Red Cross emblem did not always afford them the protection they were entitled to under Article 9 and Article 10 of the Geneva Convention of 1906. Hospital ships hit mines or were deliberately targeted. On 5 September 1916, Miss Lilian Griffin died on the hospital ship Llandovery Castle. She had been attached to the Third Western General Hospital at Cardiff from the beginning of the war, and was drafted out to Malta at the beginning of July 1916 and thence to Salonica. She succumbed the bomb shock and was buried at sea. From 4 August 1914 to 1 April 1920, hostile enemy action accounted for 23 deaths in the QAIMNSR, 13 in the VADs and 6 in the TFNS. A total of 37 QAIMNSR, 29 VADs, and 9 TFNS died outside England from accidents or disease during the same period.
Miss Maria Dolores Elizabeth Knight ARRC QAIMNS was one such nurse who died of illness contracted in the Great War. Such an epitaph inscribed on a war grave is unremarkable, until one reads that she died on 1 May 1937 at the age of 66 years. Miss Knight was a former sister in the QAIMNSR. She trained at the Royal Infirmary Liverpool. From 1908 to 1923 she served with great distinction as a sister and acting matron in the QAIMNSR in England, with the BEF in France, and in Malta from 1914 to 1919. In recognition of her valuable and devoted services she was mentioned in despatches and appointed an Associate of the Royal Red Cross Society. After giving up her nursing duties Miss Knight made Malta her home. Her house in Tigné was known as a place of rest for all who needed help and advice. In spite of failing health she maintained her courageous outlook and her kindly sympathetic nature endowed her with a wide circle of friends.14
Another sister's health was impaired when she accidentally infected herself while nursing a patient. In May 1916, while on duty at Malta, she developed a sore on the back of the proximal phalanx of her left thumb. The lesion was mistakenly diagnosed as an infected sandfly bite and dressed with antiseptic dressings. On 6 June, she left Malta for duty at Salonica, where she complained of a sore throat and a week later developed an abscess on the right side of her neck. The abscess was incised. At the end of the month she returned to Malta to convalesce, but broke out in a copious eruption. This was once again wrongly diagnosed as multiple sandfly bites. She was admitted to hospital with lethargy and debility due to presumed sandfly bites and shortly after returned to England on six weeks' leave. In England she was correctly diagnosed as having syphilis, but by then she had partially lost the sight in her left eye.15
Canadian Red Cross Nurses in Malta 1915 – 1919
On 8 May 1915, a contingent of nurses of the Canadian Red Cross Society left Liverpool Street for Malta. Before leaving Liverpool Street for Tilbury the nurses were presented with a posy of roses. Two registered nurses from New Zealand, Miss M. Collins, and Miss Higginson were also in the party. The party consisted of: Mrs Finch (Matron), Miss M Brodrick, Miss A German, Miss Goldsmith, Mrs M Hockley, Miss L Higginson, and the following members of the Toronto Branch and other Branches of the Canadian Red Cross Society:
Miss Cecilia Jacobs RN Senior Nurse from Smithville, Ontario, trained at the Chicago Presbyterian
Hospital, and in Military Nursing at Toronto.
Miss M V Adams from Hanover, Ontario, trained at the Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore.
Miss Isabel Grenville from St Catherine's, Ontario, trained at the General Marine Hospital.
Miss Lilian Dixon, from Hamilton, Ontario, trained at the City Hospital, Hamilton.
Miss Effie Bolster, from Regina, Saskatchewan, trained at the General Hospital, Toronto.
Miss L R Aikman RN, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, trained at the General Hospital, Winnipeg.
Another contingent left England on 15 May 1915, on the P&O SS Mongolia. This party consisted of the following Canadian Red Cross Nurses: Miss H Evelyn Drury, Miss Anna C Burritt, Miss Edith E Alway, Miss Annie Bowlby, Miss Mary I Burns, Miss Ethel G Fordham, Miss Josephine M Gordon, Miss Annie E Johnston, Miss Margaret Lee, Miss Margaret Macfarlane, Miss Katherine J MacGregor, Miss Bertha M MacIntosh, Miss Olive L Niles, Miss E. Constance Pell, Miss Jane T Ramsay.
On 3 July 1915, twenty nurses from The Second Canadian Red Cross Society Contingent were granted their Military Nursing Service Reserve uniform and were sent to Malta and Egypt. Nurses proceeding to Malta and Egypt replaced the grey hat by a white one with red, white and blue band. The party was made up of: Miss Jessie Milne Smith, Miss Bowman, Miss Perry, Miss H. Smith, Miss J. M. Smith, Miss Kaye, Miss Tuckett, Miss Wilkinson, Miss Seaman, Miss Macinnes, Miss Handley, Miss McDonald, Miss Oaldey, Miss Papst, Miss Paquette, Miss Norton, Miss Cornell, Miss Dale, Miss Monk and Miss Lord.
The uniform worn by the nurses of the Canadian Red Cross Society consisted of a grey herringbone serge street suit with a grey and white striped shirt waist, and a white straw hat with black band. The indoor uniform dress was of butcher blue cotton. The nurses wore the badge of the Joint Committee, a Red Cross badge in the front of their hats, a Red Cross brassard on the left arm and a special badge of the Canadian Red Cross Society.
Voluntary Aid Detachment in Malta 1915 – 1919
The Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) was part of the Territorial Force organisation. The VAD War Probationers were paid £20 per annum. Their presence in military hospitals was disliked by nurses, who had no time to train them. One tends to associate VADs and Malta with the name of Vera Brittain (1893-1970). Vera embarked at Southampton in the Hospital Ship Britannic in September 1916 for Malta and Egypt, via Naples and trans-shipped at Mudros on the HS Galeka. After recovering from fever at Mtarfa Hospital she served at St George's Hospital from October 1916 to May 1917. HMHS Britannic was commissioned on 12 December 1915 and fitted out to accommodate 3,300 casualties from the Dardanelles. She was en route to the Greek port of Mudros on the Mediterranean island of Lemnos to evacuate casualties from the shore hospitals, when she hit a German mine off the island of Kea, to the south east of Athens, and sunk on 21 November 1916. Of the 1,134 people on board, 30 drowned in the Kea channel, when their lifeboats were sucked under by the still turning propeller. The Galeka suffered a similar fate and was sunk by a mine laid by the German UC-26 off the Hague on 28 October 1916 with the loss of 19 RAMC medics.
At the end of April 1915, Captain Stockings, an Assistant Commissioner of the British Red Cross Society (BRCS) and Order of St John of Jerusalem arrived in Malta to organise all local voluntary aid. Colonel Sir Courtauld Thomson, Chief British Red Cross Commissioner for Malta and the Near East, also visited the island. He inspected civilian buildings in conjunction with the Chief Engineer and DDMS Malta Command and gave advise as to their suitability as hospitals. On 16 May 1915, Mrs Keighly arrived at Malta with the Voluntary Aid Unit and was allocated a quarter at St George's Barracks. About 200 VADs arrived in a batch in August 1915.
Female members of the VAD belonging to the BRCS wore a blue uniform and a white apron with the Red Cross emblem displayed on their bib. VADs from the St John Ambulance Brigade wore the uniform of the Brigade without the Red Cross emblem, but displayed the St John brassard around their left arm.
The British Red Cross Register of overseas volunteers (1914 – 1918) lists VAD Winifred S Coates as having died at Malta but her grave cannot be located.
Hospital wards were dangerous places. The risks of cross infection, of contracting and dying from an infectious disease, were ever present. In July and August cases of enteric infections, predominantly bacillary dysentery and a mixture of amoebic and bacillary dysentery arrived at Malta. Inevitably, nursing staff became infected from excreta on patients clothing and some succumbed. On 15 November 1915, Helen Margaret Batchelor Taylor VAD attached to 4th/Bedfordshire Regiment died from dysentery at Floriana Hospital. She was the daughter of Henry Hilton Green of Felmersham Bedfordshire England. Helen was a member of the Voluntary Aid Detachment of the BRCS at Malta. She was 42 years old. Her death was recorded on the War Memorial Felmersham and in Felmersham Church on a commemorative triptych in the Memorial Chapel and on a brass plaque in the chancel.
Medical Orderlies RAMC 1915 – 1919
At the beginning of 1916, the medical personnel in Malta consisted of 334 officers, 913 nurses and 2,032 other ranks RAMC. The rank and file of the RAMC was increased to a maximum of 2,378 in January 1917. Among the RAMC personnel disembarking at Malta were 24292 Pte Fred Hudson a printer from Whitby, 59336 Pte Walter Gilroy a coal miner and 89270 Pte James F Anderson a stationer working at Caxton House Printing Office Dundee. All served with No 2 Malta Coy RAMC. In 1915, Pte Hudson and Pte Gilroy were both at Tigné Hospital; in 1917, Pte Anderson was at St Andrew's Hospital. All three had had obtained some kind of medical training prior to enlistment, which is probably why they were recommended for the RAMC. Pte Hudson had been a member of the St John's Ambulance Brigade, Pte Gilroy had the St Andrew's First Aid Certificate and Pte Anderson had received training in ambulance work. Men who enlisted into the Royal Army Medical Corps as ambulance men under the terms of special Army Order dated 4th August 1914, were paid at a rate of 4s a day.
No 24292 Pte Fred Hudson was a time served printer in his father's firm when he enlisted on 1 April 1915. He arrived in Malta in June 1915 and was stationed at Tigné Hospital as part of No 2 Malta Coy RAMC. On 6 March 1918 he embarked on the TSS Ellenica for Alexandria. On 18 May 1918, he was assigned to the Welch Field Ambulance and served with them in Palestine for the duration of the war. On demobilisation he returned to his job in the printing firm.
No 89270 Pte James F Anderson enlisted on 19 April 1915 in the 2nd/3rd Highland Field Ambulance RAMC (T) attached to the Gordon Brigade of Highlanders. On 9 December 1916 he embarked on the SS Euripides and reached Malta on 2 January 1917. He was on duty with 2 Malta Coy RAMC as a store man in the linen store at St Andrew's Hospital for two long years. Every morning with the help of his Maltese assistants he issued fresh linen to the nine separate blocks that made up St Andrew's hospital. The remainder of his day was spent in making up hospital kits which were held in readiness for the arrival of the next shipload of wounded men. The hospital closed in mid February 1919 releasing Pte James Anderson to return to England. He left Malta on 12 March and arrived home in Dundee on 27 March 1919.
Another RAMC orderly serving in Malta was 59206 Pte Thomas Edward Couchman Hair who enlisted on 1 June 1915. Pte T. E. C. Hair arrived at Malta on 9 October 1915. He served at Fort Ricasoli Hospital and at Cottonera Hospital where he worked as a laboratory attendant. Pte Hair left Malta for France in March 1918 and was demobilised in 1919.
Dispensing in the war hospitals was mainly done by non-commissioned officers, who had qualified as Army dispensers after completing the authorised course of training. Others holding certificates of the Pharmaceutical Society or diplomas issued by the Societies of Apothecaries, or possessing other satisfactory evidence of being competent dispensers, were enlisted under the Special Army Order of 4th August 1914.
Medical Casualties – Dardanelles And Salonica
On 27 April 1916, HMS Russell struck a mine in the Mediterranean and sank with considerable loss of life. 27 officers were killed or died of their injuries. Among the latter were two medical officers Fleet Surgeon William Rudolf Center and Surgeon Philip Dobson Pickles RNVR who died in hospital at Malta on 28 April.
Fleet Surgeon William Rudolf Center was the son of Brigade Surgeon W. Center IMS. He was educated at University College, London, and at the Universities of Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Strasbourg, and Berlin. He took the MB and CM with honours at Edinburgh in 1893, and the MRCS and LRCP London in 1896. Entering the navy in 1896, he became Fleet Surgeon on 13 May 1912. He qualified as an interpreter in German in 1911.
Surgeon Philip Dobson Pickles Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve died in the Naval Hospital Malta from the effects of fumes following the mining of HMS Russell. He was 33 years old and the son of Mr J J Pickles a surgeon from Leeds. Surgeon P D Pickles was educated at Leeds Grammar School and Leeds University and took the diploma LMSSA in 1908. He subsequently held the posts of resident medical officer Leeds Public Dispensary, House Physician of Leeds General Infirmary, and Clinical Assistant at Armley Hospital Leeds Tuberculosis Association, after which he went into practice at Earby near Skipton in Craven. He joined the RNVR on 16 March 1914, and on the outbreak of war was appointed to HMS Russell.
Captain R R J Holmes RAMC (TF) died in the military hospital Malta of fever contracted on service. He was the only child of Captain Robert Holmes of Cloncagh, Woodlawn Co. Galway. He joined the 1st (Maidstone) home Counties Field Ambulance as a lieutenant on 22 August 1914, and was promoted captain on 1 April 1915.
Major Charles Henry Benham RAMC (TF) died at Malta in November 1916. He was born at Ipswich in 1874, the son of Dr Henry James Benham and was educated at Queen Elizabeth's School Ipswich and at University College Hospital. He took the diplomas of MRCS and LRCP in London in 1897 and that of MRCP in 1906. He graduated MB (Lond) in 1897 and MD in 1899. He went into practice at Hove after acting as house-physician at University College Hospital, resident medical officer of Brixton Dispensary, and medical clinical assistant at Sussex County Hospital. He was Chairman of the East Sussex Medical Committee. On 27 April 1908, Major Benham joined the 2nd Eastern General Hospital, Brighton, as a captain in the RAMC (TF). He was promoted major in April. Although over military age and a member of the 2nd Eastern General Hospital he volunteered for overseas service and was sent to Salonica. In November 1916, he contracted dysentery and arrived at Malta, where, lung complications ensued after an operation for hepatic abscess, from which he died. He left a widow and four young children.27
Medical Casualties RAMC
The total number deployed in the Dardanelles Campaign was 327,606 combatants and 141,381 non combatants making a total of 468,987. The total casualties were: killed and died of wounds 30,456, missing and prisoners 8,443, wounded 73,928. On 19 December 1915, ANZAC Cove and Suvla Bay were evacuated. The troops at Cape Helles were removed on 9 January 1916 bringing the Gallipoli Campaign to an ignominious end. The bulk of the Australian Infantry and Engineers were then sent to France from Egypt, where they were soon engaged in the fighting on the Somme, and the capture of the Hindenburg Line in that region.
The campaign in Salonica came to an end on 30 September 1918 with the suspension of hostilities between Bulgaria and the Allied Powers. On 31 October 1918, an armistice was signed with Turkey which was compelled to open the Dardanelles and secure access to the Black Sea. An armistice with Austria–Hungary came into force on 4 November 1918 and with Germany on 11 November 1918, although a peace treaty with Germany was not signed until 28 June 1919. Thus came to an end a conflict which from August 1914 to 28 June 1919, took the young lives of six hundred and eighty one medical officers.
In March 1919, the Sisters and Staff Nurses of the QAIMNS and the QAIMNSR were demobilised at forty-eight hours' notice, when their pay and allowances were terminated. On ceasing the service, sisters were paid a gratuity of £10 for every complete year of service; Staff Nurses received £7 10 shillings.
Dr George Robert Bruce who served with great distinction as sanitary officer and later senior sanitary officer for Malta and who was credited with the efficacious way he organised the military hospitals was twice mentioned in dispatches and appointed OBE.