Royal Army Medical Corps

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. The RAMC, the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, the Royal Army Dental Corps and Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps form the Army Medical Services.

Royal Army Medical Corps
Cap badge of the Royal Army Medical Corps
Branch British Army
RoleMedical support
Part ofArmy Medical Services
Nickname(s)The Linseed Lancers
Motto(s)In arduis fidelis
(Faithful in adversity)[1]
MarchQuick: Here's a Health unto His Majesty (arr. A.J. Thornburrow)
Slow: Her Bright Smile haunts me still (J Campbell arr. Brown)
AnniversariesCorps Day (23 June)
Colonel-in-ChiefThe Duke of Gloucester KG, GCVO
Tactical recognition flash


Medical services in the British armed services date from 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), both in peacetime and in war.[2] For much of the next two hundred years, army medical provision was mostly arranged on a regimental basis, with each battalion arranging its own hospital facilities and medical supplies. In 1793 an Army Medical Board was formed, which promoted a more centralised approach drawing on concurrent civilian healthcare practices.[3] The Board set up five General Military Hospitals, four in the naval ports of Chatham, Deal, Plymouth and Gosport (Portsmouth), and one (known as the York Hospital) in Chelsea; the hospitals received large numbers of sick and injured soldiers from the French Revolutionary Wars (so much so that by 1799 additional General Military Hospitals were set up in Yarmouth, Harwich and Colchester Barracks).[4] The Board was criticised, for both high expenditure and poor management; by the end of the century the Board had been disestablished, and the General Hospitals were closed or repurposed not long afterwards.[5]

In place of the Army Medical Board, the office of Director-General of the Medical Department was instituted, with James McGrigor serving in that role from 1815 to 1851.[3] McGrigor, who has been called the Father of Army Medicine,[6] had served as principal medical officer under the Duke of Wellington during the Peninsular War, during which time he had introduced significant changes in the organisation of the army's medical services, placing them on a far more formal footing.[7] The regimental basis of appointment for MOs continued until 1873, when a coordinated army medical service was set up. To join, a doctor needed to be qualified, 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,[8] and moved in 1863 to Netley outside Southampton.[9]

There was much unhappiness in the Army Medical Service in the following years as medical officers did not 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 from 27 July 1887 there were no recruits to the Army Medical Department. A parliamentary committee reported in 1890, highlighting the doctors' injustices. There was no response from the Secretary of State for War. The British Medical Association, the Royal College of Physicians and others redoubled their protests.[10] 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 Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught.[11]

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, St John Brodrick, later Earl of 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.[12]

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,[13] 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.[14] Its main base was for long the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital at Millbank, London (now closed).[15] It set up a network of military general hospitals around the United Kingdom[16] and established clinics and hospitals in countries where there were British troops. Major-General Sir William Macpherson of the RAMC wrote the official Medical History of the War (HMSO 1922).[17]

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, Queen Elizabeth Barracks, Church Crookham, before proceeding to specialist trade training.[18] The RAMC Depot moved from Church Crookham to Keogh Barracks in Mytchett in 1964.[19]

RAMC general hospitals in the First World War

The corps established a network of home-country military hospitals for military casualties during the First World War. The hospitals were managed by Territorial Force personnel and were headquartered as follows:[16]

London Command

Eastern Command

Northern Command

Western Command

Southern Command

Scottish Command

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 majority of injured service personnel were treated in Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham prior to the new Queen Elizabeth Hospital's opening. There was press coverage critical of the standard of care during the surge of UK military commitments in the years following the second invasion of Iraq,[43] but it was later reported that the care provided to injured troops had significantly improved.[44][45]

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.[46]





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

  • Dark blue beret, the default Army colour worn by units without distinctive coloured berets.[49] The exceptions are members of 16 Medical Regiment, who wear the maroon beret, 225 Scottish General Support Medical Regiment (previously Field Ambulance) and members of 205 (Scottish) Field Hospital, who wear the traditional Scottish Tam o' Shanter headdress with Corps badge on tartan backing, and medical personnel attached to field units with distinctive coloured berets, who usually wear the beret of that unit (e.g. maroon for The Parachute Regiment and sky blue for the Army Air Corps). There is also a small attachment to Special Forces, the Medical Support Unit (MSU) who wear the sandy beret of the SAS.[49]
  • Cap badge depicting the Rod of Asclepius, surmounted by a crown, enclosed within a laurel wreath, with the regimental motto In Arduis Fidelis ("Faithful in Adversity")[1] in a scroll beneath. The cap badge is worn 1 inch above the left eye on the beret. The cap badge of the other ranks must also be backed by an oval patch of dull cherry-red coloured cloth measuring 3.81 cm (1.5 inches) wide and 6.35 cm (2.5 inches) high sewn directly to the beret.[49]


Colonels-in-Chief have been:[11]

Order of precedence

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

Officer ranks

Before 18731873–18791879–18911891–1898[50]From 1898[51]
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

Gallantry awards

Since the Victoria Cross was instituted in 1856 there have been 27 Victoria Crosses and two bars awarded to army medical personnel.[52] 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.[53]

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.[54] 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.[54]

Name Award Awarded while serving with Medal held by
Harold AckroydVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd The Royal Berkshire RegimentLord Ashcroft Collection
William AllenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd Royal Field ArtilleryArmy Medical Services Museum
William BabtieVCRoyal Army Medical CorpsAMS Museum
William BradshawVC90th Regiment (The Cameronians)AMS Museum
Noel ChavasseVC
and Bar
Royal Army Medical Corps att'd The King's (Liverpool Regiment)
Bar: same
Imperial War Museum
Thomas CreanVC1st Imperial Light Horse (Natal)AMS Museum
Henry DouglasVCRoyal Army Medical CorpsAMS Museum
Joseph FarmerVCArmy Hospital CorpsAMS Museum
John Fox-RussellVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd The Royal Welch FusiliersAMS Museum
John GreenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd The Sherwood ForestersAMS Museum
Thomas HaleVC7th Regiment (The Royal Fusiliers)AMS Museum
Henry HardenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd 45 Royal Marine CommandoAMS Museum
Edmund HartleyVCCape Mounted Riflemen, SA ForcesAMS Museum
Anthony HomeVC90th Perthshire Light InfantryAMS Museum
Edgar InksonVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd Royal Inniskilling FusiliersAMS Museum
Joseph JeeVC78th Regiment (The Seaforth Highlanders)AMS Museum
Ferdinand Le QuesneVCMedical staff CorpsJersey Museum
Owen LloydVCArmy Medical DepartmentAMS Museum
George MalingVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd The Rifle BrigadeAMS Museum
William ManleyVC
Iron Cross
Royal Regiment of Artillery
Awarded Iron Cross 1870
Private Collection
Arthur Martin-LeakeVC
and Bar
VC: South African Constabulary
Bar: Royal Army Medical Corps
AMS Museum
Valentine Munbee McMasterVCRoyal Army Medical Corps
Winning his VC during the relief of Lucknow, while serving with the 78th Highlanders
National War Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh
James MouatVC6th Dragoons (Inniskilling)AMS Museum
William NickersonVCRoyal Army Medical CorpsPrivately held
Harry RankenVCRoyal Army Medical Corps att'd King's Royal Rifle CorpsAMS Museum
James ReynoldsVCArmy Medical DepartmentAMS Museum
John SintonVCIndian Medical ServiceAMS Museum
William 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 among the most common.[55]

ADMS Assistant Director Medical Services
CMT Combat Medical Technician (an army medic). Not necessarily a paramedic. There are some (mostly special forces) CMTs who are paramedic-trained, but the term 'paramedic' is protected in law and can only be used by those who are fully qualified and state-registered with the HCPC.
DADMS Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services
DCA Defence Consultant Advisor (the lead clinician for each specialty)
DDGMS Deputy Director General Medical Services
DDMS Deputy Director Medical Services
DG Director General (Medical Services)
DGAMS Director General Army Medical Services (HQ AMD, Camberley / HQ Land Forces, Andover)
DGMS Director General Medical Services
DMS Director Medical Services
EMO Embarkation Medical Officer
GDMO General Duties Medical Officer (a junior army doctor attached to a field unit before commencing higher specialist training)
MCD Military Clinical Director (a senior army Consultant)
MSO Medical Support Officer (a non-clinical military officer who hold command and staff positions)
MO Medical Officer
OMO Orderly Medical Officer
PMO Principal Medical Officer
RMO Regimental Medical Officer (normally an army General Practitioner with additional training in Pre-Hospital Emergency Care and Occupational Medicine)
SMO Senior Medical Officer (normally a senior army General Practitioner)


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".[56] 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.[56][57]


The Museum of Military Medicine is based at Keogh Barracks in Mytchett in Surrey.[58]

Notable personnel

  • Category:Royal Army Medical Corps officers
  • Category:Royal Army Medical Corps soldiers

See also


  1. Pine, L G (1983). A Dictionary of mottoes (1 ed.). London: Routledge & K. Paul. p. 106. ISBN 0-7100-9339-X.
  2. "Royal Army Medical Corps". British Military History. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  3. "Hospitals of the World: VI - Military and Naval Hospitals" (PDF). The Hospital: 157. 9 December 1893. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  4. Keate, Thomas (1808). Observations on the fifth report of the Commissioners of military enquiry. pp. 47–48.
  5. Report of the Commissioners of Military Enquiry. 1806. p. 192.
  6. "Review: Sir James McGrigor: The Scalpel and the Sword The Autobiography of the Father of Army Medicine". Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine. 94 (7): 367–368. July 2001. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  7. "History of the Royal Army Medical Corps". The Museum of Military Medicine. Retrieved 1 August 2019.
  8. A E W Miles, The Accidental Birth of Military Medicine, Civic Books, London, 2009 ISBN 978-1-904104-95-7, page 14
  9. London and Provincial Medical Directory, 1860, John Churchill, London; on the AMS see Hampshire and QARANC both accessed 29 November 2010
  10. Commissioned Officers of the Army Medical Service, W Johnston, Aberdeen UP 1917
  11. "Royal Army Medical Corps". Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  12. "Fripp, Sir Alfred Downing (1865–1930)". Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. Royal College of Surgeons of England. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  13. "Sloggett, Sir Arthur Thomas (1857–1929)". Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. Royal College of Surgeons of England. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  14. "Keogh, Sir Alfred Henry (1857–1936)". Plarr's Lives of the Fellows Online. Royal College of Surgeons of England. 31 July 2013. Retrieved 7 February 2014.
  15. "Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital". Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. Retrieved 6 August 2012.
  16. "RAMC Units". RAMC. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  17. Macpherson, Sir William (1922). "Medical services, surgery of the war". HMSO.
  18. War Office, His Majesty's Army, 1938
  19. "ASU Building, QE Barracks, Church Crookham" (PDF). Oxford Archaeology. p. 3. Retrieved 3 June 2018.
  20. "First London General Hospital". Lost Hospitals of London. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  21. "Second London General Hospital". Lost Hospitals of London. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  22. "Third London General Hospital". Lost Hospitals of London. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  23. "King's College Hospital". Lost Hospitals of London. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  24. "Fifth London General Hospital". Lost Hospitals of London. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  25. "From the Front to the Backs: Story of the First Eastern Hospital". University of Cambridge. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  26. "World War I". QNI Heritage. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  27. "Newcastle's War Hospitals". Heaton History Group. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  28. "2nd Northern General Hospital, Beckett's Park, Training College". Leodis. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  29. "Our History". Sheffield Hallam University. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  30. "Lincoln School in the First World War". Western Front Association. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  31. "Leicester Asylum". County Asylums. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  32. "History of Fazakerley Hospital". Fazakerley History. 20 January 2008. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  33. "Second Western General Hospital". Archives Hub. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  34. "Casualties of War: Hospitals and Welfare facilities" (PDF). The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust. 1 March 2017. p. 88. Retrieved 21 July 2019.
  35. "Our Impact" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 September 2014. Retrieved 18 October 2014.
  36. "Bristol Royal Infirmary". Historic Hospitals. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  37. "Military Hospitals". Oxford History. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  38. "World War I". QNI Heritage. Retrieved 22 July 2019.
  39. "Territorial Hospitals" (PDF). British Journal of Nursing. 5 December 1914. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  40. "Harlaw Academy". Aberdeenshire Council. Retrieved 26 July 2019.
  41. "Second Scottish General Hospital Craigleith". Archives Hub. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  42. "Records of Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow, Scotland". Archives Hub. Retrieved 27 July 2019.
  43. 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 23 March 2007.
  44. "House of Commons Defence Committee Report on the Medical Care of the Armed Forces". 5 February 2008. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  45. Evans, Michael (7 March 2009). "Chain of care: from front line to Selly Oak Hospital". The Times. Times Newspapers Ltd. Retrieved 21 March 2009.
  46. "Ministry of Defence | MicroSite | DMS | Our Teams | Royal Air Force Medical Services (RAFMS)". 20 February 2007. Retrieved 22 April 2012.
  47. "Strategic Defence and Security Review – Army:Written statement – HCWS367 – UK Parliament". 4 December 2014. Retrieved 16 December 2016.
  48. "16 Medical Regiment, Royal Army Medical Corps". Retrieved 19 November 2018.
  49. "'Crap Hats', Berets and Peak Caps" (PDF). Boot Camp & Military Fitness Institute. 15 August 2014. Retrieved 19 September 2018.
  50. "No. 26196". The London Gazette. 28 August 1891. p. 4615.
  51. "No. 26988". The London Gazette. 19 July 1898. p. 4355.
  52. "The Royal Army Medical Corps". Retrieved 30 June 2008.
  53. Glendinning, Lee (22 March 2007). "Historic award for female private". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. p. 8. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 March 2007.
  54. "Netley Hospital information". QARANC – Queen Alexandra's Royal Army Nursing Corps. Retrieved 16 June 2007.
  55. "Abbreviations Used in Original Documents". Scarlettfinders: British Military Nurses. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  56. "About Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps". BMJ. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  57. "Journal of the Royal Army Medical Corps: Archive of All Online Issues (July 1903 – Present)". BMJ. Retrieved 12 September 2015.
  58. "Museum of Military Medicine". ARCHON Directory. UK: The National Archives. Retrieved 31 December 2013.

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

  • Oram, A.R. An Army Doctor's Story: Memoirs of Brigadier A.R. Oram 1891–1966, published in paperback and on Kindle 2013
Other links
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