RAMC

Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
Ormiston Margaret Gemmell

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51 Dr Margaret Gemmell Ormiston MA (1902) MB ChB (St And 1906) MD
9 May 1880 – ?

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 — Margaret Gemmell Ormiston

Dr Margaret Gemmell Ormiston obtained her medical education at St Andrews and University College Dundee. She graduated MB ChB in 1906.

Dr M. G. Ormiston held the appointments of Assistant School Medical Officer Manchester Education Committee and Assistant School Medical Officer Cheshire County Council. The Medical Directory of 1923 lists her address as St Regulus, Park Lane, Congleton Cheshire.

Aug 1916 Dr M. G. Ormiston 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. The majority of the medical women were invited to renew their contracts at the expiry of their first year's work.

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

Malta 30 Jan 1917 Attended the funeral of Dr Isobel Addy Tate.

Malta June 1917 Dr M. G. Ormiston was one of eight women doctors attached to No 64 General Hospital, which was formed in Malta on 28 April 1917 from the staff of Spinola Camp Hospital. The women doctors on the staff 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 Dec 1919 On duty with No 64 General Hospital. The 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 at 64 General Hospital on 2 July.

1 Oct 1917 The nominal roll of the staff of 64 General Hospital (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.)

21 Oct 1917 Doctors M. G. Ormiston and E. M. Layman were sent to Refugee Camp Karaissi on temporary duty. Wind and rain played havoc among the tents which were uprooted. Patients were hurriedly redistributed for shelter among other wards and all hands strove to secure the hospital marquees. 18 wards, with 540 beds, were thrown out of action and other wards were leaking badly, but were still functioning.

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.

17 April 1918 Re-opening of No 64 General Hospital.

29 June 1918 Reported for duty to No 61 General Hospital.

26 Sept 1918 Influenza struck No 61 General Hospital. Fell ill with influenza and was placed on the sick list. Reported back on duty on 28 September.

6 Nov 1918 Appointed Medical Women in charge of sick nursing sisters, VADs, and convalescent camp.

21 Nov 1918 Transferred to No 38 General Hospital

7 Jan 1919 Closure of No 61 General Hospital Salonica.

30 Nov 1919 Contract expired.

11 Dec 1919 Arrived in England.

9 July 1920 New Contract worth £650 signed.

12 Nov 1920 Embarked for Constantinople.
The Treaty of Mudros, (30 Oct 1918), brought an end to the war between the Ottoman Empire and the allies, and resulted in British Troops occupying Constantinople from 13 November 1918 to 23 September 1923.

12 Nov 1920 – 21 Apr 1921 On duty at Constantinople.

21 Apr 1921 Returned to England. Her salary was paid until the day she arrived in England.

1972 Member of the Public Health Committee.

Bibliography

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  • Women doctors. Hansard House of Commons Debate 2 July 1918; 107: cc1555–6.
  • Reports of Societies. Womens' service in Malta with the RAMC. Br Med J (1919); 2 : 634, (Published 15 November 1919).
  • The Medical Directory 1923, 79th Issue. London J. & A. Churchill.
  • TNA:WO 372/23/31552, Medal Card.
  • TNA:WO 95/4936, (June 1917 – January 1919). War Diaries No 64 General Hospital.
  • Mann A. J., 1920 The Salonica Front A. and C. Black Ltd London.