Winter Storms


The wounded were pouring in, and doctors at last gave in, and let Miss Nightingale and her nurses onto the wards. Miss Nightingale felt tired and alone, she would work endlessly into the early hours. There was so much proper organisation which needed to be done. Much of the hospital bedding was not washed, so she arranged to rent a house near the barracks, and had the Army Engineers install boilers, paid for out of ‘The Times’ fund. She also purchased scrubbing brushes and sacking for washing the floors, which were difficult to wash as the beds were packed together tightly and the floor boards were rotten. The Purveyor could not be relied upon to get this done. Army wives were employed to do the washing, it was the first time Scutari had clean linen. Supplies were difficult to find because the Purveyor would not release them, until authorised to do so by a Board of Survey. Doctors were getting fed up, supplies were getting so short, then they realised that there was only one person in Scutari who would take action, and had the money and authority to spend it, Miss Nightingale. Mr MacDonald was ‘The Times’ almoner and he had the money to spend. Miss Nightingale would assess what supplies they were short of from the Purveyors store and Mr MacDonald went to Constantinople to buy them. They were then placed in Miss Nightingale’s store. Within two months Miss Nightingale had supplied on requisition about six thousand shirts, two thousand socks, night-caps, cutlery. Plates and cups, all cleaning equipment household and personal. She even managed to get operating tables, clocks and forms.

Mr Mac Donald stayed in the East for three months, many of his letters from the Crimea were published in ‘The Times’. William Henry Stowe was to be the new almoner of the fund. He noted that the provisions although plentiful, transportation in getting them to were there were needed was still a problem. With supplies being left on quay sites, because of a lack of suitable warehouses. In May 1855 Mr Stowe went to visit the hospital and military camp at Balaklava to write a report for ‘The Times’. He found Camp life hard, and fell ill with cholera and died on June 22 1855. One sad fact was that when he fell ill, the hospitals were not receiving civilians, after an influx of military patients. He was taken to the church at Balaklava and was given what attention was available.

After Mr Stowe’s death, the ‘The Times’ Fund wound up, but a significant sum remained, part of the balance was given to the Committee for Administering the Indian Relied Fund. Money was also put aside for the governors of a new military hospital at Netley.

“Well, Jack! Here’s Good News from Home. We’re to have a Medal.” “That’s very Kind. Maybe one of these days we’ll have a Coat to stick it on?”

“Well, Jack! Here’s Good News from Home. We’re to have a Medal.” “That’s very Kind. Maybe one of these days we’ll have a Coat to stick it on?”

Miss Nightingale found an ally in Dr McGrigor. He helped her constantly in her effort to prepare an extra wing of the hospital for the reception of patients. He was a first class surgeon, and made full use of Miss Nightingale’s nurses.

Many of the wounded had been travelling by ship for eight or nine days. They were often not given drugs, their wounds not dressed, or given blankets to keep warm. When they arrived at the hospital, operations were often carried out in the wards, as they were bought in. At this time chloroform was known, but not in general use. Dr John Hall cautioned against using, as he thought few would survive. When men died they were removed immediately, there was no room for corpses. Winter had arrived in the Crimea, and men were suffering from frostbite, dysentery, cholera and exhaustion. Although such cold weather rarely lasted long, during the fine spells nothing was done to aid the suffering of the Army. The ships in Balaclava were full of cargo, mainly of vegetables. A whole cargo of cauliflower’s were thrown into the sea because the correct papers for them to be unloaded could not be found. Also in a store there were warm clothes, rice, flour, coffee and coal. Seven miles away men had frostbite and scurvy.

There was chaos at Balaclava, where Lord Raglan forces were laying siege to Sevastopol. Thirty thousand men were suffering from cold and disease. Their food rations and stores were rotting through lack of storage space. Supplies were getting scarce, the single road to Balaclava had broken up and transport of supplies was difficult.

On November 14th, a Hurricane hit Balaclava Bay, bringing with it heavy rain. Every hut was flattened, equipment drenched. After the rain came snow, the men were unable to light fires as everything was so wet. Therefore they were unable to keep themselves warm or cook. If this was not bad enough, there were many ships in the bay carrying supplies, ‘The Prince’ carrying warm clothing for the Army sunk. It had been in the Bay for ten days and had not been unloaded. The storm also wrecked twenty-one ships off shore.

William Russell of ‘The Times’ had written of the storm:

…’Nearly one half of our cavalry horses broke loose, The wounded had to bear the inclemency of the weather as best it could. Lord Lucan was seen, sitting up to his knees in sludge amid the wreck of his establishment. Lord Cardigan was sick on board his yacht in the harbour of Balaclava, in all the horrors of that dreadful scene at sea.
Towards twelve o’clock, the wind became much colder. Sleet fell at first, then Crimea snow storm, which clothed the desolate landscape in white, till the tramp of men seamed it with trails of black mud.
At the narrow neck of the harbour, two or three large boats were lying driven Inland. The shores were lined with trusses of hay, which floated out of the wrecks, outside the harbour.’…
‘Not only are there not sufficient surgeons ” not only are there no dressers or nurses ” there is not even linen to make bandages. There is no preparation for the commonest surgical operations. Not only are the men kept, in some cases, for a week without the hand of a medical man coming near their wounds, not only are they left to expire in agony ‘…’ it is found that the commonest appliances of a workhouse sick ward are wanting, and the men die through the medical staff of the British Army having forgotten that old rags are necessary for the dressing of wounds.’…

Before she had left London, Miss Nightingale had asked Sidney Herbert to promise that no additional nurses should be sent out, until he had heard from her. She had not been sure what type of woman would be required and how successful she and her nurses would be. She had informed him that there would be difficulties in providing accommodation for them. It was not like England where property could easily be rented. It was therefore a shock to her, when she heard in December 1854, that a party of forty-six women led by Mary Stanley were to arrive. She had sent a letter dated 10th December to Sidney Herbert, it was too late as a party of nurses led by Mary Stanley had already sailed. Mary Stanley the sister of Dr Stanley (Canon of Canterbury later he was to become famous as Dean Stanley of Westminster.) was interested in hospitals, and visited many in England and Europe. In 1854 she published a book entitled ‘Hospitals and Sisterhoods’. Nursing to her was concerned with the patients soul, smoothing a pillow or saying a prayer. She would never think of emptying a bed pan. Mary Stanley’s party consisted of forty-six nurses, nine ladies, fifteen nuns and twenty nurses, they were escorted by Dr Meyer, a physician and the Hon. Jocelyn Percy MP.

When they reached Scutari on 15th December 1854, they were told by Mrs Bracebridge they were to go to Therapia fifteen miles away, where the Ambassador had put his summer villa at their disposal. Mary Stanley instructed the ‘hired nurses’ to do the housework, washing and cooking. They were also to do the ladies mending and wait at the table. This did not go down well and the nurses rebelled. Miss Nightingale would accept no responsibility for the women who were divided between various hospitals. Mary Stanley or her nurses, refused to accept Miss Nightingales authority and were often disliked by the patients.

Letter from the Queen ….




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