RAMC

Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
Guest Edith Mary

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50 Dr Edith Mary Guest MB BS (Lond 1908) MD (Lond 1914)
15 June 1873 – ?

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 — Edith Mary Guest

Dr Edith Mary Guest received her medical education at the London School of Medicine for Women (LSMW). She qualified MB BS in 1908 and took her MD London in 1914.

Dr E. M. Guest held the posts of House Surgeon at the New Hospital for Women London (later the Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Hospital), House Physician Belgrave Hospital for Children London, and Schools Medical Officer under the Elementary School Teachers (Superannuation) Act.

1904 Passed the General Intermediate Examination for Internal Students of the University of London.

Sept 1908 At the Belgrave Hospital for Children, Clapham Road, London SW. Elected a member of the British Medical Association (Metropolitan Counties Branch) during the September Quarter. Was also a member of the Northern Branch of the Association of Registered Medical Women.

Aug 1916 Dr E. M. Guest 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.

1 Sept 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC.

1916 – 1917 On duty at St David's Military Hospital.
On 19 October 1937 Dr E. M. Guest wrote to the Medical Women Federation:

My own record was very shortly as follows: Called up in 1916 (September) to Malta. At St David's Hospital (a camp), in the Medical Wards, where the cases were almost exclusively malaria. There were 5 or 6 medical women there, of whom I remember the names of Dr Kidd Beatrice Mary, Dr Dobson Margaret Bernard (oculist), and Dr Fergus Annie Grange (not LSMW). She is now married and retired. I do not know her present name. About 1917 most of the Malta Hospitals were closed down because food got short as well as all the ships were getting torpedoed. I was transferred for a short while to Manoel Hospital while waiting for a ship to take three of us to Egypt. At Manoel were two other women, one of whom was Dr Prudence Elizabeth Gaffikin, who did some rather important heart-work, a report of which was later published, in conjunction with Sir Arthur Garrod. I cannot remember the name of the other, but she was a resident MO at Carshalton for a good many years so you probably know who I mean.1 {Dr Guest is probably referring to Dr Katherine Ada Waring who was an Assistant Medical Officer at the Queen Mary's Hospital for Children, Carshalton.}

Malta 17 Dec 1917 Embarked for Egypt.

17 Dec 1917 – 4 Aug 1918 On duty in Egypt.

By 1918, medical women had gained over two years experience in military hospitals. They had proved their worth in Malta and were being sent to RAMC hospitals in Salonica, Sinai, and elsewhere, but their status vis a vis their military colleagues was exactly as it was when they first joined. Although we are senior in service to many of the men here, wrote Dr Edith Guest from Egypt in 1918, yet they all, however young and inexperienced, rank above us, and any youngster will take precedence of us even if we serve ten years. The longer one serves, the more galling this becomes.2

4 Aug 1918 Released with a full grant and pay until 3 August 1918.

1921 Schools Medical Officer London Elementary Schools.

1923 The Medical Directory 1923 lists her address as Woodstock, Buxton Road Stockport.

Bibliography

  • No 50, Army Book 82. Record of Special Reserve Officer's Service (Records of 132 Lady Doctors).
  • Obituary, Louisa Aldrich-Blake. Br Med J (1926); 1: 69 (Published 9 January 1926).
  • 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.
  • 2Leneman L., Medical women in the First World War - ranking nowhere. Br Med J (1993); 10: 1592 (Published 18 December 1993).
  • Leneman L., Medical Women at war 1914-1918. Medical History 1994, 38: 160-177.
  • 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.
  • Mitchell A. M., Medical Women and the Medical services of the First World War.
  • SA/MWF/CI 59. Medical Women Federation, (Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine). Status of medical women under the War Office.
  • Women doctors. Hansard House of Commons Debate 2 July 1918; 107: cc1555–6.
  • Reports of Societies. Womens' service in Malta with the RAMC. BMJ (1919); 2 : 634, (Published 15 November 1919).
  • The Medical Directory 1923, 79th Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
  • TNA:WO 372/23/17302, Medal Card.
  • Ancient Egyptian Physicians. Br Med J (1926); 1 : 706, (Published 17 April 1926).
  • 1SA/MWF/C.168. Medical Women Federation, Edith Guest, 19 October 1937.
  • Supplement 239 BMJ (1908); 2 : S253, (Published 14 November 1908).