First Soldiers Arrive

By the end of April the first soldiers were reaching Scutari, a large village on the Bosphorus. Some of the men went into barracks and others into tents. They were then to move onto Varna a fortified port in Bulgaria, on the shore of the Black Sea. Disease was rife in the port and many men died from Cholera, fever or diarrhoea. The weather also caused problems with the heat on the sun, flies and fleas helping to spread infection. Cholera is caused by contaminated water or food, many of the men could have taken the bacteria with them. The victim would suffer from diarrhoea, vomiting, hiccoughing and cramp in the legs. Without proper care at least half of those who caught cholera would die. It was believed at that time Cholera was caused by germs blown in the wind. Men suffering from the disease, being transported in ships, were kept below deck with little or no ventilation, becoming more and more contaminated. Not only were the sick below deck, but healthy men as well, who were soon to fall prey. The only was to control cholera is cleanliness in water, food and sanitation. Many lives were lost until lessons were learnt, not only on the battlefields, and ships, but also in the hospitals. By August 7th, 257 men were admitted to hospital, 112 were lost, 693 were under treatment.

goneturkeyWhen in September the Army left Varna, many men were still unfit and not enough transport had been provided to take the Army and its equipment across the Black Sea. Much of the medical equipment and provisions had to be left behind.

Upon landing at a cove named Kalamita Bay, many men were still suffering from Cholera and had to be sent back to Scutari.

Transport had to be secured, but only one-third of what was required could be obtained. A convoy of carts carrying supplies for Russian troops was captured, others stolen from surrounding farms. Many men and officers had to carry their own possessions in packs on their backs. Men recovering from illness would often collapse under the burden. Medical supplies were still no better than they had been when the Army left England six months before. Other supplies were also short one bell tent per regiment, ten stretchers and a small roll of dressing. One surgeon had to pack all his medical stores into two small gabs on a pony. The heat was unbearable. Most of the British officers bought large amounts of personal baggage, most bought their own horses, servants and luxuries. Many bought their wives. Enlisted meant were also allowed to bring their wives, they stayed at the base, and worked in the hospital or laundry. The French Army had landed with wagon’s, ambulances, full medical supplies, tents and wooden huts. The wooden huts were transported in sections, so they could be easily assembled. They were much better at looking after their wounded and had many surgeons and the services of the Sisters of Charity.

On September 19th 1854, the Army moved on to the Alma. The men short of water had to pause to drink as they crossed the river Alma, at the risk of their lives. Russian batteries armed with heavy guns on the highest points of hills or buffs, looked down on the river. The battle of Alma was a victory, but not without severe casualties. Three hundred and sixty men were killed, one thousand, six hundred and twenty-one were wounded. Many men were to die that night and many nights after, from the surgeon’s knife. There was a lack of tables for operations and may took place on bare ground. Others were transported by hospital ships to Scutari where conditions were appalling and many died from disease, and infection, as well as their wounds.

It was expected that each soldier would have their own knapsacks with them on arrival at Scutari. These would contain a change of clothing and washing equipment, a soldier would also have his own blanket. Those wounded arriving from the Alma had nothing, they had been ordered by Officers to discard their packs and blankets. All supplies had to be issued by Army Regulations, this process had been made difficult and complicated to save money in peace time. Anyone breaking the Regulations were likely to lose their job. So the wounded went without.

War Correspondents ….

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