15 Feb 1847 508 men, 49 women and 90 children of The 1st/97th Foot arrived from Corfu. The 1st/97th relieved The 88th Foot. A detachment of 103 men had arrived on 25 Dec 1846 on the transport Florentine.
1 Apr 1847–31 Mar 1848 The 1st Battalion occupied Floriana Barracks. Deaths and departures of invalids reduced the average strength of the regiment from 611 to 579. No drafts were received from the depot. A detachment consisting of 2 officers and 100 men occupied two long rooms in the casemated barracks of Fort Ricasoli.
In 1848 five companies were at Floriana Barracks and a company was at Fort Ricasoli. The barracks at Floriana consisted of a range of long narrow vaulted rooms formed in the thick rampart wall overlooking the Quarantine Harbour. The rooms were on the ground floor. There was no upper storey. Each room received its light and air from a door and window at one end, and from two windows or ventilators in the roof. The rooms were dark and cold in winter, and cool in summer. The rooms had a stone floor and were white washed. They each held 40 to 50 men. Floriana barracks also had two small kitchens, a canteen, school room, library, small rooms for staff sergeants, cells for prisoners, a privy, a ball alley and a parade ground.
A well in the barrack square provided a good water supply for the soldier's ablutions. Each man had his own small tub in which he washed his face and hands. These tubs were originally introduced to prevent ophthalmia. In summer the men were marched early in the morning, three times a week, to the sea side at Sa Maison for bathing.
Soldiers slept on boards supported by iron trestles ranged along the walls about 1 to 2 feet from each other. The bedding consisted of a mattress and a pillow stuffed with straw, a pair of sheets, a blanket and a rug. The men were employed on ordinary garrison and regimental duties. There were daily on duty 17 non-commissioned-officers and 109 privates. There were 28 sentries by day and 28 by night. At the end of the day the men were permitted to walk out to the town. Drunkenness was almost the sole crime. The soldiers amused themselves by reading, walking, and playing at ball in the ball court close to the barrack gate.
There were about 16 officers in the regiment. They were quartered in the Pavilion at Floriana. Their military duties were considerable. Besides their daily visits to Floriana Barracks, the officers had to visit the regimental hospital daily, generally on foot and in all weathers. The captains and field officers had to walk long distances to visit all the garrison guards at night. They amused themselves by walking, riding, and playing billiards or racket. There was no yachting or shooting as was available at Corfu. There were 16 recorded admissions to hospital from among the officers: two of fever, four of catarrh, six of bowel complaints, three of venereal and a sprain. Lieutenant Venables was invalided to England due to impairment of his health from syphilis.
There were 36 soldier's wives. Some lived in barracks, others in hired houses. They had rations for themselves and their children and principally maintained their families by washing the clothing of soldiers in their company. Eighteen wives were placed on the sick list during the year. Their main illnesses were mild continued fever and subacute inflammation of the conjunctiva. One elderly woman died suddenly of apoplexy.
There were 55 children in the regiment. Eighty-two children were admitted to hospital during the year, some repeatedly. The main diseases were: pulmonary (22 cases), bowel complaints (20 cases), ophthalmia (23 cases), marasmus (3 cases) and hydrocephalus (3 cases). Nine children died: three due to diarrhoea, two from marasmus, two from hydrocephalus, one from fever and one from bronchitis. Eight of the dead children were under two years of age. In November there were seven cases of whooping cough and three of scarlet fever. Two children aged 18 months died of acute hydrocephalus during dentition (meningitis).
The regimental sick from Floriana Barracks and those from the detachment at Ricasoli were all admitted to the Military Hospital at Valletta. Those from Ricasoli were transferred by boat across the harbour, and had to walk the half mile distance from the landing site to the hospital. That part of the hospital occupied by the 1st/97th Foot consisted of one large and small wards, a surgery, cook house and a sergeant's room. The wards accommodated 40 to 50 patients. There was an open gallery for convalescents to walk in. The sick lay on boards and trestles covered with straw mattresses and pillows, which were substituted in the course of the summer with iron bedsteads, horse hair mattress and pillows. The Commissariat supplied the hospital with beef, while a contractor provided mutton, white bread, wine and groceries.
751 sick soldiers were admitted between 1 Apr 1847 and 31 Mar 1848. On average there were from 36 to 86 admissions a month. The average daily sick in hospital was 30. Seven men died in hospital during the year; one accidentally drowned while bathing in the sea. The ratio of deaths in hospital to treated was 1 in every 110, and 1 in 83 of the strength. Two men died in September, one in October, one in December 1847, and one in February 1848. One died of fever, three of phthisis, one of bronchitis, one of peritonitis, and one from a skull fracture. All had been in Malta for less than a year, though they had served in the Mediterranean from two to seven years. Fever, bowel complaints, venereal affections and ophthalmia were more prevalent in the regiment while stationed at Malta than had been at Corfu.
Morbidity and Mortality 1 April 1847 – 31 March 1848
Stomach / Bowels
Abscesses and ulcers
Wounds and Injuries
Table 1: Morbidity and Mortality 1st/97th Regt 1 April 1847 to 31 March 1848.
Fevers formed more than one in eight of the whole admissions. They were more prevalent during the summer months of July, August and September. Ninety cases of fever were admitted; one intermittent, three remittent, and 88 common continued. One soldier who had picked up intermittent fever while serving in the Ionian Islands died. Common Continued Fever prevailed during the summer. It was usually of very short duration and rarely exceeded four or five days. It began with chillness, followed by headaches and pain in the back and limbs. Recovery was the norm, but one case terminated fatally. The majority of soldiers with Common Continued Fever came from the detachment at Fort Ricasoli. The surgeon treated them all with purgatives and saline draughts. Surgeon William Austin blamed the fevers on exposure to the hot sun, intemperance and fatigue.
23 Sep 1847 Sergeant Chapman aged 28 years died of Common Continued Fever. He had served with the regiment for eleven years and in the Mediterranean for six years six months. His symptoms were not typical of those normally associated with Common Continued Fever. Sgt Chapman fell ill on 15 September 1847, when he became delirious, semi conscious, and had severe deafness. He developed diarrhoea and evacuated blood in large quantities two days prior to his death. Thirty ulcers were found in his ileum on postmortem examination. (Sergeant Chapman probably died of typhoid fever. Deafness was an uncommon manifestation of enteric fever).
There were 114 cases of lung disease during the year. This represented upwards of 1 in 7 of the whole admissions. There were four deaths or 1 in 28 of those admitted. There were twelve admissions for bronchitis, one for pneumonia, four for phthisis, and 97 for catarrh. One death occurred from bronchitis and three from phthisis. The latter became infected in the Ionian Islands, but two were sons of soldiers born in the regiment. Two other soldiers who had been invalided from Malta also died from phthisis. One during his passage to Fort Pitt Chatham, and the other, an 18 year old bandsman, died soon after he had been discharged from the service at Fort Pitt. In October 1847, a 38 year old soldier died from bronchitis and pleurisy with effusion.
Sixty-six cases of venereal disease were admitted to the regimental hospital. Twenty-one had genital ulcers, 36 had gonorrhoea, two had secondary syphilis, three had simple buboes and four had Hernia Humoralis (a form of epididymitis). More cases of venereal diseases occurred in Malta than when the regiment was at Corfu. This was mainly due to the English fleet lying at Malta and sailors infecting the local prostitutes with diseases contracted in Naples and Sicily. Half the cases of syphilis were treated without mercury; the other half were given the Blue Pill (mercury) with a concoction of Sarsaparilla. Those taking the Blue Pill were said to have had a better outcome than the ones who did not take it.
Fifty-one cases of ulcers and abscesses were admitted to hospital. Ulcers of the lower limbs were very common and were often resistant to treatment.
Eighty-five cases of injuries were seen in the hospital during the year. There were six fractures, one brain concussion, one dislocation, 27 wounds, and 50 sprains and contusions, including three spinal injuries. A soldier died of a skull fracture following a fall down a flight of stairs while intoxicated. He was admitted to hospital unconscious with blood flowing from his right ear. He died four days after his admission from a fracture of the temporal and parietal bones, with the fracture extending to the base of the cranium. Among the wounded was a soldier with a gunshot wound received at ball firing, when the shot grazed one of the fingers, denuding it to the bone. The soldier made a remarkable recovery. Another soldier was stabbed in his thigh with a knife during an argument with a Maltese civilian. A soldier fell from the rampart into the ditch at Fort Ricasoli while attempting to scale the walls and sustained a spinal injury. He was invalided to England.
There were 37 cases of ophthalmia during the year. Eye infections were attributed to cold winds and dust, combined with the glare of the sun as it reflected off walls and rocks.
31 Mar 1848 Pte Timothy O'Connor 1st/97th Regt was tried in the Royal Criminal Court for the malicious wounding of Antonio Attard and Pubilio Zammit and of disturbing the peace. O'Connor was acquitted due to insufficient evidence.3
27 June Bachelor Sgt Robert Smith born in Ireland, married Susan Merchant, a spinster born in England.
14 July 1848 482 men, 31 women, and 50 children embarked on the troop ship Java for Halifax Nova Scotia. The Malta Times commented that the 97th have been cruelly used by a portion of the Malta press. As a regiment – if any black sheep were found in it – there was no reason surely why the whole regiment should have been attacked. The rows between the regiment and the people have been divested of all recognition.4
20 Feb 1847 515 men, 45 wives and 88 children of the Reserve Bn 97th Foot arrived from Cephalonia. It remained in Malta till Jan 1848. The Reserve Battalion occupied the Cottonera District. HQ and three companies were at Isola Gate, two companies at St Francesco de Paola Barracks, and one company at San Salvatore.
Isola Gate Barracks was situated at the head of Dockyard Creek about 18 metres above the sea. It had eleven rooms varying in size from 11 to 23 metres in length, 5 to 7 metres in breadth, and 3 to 5 metres in height. The largest rooms were each occupied with 40 men while the smallest had 22 men each.
San Francesco de Paola Barracks was located at the head of Merchant's Harbour, 24 metres above the sea. It had eight rooms varying from 9 to 23 metres in length, 5 metres in breadth, and from 3 to 7 metres in height. The longest held 37 men; the smallest 12 men.
San Salvatore Barracks over looked Kalkara Creek at 122 metres above sea level. The barracks consisted of nine rooms, the largest measuring 24 metres in length, 5 metres in breadth and 3 metres in height. It held 39 men. The smallest was 5 metres in length, 5 metres in breadth, and 3 metres in height. It held 8 men.
The regimental hospital was at the former Armenia in Vittoriosa. On the first floor were three large well ventilated wards lying in parallel to each other, each capable of holding 20 to 50 patients. The kitchen and store rooms were in the basement. One large and several small wards were left unoccupied and reserved for emergencies.1 In 1847, there were 777 admissions to hospital, with three deaths all from chronic pulmonary disease (phthisis). The average monthly sick was 39. The main diseases were
Common Continued Fever, ophthalmia (96 cases), bowel (127 cases) and catarrhal complaints. 148 fever patients were admitted, the majority (112) being common continued, with the rest relapses of intermittent fever in those who had served in the Ionian Islands.
21 May 1847 On the night of Saturday 21 May 1847, Pte Robert Miller 97th Reserve Battalion, one of the ophthalmia patients at the regimental hospital Vittoriosa, threw himself from a height in the hospital, and died of a fractured skull. He had attempted self destruction on the preceding day, but had been prevented by one of his comrades. The Malta Times reported that there is no doubt that the poor fellow's intellects were deranged.2 In 1847, a man of the Reserve Bn 97th Regt shot himself at St Francesco de Paola Barracks.
The following were married in Malta in 1847:
6 Apr Bachelor Sgt William Simpson alias Turner to Catherine Liders, spinster and step daughter of Sgt John McMahon Reserve Battalion 97th Regiment.
11 May Bachelor Sgt Thomas Seymour Blake to Mary Reidy, spinster daughter of Armourer Sgt John Reidy Reserve Battalion 97th Regiment.
8 July Bachelor Pte William Ward to Catherine Smith a widow.
10 Sep Bachelor Sgt David Bird to Margaret Murphy spinster daughter of Pte Luke Murphy Reserve Battalion 97th Regiment.
11 Oct Bachelor Pte Thomas Irwin to Jane Brand born at Coolbanagher Queen's County Ireland spinster. The couple had already married in Ireland by a disgraced clergyman of the Church of England in 1839. Since that time they had lived separately and on coming together in Malta they were recommended to have their marriage solemnised again by the Regular Chaplain to the Forces William Hare.
20 Jan 1848 263 men, 18 women and 34 children of the HQ Division Reserve Battalion left for Jamaica on the transport Blenheim.
28 Jan 1848 234 men, 18 women and 30 children of the 2nd Division Reserve Battalion left on the Maria Soames transport. The battalion was relieved by the Reserve/69th Regiment. Eighteen sick soldiers were left behind when the Reserve Battalion 97th Regiment left Malta.
Farmer J. S., 1984. The regimental records of the British Army Reprint Edition, Trowbridge, Wiltshire: Crecy Books.
Edwards T. J., 1980. Regimental Badges First Edition, Tonbridge, Kent: Ernest Benn Ltd.
TNA:WO 156/113. Register of burials September 1853 to June 1862.
TNA:WO 156/595. No 3, Marriage Register 11 July 1839 to 14 May 1859.
1TNA:WO 334/16, Half yearly returns of hospitals for 1 Apr 1847 to 11 Jan 1848.
2The Malta Times 1847, No 255 (Published 21 May 1847).
3The Malta Mail 1848, Trial of O'Connor (Published 31 March 1848).
4The Malta Times 1848, No 316 (Published 21 July 1848).