RAMC

Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison
Corban Laurence

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Surgeon Major Laurence Corban MD (1864) DPH
19 Aug 1842 – 26 July 1918

Introduction

Surgeon Major Laurence Corban served in the Egyptian War of 1882 in medical charge of 2nd/The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. He landed in Egypt on 23 July. He remained with his regiment until after the termination of all active operations by the capture of Cairo, which permitted the withdrawal of the greater portion of the troops. His regiment was always to the front during the campaign, and Dr Corban was in every battle, so that he had ample opportunities of noting deficiencies.

Surgeon Major Laurence Corban recorded his observations in Experiences of an Army Surgeon during the Egyptian Expedition of 1882. In his pamphlet of twelve pages, Corban made several comments on the quality of the food, clothing, equipment and medical aid, which if adopted, he believed would improve military sanitation in future campaigns. The following points, embracing the well being and physical fitness of an army in the field, were noted:

  • Food: Corban objected to the hard ship's biscuits, over which he had known instances of men breaking their teeth; advised a more frequent issue of cocoa in the place of coffee, for which the ordinary cocoa and milk in tins would suffice; that the bread should be white and otherwise good; the use of Australian tinned beef, but not tinned mutton which seemed to have been most objectionable. Curries were to be occasionally given instead of the ever recurring stews, and altogether more variety introduced into the dishes. He advised the keeping of cold tea as a wholesome drink, and was of the opinion that an evening issue of rum in such campaigns as that in Egypt tended to prevent much illness among the forces.
  • Clothing: Dr Corban condemned the present campaigning dress. He considered that worn by the Mountain Battery, the Seaforth Highlanders and the Manchester Regiment more superior. He preferred the wearing of kaki clothing lined with thick flannel for the cavalry, artillery, and infantry when campaigning in a cold climate.
  • Equipment: Dr Corban made several suggestions for improving the carriage of the soldier's tools on the march and proposed alterations in the water carts and bottles with the object of purifying the bad water supplied during a campaign.
  • Medical Aid: Dr Corban was in favour of independent medical aid for regiments and batteries, according to the equipment given for the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, which he found invaluable for the benefit of the regiment. The contents of the paniers needed revision, and more medical comforts were to be transported.
  • Medical equipment: The surgeon's pocket case was also criticised. Corban devised a new pattern belt and pouch, which contained two or three bottles for essential medicines, tourniquets, several bandages designed by him, hypodermic needle and solution of morphia. In addition to the ordinary instruments were added a folding bullet forceps, of special construction, some bull dog and arterial forceps, and an aneurysm needle. In the inside belt were three elastic catheters.
    Corban maintained that a surgeon equipped with his pouch and belt, could extract a bullet at once from near the surface and avoid sending the wounded soldier to hospital with the bullet still in situ in the bandaged wound; inject morphia as necessary; arrest haemorrhage with the tourniquets; tie arteries; apply antiseptic dressing with firm bandages which do not slip; make use of the same bandages as splints for broken limbs; employ astringent injections; use elastic catheters which might be retained in position in case of bullet or other wound of, or in the neighbourhood of, the bladder or urethra. His innovation was a vast improvement on the small pocket case used by army surgeons which constraint them in what they could achieve.

As to future expeditions, Surgeon Major Corban considered that all the medical sections of the force should be complete and combined; should be shipped together in the same steamers; and arrive, as far as possible, at the point of descent on the hostile shore at the same time. Hospital ships should also accompany these transports, in order to receive the first sick, wounded and invalids, who, after a short sea trip, would be able to return to their duty. He was also emphatic as to the great advantage of the early treatment of the sick, and the keeping of all the ordinary mild cases in camp.

Service Record — Laurence Corban

30 Sept 1864 Staff Assistant Surgeon.

9 June 1865 Assistant Surgeon 49th (Hertfordshire-The Princess of Wales's) Regiment.

24 Nov 1869 Assistant Surgeon 21st Hussars.

1872 Was specially thanked by Lord Napier of Magdala, Commander-in-Chief in India, in General Orders for services during an epidemic of cholera in Oude in 1872.

1 Mar 1873 Promoted Surgeon.

30 Sept 1876 Promoted Surgeon–Major.

Malta 14 July 1882 Arrived from Gibraltar on his way to Alexandria, Egypt, where he disembarked on 23 July.

18 Nov 1882 Served in the Egyptian War of 1882, in medical charge of 2nd/The Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, until the capture of Cairo, which permitted the greater portion of the troops to leave. He was present in the engagements at El Magfar and Tel-el-Mahuta, in the two actions at Kassassin, and at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. He was mentioned in despatches and received a special promotion to Surgeon–Major with relative rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

1884–1885 Served in the Nile Expedition as Senior Medical Officers to the Camel Corps, Medical Field Inspector on the Lines of Communication, and Senior Medical Officer at Abu Fatmeh.

24 Feb 1888 Promoted Brigade–Surgeon, ranking as Lieutenant Colonel, vice John Mackenzie retired.

12 Sept 1888 Was granted retired pay but was employed at Aldershot while on the retired list.

Bibliography

  • Entry No: 6169. William Johnston, Roll of Commissioned Offices in the Medical Service of the British Army, 20 June 1727-23 June 1898. (Aberdeen, University Press, 1917).
  • TNA:WO 25/3901, 1790–1847, Statement of the Home and Foreign Service of officers of the Medical Department.
  • Succession Book Vol 13. Returns of service of medical officers in the Regular Army.
  • The Occupation of Alexandria. Br Med J (1882), 2; 1125: 143 (Published 22 July 1882).
  • Experiences of an army surgeon during the Egyptian Expedition of 1882 Br Med J (1883), 280 (Published 3 February 1883).
  • New pattern belt and pouch for army surgeons Br Med J (1883), 333 (Published 17 February 1883).
  • Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1888), 639 (Published 15 September 1888).
  • Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1888), 768 (Published 7 April 1888).