RAMC

Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
Edwards Elizabeth Mary

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57 Dr Elizabeth Mary Edwards MB ChB (Aberd 1912) DPH (1913 Aberd)
10 Apr 1886 [Aberdeen] – 7 Feb 1977 [Hemel Hempstead]

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 — Elizabeth Mary Edwards

Dr Elizabeth Mary Edwards was educated at Albyn School and in Paris. She proceeded to Aberdeen University, where she was one of the first women medical students. She graduated in medicine in 1912 and took the DPH the following year. Her name appeared in the Medical Directory for Scotland (Edinburgh) on 22 October 1913.

Sept 1916 After a period as an assistant in general practice at Mansfield, Dr E. M. Edwards 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.

10 Sept 1916 Embarked in the Hospital Ship Essequibo as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

Malta 18 June 1917 Dr E. M. Edwards was one of eight women doctors attached to No 64 General Hospital, which was formed in Malta on 28 April 1917. The medical women were:

The hospital staff, consisting of 10 officers and 250 other ranks, marched to All Saints Convalescent Camp to await their passage. On 3 June 1917, Lt Col T. E. Fielding DSO RAMC o/c 64 GH, Captain Oscar M. De Jong, Capt M. Douglas, Capt R. A. P. Hill, Capt H. G. R. Jamieson, Lt T. M. Thomson and Lt (QM) J. Cotter with 206 soldiers embarked on HMT Abbassieh. The remaining medical officers, women doctors, female nursing staff, and all the equipment, were left in Malta due to lack of space on the transport.

The men arrived at Suda Bay, Crete on 6 June and at Salonica on 9 June 1917. Lt (QM) James Cotter and all personnel marched to the site of the camp which was to be occupied by No 63 General Hospital, at Kilo 9 Seres Road. The remaining officers reported to No 1 Base Depot Summerhill. Their hospital equipment did not reach Salonica until 12 July, when a quantity of medical and ordnance stores was found to be missing. On 19 June, Captains A. M. Cato, A. Cowes, A. Dennison, H. M. Green and W. D. Cruickshank joined the hospital.

18 Jun 1917 – 11 Mar 1918 No 64 General Hospital was set up at Akbunar hills, north of Salonica. It was equipped with 10 beds for officers and 250 beds for the Other Ranks. It became operational on 21 July 1917. The women doctors, who had been accommodated on H.S. Llandovery Castle, since their disembarkation at Salonica, reported for duty on 2 July.

1 Oct 1917 The nominal roll of the staff of 64 GH (excluding women doctors) was:

  • o/c: Lt Col T. E. Fielding
  • o/ic Surgical Division: Capt Gauntlett E. G.
  • Pathologist: Capt Douglas M.
  • Ward officer: Capt Fowler T. H.
  • Ward officer: Capt Cato A. M.
  • Ophthalmologist: Capt Cowes A.
  • o/ic Medical Division: Capt Hill R. A. P.
  • Radiographer and Dermatologist: Capt Smyth H. C.
  • Sanitary Officer: Capt Dennison A.
  • Registrar: Capt Cruickshank W. D.
  • Assistant Pathologist: Capt Jamieson H. G. R.
  • Ward officer: Capt Sparrow E. C.
  • Ward officer: Capt Cleland A.
  • Ward officer: Lt Thomson T. M.
  • Ward officer: Lt West H. O.
  • Ward officer: Lt Garland G.
  • Lt (QM) Wilmshurst W. J.
  • Lt (QM) Cotter J.
  • Chaplains 4th Class
    • MacCormick J. A. (Presbyterian)
    • MacManaway J. J. (C. of E.)
    • Lavery J. (R.C.)

18 June 1917–10 Sept 1918 Served at Salonica as a bacteriologist.

25 Oct 1917 Mentioned in Dispatches GHQ British Salonica Force (London Gazette 28 November 1917). The medical women attached to the RAMC who were mentioned in a dispatch dated 25 October 1917 from Lieutenant-General G. F. Milne, Commander-in-Chief, British Salonica Force for distinguished service were: Mary Alice Blair, Barbara Martin Cunningham, Elsie Jean Dalyell, Elizabeth Mary Edwards and Edith Blake Hollway.

12 Dec 1917 Closure of No 64 General Hospital. Six medical women, (H. G. Johnson, E. M. Edwards, M. D. Murray, M. G. Ormiston, E. M. Layman and E. S. Walker), were posted to No 49 Stationary Hospital; Doctor J. P. Walton was posted to No 41 General Hospital. Drs E. T. Gilchrist, M. D. Murray and E. S. Walker had joined from No 62 General Hospital on 4 November 1917.

8 Oct 1918 –23 Apr 1919 Dr E. M. Edwards was invalided home with dysentery, but continued to work in base hospitals near London (Eastern Command).

23 Apr 1919 Resigned her contract with the War Office and married Dr H. G. R. Jamieson in London. After a year working in Stannington Sanatorium, Northumberland, she joined her husband at Manchester, where she became an assistant medical officer in the Public Health Department, doing maternity and child welfare clinics.

26 April 1922 Birth of a son at High Elms Nursing Home Victoria Park Manchester

In 1924 she and her husband entered General Practice, and was appointed medical officer at Lewis's, Manchester, a post she held for 27 years, pioneering in the field of industrial medical care. She continued her clinic work on a locum basis, lecturing at the College of Domestic Science,

During the second World War, she worked as a venereologist to Ancoats Hospital Manchester, as well as serving on Army Medical Boards.

In 1951, Dr Elizabeth Mary Jamieson nee Edwards retired. In 1955, she moved to Hemel Hempstead, where she nursed her husband in his long terminal illness ending in 1959. Subsequently she travelled extensively until failing eye sight and hearing restricted her activities. She remained alert till the end with a fund of stories about the past.

7 Feb 1977 Died at Hemel Hempstead after a very brief illness, aged 90 years.

Bibliography

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