Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison – 1854

search maltaramc

Malta Garrison – 1854


Crimean War 14 Sep 1854 – 30 Mar 1856

On 22 Feb 1854, an Expeditionary Force consisting of about 10,000 men from the Grenadier Guards, Coldstream Guards, Scots Fusiliers, 4th Foot, 28th Foot, 33rd Foot, 44th Foot, 50th Foot, 77th Foot, 93rd (Highlanders) assembled at Malta. In 1854, the average strength of the garrison was 3,803 men. It rose to 9,929 with the Crimea Expeditionary Force temporarily stationed in Malta.

By Spring, there were on the island: 3 regiments of Foot Guards commanded by HRH the Duke of Cambridge, the Rifle Brigade, Royal Engineers, and 14 Line Regiments.

The troops were armed with the new Minie Rifle which fired a conical bullet instead of a round ball. Consequently, the whole machinery of the training school at Hythe was transported to Malta so as to teach the troops in the use of the new weapon.

War against Russia was declared on 28 Mar 1854. At the outbreak of war with Russia, Malta had 15,000 troops, but hardly a ship to carry them on. The military was obliged to remove passengers from India from their ships, and the vessels were pressed into service as troop carriers. On 31 Mar, the Golden Fleece left Malta for Gallipoli with the first portion of the British Expeditionary Army. Lord Raglan, its Commander-in-Chief, arrived in Malta on 25 Apr on HM Steam Packet Cardoc. He left on the same day on the steamer Emeu.

On 4 Apr 1854, a Brigade of troops consisting of about 9,000 men was paraded by General Bentinck on the Floriana Parade ground. The men were from the:

  • Grenadier Guards
  • Scots Guards
  • Fusilier Guards
  • Coldstream Guards
  • 4th Regiment
  • 28th Regiment
  • 33rd Regiment
  • 44th Regiment
  • 50th Regiment
  • 77th Regiment
  • 93rd Highlanders

The total number of men and horses of the French and British armies arriving at Malta from 24 Mar to 8 July 1854 on their way to the east was:1

  • English Troops 31,473
  • English Horses 4928
  • French Troops 46,272
  • French Horses 7426
  • Total Allied Troops 77,745

During the war, a Reserve Depot of 4 companies was formed by the regiments of infantry serving in the Crimea. These depots were formed into Provisional Battalions, which were kept up until the Army in the East was broken up after the conclusion of the Treaty of Paris on 29 Mar 1856.

By 30 June 1854, the allied force of 25,451 men had occupied successively Gallipoli, Scutari and the Valley of the Devna near Varna in Bulgaria. At the end of Aug, the several divisions of the army embarked at Varna for the Crimea. The army reached the Crimea on the morning of 14 Sept 1854.

Hospital Beds

A number of hospital beds were set aside in Malta to receive the sick and wounded from Sebastopol. 2500 hundred beds were arranged as follows:

  • 1500 beds at the Lazaretto on Manoel Island.
  • 500 beds at Bighi Naval Hospital Valletta.
  • 500 beds in a hospital yet to be determined.

On 11 Feb 1854, a medical staff was sent out to serve with the army in Malta. This consisted of a Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals acting as the PMO for 10,000 men, three staff surgeons of the first class as superintending officers for sub-divisions, three staff surgeons of the second class, six assistant staff surgeons, one assistant staff surgeon to act as an apothecary, one purveyor and one to act as clerk. By 27 Feb, there were in Malta an inspector general who superseded the deputy inspector general, four deputy inspector general, twelve staff surgeons of the first class, twelve staff surgeons of the second class and seventy assistant staff surgeons. Part of the medical staff proceeded to Constantinople, the rest accompanied the troops on the transports.

In Oct 1854, 60 prisoners, including a Russian General were confined at Malta. The wounded from the Crimea started to arrive in November. They were disembarked from the Emeu on the Marina and were immediately helped into vehicles prepared for them. The people spontaneously carried those unable to walk upon their shoulders, placed them gently upon carriages, and even accompanied them to hospital.

Cholera July – October 1854

In Dec 1854, the garrison commander received orders to prepare barracks for 12,000 troops. These were to lodge troops from the depots of the different regiments serving in the east. The raw recruits were to be sent to Malta to be drilled in the necessary military exercises, before being issued with their clothing.

The regiments of infantry serving in Malta were to have an additional battalion of 800 men to be termed the 2nd or 3rd Battalion. Wooden huts were constructed on the Hornworks outside Portes de Bombes to house some of the troops. Maltese carpenters at Cospicua constructed these wooden huts and some carts for the British troops at Sebastopol.

The large influx of troops from England where cholera had prevailed caused an outbreak in Valletta and in Floriana Barracks. A memo, dated Aug 1854, reported that some cases of cholera had appeared in the garrison towards end of July 1854. Twelve deaths were recorded. By Sep, the health of the troops had much improved and the cholera had disappeared.

The transport Medway with the Royal Artillery on board suffered severely from cholera on its passage from England. The troops were landed and quartered in the lazaretto where there were 16 deaths out of 49 attacks.

Cholera also broke out on the French steamer Egyptus which had arrived from Marseilles. The sick were segregated at the Lazaretto. There were 348 deaths from 1 July to 30 Sept 1854.

Acting Assistant Surgeons

Acting Staff Assistant Surgeons were civilian surgeons who received appointments in the army during the Crimean War. They were not commissioned officers, but were given preference if and when they applied to join the Army Medical Department.

A notice to young surgeons appeared in the Medical Times of Sept 1854 stating: Acting Assistant Surgeons are now admitted for temporary service into the army. Their qualification must be a diploma of one of the recognised Colleges of Surgeons, or some body authorised to grant degrees or licenses to practice.

They have the same pay and allowances as Staff Assistant Surgeons, namely 7s a day. They have no claim for half-pay after ceasing employment but will have a gratuity of 2 months full-pay from the time their services are dispensed with. If they have the qualifications required, they will be favourably considered for permanent employment. They will be principally employed in Great Britain.

Medical Orderlies for Turkey

A War Office circular called for upwards of 400 volunteers to join an ambulance corps to take care of the sick and wounded of the Crimea. The men were to be under the immediate control of the Medical Inspector General. The Circular was received at Chatham Barracks on 8 Nov 1854. It was read out to the men of the depots, that is the British and East India regiments comprising the Provincial Battalion.

Sixty men, all of whom had completed 19 years service volunteered. Another 130 men who had recently arrived from India as invalids, but who were pronounced fit for duty in any country except India, were also incorporated in the Hospital Conveyance Corps. The duty of this corps was the evacuation of the wounded from the battlefield and attendance upon them at the base hospital. The corps proved ineffective.

Florence Nightingale

Miss Florence Nightingale and 42 female nurses arrived in Malta from Marseilles on 30 Oct on the Postal and Oriental steamer Vectis. While the steamer took up coal, the party strolled down Valletta where they attracted the sympathy and admiration of the inhabitants.

The party was under the charge of Deputy Inspector of Hospitals Spencer and Cumming. The whole party including 10 Staff Assistant Surgeons left on 30 Oct to join the army in the Crimea.

English Hospital

The English hospital at Scutari was inundated with sick after the closure of the General Hospital at Varna, and with wounded from the Crimea. Ten medical gentlemen were requested from Malta for Scutari. Four doctors volunteered.

On 14 Oct 1854, Rear Admiral Houston Stewart appointed the following practitioners who embarked on the steam sloop Fury for Constantinople: Drs Pisani Salvatore Luigi, Grillett P, Bellanti C, Arpa A, Muscat Vincenzo, Pullicino Antonio. In July 1853, Dr S Luigi Pisani, late of the Malta Government University and son of Dr Pisani of the Civil Hospital, had obtained the degree of MD Edinburgh with the highest honours.

Dr Antonio Pullicino embarked in the first week of Nov for Scutari. A further 16 medical officers for the hospital at Scutari arrived on the auxiliary steamer The Queen of the South on 10 Nov 1854, following a passage of 15 days.


  • Hart H. G., New Annual Army List, dated 1 January 1855.
  • Bulletins London Gazette dated 3 January 1854.
  • TNA:WO 17/2160, Returns of the General and Staff Officers of the hospitals attached to the forces in Malta (1 January–1 December 1854).
  • TNA:WO 25/3901, Statement of Officers' Service.
  • Malta Mail and United Service Journal 31 October 1850, no 435.
  • Malta Mail no 629, 11 July 1854.
  • Russell W.H., The war from the landing at Gallipoli to the death of Lord Raglan, (London 1855).