5th Division, 13th Brigade - Malaria in Madagascar and Sicily

Discussion in 'Higher Formations' started by chick42-46, Apr 1, 2011.

  1. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Do any members have a copy of the 5th Division history?

    If so, what does it say about the effects on the division - especially on 13th Brigade - of malaria?

    My particular focus is on Madagascar in '42 and Sicily in '43.


  2. Rich Payne

    Rich Payne Rivet Counter 1940 Obsessive

    I haven't got the 5 Div history handy but I posted this image from the book somewhere on the forum a while ago.


    My Grandfather was in Madagascar with 2nd Northamptons (17 Bde) and I remember him saying that they were quite badly affected and were isolated afterwards on the plains of India due to local worries about the virulent form of Madagascar malaria to which the locals would have had little resistance.
  3. RemeDesertRat

    RemeDesertRat Very Senior Member

    Love that photo :)

    Remember Dad having recurring bouts of Malaria, but don't think he was in Sicily, he was in North Africa and Italy, would imagine these places were also Malaria zones :confused:

    Edit: can't think why I mentioned Sicily, must be because I have read posts before re: Malaria problem in Sicily?
  4. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Chick 42-46-
    the whole of 8th and 1st armies were affected by malaria - no matter where they were in Africa - Sicily - Italy - consequently we had to be fully dressed at sundown and had to swallow the vile mepacrine tablets - daily - then when reporting sick with malaria - it was a chargeable offence.

    Some areas were worse than others - Anzio for example as they were near the ancient Pontine marshes where the term malaria originated as "Bad Air" - we had one Tank Driver sent home from North Africa - he had Malaria for nine months - couldn't do much for him - so off he went !

    The cure was even worse - four days Atabrine - four at Mepacrine- another four at straight Quinine - can still taste them....even with the boiled sweets to follow...yeuch..!

    you don't want it .....
    lloydy likes this.
  5. idler

    idler GeneralList


    This is what it has to say:

    13 Inf Bde had had no part in the battle. They landed as planned and spent about a week in Madagascar before sailing on to Bombay. They remained long enough, however, to pick up malaria and sandfly fever from which they suffered considerably and intensely when they arrived in India, to the extent of some fatal casualties. They completed the eighteen-mile march and took up defensive positions before it was certain that they would have no fighting to do. The Bde Gp re-embarked on the Franconia on the 19th May.
    17 Inf Bde were relieved by a brigade of the King's African Rifles and sailed for India more than a month after landing in Madagascar. They too had their toll from fever and learned to take precautions the hard way.
  6. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    2 Wilts were in 13 Bde, the regimental history by Kenrick says this on page 176.

    During the voyage to India to rejoin the 5th Division , a malignant type of malaria , which was peculiar to Madagascar, broke out. On arrival at Bombay , therefore, the Brigade were sent to Ahmednagar , due East inland , for special treatment in order to prevent this type of malaria from breaking out in India.

    The 2 Wilts war diary also mentions half the Bn having anti-malaria treatment and mentions men going & returning from hospital.
  7. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Thanks everyone for your help, especially idler for the quote from the history.

    I've recently got hold of the war diary of the 164th Field Ambulance which was part of 5th Division. The CO has some pretty scathing things to say about the Franconia - he pretty much says in a report that it was unsuitable for use as a troopship in warm climates and that this lead to deaths from malaria on the voyage from Madagascar to India that could otherwise have been avoided. Once I've transcribed it I'll post it here.
  8. Owen

    Owen -- --- -.. MOD

    From 2 Wilts war diary.

    28/5/1942 - At Sea.
    Two men Ptes Bryant , C Coy and Gowen A Coy die of malaria and are buried at sea.

    29/5/1942 At Sea
    Pte Banbury D Coy died of Malaria.

    30/5/1942 At Sea
    am: SS Franconia goes alongside Ballard Pier , Sick evacuated , including 3 Officers and 111 ORs from 2 Wilts.

    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    CWGC :: Casualty Details

    Bambury not Banbury as in war diary
    CWGC :: Casualty Details
  9. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Cheers for the further info Owen.
  10. idler

    idler GeneralList

    2 Cameronians of 13 Bde echo the experience of 2 Wilts but their history adds that, after the special anti-malarial treatment:
    Most of the personnel who had contracted malaria in Madagascar were well and fit by the time the Battalion moved to Persia.
  11. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Thanks idler and Owen for the further information. Pending finding time to transcribe the entries in the war diary of 164 field ambulance, here are the relevant reports.

    The first is on the suitability of the Franconia.

    Franconia rpt pg 2.jpg

    It makes grim reading. The Lt-Col (Wood), commanding the field ambulance states: "At least two of the deaths which occurred in this epidemic can be attributed to the conditions of heat and lack of air movement in which, they had, of necessity, to be treated".

    The second is on how the malaria epidemic onboard was dealt with, the ship's hospital having been overwhelmed and the field ambulance setting up shop in several parts of the ship.

    malaria rpt pg 4.jpg

    There's a further report on the treatment of the malaria cases after the ship arrived in India but it mainly concerns the drug treatments given to all men as a precaution.

    Attached Files:

  12. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Chick 42-46
    What is often forgotten - even with C.O's of ambulance units is the fact that ships like the Franconia were Troopships -and as such their main task was to get troops to and from they were needed - as fast as possible

    Now I spent some twelve days on that ship and can agree with all of the above -but the situation which attained in Madgascar appears to be the failure to recognise the difference in the type of Malaria which was encountered there. Plus the fact that I suspect that 13th bde were a bit careless of preventative measures in their one week stint in a non active role. This cannot be blamed on the Captain of Franconia or whoever sent the ship into that area.There are times when one just has to lump it !

    I should also imagine that anyone can pick flies out of any situation - as long as they have been upset by just a few points of disagreement. Troopships are by no means Luxury Liners - whereas Hospital ships come nearer that category as I discovered in two voyages in the Adriatic...
    lloydy likes this.
  13. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    On the subject of Malaria, a couple of points occurred to me.

    Quite apart from the daily compulsory intake of mepachrine tablets we were also issued with mosquito nets to try and stop the disease at it's source.

    In my Army Album, I have one of Jon's famous "Two Types" cartoons that mentions the Malarial Zones we often encountered in Sicily (see bottom right of cartoon)

    Many servicemen were to suffer for years afterwards and my friend Larry Fox was no exception.

    I've got some of his diary entries on my computer and soon found this item.

    Tuesday Oct 17 1944

    Still a headache & at night a temperature of 101 also had a blood slide taken & was informed that I had Malaria, the one thing that I didn't want to get.
    This must have been a relapse as I had the same thing in Egypt.


    Attached Files:

    lloydy likes this.
  14. chick42-46

    chick42-46 Senior Member

    Thanks Tom and Ron for your help with this. Your “been there, done that” reminiscences are worth a thousand words in any academic history!

    I was surprised myself by the RAMC C/Os report. I would expect that in our more modern, health and safety conscious times but I’d assumed there would have been a more “there is a war on, don’t you know” attitude back in ’42.

    As I’ve posted elsewhere, my great uncle sadly died from malaria caught (or which recurred) on Sicily. I suspect that he was unfortunate enough to have caught it before during his brief time on Madagascar. His service records show several periods on the sick list after Madagascar.
    lloydy likes this.
  15. Tom Canning

    Tom Canning WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran

    Chick 42 -46
    The main type of Malaria in the North Africa - Italy area was carried by the Anopholese female mosquito and the only way to avoid them was with a great pair of binoculars in order to determine which gender was approaching you - which was very difficult whilest asleep as if your body happened to touch the net - they got through - and you were on a charge !

    This is how we dealt with them at our camp near Bone ( Annaba)
    Malaria pits and poison parties

    Mosquitoes and malaria were a big problem in that area, and so very strict measures were taken to control them. We had already lost one driver, Albert Fairclough, from Yorkshire. He was sent back to England as incurable, having had constant malaria over some nine months.
    The main control was to mix up one shovel full of Paris Green arsenic with 50 shovels full of sand, mix well and spread over all the pools of water within half a mile of the camp. When the anopheles mosquito larvae finally came up for air, this poison was sucked in, and it was goodbye to yet another mosquito before it could take flight.
    A promissory note from Churchill

    One poison party was supervised by a corporal, not the brightest star in the firmament, who confused the instructions. Thus, when the villagers’ cattle came to drink, they keeled over ... dead! Naturally, the buzzards came to clean up the environment — they also keeled over ... dead. Now the North African vulture is a gourmet meal for many villagers, and so we had a local hospital full of very sick villagers.
    It was understood by many that a promissory note was handed over to the headman of the village. The note had been signed — on the spot — by one Winston S Churchill. It was just as well that we were on our way to the real war in Italy

  16. lloydy

    lloydy Member

    Hi all, I have only just found out about my uncle lionel. Many thanks above to owen who points out his surname was BaMbury :)
    atm I have little time as off to work soon but will read more later.
    I see the malaria was a malignant form onboard the Franconia.
    thanks to all posting on here., youhave helped me.
    Owen likes this.
  17. lloydy

    lloydy Member

    Yes, you are correct, my uncles name is Bambury , thankyou. Our memorial in yeovil town borough has also spelt it wrong grrrrr
  18. lloydy

    lloydy Member

    I would love to read these but the print wont let me, is it the print or can i get better copies .........please :)
  19. lloydy

    lloydy Member

    Many many thanks to CWGC

    Attached Files:

  20. idler

    idler GeneralList

    I'm afraid that's probably as good as it's going to get - the signature is sharp so the problem is with the poor carbon copy rather than the photo.

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