The Crimean Doctors – John A Shepherd (1911)
352 CHAPTER X
winter. Apart from Watson little is known of the junior doctors. There are references to a Dr. Temple, "assiduous in cases of sickness".
Menzies was in overall charge of the Scutari Hospitals from June 1854 to 2 January, 1855. Forrest, who succeeded him, resigned two weeks later; thereafter Lawson and Cruikshank, by virtue of their seniority, were in command for short periods, until Cumming took over completely. Menzies had not proved very successful, but had been faced with great difficulties. By 21 December, 1854, he was exhausted. He wrote to Hall - "My health is giving way under recent attacks of renal complaints and having since been affected with bronchitis and now scarcely able to leave my quarters ... I ask for a Board". In his last weeks before he was invalided home Menzies' management must have been increasingly ineffective. His successor, Forrest, proved a broken reed. After only two days he wrote to Hall - "I feel confident I shall break down", and later he wrote - "I am sorry I find I must divert to England for a change of climate as I am quite unfit to carry on duty here. Lawson and others seem to think there is serious disease of the kidney going on and I daresay they are right". He too was invalided. In evidence later to the Roebuck Committee, Smith was rather vague as to who was in charge after Menzies left.
The situation was very confused. It does seem that Lawson exerted authority for a short period until Cumming took over. Cumming wrote to Hall on 3 February indicating that his work on the Commission was completed, and he continued in charge until 1 October, 1855.
These changes during January must have been very unsettling, and hardly conducive to smooth running of the hospitals at this difficult period. As already recorded,
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By late March Bakewell was able to give a good report on the hospital food.
The regimental medical officers in the Crimea at first heard rumours and then confirmation from eye-witnesses that all was not well with the hospitals in Scutari. They were aware that the mortality in the hospital transports was excessive. George Lawson wrote in January - "Vessels crowded with sick and wounded are being sent away daily to Scutari, many are invalided home, but few return again to the Crimea after they have been sent away"." Many regimental doctors were reluctant to send their patients to Scutari, since officers and men alike began to regard transfer to the base hospitals almost as a death sentence. While the younger doctors at Scutari clamoured to join the regiments at the front there were some regimental doctors who sought to be moved to the base hospitals, either as a relief from the strain of conditions in the Crimea, or in the hope of gaining wider medical experience. George Lawson learned at the end of December that Forrest, the P.M.O. of his Division, was shortly to go to Scutari to take charge. Lawson had a high opinion of Forrest.
But Lawson's hope was not fulfilled. There were no doubt others who tried to get to Scutari, but as the winter progressed few could be spared from regimental duties.