RAMC

Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
No 64 Fergus Annie Grange

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No 64 Dr Annie Grange Fergus MB ChB (Ed)
30 Mar 1881 – ?

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 — Annie Grange Fergus

1904 Passed her examination in Botany of the University of Otago, New Zealand.

1910 Received her medical education at the Medical College for Women in Edinburgh, graduating MB BCh in 1910.

1911 Resident student at the Rotunda Hospital Dublin, aged 30 years.

Oct 1916 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.

18 Oct 1916 Ordered to embark in the Hospital Ship Britannic on 20 October for Malta and Egypt, via Naples and trans-shipping at Mudros.

On duty at St David's Military Hospital, which opened on 25 July 1915 with 464 beds. St David's Hospital closed on 1 May 1917, when it mobilized as No 62 General Hospital with the British Salonica Force.

Malta 2 July 1917 Dr Annie Grange Fergus embarked at the Custom House Valletta on HMT ship Abbassieh with the staff of No 62 General Hospital. The medical officers and the other medical women were:

  1. Major Charles Henry Carr O/IC
  2. Captain B H Leigh
  3. Captain E G B Starkie
  4. Captain D Glen
  5. Captain W C Gore
  6. Captain R J Morgan
  7. Lt (QM) J W Piercy
  8. Edith Blake Hollway
  9. Lillie Josephine Murphy
  10. Mary Josephine Ahern
  11. Mary Dorothea Murray
  12. Elizabeth Stevenson Walker
  13. Rose Lillian Humphrey Davy
  14. Elizabeth Taylor Gilchrist

4 July 1917 HMT ship Abbassieh sailed out of the Grand Harbour. She was escorted by HMS Aster and HMS Azalea. HMS Aster struck a mine and sunk eleven miles off Malta with the loss of ten lives. HMS Azalea also struck a mine as she went to the aid of the stricken ship. The transports returned to Malta and anchored in Marsaxlokk Harbour.

64 GH Salonica
Aerial view of No 64 British General Hospital Salonica (Cotter collection AMS Archives)

6 July 1917 HMT Ship Abbassieh sailed out of Marsaxlokk Harbour. She arrived at Suda Bay Crete on 9 July and in Salonica, (Thessalonika) Harbour, on 11 July. The medical women were transferred to the H.S. Llandovery Castle, while the men marched to Karaissi Rest Camp. No 62 General Hospital was erected in Uchantar Convalescent Camp to the east of No 61 General Hospital. The site was about 12 km from Salonica and a mile east of the Monastir road.

21 July 1917 Eight medical women who had been transferred to H.S. Llandovery Castle reported for duty.

6 Nov 1917 Closure of No 62 General Hospital. The medical women were transferred to other hospitals.
No 62 General Hospital left Salonica for Taranto, Italy.

Dr Annie Grange Fergus renewed her contract with the RAMC for another 12 months.

6 Mar 1918 Returned to England. An adverse report was received on her from Salonica. She was granted an interview on her arrival to England and was posted to Eastern Command, which was to report on her work and conduct after two months service within that command. She asked for, but was refused an overseas posting.

18 Mar 1918 – 20 Oct 1918 On duty with Eastern Command.

Malta 14 Nov 1918 Granted a new contract and embarked for Malta.

Malta 28 Feb 1919 On duty at the General Military Hospital Colchester, (Southern Command).

6 May 1919 Demobilized.

31 Mar 1925 At St Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kuala Lumpur, by the Rev R D Whitehorn, Arthur Ernest Crossett, son of Mre I. Mcilroy Esq, of Dromore, Co. Down, Ireland, married Annie Grange, daughter of Mrs. Fergus and the Honourable Thomas Fergus, of Dunedin, New Zealand.

References

  1. No 64 Army Book 82. Record of Special Reserve Officer's Service (Records of 132 Lady Doctors).
  2. Obituary, Louisa Aldrich-Blake. Br Med J (1926); 1: 69 (Published 9 January 1926).
  3. Macpherson W. G., 1921. History of The Great War, Medical Services General History, Vol I, Chap XIII, The Medical Services in the Mediterranean Garrison pp. 235-248. HMSO London.
  4. Leneman L., Medical women in the First World War - ranking nowhere. Br Med J (1993); 10: 1592 (Published 18 December 1993).
  5. Leneman L., Medical Women at war 1914-1918. Medical History 1994, 38: 160-177.
  6. Fairfield L., Medical Women in the Forces. Part I Women Doctors in the British Forces 1914 - 1918 War. Journal of the Medical Women Federation 49. 1967; p 99.
  7. Mitchell A. M., Medical Women and the Medical services of the First World War.
  8. SA/MWF/CI 59. Medical Women Federation, (Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine). Status of medical women under the War Office.
  9. Women doctors. Hansard House of Commons Debate 2 July 1918; 107: cc1555–6.
  10. Reports of Societies. Womens' service in Malta with the RAMC. BMJ (1919); 2 : 634, (Published 15 November 1919).
  11. The Medical Directory 1916, 72nd Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
  12. The Medical Directory 1917, 73rd Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
  13. The Medical Directory 1918, 74th Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
  14. The Medical Directory 1923, 79th Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
  15. TNA:WO 372/23/13809, Medal Card.
  16. TNA:WO 95/4257, (November 1917 – May 1919). War Diaries No 62 General Hospital.
  17. TNA:WO 95/4936, (May – Oct 1917). War Diaries No 62 General Hospital.
  18. TNA:MT 23/593, Embarkation list H.S. Britannic dated 18 October 1916.
  19. Obituary The Hon Thomas Fergus. Otago Daily Times dated 12 October 1914.
  20. Supplement 1089, Births, marriages, and deaths. BMJ (1925); 1 : S197, (Published 9 May 1925).