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Regiments of the Malta Garrison
87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

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The 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

Introduction

The 87th Foot was raised in Ireland in 1793 on the outbreak of war with revolutionary France, as The 87th (The Prince of Wales's Irish) Regiment of Foot.

It became a Fusiliers Regiment on 23 July 1827, as the 87th or The Prince of Wales's Own Irish Fusiliers.

On 1 July 1881, the 87th amalgamated with the 89th (The Princess Victoria's) Regiment of Foot to become The First Battalion of The Princess Victoria's (Royal Irish Fusiliers). The 89th became the Second Battalion (Royal Irish Fusiliers).

In 1920, the regimental title changed to The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's).

On 1 July 1968, The Royal Irish Fusiliers (Princess Victoria's) merged with The Royal Ulster Rifles, and The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers to form The Royal Irish Rangers.

The 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers) Regiment

1868 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

12 Feb 1868 The 87th embarked at Gibraltar having passed the previous two summers at that station. It disembarked in Malta on 18 February and relieved the 2nd/8th regiment which left for England.

The 87th Foot passed four congenial years at Malta. There was boating, cricket, riding and racing, some of the officers even sending their horses to Egypt to race them. On St Patrick's night the subalterns amused themselves by rolling down the steps of the Auberge de Castille.

The 87th occupied Verdala Barracks. From June to September, the regiment had 67 admissions for continued fevers, with 0 deaths.

The average annual strength in 1868 was 635 men. There were 358 admissions into hospital; 7 died in hospital with 1 death out of hospital. The ratio per 1000 mean strength of those admitted was 564 and for deaths 12.66.

1869 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

Barracks occupied by 87th Regiment in 1869
Barracks Average Strength Fever Admissions Percentage Sick Soldiers Deaths
Fort Verdala 492 76 15.44 1
St Clement's Bastion 43 3 7 0
Fort Manoel 300 5 1.00 0
Pembroke Camp 223 4 1.79 0
Marsamxetto 58 2 3.44 0
Table 1: Barracks occupied by the 87th showing the average strength, number of hospital admissions from fever, and the percentage of sick soldiers during the period each barrack was occupied.

1 Jan–22 Sept 1869 The 87th Regiment was stationed at Fort Verdala Barracks and Saint Clement's Bastion Barracks.

23 Sep Head Quarters and four companies moved to Fort Manoel; one company occupied Marsamxetto Barracks. The remaining five companies were at Pembroke Camp from 25 September to 31 December 1869.

Verdala Barracks was overcrowded. During the hot summer months tents were made available to Verdala Barracks and St Clement's Bastion Barracks for half of the men to sleep in, at the rate of 5 men per tent. This removed them from their badly ventilated barracks. Any perceived improvement in the health of the troops during the year was attributed by the regimental surgeon to the beneficial effects of encampment.

Fort Verdala Barracks was an isolated fort built in 1853 in the fortifications of the Margherita (Firenzuola) Lines, which protected the land front of Bormla (Cospicua). It was surrounded by a trench, and was about 180 feet above sea level. The barracks were capable of holding 690 men, accommodated in very crowded conditions. A detachment of 54 men occupied a casemated room in St Clement's Bastion. Fort Verdala had a gymnasium where the men were regularly exercised under a sergeant instructor.

The majority of families at Verdala Barracks had large airy rooms in a block by itself near the fort; others were quartered in a small bastion in St Clement's Retrenchment. Families of a few staff sergeants were housed in Fort Verdala itself.

The married accommodation for the companies stationed at Fort Manoel and Marsamxetto Barracks was not so good. Families were housed some distance away from their barracks; sixteen families lived in huts on the Crown Works of Floriana, one family per hut. These old huts were very cold and damp in winter and too hot in summer. Two other families lived in huts in the Ravelin Works close to the Crown Works. In addition five casemated rooms at San Salvatore Counter Guard were allocated to the regimental families. A few married Staff Sergeants lived in Fort Manoel. Married soldiers lived apart from single soldiers.

Marsamxetto Barracks was said by the regimental surgeon to be located in a very dirty neighbourhood. The circulation of free air to the barracks was impeded by lofty buildings, while miasma was generated from a sewage drain, which discharged its contents near by into Marsamxetto Harbour.

The barracks were casemates and consisted of two long rooms lying side by side, sharing a common entrance. Each room was 73 feet long, 24 feet wide, and 11 and a half feet high. The rooms were inadequately lit and ventilated. Neither Marsamxetto Barracks, nor Fort Manoel Barracks had baths. The men had to wash themselves and carry out their ablutions in small rooms fitted with metal basins. Bathing parades took place three times a week, from May to October, in an attempt to keep the men clean and healthy.

Inspector General of Hospitals Joshua Paynter described the 87th Foot as a regiment of hard drinkers. He attributed the high number of febrile attacks in the corps to intemperance. Four out of the eight deaths recorded during the year were directly caused by excessive drinking. The prevailing diseases were fevers, mostly of the Simple Continued and typhoid type of fevers. Diarrhoea and to a slight extent dysentery also contributed to men on the sick list.

The average annual strength in 1869 was 627 men. There were 382 admissions into hospital, 74 of which were for mild febrile illnesses; 6 died in hospital; 2 died out of hospital; 1 death among the invalids. The ratio per 1000 strength of those admitted was 609.2 and for deaths 14.85.

Morbidity 87th Regiment – 1 January to 31 December 1869
Month Strength 1st day of the month Hospital Admissions Deaths
January 704 29 0
February 703 22 1
March 701 31 1
April 692 50 0
May 692 42 1
June 691 17 1
July 662 39 0
August 661 37 1
September 659 43 0
October 659 27 1
November 636 21 2
December 634 24 0
Table 2: Regimental strength on the first day of the month, showing number of admissions to hospital per month, and the number of deaths recorded. (TNA:WO 334/62)

Twelve women and 21 children were admitted into hospital, mostly suffering from febrile illnesses and diarrhoea. There were two deaths among the women, both from phthisis pulmonalis. Ten children died during the year. Five officers were invalided to England on the recommendation of a Medical Board.

In 1869, The 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers) had the following deaths. The men died in their regimental hospital. Soldier's immorality was regarded as an important contributory factor in disease causation:

1870 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

Barracks occupied by the 87th Regiment in 1870
Barracks Average Strength Fever Admissions Percentage Sick Soldiers Remarks
Fort Manoel 152 4 2.63 HQ Coy from 1 Jan to 3 Mar, when it proceeded to Pembroke Camp, leaving a detachment of two companies. The Detachment rejoined HQ Coy at Pembroke Camp on 1 June.
Pembroke Camp 485 30 6.18 HQ Coy from 3 Mar to 5 Oct. Five companies from 1 Jan to 3 Mar.
Marsamxetto 58 0 0 Detachment of one company from 1 Jan to 3 Mar.
Lower St Elmo 427 0 0 HQ Coy from 5 Oct to 31 Dec. The regiment marched from Pembroke Camp on 5 Oct.
Table 3: Barracks occupied by the 87th showing the average strength, number of hospital admissions from fever, and the percentage of sick soldiers during the period each barrack was occupied.

Married men and their families were lodged in the Camerata at Lower Merchant Street Valletta, opposite the entrance to the Garrison Hospital. The Camerata was a five storied, square building enclosing a paved court. It had quarters for 102 families, sixty-one of which were occupied by the regiment. Each family occupied a separate quarter, with its own distinct entrance opening on a covered corridor which was carried round the inner face of each of the storeys. Each quarter consisted of a sitting and bed room with a small kitchen and an adjoining water closet.

Between 1 January and 3 March and between 5 October to 31 December 1870 detachments of the 87th Regiment and 52nd Foot were at Pembroke Camp on their annual instruction in musketry. The Camp was situated on rocky, rising ground on the north side of St George's Bay, about five miles by road from Valletta. It was about 60 feet above sea level, with the ground sloping down to the shore of St George's Bay. The camp was made up of a permanent barracks, old Crimean huts and officers and married soldier's quarters. It was isolated with no nearby buildings. The low lying land to its north was used as a rifle range.

St George's permanent barracks consisted of six stone built blocks of one storey each, arranged due east and west, with a northern and southern aspect. The buildings had a veranda on their south front. The canteen, sergeant's mess, recreation and school rooms were in two separate buildings on the south front of the barracks. On the north-west of the permanent barracks were three old Crimean huts, which were only used when the permanent barracks were full. Each barrack block accommodated 200 men. The barracks had the necessary outbuildings, cook houses, bath rooms and ablutions rooms. In 1870, the latrines were flushed with sea water and drained by glazed pipes.

Married soldiers occupied a block of quarters for 32 families close down to the side of St George's Bay which was separate from the single soldier's block. They had no cook house and inadequate latrines. An oil lamp lit the barrack rooms and married quarters; each lamp being allowed 3 ozs (90 mls) of oil per day. The families were allowed wood and coal.

Morbidity 87th Regiment – 1 January to 31 December 1870
Month Strength 1st day of the month Hospital Admissions Deaths
January 628 22 0
February 650 14 0
March 651 22 0
April 649 23 0
May 625 26 2
June 606 48 0
July 606 53 0
August 595 37 0
September 595 32 0
October 595 30 0
November 583 25 0
December 583 35 1
Table 4: Regimental strength on the first day of the month, showing number of admissions to hospital per month, and the number of deaths recorded. (TNA:WO 334/77)

The average strength of the regiment was 614. The average number of sick was 18.96, There were 367 admissions into hospital (598 /1000 mean strength) with three deaths (4.89/1000 mean strength). The sick were cared for in their own hospital situated in small wards of the Garrison Hospital Valletta: Wards 20A (average number of sick 12.61), Wards No 31, 31A, and 31B (average number of sick 15.45).

Wards 1 to 9 at Forrest Hospital were used by the men at Pembroke Camp. The hospital had an average admission of 19.0 sick.

The following deaths occurred in the regimental hospital in 1870:

1871 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

The regiment had an average strength of 590 men. There were 444 admissions into hospital (753/1000 mean strength), with 3 deaths in hospital and 1 out of hospital (6.78/1000 mean strength).

Smallpox had been prevalent in the Mediterranean during the autumn of 1870 and appeared in the civil population in October. The military had 66 admissions and 12 deaths. On 3 January 1871, the first case among the troops occurred in the 87th Regiment.

The 87th Regiment was quartered at Lower St Elmo Barracks Valletta.

1872 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers)

In 1872, the 87th had an average strength of 217 men. It had 206 admissions (949/1000 mean strength) into hospital with 1 death in hospital and 1 out of hospital (9.22/1000 mean strength).

15 May 1872 The 87th (The Royal Irish Fusiliers) embarked for Halifax, Nova Scotia, where it arrived on 10 June 1872. It moved to Bermuda on 1 December 1876.

Bibliography