David Bruce Naval Hospital Mtarfa

Regimental Surgeons of the Malta Garrison
Corban Laurence

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

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. 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. Was mentioned in despatches and received a special promotion to Surgeon–Major with relative rank of Lieutenant Colonel.

During the Egyptian Campaign, Surgeon-Major Corban designed a new belt and pouch for army surgeons. The pouch contained two or three bottles in which essential medicines were packed, tourniquets, several bandages designed by Corban, 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.

Nile Expedition 1884

The Nile Expedition 1884/85 (Main Guard Valletta)

Corban maintained that a surgeon equipped with such a pouch and belt, could extract a bullet at once should it be 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. This was a vast improvement on the present small pocket case with which the surgeon could only do a limited amount.

EXPERIENCES OF AN ARMY SURGEON DURING THE EGYPTIAN EXPEDITION OF 1882. UNDER the above heading, Surgeon-Major L. Corban, M.D., who was in medical charge of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantryin Egypt, has recorded his experiences, with a view to improving militarv sanitation in future campaigns. He suggests improvements of various kinds which, if adopted, would, he considers, go far towards benefiting the troops. Dr. Corban landed in Egypt on July 23rd, and remained with his regiment until after the termination of all active operations by the capture of Cairo, which permitted the withldrawal of the greater portion of the troops; hisregiment was always to the front during the campaign, and Dr. Corban was in every battle, so that he had ample opportunities of noting deficiences. Bad and scanty food, the want of blankets and tents, etc., were probably answerable for most of the sickness of the troops. As to future expeditions, the author considers that all the medical portion 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 ailso accompany these transports, in order to receive the first sick andl wounded, and invalids, who, after a short sea-trip, would soon return to their duty. The following points, embracing the well-being and physical fitness of an army in the field, are particularly noticed, viz., food, clothing, equiipment, and medical aid. Dr. Corban thinks that, from all he saw and personally experienced in Egypt, some improvement in the food of the troops is desirable and possible. He objects to the hard ship's biscuits, over which he has known instances of men breaking thcir teeth; and advises a more frequent issue of cocoa in the place of coffee, for which the ordinary cocoa and milk in tins would suffice; the bread should also be white and otherwise good; Australian tinned beef may be usefuil, but thc tinne(d mutton seems to have been most objectionable; " Erbswurst" should have an issue of pork made with it, with some compressed vegetables, which would make a good rich stew. The cooking might be improved, curries occasionally given instead of the ever-recurring stews, and altogether more variety intiooduced into the dishes. He advises the keeping of cold tea as a wlholesome drink, and is of opinion that an evening issue of ruim in such campaigns as that in Egypt tends to prevent much illness amongst the forces. As regar(ds clothing, Dr. Corban condemns the present campaigning dress, and considers that worn by the Mountain Battery, the Sea.forth Highlanders, and the Manchester Regiment, much superior. He would put cavalry, artillery, and infantry into this "kakhee" clothing, which might be lined with thick flannel, for campaigning in a cold climnate. As to equiipment, several suggestions are made for the better carryig of the soldier's tools on the march; and alterations in the watercarts and bottles are proposed, with the object of purifying the bad water supplied (luring a campaign. As respects medical aid, the author is in favour of independent I nedical ai(d for regiments and batteries, according to the equipment -iven for the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, wvhich he found invaluable for the good of the regiment. The contents of the paniiers need revision, and more miedical comforts than are now carried miight be transported. The surgeon's pocket-case also comes in for sonie criticism; and Dr. Corban has devised a new pattern belt and l)ouch, which contains several new instruments, bullet forceps, ;anieurysm needle, hypodermic syringe for morphia, etc., from which tile doctor under no circumstances would thus be separated, nor would he find himself ulnequal to any of the emergencies of a campaign. Dr. Corban is also emphatic as to the great advantage of the carlv treatment of the sick, and the keeping- of all the ordinary mild cases in camp. Altogether, this pamphlet of twelve pages seems to contain many valuable suggesti

  • Experiences of an army surgeon during the egyptian expedition of 1882. Brit Med J (1883), 230, (Published 3 February 1883).
  • 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.


    1. 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).
    2. TNA:WO 25/3901, 1790–1847, Statement of the Home and Foreign Service of officers of the Medical Department.
    3. Succession Book Vol 13. Returns of service of medical officers in the Regular Army.
    4. The Occupation of Alexandria. Br Med J (1882), 2; 1125: 143 (Published 22 July 1882).
    5. Experiences of an army surgeon during the Egyptian Expedition of 1882 Br Med J (1883), 280 (Published 3 February 1883).
    6. New pattern belt and pouch for army surgeons Br Med J (1883), 333 (Published 17 February 1883).
    7. Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1888), 639 (Published 15 September 1888).
    8. Naval and Military Medical Services Br Med J (1888), 768 (Published 7 April 1888).