Crimea Fever

Miss Nightingale wanted to visit the Crimea but she did not have official notification. In March 1855, she wrote to Sidney Herbert for a public statement on her position. He named her ‘Superintendent of the Female Nursing Establishment in the English Military General Hospitals in Turkey’ this did not include the Crimea. This information was also sent to Lord Raglan, Lord Stratford and Dr John Hall. She had not made her point about her position very clear. As she had no jurisdiction of the hospitals in the Crimea, the nurses supported by Dr Hall in the Crimea hospitals were defying her authority.

On May 2nd 1855 Miss Nightingale left for Balaclava sailing on the ‘Robert Lowe’. She would travel under the title of ‘Almoner of the free gifts in all the British hospitals in the Crimea War Zone’. In her party sailing with her were Alexis Soyer, Soyer’s secretary, Mr Bracebridge, Robert Robinson, four nurses and two cooks. Also 420 soldiers who were to return to their regiments to fight again. The distance across the Black Sea from Balaclava to Scutari was about 300 miles. Ships would take eight and a half days or longer. On arriving at Balaclava harbour, the Captain of the ‘Robert Lowe’, invited her to make her quarters on board. News travelled fast that Miss Nightingale had arrived. They rushed from their tents and cheered her loudly. There were tow hospitals at Balaclava, the General Hospital and the Castle Hospital. It was at the Castle Hospital that one of the women who had arrived with Mary Stanley, Mrs Shaw Stewart. She had undergone hospital training in Germany and nursed in a London hospital. With her was Mrs Roberts from St Thomas’s, Mrs Drake, from St John’s and Rev Mother Bermonsey. While visiting the Castle Hospital, she met Dr Hall, he was still trying to make life difficult for Miss Nightingale, he informed her that all her requisitions must be sent to him personally.


Miss Nightingale became ill with ‘Crimea Fever’, she had to move from the ‘Robert Lowe’ and go to the Castle Hospital where the air was fresher. She was attended at this time by Dr Henderson and Dr Hadley. Dr Hadley was Senior Medical Officer. It was not surprising that Miss Nightingale had to be moved as the harbour was being cleaned by the Sanitary Commission, and the stench so bad, that men fainted and had to be bought round with an issue of brandy. In her delirium she would not stop writing endless orders, requisitions, and notes. Lord Raglan came to see her on 24th May, and talked with her at great length at her bedside. Her doctors wanted her to go home. A doctor who attended her was a friend of Dr John Hall they arranged that Miss Nightingale should travel on the ‘Jura’. It was Mr Bracebridge who discovered that the ship was not stopping at Scutari at all, and returning directly to England. He and Lord Ward hurried Miss Nightingale off the ship. They took her to Scutari in Lord Ward’s steam yacht. Miss Nightingale was still very weak and went to convalesced in Mr Sabin’s house, the head chaplain at Scutari. Miss Nightingale was recovering. Sidney Herbert had sent her a terrier, an owl which the troops gave her and a baby to watch over while its’ mother did the washing for the hospital. While Miss Nightingale had been ill Lord Raglan had died from dysentery and was succeeded by Lieutenant General James Simpson, his views were different to Lord Raglan. He was opposed to pampering troops, and he had seen little active service.


On July 28th Mr and Mrs Bracebridge returned to England. They felt they could stand no more of the sights, smell or inedible food. When they left, Miss Nightingale returned to her quarters at the Barrack Hospital. She was becoming more unpopular, and was accused of being extravagant. Her nurses were also causing her problems, they either got drunk, or got married. One of her best nurses Mrs Drake, died of cholera on August 9th. Miss Clough fell ill and wanted to be sent home. She became ill on the boat home, and had to be put ashore at Scutari, where she died. With Mrs Bracebridge returning home, Miss Nightingale appointed Miss Salisbury to look after her store. Miss Salisbury caused trouble for Miss Nightingale, writing accusations about her to Mary Stanley. She even stole from the store and accused other women. Miss Nightingale decided with Lord William Paulet the Military Commandant that Miss Salisbury should be sent home with as little fuss as possible. Miss Salisbury caused even more trouble when she arrived home, she contacted Mary Stanley who encouraged her to make a complaint to the War Office about Miss Nightingale. She accused her of ill-treatment had not issuing stores when they were needed. The complaint was submitted to Mr Benjamin Hawes Permanent Under Secretary at the War Office. An official letter was sent to Miss Nightingale. Soon it was common knowledge about Miss Nightingale’s store, her family felt that she needed someone with her to give her support. It was decided that Aunt Mai should go. She arrived on September 6th, she also bought with her someone to look after the store, an experienced clerk named Willis. Miss Nightingale was very pleased to see her Aunt.


At the beginning of October Miss Nightingale returned to the Crimea. Mother Bridgeman had gone to the General Hospital as superintendent, without Miss Nightingale’s knowledge. She had also wanted four of her nuns working at the General Hospital, Scutari to move to Balaclava. Miss Nightingale objected. How was she to run things efficiently if she was being undermined. Dr Hall had said that he had written her letters, but she had not received any of them.

There was peace from fighting after the fall of Sevastopol, no more battles were to be fought. The only battle left was the one in the British troops mind. When they entered the hospital wards and cellars of Sevastopol they found bodies of unburied soldiers. The ones that were alive had maggots crawling through their wounds, the smell was indescribable.

It was while she was at the Crimea she received a copy of ‘The Times’ for October 16th, 1855. It contained a report by Mr Bracebridge of a lecture he had given at the Town Hall Coventry. It was an attack on the British Army authorities and the British Army doctors. Other papers picked up the story, and it was felt that Miss Nightingale had instigated the attack. Miss Nightingale had an attack of sciatica, and had to go to the Castle Hospital.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.