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  • Writer's pictureVictoria Regina

Queen Victoria’s Journal - First Visit to her Wounded Soldiers of The Crimean War, 3rd March 1855

Queen Victoria's First Visit to her Wounded Soldiers by Jerry Barrett © National Portrait Gallery, London

On Saturday 3rd March 1855, Queen Victoria took the train to Chatham where she visited the newly reorganized military hospital. Her Majesty and the Prince, with their two sons (Edward, Prince of Wales and Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh) proceeded to Fort Pitt, and subsequently to the Invalid Depot (Brompton Hospital) where Her Majesty visited the wards occupied by the wounded and invalided men lately returned from the Crimea. Her Majesty visited 450 sick and wounded men. The Queen later wrote to Lord Panmure, Secretary for War, criticising the buildings with their high windows, small wards, and lack of a dining room, ‘so that the poor men must have their dinners in the same room in which they sleep, and in which some may be dying’

The Queen’s visit to the Chatham hospital followed a series of well-publicized receptions at Buckingham Palace, only weeks earlier, to honour the invalids from the household regiments. The country had been gripped by reportage of the Crimean “winter of disaster”, December 1854 to March 1855, and the Chatham visit, like the palace receptions, was the Queen’s personal and patriotic response to the crisis.

The visit of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to Fort Pitt Military Hospital, by Sir John Tenniel © Royal Collection Trust / HM King Charles III 2024

Queen Victoria’s Journal:

“At ½ p. 9, we started with George, the 2 Boys, 2 Ladies, Lord Hardinge &c — for Chatham; (going by the south eastern railing) to visit the Military Hospital there. I was anxious to inspect the arrangements made for the poor suffering men, who have returned from the Crimea. This visit was an intensely interesting, touching, & gratifying one to me, & I wish I could pay constant visits of this kind to the Hospitals & tend & cheer these noble, brave, patient men! When we left the train, we 1st went to Fort Pitt, driving through Rochester. Here were drawn up under a colonnade, about 30 wounded soldiers, — all of the Line & Cavalry, who had come up from the Lower, or Casemate Battery, to which we could not have driven. We passed down the line, each individual case being named to us; — many sad wounds. Then went inside the building & visited about 4 wards, on the ground floor. They were extremely clean, with 1 row of beds, along each side of the wall, before which, each man that could, — stood. Those who were very suffering remained in their beds. In the 1rst ward we saw 2 striking cases, mentioned in the papers, — Robert Monaghan, wounded at the Alma, much disfigured by his eye being quite pulled down, but a further operation, they say, will put this quite right; — the other, P. Doolan, shot through his poor face, which was much swollen. —

At Brampton Barracks, or rather, Fort Monkton, we visited 5 different small houses, in which the rooms, arranged as wards were unfortunately small. Before we went into the wards we saw 4 rooms, entirely filled with convalescents. In one there were about 25 men of the Cavalry, who had been in the Balaklava Charge, [& whom we looked at with great interest.] There were only 2 amongst them who had lost their limbs. One, Sergt Scarff of the 17th Lancers (George's old Regt) told us how he had received his sabre cuts, one on his head, & one on his 2 hands, which he had put up to save his head, other wounds on his back & on his thigh. His horse was killed, but he got on to a Cossack one. Sergt Scarff, is a very good looking, particularly gentlemanlike & well spoken man. All these Cavalry men are very fine & tall, but in such dirty, dingy clothes, — all, wearing their cloaks, just as they had returned. In the next room were all those convalescents, who had been wounded in the trenches, chiefly in the legs & feet, & the poor men looked so dirty. The 2 other rooms were quite crowded with convalescents, wounded at the Alma, & Inkermann, — all standing. Amongst them there were some very interesting cases: P. Wm Barrett, only 19, who had carried in his nose a bullet weighing 4 oz:, which had got imbedded in the bone, & had only been removed since he came back. He is hardly marked, & says he had not suffered at all!! The other, who had been shot right through the jaw, had not the slightest mark. Had his mouth not been open, he must have lost his tongue & been inevitably killed! One man showed us his cloak with the holes in it, from 2 bayonet thrusts. One who had been shot in the leg, & was lying on the ground, said "they beat me about the head with the butt ends of their muskets, until I was insensible & then gave me 10 bayonet cuts!" He looked quite well. In the same room, there was a lad, of 18, who had been made Corporal, for good conduct.

We next proceeded to visit all the wards in the different houses, — small rooms, but clean, perfectly well aired, & nice. There were also a few sick, but comparatively very few, & they all looked worse than the wounded. Amongst the latter was a very sad object, with his jaw dreadfully shattered, & face tied up, — hardly able to speak, — a P. Tippen wounded in the spine, & in constant pain, — unable to stand. We asked all who were weak & suffering, to sit down. Another sad case was that of a boy of only 19 who had been so severely wounded in the side, that his health was permanently injured. But I have not time to mentioned the many I should like. The poor men have recovered wonderfully since they came home, gaining, in no time, as much as a stone in weight, but of course there are some, who having bad constitutions, recover less well. Some, had only arrived 5 days ago. Taking them all together, they were remarkably fine handsome, noble looking men, who answered so simply & well, & were so recognised & patient, & without a murmur or complaint, only anxious, if possible, to return to their duty. The far greater number, belonged to the 7th Fusiliers, the 19th, 23rd & 33rd Regts, which we knew had suffered so very severely both at the Alma & Inkermann. The Head Dr, Dr Dartnell, an oldish man, & Staff Surgeon Read, younger, explained everything, the former at Fort Pitt, & the latter at the Brampton Barracks. I cannot say how interested I was, & how well I understand the ladies devoting themselves to the nursing of these brave fellows. The sight of such fine, powerful frames laid low & prostrate with wounds & sickness on beds of sufferings, or maimed in the prime of life, is indescribably touching to us women, who are born to suffer, & can bear pain more easily, so different to men, & soldiers, accustomed to activity & hardships, whom it is particularly sad & pitiable to see in such a condition.

Though we thought everything very well arranged, the buildings are certainly not built for the purpose. Col: Eden, & other military authorities had met us on arrival & accompanied us to the station, on leaving. We returned as we came, reaching Buckingham Palace at 3. George remained for luncheon. — A further confirmation of the Empr Nicholas' death, from Vienna. — A short walk, late, — Mama is come to stay for a few days in the house, as the floor has to be taken up in hers, owing to some bad smell. Ernest Leningen is also here for 2 or 3 days. — Mama did not came to dinner, as she was not feeling quite the thing. Ernest, the Marquis d'Azeglio, Gen: La Marmora, the Abercorns & their girls, Ld Cardigan, Ld Elgin, Ld Panmure, Ld & Ly Overstone, & Gen: Vivian dined. Gen: La Marmora, sat next to me, & is clever & agreeable, — a handsome, distinguished, & particularly soldier-like looking man. The accounts he gave the poor Queen, & Duke of Genoa were very sad. I believe the latter might certainly have been saved. He is an immense loss for Sardinia & so is the Queen. The General gave a good account of their Army."

© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2012

© Bodleian Libraries © ProQuest

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