The Malta Independent 30 May 2020, Saturday

Wartime Malta – The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC)

Tuesday, 7 April 2020, 10:00 Last update: about 3 months ago

We are at war! We are fighting a battle on a scale and a wide front the world has not witnessed since the end of the Second World War. Our enemy is unseen and the fear can be greater and more gripping and crippling than a warplane dropping bombs. In dealing with the Covid-19 virus, as with all diseases, manpower is the most important resource. The human capital is vital not only for prevention but also for the cure of the diseased on the ‘battlefield’. Anthony Zarb Dimech writes

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) had first been formed in 1898 as the single medical corps for the British Army. Each unit in the field had its own Regimental Medical Officer (RMO), supported by stretcher-bearers and medical orderlies. Army nurses were drawn from Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), formed in 1902, and the Territorial Army Nursing Service.

The first medical help for a battlefield casualty came from the Regimental Aid Post. The casualty was then taken to a Casualty Clearing Station and on to the Advanced Dressing Station, with the level of medical care increasing in sophistication at each stage. Once a casualty had been removed from the battlefield, treatment took place in military hospitals or in the military wings of civilian hospitals.

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The role of the RAMC during the Great War of 1914-1918 is very well-known. As the Nurse of the Mediterranean during the First World War, in total, 27 hospitals and camps were set up around the Island. The peace establishment of the RAMC in Malta in 1914 was 23 officers, 150 other ranks and 12 nursing sisters of the QAIMNS.

The role of the RAMC during the Second World War took on a different twist as Malta was directly involved in the fighting. During the Second War Malta was one of the most important Corps of the RAMC (Royal Army Medical Corps). 

The Maltese personnel recruited in these Corps followed intensive training courses using the Official Copy of the RAMC Training Manual 1935 for the following:

  • The maintenance of health and prevention of disease
  • Care of the sick and wounded
  • Collection and evacuation of the sick and wounded
  • The preparation of records for the sick and wounded

Going through publications and personal records of these Maltese personnel, one can follow their story and understand how these men were enlisted and their life beyond enlistment, which included a lot of sacrifices and hardships. One particular man enlisted in the RAMC was Joseph Psaila.

On 8 March 1941, according to the Compulsory Service Enlistment Notice, Psaila was asked to report at Castille with a medical examination certificate for his selection for service in the Royal Malta Artillery (RMA) but a Certificate of Exemption from compulsory military service was issued on 8 April of the same year.

Despite not serving in the RMA, on 26 July 1941, Psaila was asked to report at 8, Don Rua Street, Sliema to be attested in His Majesty Forces in the RAMC. Failure to report would have involved police intervention. Thereafter, he was recruited and underwent recruitment training and worked in Acute Medical Wards, Hospital Office and Company Office.

 

 

 

 

 

On 26 January 1942, he was re-mustered as a Nursing Orderly Group C. The work involved the following duties:

  • Management of wards
  • General nursing
  • Nursing of bed cases
  • Observation of the sick
  • Medicaments and their administration
  • Remedial application
  • Baths, packs, and so on
  • Complication of medical cases
  • Nursing of medical cases
  • Nursing of infectious cases

Despite an approval for a Dependent's Allowance of 15 shillings per week on 23 November 1942, the financial  hardships of wartime Malta on Psaila's family are best epitomised by a letter that his mother wrote to his Command Paymaster on 17 March 1943. She asked for a reconsideration of an increase in the Dependent Allowance to her. At the time, Private Psaila was attached to the RAMC General Hospital as a Clerk Class II.

Mrs Psaila had lost her husband in October 1942 and her health had deteriorated. She was also contributing for her living expenses and her other son's education. In her letter, she stressed that since 1942, she had been receiving from her son, not only the regular allowance of 15 shillings per week from his pay but he contributed a further 10 shillings per week from his pay. She remarked that due to this financial support, her son was suffering unnecessary hardships which she listed as follows:

On 19 March 1945, Psaila was discharged with exemplary military conduct from the RAMC after his services were no longer required on reduction of the military establishment.

 


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