RAMC

Medical Officers of the Malta Garrison
1801

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Malta Garrison – 1801

Regimental Medical Officers

Naval Hospital Malta

Events 1801

Sir Ralph Abercrombie

The Expedition to Egypt left Malta on 20 December 1800, and sailed for Marmorice Bay in Asia Minor, where it remained until 20 February 1801. The troops landed at Aboukir Bay on 8 March 1801.

On 21 March 1801, Sir Ralph Abercrombie was wounded in his thigh and died of sepsis on HMS Foudroyant on 28 March, aged 68 years. One of the attending surgeons was Joseph Kennedy RN who died at Dingle on 27 August 1831.

On 29 April, Abercrombie's remains were interred in the angle of the North West Bastion of Fort St Elmo facing the sea. In February 1871, the Royal Engineers re-interred the casket in a vault behind its original location.

His epitaph was written at the request of General Henry Pigot by the Abbe Navarrie, librarian to the Order of Malta, and translated by Captain Edward Draper 30th Foot.

Malta Garrison

During the Egyptian Campaign, 8 Mar–2 Sept 1801, Malta served as a depôt for medical stores and a transit camp for the army. Alexandria fell on 26 Aug 1801, but British troops did not take possession of the French Lines until 2 Sept. Those regiments not destined to form part of the garrison of Alexandria returned to Malta between Sept and Nov 1801.

Plague broke out at Alexandria, and returning troop-ships were quarantined at the Lazaretto in Marxamxett Harbour. After receiving pratique, the troops were billeted in the former auberges of the Knights of St John.

On 1 Jan 1801, the following regiments were on their passage to Malta from Egypt: the 12th Dns (Stuart's Regiment) strength: 30 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 41 NCOs, 508 rank and file fit for duty, 89 rank and file sick, 681 total officers and men, 684 establishment and the 26th (Floyd's Regiment) strength: 34 Commissioned and Warrant Officers, 41 NCOs, 474 rank and file fit for duty, 82 rank and file sick, 640 total officers and men, 684 establishment.

In 1801, no decision had been taken by the British Cabinet to retain Malta. On 19 May 1801, Downing Street, instructed Maj Gen H Pigot not to reduce the garrison in Malta below 4384 men exclusive of the 1st/27th, Neapolitan troops and Maltese Militia. The 63rd Foot, Lowenstein's Chasseurs, and a Swiss Corps raised upon the continent were ordered to proceed to Malta, but the Regt of Lowenstein was to re-embark for Egypt as soon as transports became available.

Swiss Troops were raised on the continent through letters-of-service issued by the Secretary-at-War. About 1,700 Swiss Troops arrived from Trieste on 4 July 1801, on their way to Egypt.

Pigot reported to Lord Hobart, that the men arrived on ships which were unfit for the service, being by no means capable of containing the number of men allotted to them without prejudice to their health. The men were totally unprepared for immediate service. Being a new levy, the companies of the respective regiments had not yet been formed. Nearly 600 of the men who had joined after their embarkation were not known to their commanding officer. Their clothing had not been issued, and most of them had neither shirt nor shoes. Almost all their arms were totally useless, and although they had tents nearly equal to their numbers, they had no tent poles or pins, and were otherwise perfectly unprovided for taking the field.

Around 3 July 1801, HMS Leda with a detachment of Guards, HMS Agincourt and HMS Madras with the 25th (King's Own Borderers) and the 26th (Cameronians), entered the Grand Harbour with further reinforcements for Egypt.

HMS Leda had on board Mr Charles Cameron, who had been appointed Civil Commissioner for Malta on 14 May 1801.

In July 1801, Lt Gen Henry Fox took command of the Army in the Mediterranean, and set up his HQ in Malta.

Sick Returns June 1801
Regiment Sick Dead Total
Royal Artillery 9 1 292
1st/35th 42 1 784
2nd/35th 37 3 859
1st/40th 53 0 534
2nd/40th 96 1 598
2nd/48th 27 0 575
Loewenstein Chas 31 1 520
Maltese Light Inf 25 0 713
Sick returns 1 June 1801 (TNA:WO 17/2117)

The sick and wounded from Egypt were treated in the Holy Infirmary of the Order of St John of Jerusalem, in Lower Merchant Street Valletta, which was used by the British as their General hospital. An ophthalmia ward was opened at the hospital by Inspector of Field Hospitals Cope Joseph to treat the 518 soldiers with ophthalmia militaris.

Ophthalmia was an ulcerating infection of the eye caused by a host of bacteria among which were: Haemophilus aegyptius, Neiseria gonorrhoea, Chlamydia trachomatis, and adeno viruses. On 18 Dec 1801, Cope reported that of the 518 soldiers admitted to the ophthalmia ward 78 were described as bad cases, 231 as recovered, 102 as being blind in one eye and 107 as being blind in both eyes.

Rev David P Cosserat

The Reverend David Peloquin Cosserat arrived from Egypt on 9 Dec 1801. He was appointed Chaplain to the Army in the Mediterranean on 14 Dec, with orders to officiate on the Vittoriosa side of the Grand Harbour.

The Rev Mr Cole of HMS Foudroyant officiated at the Palace Chapel Valletta in the absence of Rev Dr Pargiter, the Garrison Chaplain. Cole left Malta on HMS Foudroyant on 8 Mar 1802, leaving Cosserat as the only Garrison Chaplain. Cosserat left on leave on 31 May 1802 to visit Leghorn, but returned on 8 July 1802.

During his stay in Malta from Dec 1801 to Dec 1807, Cosserat kept a register of burials, marriages, and baptisms. He died in Malta in Aug 1809.

Small Pox Vaccination

In 1799 Dr Joseph H. Marshall, then living at Eastington, Gloucestershire, had vaccinated his own children with lymph obtained directly from Edward Jenner, and was so satisfied with the results that he very soon became a professional vaccinator. On 1 July 1800, Dr Marshall and Surgeon John Walker sailed from Portsmouth in HMS Endymion and vaccinated soldiers and sailors in season and out of season, wherever the ship touched. They advocated the operation of cowpocking with such zeal that in July 1800, Admiral Keith and Sir Ralph Abercrombie ordered that all sailors and soldiers under their respective commands, who had not had small pox be compulsory vaccinated. The garrison at Minorca was vaccinated in Sept, that at Gibraltar in Oct, and afterwards that at Malta, where Dr Marshall remained from Dec to March.

Dr Walker accompanied the troops to Egypt. Vaccination against small pox proved so effective in arresting the ravages of the disease that Maj Gen John Hely Hutchinson, who commanded the expedition following the demise of Abercrombie, affirmed that: those soldiers escaping it, who submitted to this operation are doing their duty as usual, while a few who neglected the opportunity were laid down.

On 11 Apr 1801, after vaccinating the troops, Walker associated himself with the surgeon of the Brigade of Seamen on shore. As Sir Sydney Smith found it necessary to have the attendance of the surgeon at a distance away from the camp, which was situated 4 miles from Alexandria, the medical care of the whole brigade fell upon him. Walker remained in Egypt till the surrender of Alexandria.

On 13 Apr 1801, Surgeon General Thomas Keate warned that: as HRH the Commander in Chief has approved a general inoculation amongst the troops with vaccine matter, the demand for matter from the Vaccine Institute has in consequence been very great and will be one continued request. I therefore beg leave to submit to Mr Yorke's consideration that the annual sum of 25 guineas, as requested by the Governors of the Institution, may be paid to the institution as long as it continues to furnish matter for the use of the army.

Preliminary Treaty of Peace

On 1 Oct 1801, a war weary Britain signed a Preliminary Treaty of Peace. The ratification of this treaty on 27 Mar 1802, brought to an end the Wars of Revolutionary France.

In accordance with the Treaty of Amiens, Britain had to restore Malta to the Order of St John, evacuate Elba, and remove her garrison from Alexandria.

Troop numbers in Egypt were reduced soon after the cessation of hostilities on 2 Sept 1801, and the garrison in Alexandria was completely withdrawn on 27 Mar 1803.

Lazaretto - Manoel Island

On 14 July 1801, William Eton became Superintendent of Quarantine and took over the administration of the Lazaretto and Quarantine Department on an annual salary of £800.

Eton observed that so many abuses and so great relaxations existed in his office, that the inhabitants were greatly alarmed for their safety and the merchants apprehensive that the ports of Italy would be shut against vessels from Malta.

Naval Hospital

A Temporary Naval Hospital was opened on 30 August 1799 in what Captain Alexander J Ball RN described as a spacious and airy building. Ball does not mention the location of this building, but war ships anchored at Marsaxlokk Bay, St Paul's Bay and St Julians Bay. The log of the Bomb Vessel Strombolo records HMS Alexander landing its sick at St Paul's Bay. However, the log of HMS Alexander also records receiving and landing its sick when it was at anchor off St Julian's Bay. The hospital had a surgeon and assistant surgeon and was well supplied with provisions from local merchants. It closed down on 16 November 1799.

In 1800, naval sick were admitted to the General Military Hospital at Zejtun. On 30 March the wounded of HMS Penelope and HMS Lion from the engagement with the Guillaume Tell were admitted there, as Surgeon James Young of HMS Lion lamented that no naval hospital existed on shore.

On 5 Sep 1800, the French were starved into capitulating and the naval sick were admitted to the Sacra Infermeria of the Order of St John of Jerusalem.

On 17 December 1800, the Armeria in Vittoriosa was prepared for use as a naval hospital with the first patient being admitted on 13 January 1801. The Naval Hospital at the Armeria closed on 13 May 1802, when the garrison prepared to return Malta to the Order of St John, in compliance with the Treaty of Amiens. From 17 July 1802 up to 2 January 1804, sick naval patients were admitted to the General Military Hospital Valletta.

References

  1. TNA:CO 159/1, Malta Colonial Correspondence 15 December 1799 – 4 Aug 1804.
  2. TNA:WO 17/2117, 1 January 1801 – 31 December 1801, Monthly Returns Malta.
  3. TNA:WO 1/292, Malta Military correspondence, Dispatches from commanders at Malta (January 1801 – 1802).
  4. TNA:WO 25/3898, Statement of officer's services.
  5. TNA:WO 25/3897, Statement of the Home and Foreign Services of officers on the half-pay list 1843-44.
  6. A list of the officers of the army and marines. 48th edition. War Office 29 January 1800.
  7. A list of the officers of the army and marines. 49th edition. War Office 1 Jan 1801.
  8. Cosserat D. P., Register. No 1 A, Journal of a Voyage to Egypt kept by the Reverend D P Cosserat April 29th 1801.
  9. Steel E.B. 1913, Archibald Arnott, Surgeon 20th Foot. J R Army Med Corps XX; 239-241.
  10. Kempthorne G.A., 1930. The Egyptian Campaign of 1801. J R Army Med Corps, LV; 217-230.
  11. The diffusion of vaccination. Br Med J (1896), 1; 1267 (Published 23 May 1896).
  12. Kempthorne G A. 1930. The Egyptian Campaign of 1801. J R Army Med Corps LV; 217-230.
  13. Anderson A. Journal of the Forces on a Secret Expedition. London 1802.