Letter from the Queen

Between December 17th and January 3rd, the death rate rose . Miss Nightingale dressed wounds and was on her feet for up to twenty-four hours at a time. On 6th December, Queen Victoria wrote to her troops in the Crimea, through Sidney Herbert:

…’Let Mrs Herbert know that I wish Miss Nightingale and the ladies would tell these poor noble wounded and sick men that no one takes a warmer interest or feels more for their sufferings or admires their courage and heroism more than does the Queen. Day and night she thinks of her beloved troops. So does the Prince. Beg Mrs Herbert to communicate these my words to those ladies, as I know our sympathy is valued by these noble fellows.’…

The letter was read by the chaplains in the wards, and posted on notice boards. Queen Victoria also sent gifts, which were to be distributed by Miss Nightingale. The gifts were accompanied by a message for Miss Nightingale :

This Miss Nightingale’s ‘soothing attendance upon these wounded and sick soldiers had been observed by the Queen with sentiments of the highest approval and admiration’.
Miss Nightingale wrote to the Queen about the sick soldier pay which was stopped if they were in hospital, also if she could request that the Sultan make over the military cemeteries at Scutari to the British. On February 1st the men’s pay was rectified as from the battle of the Alma and Lord Clarendon, the Foreign Secretary successfully arranged for the transfer of ownership of the cemeteries to the British.

soldiersdreamMen on the battle fields were also still suffering. At Balaclava, they would often sleep on wet blankets, as there was a lack of firewood for fires to dry out wet bedding, and clothes. It also meant that they often had to go without hot food. The men nearer to the port of Balaclava were better off than those on the heights, as they were closer to supplies. There conditions also depended on officers, colonels or surgeons, to how the men were cared for. A way of getting supplies to the heights of Balaclava had to be found. Morton Pete a member of Parliament, agreed to build a railway to supply troops, without making a profit. This was done with help of his brother-in-law, Betts and a Mr Brassey. A force of two hundred navies, thirty gangers and masons, eighty carpenter, twenty blacksmiths and ten engineers were organised. They were formed into the Civil Engineers Corps, which was separate from the army. On December 21st, they left Liverpool for the Crimea. Twenty three ships carried men and supplied to Balaclava. The men built an encampment of solid huts to live in, and laid five miles of track all in ten days. Within six weeks they had laid a double track line from the harbour to the height above Balaclava with branch lines to many out posts. In all the total network was twenty-nine miles. Trains were drawn by horses, steam engines and stationary engines with hauling wagons by wire ropes. They carried one hundred and twelve tons of food a day, plus ammunition, clothing and medical supplies.

At the end of January it was suggested that the Turkish Calvary Barracks at Koulali should be turned into a hospital. Mary Stanley was to be in charge, she took with her Mother Bridgeman and ten of her nuns. When she arrived at Koulali, it was not ready, there were no beds, or food. When three hundred wounded were bought in, sacks had to be quickly filled with straw, and ladies made lemonade. Mary Stanley could not cope and did not feel her health could stand the strain. She contacted Miss Nightingale to ask her to send her more nurses. The letter was passed onto Dr Cumming who visited the hospital, but found the nurse doing very little at all ‘ He refused to allow more nurses at the hospital. Mary Stanley was only to stay two months.

By the end of January 1855, the army was eleven thousand strong, but the sick and wounded numbered twenty-three thousand. Even in February surgeons were still finding men lying on bare ground. If it had not been for the ‘French ambulance’ not a single man could have been moved from the camp

Miss Nightingale was surprised that the Medical Officers did not complain or make an effort to remedy conditions. The Medical Officers would do their best to obtain the reforms that were needed, but for fear of getting a bad report from their seniors. She had written to Sidney Herbert in January 1855, that he would never hear the whole truth. She wrote that she had ‘ no compassion for the men who would rather see hundreds of lives lost than was one scruple of the official conscience.’ Miss Nightingale felt that the Purveyor should be abolished, and the hospital have its own storekeeper. She also asked him if he could promote Dr McGrigor to Deputy Inspector General, so he could carry on with the work he was doing.

On September 29th 1855, a Royal Warrant was issued authorising the formation of a Medical Staff Corps, a Medical School was also formed during the campaign.

Many improvements had been made at the Barrack Hospital, it was clean, and the men were kept clean and well fed. It was therefore somewhat of a surprise when an epidemic of Cholera broke out in the hospital, men were dying not of wounds or sickness they came in with, but something they caught in the hospital. Four surgeons died in three weeks and three nurses. The Purveyor Mr Ward and his wife also died. Sister Margaret Goodman saw what she thought was a heap of carcasses from animals, on closer inspection they turned out to be the carcasses of English soldiers. This had contaminated the water therefore causing the Cholera

There was much alarm and anger in England about the mismanagement in the Crimea. A Sanitary Commission was sent to the Crimea to investigate the state of the buildings used as hospitals, and the camps at Scutari and in the Crimea. The Sanitary Commission consisted of Dr John Sutherland from the Board of Health, Dr Hector Gavin (who died in the Crimea), and Robert Rawlinson a civil engineer. Shortly after their arrival Dr Gavin was replaced by Dr Milroy. They also took with them the Borough Engineer and three sanitary inspectors from Liverpool.

Miss Nightingale became acquainted with Dr Sutherland who had arrived at Scutari, with the sanitary commission, on 6th March 1855. It was through him that she gained the main source of her knowledge of sanitary science. After an out cry about the sanitary conditions of the army in the East in 1855, he was sent out as Chief medical member of the Commission. Miss Nightingale would have liked to accompany Dr Sutherland to the Crimea, but she was unable to do so. When she had been appointed her position, it, was to superintend nurses in Turkey, and the Crimea was in Russia. She also encountered opposition from official quarters. Dr Sutherland advised her to write home and ask the War Department to place her authority on a proper footing. Not only did they collect information, they repaired and drained the yard outside the building, and built a system to flush sewage under the building. The internal walls were painted with disinfectant and improved the ventilation.

Sir John McNeil and Colonel Tulloch were summoned to London, on February 1855. They were to proceed to Scutari and the Crimea to inquire into the arrangement and management of the Commissariat Department. They were also to inquire into the delay in shipping and distributing of clothing and other stores.

In the Crimea they would have the power to summon and examine witnesses, to produce all of the necessary books and papers, and to make suggestions for improvements to Lord Raglan and the Minister for War. Evidence was written down from two hundred witnesses, who were then asked to sign it as a token of acceptance of record being correct. There was to be no criticism of any one particular person, only facts were required.

Miss Nightingale was physically exhausted. She was never strong and always used to luxury. Her Quarters were damp, when it rained water came in. The food was inedible and there was still a limit of one pint of water per person per day. She spent hours on the wards caring for the wounded and dying. She could stop men drinking, and encouraged them to write home to their wives. They worshipped her. Every night she walked the wards, the men laid on their bed and kissed her shadow as she passed. Robert Robinson was Miss Nightingale’s personal attendant. He was eleven years old, and had been in the 68th Light Infantry as a drummer boy. He would run messages for, and at night would carry her lamp. She would often walk from the Barrack Hospital to the General Hospital, which would take at least thirty minutes. There were four miles of beds in the Barrack and General Hospitals with only eighteen inches between each one.

Dr Hall was the Chief of Medical Staff of the British Expeditionary Army. He and Miss Nightingale did not see eye to eye, which caused bad feeling between them. She had been sending long confidential reports to the Minister at War criticising sanitary conditions of the hospitals. She also criticised the distribution and cooking of food, and the availability of supplies, all of which reflected badly on the principal Medical Officer.

Dr Hall had been in the army for forty-two years. He had been sent to Verna, where there was much sickness among the troops. When the move to Scutari was decided, there was not much notice given. In the muddle medical transport and much of the medical stores intended for the hospitals at Scutari had been lost or left behind. All this was completely outside Dr Hall’s control. The main blame should have been put on the system of administration. All actions had to go through recognised channels. Even principal medical officers had little executive power outside his medical duties. He did not even have the choice of which sites should be used as hospitals. There was great difficulty in getting necessary alterations to buildings. An administration system that worked well in peace time was not flexible enough to meet the needs of was.

Dr Hall had gone to Scutari in October 1854, to inspect the hospitals. He sent a report back to say everything was alright. Of course Dr Menzies could not contradict Dr Hall, as he was his senior. It was not until Miss Nightingale’s report to Sidney Herbert that the truth was known. Dr McGrigor began to avoid Miss Nightingale, he was a weak man, and was no longer pressing for recommendations of the Hospital Commission.

Crimea Fever and Returns ….


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