RAMC

Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
Eaton Irene Cecil Davy

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6 Dr Irene Cecil Davy Eaton MB BS (Lond 1909) DPH RCPS (Lond 1914)
21 Sept 1882 [Victoria Australia] – 2 Aug 1920

Introduction

In May 1916, Dr Louisa Aldrich-Blake, Surgeon at the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital and Dean of the London School of Medicine for Women, approached all the women on the Medical Register asking them to say if they would be willing to serve with the Royal Army Medical Corps. From the replies received, 48 lady doctors were enrolled. The first 22 medical women embarked for Malta on 2 August 1916; another 16 lady doctors embarked on the Hospital Ship (H.S.) Gloucester Castle on 12 August 1916.

The Director General Army Medical Services, Sir Alfred Keogh, was responsible for employing medical women and for dealing with illnesses among them. Women doctors, also referred to as lady doctors, were classed as civilian surgeons attached to the RAMC. Women serving as full time doctors in the Army and doing precisely the same work as their male colleagues had neither military rank nor status, but received the same pay, rations, travelling allowances and gratuity as temporary commissioned male officers of the Royal Army Medical Corps. A uniform was not introduced until after April 1918. This was similar in appearance to that worn by the Queen Mary's Auxiliary Army Corps (QMAAC) but with an RAMC badge on both lapels.

In October 1916, on hearing from the War Office that fifty more medical women were needed for service with the RAMC in English hospitals, Aldrich-Blake again negotiated with all the women who had qualified in the preceding ten years, and secured the requisite number in a very short time. On 20 October 1916, eleven medical women embarked on H.S. Britannic for Malta.

The casualties from operations in Gallipoli (25 April 1915 – 9 January 1916), and Salonica (October 1915 – 30 September 1918), were initially treated in Malta and Egypt, but in 1917, submarine attacks on hospital ships made it unsafe to evacuate from Salonica and five General Hospitals, Nos 61, 62, 63, 64 and 65, mobilized in Malta for service in Salonica to which the medical women were attached.

Between August 1916 and July 1917, eighty two lady doctors served in war hospitals in Malta. They worked alongside their RAMC colleagues and carried out all but administrative duties. Their assistance was very highly appreciated. Their work was recognized 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 during the war.

Service Record — Irene Cecil Davy Eaton

Dr Irene Cecil Davy Eaton was educated privately and subsequently studied at the London School of Medicine for Women (Royal Free Hospital). She qualified from the University of London in 1909. Her name appeared in the Medical Directory for Scotland (Edinburgh) on 18 June 1909. In June 1910, Dr I. C. D. Eaton was elected member of the Metropolitan Counties Branch of the British Medical Association. She gave her address as No 95, Parliament Hill Mansions, London NW. She was also an Associate Registered Medical Women.

1909 Medical Officer at the East Anglian Sanatorium, Nayland Suffolk, and house surgeon and pathologist at the New Hospital for Women, which in 1918 became the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital.

1913 Assistant Health Officer to the Willesden Urban Municipal Council.

1916 Assistant Pathologist the Norfolk War Hospital.

July 1916 Dr Eaton was in the first group of women doctors to join the RAMC. She was contracted to work for 12 months as a Civilian Surgeon attached to the RAMC. Her salary was 24 shillings a day, including allowances, but excluding duty transport. A gratuity of £60 was awarded at the end of the contract, provided employment had not been terminated for misconduct. Most of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

s

Malta 2 Aug 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

Malta Oct 1917 Returned to England.

17 Oct 1917 On duty with Eastern Command (Bacteriologist).

6 Nov 1918 Appointed Controller of Medical Services Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps (London Gazette 6 November 1918).

June 1919 Demobilised.

Oct 1919 Was one of the first medical officers to be appointed to the new Ministry of Health in England.

2 Aug 1920 Died suddenly from heart failure.

Bibliography

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