Lady Doctors of the Malta Garrison
Tate Isobel Addey

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44 Dr Isobel Addey Tate MB BCh BAO (RUI 1899) MD (RUI 1902) DPH (Victoria Univ Manc 1904)
1 May 1878 (?1874) – 28 Jan 1917 [Malta]


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 — Isobel Addey Tate

Dr Isobel Addey Tate, was the daughter of Mr John Tate of Portadown and Mrs Tate of Belfast. One of her brothers was Vice President of the Pacific Great Eastern Railway at Victoria, British Columbia. She received her medical education at Queen's College Belfast, graduating MB BCh (RUI) in 1899. She also had the Bachelor of Obstetrics (BAO). Her name appeared in the Medical Directory for Ireland on 8 September 1899. She proceeded to gain her MD three years later, and the DPH in 1904.

1904 Resident Medical Officer at the Burnley Union Infirmary.

June 1908 Appointed Medical Officer for the inspection of school children to the Shropshire County Council. Dr Isobel Addey (Addy) Tate also filled the post of Medical Inspector for the Lancashire Education Committee.

1914 Public Health Officer Manchester City Council.

1 Apr 1915 Together with six other female doctors, (Mrs King-May Atkinson MB ChB, Miss Beatrice Coxon, Miss Helen B Hanson MD BS DPH, Miss Mabel Eliza King-May MB ChB, Miss Edith Maude Marsden MB ChB, Miss Catherine Payne MB and Miss Isobel Tate MD NUI) joined Mrs St Clair Stobart's, Serbian Relief Fund Unit No 3 at Kragujevatz, under the auspices of the Serbian Relief Fund. Dr Tate was in charge of the X–ray unit in which she had received special training. The unit arrived at Salonica on 15 April 1915. She contracted enteric fever and was hospitalised at Belgrade, where there was a small RAMC unit of 30 officers under Colonel Hunter L/RAMC.

In Oct 1915, St Stobart's Hospital Unit had to retreat from Serbia over the mountains of Montenegro and Albania, when the Austrian and German Forces over ran Serbia.

The Serbian Relief Fund (SRF) maintained in Serbia five complete Hospital Units: Lady Paget's at Skopje with a staff of 45, Lady Cornelia Wimborne's at Skopje with a staff of 45, Mrs Sinclair Stobart's at Kragujevatz with a staff of 47, and the First and Second British Farmer's Hospitals. The last three were mobile units, specially organised and equipped to deal with either wounded soldiers or infectious diseases. In addition, the SRF sent nurses to Mrs Hardy's Hospital at Kragujevatz, and a contingent of nurses to the typhus colony formed by Lady Paget at Skopje.

(See Group photo of Stobart Hospital - Serbian Relief Fund Unit No 3, in The Flaming Sword in Serbia and Elsewhere by Mabel St Clair Stobart pp 18-19.)

1915 Returned to England from Serbia.

21 Nov 1915 Employed at the Graylingwell War Hospital Chichester, formerly the West Sussex County Asylum, where she remained for one year. In the first five months of 1916, was responsible for plating out well over 2,000 specimens for the Bacteriologist, as well as collecting specimens of blood.

1916 The Medical Directory of 1916 lists her address as Old Porch House, Swan Hill, Shrewsbury.

21 Aug 1916 Left the Graylingwell War Hospital Chichester for Malta under War Office orders.

Malta 24 Aug 1916 Embarked for Malta as part of the Women's Medical Unit RAMC. She was initially on duty at St Paul's Camp Hutment Hospital, but subsequently moved to the Military Hospital Valletta.

Malta 1917 At the Military Hospital Valletta in charge of the Bacteriological Unit of the hospital.

Malta 28 Jan 1917 The Daily Malta Chronicle dated 29 January 1917 stated: We deeply regret to announce the death of Miss Isabella Tate, lady doctor of Valletta Military Hospital which occurred suddenly at her residence in Valletta at 11 am yesterday. The body was removed to the mortuary of St Ignatius Hospital where a post mortem examination will be held this afternoon. The deceased young lady had been nearly five months in Malta and her demise will awaken widespread sympathy. However, this is contradicted by the Daily Malta Chronicle of 1 February, which reported her funeral in detail, and said that Miss Isobel Addey Tate: departed this life on Sunday morning at No 5, Victoria Junction, Sliema.
Miss Isobel Addey Tate is alleged to have died of congestion of the brain from typhoid fever.

Malta 30 Jan 1917 Funeral of Miss Isobel Addey Tate, Lady Doctor attached to Valletta Military Hospital (from the Daily Malta Chronicle 1 February 1917, page 6. Her grave registration report lists her as belonging to the Serbian Relief Fund):

The deep sympathy awakened by the announcement of the death of Miss Isobel Addey Tate..........was touchingly testified in the last tribute to her memory, paid on the occasion of the funeral which took place on Tuesday afternoon when the remains were conveyed with the usual military honours for internment in the Pieta Cemetery.

At 3.45 pm, by which time there was a large representative gathering of officers assembled at the Mortuary, Port de Bombes, the neighbourhood of which was crowded with spectators, the coffin was borne by the officers acting as pall bearers to the gun carriage in waiting, whereupon the cortege moved off to the solemn strains of a funeral march, in the following order: firing party composed of 40 rank and file of the Royal Garrison Artillery in charge of Lieut Doig RGA; band of the Royal Malta Artillery with creped drums; the coffin covered with the Union Jack, borne on a gun carriage drawn by 6 mules with off-riders, headed by a CSM Army Service Corps.

The Pall Bearers were: Lt Col Barnett Kennet Bruce o/c Floriana Hospital, Major Sexton Timothy William Octavius o/c Valletta Hospital, Major Surpell o/c St Paul Hospital, Captain Sutherland, Captain Ker, Lt O'Reilly, and Lt E. J. Dermott. On either side of the carriage walked two lines of NCOs RAMC carrying wreaths; a party of men belonging to the RAMC carrying wreaths, crosses, anchors and other floral emblems; a lengthy train of medical officers and officers of the different units in the garrison, including local members of the medical profession, many sisters and VADs. Among those present were:

His Excellency the Governor was represented by Lieut R. Ingham ADC. Arriving at the foot of Strada Dolori, the band played the Dead March in Saul, to the gate of the cemetery where the coffin having been dismounted and borne by officers as before, was received by the Rev M. A. Farren, Acting Senior Chaplain to the Forces who headed the procession to the grave reciting prayers on the way down the avenue. At the graveside were assembled the Lady Doctors, Principal Matron, matrons, sisters and nurses from all the hospitals and camps on the island.

The Service, read with solemn impressiveness, being concluded, the usual three volleys were fired in the air, followed by the Last Post sounded by a trumpeter, which echoed sadly amidst the lonely surroundings. The lady doctors and nursing services filed round the grave to have a last look at the coffin, after which they dispersed, leaving the remains of their loved friend and colleague to rest in Malta's sacred keeping.

Miss Isobel Addey Tate was devoted to her professional duties and was very much liked by her patients. Many of the convalescent patients from her own ward at Valletta were present at the grave. She was highly gifted and of an amiable disposition, with which she associated the keenest interest in her duties and the warmest solicitude for those entrusted to her treatment. Among the numerous and handsome wreaths, affectionately inscribed were the following:

  • In memory of Dr Tate who lost her life in the service of her country — Methuen Field Marshal.
  • In loving memory from her family at Ruskery, Donegal Park Belfast Ireland.
  • In loving memory from Darcy, Victoria British Columbia.
  • With deepest sympathy from Surgeon General M. T. Yarr DMS and Officers of the HQ Staff.
  • From her colleagues at Valletta Military Hospital. Dr Elizabeth Moffett, Dr Helen Hanson, Dr Margaret Dobson.
  • Officer commanding and officers Valletta Hospital.
  • Col K Bruce Barnett RAMC.
  • Principal Matron Military Nursing Staff Malta.
  • Matron and Nursing Staff Valletta Hospital.
  • Mrs A Arthur Wilson.
  • Doctor Gaffikin Prudence Elizabeth.
  • Mr A Bartolo Editor Daily Malta Chronicle.
  • Sisters, Nurses and Orderlies 20 B Ward Valletta Hospital.
  • Patients 20 B ward. WO, NCOs RAMC Valletta Hospital and District Staff.
  • Patients 20 A and 20 C wards Valletta Hospital.
  • Officers Cottonera Hospital.
  • Matron and Sisters Cottonera Hospital.
  • Medical Officers Mess Floriana Hospital.
  • Medical Officers St Patrick's Hospital.
  • Officer commanding and Medical Officers Tigne Hospital.
  • Lady Medical Officers St David's Hospital.
  • St Andrew's Hospital Lady Doctors.
  • Matron and Nursing Staff Baviere Hospital.
  • Malta's tribute to dead Heroes. With deepest sympathy from the Daily Malta Chronicle Fund.
  • Medical Women St George's Hospital.
  • Nursing Staff Mtarfa Hospital.
  • Officer commanding and officers St John's Hospital.
  • Medical Officers and Nursing Staff St Elmo Hospital.
  • Brothers Schembri Osborne Hotel Valletta.
  • Lewis Micallef Florist.

Her estate worth £328 11s 11d was granted to her widowed mother, Isabella Tate, of Ruskerry Donegall Park, Belfast.


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