Royal Army Medical Corps

Medical services in the British armed services go as far back as the formation of the Standing Regular Army after the Restoration of Charles II in 1660. This was the first time a career was provided for a Medical Officer (MO), known as the Regimental Surgeon, both in peacetime and in war. The Army was formed entirely on a regimental basis, and an MO with a Warrant Officer as his Assistant Surgeon was appointed to each regiment, which also provided a hospital. The MO was also for the first time concerned in the continuing health of his troops, and not limited to just battlefield medicine.This regimental basis of appointment for MOs continued until 1873, when a co-ordinated army medical service was set up. To join, a doctor needed to be qualified and single and aged at least 21, and then undergo a further examination in physiology, surgery, medicine, zoology, botany and physical geography including meteorology, and also to satisfy various other requirements (including having dissected the whole body at least once and having attended 12 midwifery cases); the results were published in three classes by an Army Medical School, which was set up in 1860 at Fort Pitt in Chatham, and moved in 1863 to Netley outside Southampton.There was much unhappiness in the Army Medical Service in the following years.

 

For medical officers did not actually have military rank but "advantages corresponding to relative military rank" (such as choice of quarters, rates of lodging money, servants, fuel and light, allowances on account of injuries received in action, and pensions and allowances to widows and families). They had inferior pay in India, excessive amounts of Indian and colonial service (being required to serve in India six years at a stretch), and less recognition in honours and awards. They did not have their own identity as did the Army Service Corps, whose officers did have military rank. A number of complaints were published, and the British Medical Journal campaigned loudly. For over two years after 27 July 1887 there were no recruits to the Army Medical Department. A parliamentary committee reported in 1890 highlighting the doctors' injustices. Yet all this was ignored by the Secretary of State for War. The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and others redoubled their protests. Eventually, in 1898, officers and soldiers providing medical services were incorporated into a new body known by its present name, the Royal Army Medical Corps; its first Colonel-in-Chief was H.R.H. the Duke of Connaught.

 

The RAMC began to develop during the Boer War of 1899–1902. The Corps itself lost 743 officers and 6130 soldiers in the war. However, far more of them, and thousands more of the sick and wounded they treated, would have died if it had not been for the civilian doctors working in South Africa as volunteers—such as Sir Frederick Treves, Sir George Makins, Sir Howard Henry Tooth and Professor Alexander Ogston—who, having seen how unprepared to deal with epidemics the RAMC and the Army itself were, decided that a radical reform was needed. Chief among them was Alfred Fripp, who had been chosen by the Imperial Yeomanry Hospital Committee to order all the necessary materials and medical personnel, and oversee the setting-up of a private hospital at Deelfontein to cater, initially, for 520 'sick and wounded.' The contrast between the smooth working of the IYH at Deelfontein with the chaos of the RAMC hospitals, where an enteric epidemic had overwhelmed the staff, led to questions in Parliament, mainly by William Burdett-Coutts. In July 1901 the first meeting of the Committee of Reform took place, with all the aforementioned civilian experts, plus Sir Edwin Cooper Perry, making up half the number; the rest were Army men, and included Alfred Keogh, whom the new Secretary of State for War, Lord Midleton, appointed Chairman of this Committee and the subsequent Advisory Committee.

 

Neither would have met so soon—if at all—but for Fripp's concern to limit unnecessary suffering, and for his ten years' friendship with the new King, Edward VII. Fripp showed him his plans for reform and the King made sure that they were not shelved by his Government. Part of his plan was to move the Netley Hospital and Medical School to a Thames-side site at Millbank, London. Cooper Perry, Fripp's colleague from Guy's Hospital, was instrumental in making this happen, as well as using his formidable talents as an organizer in other services for the Reform Committee. Fripp and Cooper Perry were knighted for their services to the RAMC Committee of Reform in 1903. Fripp was thirty-seven.During the First World War, the corps reached its apogee both in size and experience. The two people in charge of the RAMC in the Great War were Arthur Sloggett, the senior RAMC officer seconded to the IYH in Deelfontein who acquiesced in all Fripp's surprising innovations, and Alfred Keogh, whom Fripp recommended to Brodrick as an RAMC man well-regarded when Registrar of No.3 General Hospital in Cape Town. Fripp, Ogston and Perry wrote a joint critical statement about the RAMC's operational shortcomings in 1916 but, given the scale of medical requirements in this War, it was felt that the RAMC had done a fine job in the end.During Britain's colonial days, the RAMC set up clinics and hospitals in countries wherever British troops could be found. Major-General Sir William Macpherson of the RAMC wrote the official Medical History of the War (HMSO 1922). Its main base was for long the Queen Alexandra Hospital at Millbank, London (now closed).Before the Second World War, RAMC recruits were required to be at least 5 feet 2 inches tall and could enlist up to 30 years of age. They initially enlisted for seven years with the colours and a further five years with the reserve, or three years and nine years. They trained for six months at the RAMC Depot, Crookham Camp, Aldershot, before proceeding to specialist trade training.

Name: Fulham, William Frederick

Rank: Private

Age.24

No.1456562

Unit: 16 Light Field Ambulance

Missing since: 10-11-1944

Next of Kin:Son of Frederick and Annie Fulham, of St. Phillip's Marsh, Bristol; husband of H. M. E. Fulham, of Itchen, Southampton.

Groesbeek Panel: 9

KIA Information: Known to have been killed during Walcheren operation, believed to have been died of wounds,but missing since.