Royal Army Medical Corps

Royal Army Medical Corps

Cap badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps
Active 1898–present
Branch  British Army
Role Medical support
Part of Army Medical Services
Nickname(s) The Linseed Lancers
Motto(s) In arduis fidelis
(Faithful in adversity)
March Quick: Here's a Health unto His Majesty (arr. A.J. Thornburrow)
Slow: Her Bright Smile haunts me still (J Campbell arr. Brown)
Anniversaries Corps Day (23 June)
Colonel-in-Chief HRH The Duke of Gloucester KG, GCVO
Tactical recognition flash

The Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) is a specialist corps in the British Army which provides medical services to all Army personnel and their families, in war and in peace. Together with the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps and Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps, the RAMC forms the British Army's essential Army Medical Services.

The RAMC does not carry a Regimental Colour or Queen's Colour, although it has a Regimental Flag; nor does it have battle honours, as elements of the Corps have been present in almost every war the army has fought. Because it is not a fighting arm (i.e. it is non-combatant), under the Geneva Conventions, members of the RAMC may only use their weapons for self-defence. For this reason, there are two traditions that the RAMC perform when on parade:

Unlike medical officers in some other countries, medical officers in the RAMC (and the Navy and Air Force) do not use the "Dr" prefix, in parentheses or otherwise, but only their rank, although they may be addressed informally as "Doctor". Neither do they prefix "Surgeon" in front of their rank as medical officers of the Royal Navy do (although they did until the end of the 19th century).


The RAMC, like every other British regiment, has its own distinctive unit insignia.

Some units wear a brigade stable belt, for example members of 16 Medical Regiment wear a maroon stable belt with two horizontal sky blue lines; the buckle has the brigade Pegasus on it as opposed to the RAMC badge. This unit was formed in 1999 by the amalgamation of 23 Parachute Field Ambulance, whose stable belt they continue to wear, and 19th (Airmobile) Field Ambulance, who previously wore an all-black brigade stable belt.


Army surgeons carry out an operation during the Second World War

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,[1] and moved in 1863 to Netley outside Southampton.[2]

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.[3] 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.

RAMC World War I memorial in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh

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.[4]

Current facilities

The military medical services are now a tri-service body, with the hospital facilities of Army, Royal Air Force and Royal Navy combined. The main hospital facility is now the Royal Centre for Defence Medicine at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, a joint military-National Health Service centre. The former Royal Naval Hospital Haslar in Gosport became the tri-service Royal Hospital Haslar until it was decommissioned in March 2007. The majority of injured service personnel were treated in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham prior to the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital's opening. Negative press coverage during the surge of UK military commitments in the years following the second invasion of Iraq[5] has largely given way to an appreciation that the care provided to injured troops has significantly improved.[6][7]

Queen Alexandra Hospital in Portsmouth, Derriford Hospital in Plymouth, Friarage Hospital in Northallerton (near Catterick Garrison) and Frimley Park Hospital (near Aldershot Garrison) also have military hospital units attached to them but they do not treat operational casualties.





Order of precedence

Preceded by
Royal Logistic Corps
Order of Precedence Succeeded by
Corps of Royal Electrical
and Mechanical Engineers

Successive changes in title

Officer ranks

Before 18731873–18791879–18911891–1898[8]From 1898[9]
Inspector-General of HospitalsSurgeon-GeneralSurgeon-GeneralSurgeon-Major-GeneralSurgeon-General
Deputy Inspector-General of HospitalsDeputy Surgeon-GeneralDeputy Surgeon-GeneralSurgeon-ColonelColonel
Brigade SurgeonBrigade Surgeon-Lieutenant-ColonelLieutenant-Colonel
Assistant SurgeonSurgeonSurgeonSurgeon-CaptainCaptain

Services in Hong Kong

The Medical Corps provided non-emergency ambulatory assistance to the Hong Kong Fire Services prior to 1953.

Gallantry awards

Since the Victoria Cross was instituted in 1856 there have been 27 Victoria Crosses and two bars awarded to army medical personnel.[10] A bar, indicating a subsequent award of a second Victoria Cross, has only ever been awarded three times, two of them to medical officers. Twenty-three of these Victoria Crosses are on display in the Army Medical Services Museum. The corps also has one recipient of both the Victoria Cross and the Iron Cross.

One officer was awarded the George Cross in the Second World War. A young member of the corps, Private Michelle Norris, became the first woman to be awarded the Military Cross following her actions in Iraq on 11 June 2006.[11]

One VC is in existence that is not counted in any official records. In 1856, Queen Victoria laid a Victoria Cross beneath the foundation stone of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital, Netley.[12] When the hospital was demolished in 1966, the VC, known as "The Netley VC", was retrieved and is now on display in the Army Medical Services Museum, Ash Vale, near Aldershot.[12]

Name Award Awarded while serving with Medal held by
Ackroyd, HaroldHarold AckroydVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd The Royal Berkshire RegimentLord Ashcroft Collection
Allen, WilliamWilliam AllenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd Royal Field ArtilleryArmy Medical Services Museum
Babtie, WilliamWilliam BabtieVC Royal Army Medical CorpsAMS Museum
Bradshaw, WilliamWilliam BradshawVC90th Regiment (The Cameronians)AMS Museum
Chavasse, NoelNoel ChavasseVC
and Bar
Royal Army Medical Corps att'd The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
Bar: same
Imperial War Museum
Crean, ThomasThomas CreanVC1st Imperial Light Horse (Natal)AMS Museum
Douglas, HenryHenry DouglasVCRoyal Army Medical CorpsAMS Museum
Farmer, JosephJoseph FarmerVC Army Hospital CorpsAMS Museum
Fox-Russell, JohnJohn Fox-RussellVC Royal Army Medical Corps att'd The Royal Welch FusiliersAMS Museum
Green, JohnJohn GreenVC Royal Army Medical Corps att'd The Sherwood ForestersAMS Museum
Hale, ThomasThomas HaleVC7th Regiment (The Royal Fusiliers)AMS Museum
Harden, HenryHenry HardenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd 45 Royal Marine CommandoAMS Museum
Hartley, EdmundEdmund HartleyVCCape Mounted Riflemen, SA ForcesAMS Museum
Home, AnthonyAnthony HomeVC90th Perthshire Light InfantryAMS Museum
Inkson, EdgarEdgar InksonVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd Royal Inniskilling FusiliersAMS Museum
Jee, JosephJoseph JeeVC78th Regiment (The Seaforth Highlanders)AMS Museum
Le Quesne, FerdinandFerdinand Le QuesneVCMedical staff CorpsJersey Museum
Lloyd, OwenOwen LloydVCArmy Medical DepartmentAMS Museum
Maling, GeorgeGeorge MalingVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd The Rifle BrigadeAMS Museum
Manley, WilliamWilliam ManleyVC
Iron Cross
Royal Regiment of Artillery
Awarded Iron Cross 1870
Private Collection
Martin-Leake, ArthurArthur Martin-LeakeVC
and Bar
VC: South African Constabulary
Bar: Royal Army Medical Corps
AMS Museum
McMaster, Valentine MunbeeValentine Munbee McMasterVC Royal Army Medical Corps
Winning his VC during the relief of Lucknow, while serving with the 78th Highlanders
Mouat, JamesJames MouatVC6th Dragoons (Inniskilling)AMS Museum
Nickerson, WilliamWilliam NickersonVCRoyal Army Medical CorpsPrivately held
Ranken, HarryHarry RankenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd King's Royal Rifle CorpsAMS Museum
Reynolds, JamesJames ReynoldsVCArmy Medical DepartmentAMS Museum
Sinton, JohnJohn SintonVCIndian Medical ServiceAMS Museum
Sylvester, WilliamWilliam SylvesterVC23rd Regiment (The Royal Welch Fusiliers)AMS Museum

Although not serving with the RAMC, Irish born Surgeon John Crimmin VC, CB, CIE, VD is another military medic to win the country's highest award for gallantry. He won his medal in 1889 while serving with The Bombay Medical Service of The Indian Army in the Karen Ni Expedition. John Crimmin is buried in Wells, Somerset. Contrary to other sources the medal is not held by The Army Medical Services Museum.

Trades/careers in the 21st century

RAMC officer careers:

RAMC soldier trades:

Military abbreviations applicable to the Medical Corps

Within the military, Medical officers could occupy a number of roles that were dependent on experience, rank and location. Within military documentation, numerous abbreviations were used to identify these roles, of which the following are some of the most common:[13]


Since 1903, the corps has published an academic journal titled the Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps (JRAMC). Its stated aim is to "publish high quality research, reviews and case reports, as well as other invited articles, which pertain to the practice of military medicine in its broadest sense".[14] Submissions are accepted from serving members of all ranks, as well as academics from outside the military. Initially a monthly publication, it is currently published quarterly by BMJ on behalf of the RAMC Association.[14][15]

Notable personnel

See also


  1. A E W Miles, The Accidental Birth of Military Medicine, Civic Books, London, 2009 ISBN 978-1-904104-95-7, page 14
  2. London and Provincial Medical Directory, 1860, John Churchill, London; on the AMS see Hampshire and QARANC both accessed 29 November 2010
  3. Commissioned Officers of the Army Medical Service, W Johnston, Aberdeen UP 1917
  4. War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  5. Muir, Hugh (12 March 2007). "Storm over injured troops' care fails to save military hospital". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. p. 8. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2007-03-23.
  6. "House of Commons Defence Committee Report on the Medical Care of the Armed Forces". 5 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  7. Evans, Michael (7 March 2009). "Chain of care: from front line to Selly Oak Hospital". The Times. Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 2009-03-21.
  8. The London Gazette: no. 26196. p. 4615. 28 August 1891.
  9. The London Gazette: no. 26988. p. 4355. 19 July 1898.
  10. "The Royal Army Medical Corps". Retrieved 2008-06-30.
  11. Glendinning, Lee (22 March 2007). "Historic award for female private". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. p. 8. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2007-03-22.
  12. 1 2 "Netley Hospital information". QARANC – Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. Retrieved 2007-06-16.
  13. "Abbreviations Used in Original Documents". Scarlettfinders: British Military Nurses. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  14. 1 2 "About Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps". BMJ. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  15. "Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps: Archive of All Online Issues (July 1903 – Present)". BMJ. Retrieved 12 September 2015.

Further reading

  • Blair, J.S.G. Centenary History of the Royal Army Medical Corps, 1898–1998. Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1998.
  • Brereton, F.S. The Great War and the RAMC. London: Constable, 1919.
  • Leneman, Leah. "Medical Women at War, 1914–1918." Medical History (1994) 38#2 pp: 160–177. online
  • Lovegrove, P. Not Least in the Crusade. A Short History of the RAMC. Gale and Polden, 1955.
  • Miles, A. E. W. The Accidental Birth of Military Medicine: The Origins of the Royal Army Medical Corps, Civic Books, 2009

Primary sources

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