Medical Officers
Of the Malta Garrison – 1898

search maltaramc

Malta Garrison – 1898

Royal Army Medical Corps

On 23 June 1898, the officers below the rank of Surgeon Major General serving in the Army Medical Staff amalgamated with the warrant officers, non-commissioned officers and men of the Medical Staff Corps to form the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Malta Command (including Crete)

The average strength in Malta and Gozo, exclusive of colonial troops, was 7390 men. There were 7093 admissions into hospital (959.8 admissions/1000 mean strength) and 67 deaths (9.06/1000 mean strength). Crete had 1701 troops with 2424 admissions into hospital (1425 admissions/1000 mean strength) and 51 deaths (29.98/1000 mean strength). The stations in Crete were Kandia and Canea.

A total of 364 men returned to England as invalids; 93 of whom were discharged from the service. The average number constantly non-effective through sickness (mean daily sick), excluding the RMA, was 414.11 men (56.03/1000 mean strength) for Malta and Gozo, and 68.80 men (40.45/1000 mean strength) for Crete. The average sick time to each soldier was 19.39 days; the average duration of each case was 18.52 days.

There were 270 officers, with 244 attacks of illness and 5 deaths. 21 officers were invalided home.

In 1898, fever accounted for 2091 admissions into hospital. There were 74 deaths. Admissions were for: simple continued fevers (60), Mediterranean fever (19), Malarial fevers (28), injuries (18), enteric fever (10/3 deaths one in Crete), hepatic conditions (13), bronchitis (9), diarrhoea (9), rheumatism (8) and influenza (7). One officer died of pneumonia and another died from gunshot wounds sustained in Kandia during the Moslem outbreak.

Malta had 2 admissions for eruptive fevers (1/1 death small pox, 1 Scarlet fever ), 62 for enteric fever with 24 deaths. Of the 62 admissions, 10 were from Mtarfa and 9 from Pembroke Camp; a large proportion were from men returning from Crete. Two soldiers of the RAMC contracted the disease while attending on enteric patients.

The breakdown of diseases was:

  • 68 nervous system diseases (1 death) 16 mental cases
  • 66 circulatory diseases (4 deaths)
  • 180 respiratory conditions (5 deaths)
  • 1146 digestive diseases (5 deaths)
  • 15 urinary problems (3 deaths)
  • 327 generative disorders
  • 543 cutaneous diseases
  • 224 rheumatism
  • 194 primary syphilis
  • 146 secondary syphilis
  • 891 gonorrhoea
  • 21 phthisis (5 deaths)
  • 956 accidents (25 deaths)
  • 17 alcoholism (1 death)
  • 76 parasitic diseases (54 scabies, 14 ringworm, 7 taenia solium)
  • 167 debility

There were 108 admissions for dysentery with 8 deaths in the Command; 37 admissions and 4 deaths occurred in Crete. There were 1893 admissions for simple continued fever with 9 deaths. Mediterranean fever accounted for 230 cases and 8 deaths. 145 cases of simple continued fevers and 39 of those of Mediterranean fever occurred in Crete.

The Medical officer in charge of Forrest Hospital attributed the large number of admissions for simple continued fever to the increase in troops under canvas at Pembroke Camp and especially to the presence of young soldiers in the station. He also observed that the disease frequently occurred in men under treatment in tents but not among those in wards.

There were 1383 admissions for malarial fevers of which 1360 were ague and 23 remittent fever; 1146 of ague and 14 of remittent in Crete. There was 1 death from remittent fever in Malta. Maltese mule drivers in Crete suffered severely from malarial fevers.

There were 23 admissions for gunshot wounds, of which 5 were accidental, the rest occurring in Sept in Kandia during the Moslem uprising. Of 15 deaths from local injuries, 11 were due to gunshot wounds, nine during the Moslem outbreak, seven of which died instantly, one from a negligent discharge of a revolver in Crete and one suicide in Valletta. An accidental death followed an explosion of a cartridge at gun practice; six soldiers drowned.

Two deaths were from falls of the ramparts in Fort Ricasoli and Fort Chambray Gozo, another was from a compound fracture of the femur due to an accident while dismounting a gun at Upper St Elmo.

During 1898, the Sanatorium at Citta Vecchia (Mdina) treated 821 patients, as compared with 581 in the previous year. 535 patients were admitted directly from Mtarfa, the rest (286 patients), were transfers from various stations, including 66 patients from Crete.

Soldiers' Families

There were 436 wives, with 301 attacks of illness and 7 deaths. Admissions were for: simple continued fevers (55), Mediterranean fever (19/2 deaths), debility (52), bronchitis (19), dyspepsia (16), diarrhoea (11), anaemia (11), enteric fever (2/2 deaths), diseases peculiar to women (25). A women became infected with, but recovered from small pox at a time when the disease was prevalent among the civil population. Other deaths were from pulmonary tuberculosis, heart and kidney diseases.

There were 759 children with 454 cases of sickness and 26 deaths. Admissions were for: simple continued fever (72/1 deaths), Mediterranean fever (16), diarrhoea (78/7 deaths), bronchitis (65/2 deaths), eruptive fevers (28) of which chicken pox (26), cowpox (1) and scarlet fever (1), debility (21), intestinal inflammation (21/11 deaths), 18 conjunctivitis and enteric fever (2). Deaths were from tuberculosis (2), meningitis (2), pneumonia (1).

Regulation Malta 16/2252 dated Jan 1898, recognised the Female Sanatorium at Citta Vecchia as a Female Hospital for the continuation of medical treatment of women who had been treated in quarters, with the usual allowances of a Dieted Hospital.

From 14 Feb 1898, the War Office took over the responsibility for running the women's sanatorium, established in 1895. It provided the furniture, patient's diets and administration for the hospital which was used by soldiers' wives and children. The establishment was intended as a convalescent place only and was not adequate for the care of acute conditions.

The following were buried in Pietà Military Cemetery in 1898:

  • 20 July Infant Rosie Winifred Daisy Ready aged 6 months, daughter of A W Ready.
  • 29 Aug Infant Annie Montford aged 7 months, of Mtarfa.
  • 29 Sep Pte John E Booker aged 25 years, of the Grenadier Guards.

Army Reinforcements

On 14 Jan 1898, the Council of the Malta Government offered to raise 1000 Maltese men for General Military Service in Egypt.

On 21 Jan 1898, new orders were published to encourage recruitment, whereby men serving for 3 years were allowed to extend for 7 years and receive a bounty of £2. Those who had served for 7 years were allowed to serve for 12 years. A limited number of Guards Reservists were encouraged to join their Colours without being required to refund the deferred pay or gratuities given to them on being transferred to the Reserve List.


On 25 Mar 1898, the Peninsular and Oriental Line abandoned Malta as a port of call for their large homeward bound steamers.

This was forced upon them by the local authorities who were imbued with the most eccentric and old world notions of the value of quarantine as a preventive of disease. Their ships bypassed Malta and sailed straight from Port Said to Marseilles.

Fort Manoel

The Principal Medical Officer declared Fort Manoel to be unsuitable for a barracks. It was too close to the Lazaretto and the cattle quarantine station, which at times had between 380 to 550 head of cattle.

Royal Naval Hospital Bighi

On 9 Apr 1898, Deputy Inspector General James Hamilton Martin brought to the attention of Admiral Sir J O Hopkins the need to expand the cemetery at Bighi.

The portion of the cemetery set apart for officers had room left but for six or eight more graves. The men's ground was expected to be full after two or three years. DIG J H Martin urged the purchase of land at a short distance from the hospital.

Funds for a Royal Naval Cemetery estimated to cost £1830, were not available. It was, however, proposed to vote money in the annual estimates for 1899-1900 for the purchase of land, to be laid out as a cemetery.

On 16 June 1898, the Naval authorities proposed to buy Villa Portelli for £4,925. The dwelling was near the Naval Hospital and was in an ideal location to serve as the residence for the Deputy Inspector General of Hospitals.

On 14 Nov 1898 the administration postponed the purchase of the property. On 31 Oct 1901, Villa Portelli with the adjacent land at Rinella Creek was purchased for £13,000.

The medical establishment of the RNH Bighi was composed of: Deputy Inspector General J H Martin (in medical charge), Chaplain Rev R D Lewis, Surgeon T Austen, Surgeon T E Honey and store keeper and cashier Mr D J Low RN. The four nursing sisters were: Miss Mary J Pinnager, Miss Florence A Moore, Miss Florence H Porter, and Miss Amy Munn. The ward staff consisted of one chief sick berth steward (Mr Hannaford RN), one first steward, four second stewards and 14 sick berth attendants. The average number of patients was 150 to 200.


  • Hart H. G. 1898. The New Annual Army List for 1898 corrected to 31st December 1897. London John Murray.
  • Statistical, Sanitary and Medical Reports of the Army Medical Department. Army Medical Department Report for 1898 Vol XL. London 1900.
  • TNA:WO 73/56, Distribution of the army - Monthly Returns of the Malta Garrison (1 January – 1 June 1898).
  • TNA:WO 73/57, Distribution of the army - Monthly Returns of the Malta Garrison (1 July – 1 December 1898).
  • The Malta Times and United Service Gazette 1898, No 5659; (Published 1 January 1898).
  • The Malta Times and United Service Gazette 1898 (Published 28 October 1898).
  • The Malta Times and United Service Gazette 1898 (Published 30 December 1898).
  • Malta Naval Hospital The Navy and Army Illustrated Vol VII No 97 page 273-274 published 10 December 1898.
  • TNA:ADM 121/44, no 294, 1898. Records of the Mediterranean Stations, Malta 1885-1901.