Medical History

Influenza, 1918

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 22 December 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:1536
  1. Iain H Wilson, joint medical director and consultant anaesthetist (
  1. 1Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, Exeter EX2 5DW

    The worst recorded influenza outbreak took place in 1918, when my uncle, Dr Jules S Martin, was a young doctor in the Royal Army Medical Corps in Mozambique. This letter from his commanding officer gives an insight into the horror of the experience

    RAMC Mess,


    9th April 1919

    Dear Mr Martin,

    I arrived at Aldershot this morning, and got your letter dated the 30th of last month. The unit I was in charge of in East Africa came home on 12th March, and since then I have been on leave. I intended to write to you about your son, as soon as I settled down.

    We had a dreadful experience, when influenza broke out in Port Amelia [Mozambique]. As well as your son, eleven of the hospital staff died, and a large number of the white and Indian Garrison.

    Your son did not get infected by “Ingle,” who was in his tent, but I think some time after Ingle was admitted, and undoubtedly contracted it while doing his medical duties in his wards. At the time I think he was in charge of some Indian wards. I saw him myself every day during the time …

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