25th Jan 1855
Condition of the wounded at Scutari
From a Times correspondent, Scutari, 8th inst
The purveyor’s stores, whatever they may contain, remain as they have been since the Battle of the Alma - entirely destitute of the things that are most wanted by the sick on their arrival.
The poor fellows land some times perfectly naked except the blanket which covers them, frequently with only their trousers and a ragged shirt, always in a state of filth and wretchedness which renders a change of their apparel the first thing to be provided.
One would have imagined that many weeks experience of this would have led to active steps being taken in order to meet in a regular manner so pressing a want, but whether it be the “broad arrow” cannot be stamped upon articles of clothing purchased at Constantinople, or that the regulations of the service interpose other difficulties, certain it is that nothing has been done.
It may, indeed be said that the demand for such supplies has been of a nature and extent that the purveyor’s department could not and ought not to have been expected to meet, but the proper treatment of our soldiers in hospital is a matter of infinitely more importance than official punctilios, and if, week after week they have been brought down from Crimea ragged, covered with dirt and vermin, and sometimes absolutely naked, it must be somebody’s fault that the machinery of these gigantic hospitals does not, up to the present moment, furnish the means of clothing them.
No money subscribed for any benevolent purposes was ever more appropriately expended than that which has been laid out from the Sick and Wounded Fund in this direction.
All the medical officers are unanimous in describing the great majority of the cases in hospital as chronic in there character, the result of not any sudden attack, but of disease long engendered by hardships, and firmly rooted in the constitution. They tell you that not one third of their patients under their treatment will ever be fit for service again, and those of them who have recently been in the Crimea and know the actual state of the army with respect to health, when you ask them the number of perfectly sound men still left, reduce the already diminished strength of our battalions in a most startling manner.
It is with grief and pain that I have to record facts which raise apprehensions for the very existence of so many thousand soldiers. Diarrhoea and dysentery do not diminish, either in their frequency or intensity of their attacks, and our men have to face in trenches and on the elevated plateau where they are encamped, not only the cannon of Sebastopol and the savage legions of the Czar, but what is far more terrible in their positions, a winter which, however mild it may be, they will feel bitterly.
Their numbers and superior organisation enable our allies to survey with confidence the prospect before them, but to us there is nothing except the unyielding resolution of our race to back us in this sore pinch of our fortunes. The progress of the siege may agreeably disappoint theses gloomy forecasting’s of the future founded upon what I see and hear of the health of the army. I think it right, however, that what is in every Englishman’s secret thoughts here at present should be known at home.
Copyright 2002 / To date