The experiences medical volunteers serving with the Red Cross
This special two in one Leonaur book focusses on the work of volunteer nurses and doctors during the Serbo-Turkish War of 1876. Having declared war on the declining Ottoman Turkish Empire, which had subjugated the eastern European Christian nations for centuries, the Serbs, poorly provisioned in practically every respect except spirit, readily accepted the assistance of volunteers—particularly for the car of the sick and wounded. The first account in this volume was written by the female partnership of Pearson and McLaughlin. These dauntless women had already worked as volunteer nurses during the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and had written a book on their experiences, ‘Our Adventures During the War of 1870’ which is also published by Leonaur. The second acount, ‘Adventures in Servia’, by British volunteer doctor Alfred Wright, provides the reader with a view of this conflict from a medical perspective, while at the same time delivering—as the title suggests—a riveting first-hand account of this little reported 19th century war in eastern Europe.
Leonaur editions are newly typeset and are not facsimiles; each title is available in softcover and hardback with dustjacket.
On the morning of the 24th of October, 1876, an orderly came to summon us very early. A crowd of wounded had arrived, and must be sent on as soon as possible.
Off we went, and when we came to the ambulance, we saw that the little green in front was covered with men, some sitting round camp fires, some huddling together in huts of boughs, some lying on the ground, some still in waggons. The front door was blocked with men trying to get in and have their wounds dressed; and we had to go round through the yard. Here were as many more. We pushed our way through, and found the room crowded.
All that day we worked at the taking off the dressings and the re-dressing of the wounds, and as fast as one man was done, another took his place: and when we stood by the table where the dressings were, we were surrounded by a crowd of bleeding creatures, displaying their wounds, and calling on us in piteous tones to help them.
The dusk of an autumn evening closed in. Candles, stuck in bottles, threw a weird light over the scene. More carbolic dressing had to be made—old tablecloths cut up into bandages. The crowd and heat were intense, and the groans and shrieks all around most trying.
Just as things were at their worst, the door opened, and in came Mr. McKellar, his orders gleaming through the dusk. With him were Mr. Gimlet, a surgeon, and Mr. Cumberbatch, Mr. White’s private secretary.
Mr. McKellar stopped for no idle greetings, only a shake of the hand, and telling Mr. Cumberbatch he, too, must help, and must go and fetch some bandages and charpie, he tucked up the sleeves of his Servian uniform, and went to work.
Dr. Barkan was in charge that day—the senior surgeon had gone to see his wife and children, who were at Tchupria, and send them off to Semendria—and was delighted at this unexpected aid.
We all worked till very late; and Mr. McKellar requested Dr. Barkan to find beds for two or three cases on whom he intended to perform operations, and asked us to take charge of them. He also telegraphed to Mr. White, to say what a fearful state of things was going on in Paratjin, and that we were working hard, and must have help; also, that tents must be sent up to form a front ambulance.
We strolled together to our quarters, and parted. Mr. McKellar and his party were on the road to Lukovo, to see what was going on there, and to bring back his three surgeons to the front by Deligrad; and next morning they left.
Affairs were just as bad next day. All night long waggons brought in wounded; and again, as the evening closed in, the scene was more dreadful than words can express. Again, the door opened, and in came three Englishmen. One of them we recognised as Mr. Barnington Kennett. His exclamation, as he looked around him, showed how horrified he was. The others were Mr. Sandwith—not Humphrey, but a young cousin, one of Sir Edmund Lechmere’s surgeons—and his companion, Mr. Brock.
Mr. Kennett suggested taking eight of the worst cases to Belgrade. Dr. Barkan gladly accepted the offer, but this shows how sadly an ambulance was wanted in the front.
Mr. McKellar had left three cases. Mr. Sandwith and Mr. Brock left several more. Eight were to go to Belgrade, a journey of forty-eight hours, in the heavy ambulance waggons. Every one of these should have been safely housed in a good clean ambulance, for to nurse them properly in the Serb hospitals was impossible, more especially as one—the only one where there were unluckily two or three vacant beds—was superintended by the little Italian doctor, who was so stupid and not qualified, and would persist in changing the English dressings as soon as put on, till we gently hinted that no interference could be permitted with the cases belonging to the English doctors.
Mr. Kennett kindly gave us a good store of lint bandages and charpie, and next morning departed with his eight wounded to Belgrade. He did his best, as he always did; but if the expense of the waggons, drivers, attendants, and horses were taken into account, as compared with the number of wounded brought to Belgrade, it will be found to have been a very expensive process. I have an impression, but I may be mistaken, that the waggons only made four journeys to the front. If so, they only took thirty-two men, but the accounts of the National Aid Society, if they are ever given, are so given in the rough, that it is impossible to arrive at a correct idea of details.
Mr. Sandwith and Mr. Brock found a conveyance, and went on to Deligrad.
We were not to be left unaided, for at noon next day back came Mr. McKellar from Lukovo, and with him Mr. Hume and Mr. Boyd, bringing with them the wounded from Lukovo.
Beds had to be found for the worst cases, and they worked hard all day. The gallant young fellows themselves lifted the wounded out of the waggons, placed them on stretchers, and carried them into the room.
More and more wounded arrived, and more severely wounded. We had on the preceding day a sad proportion of men who had wantonly shot off the forefinger of the right hand, so as to incapacitate themselves from further military service; but now we had men with the most hideous wounds, such as might haunt a nightmare dream—some brought in on stretchers who died before we could touch them, some who must die ere morning dawn.
Operations went on all the next day, the men were left in our charge with instructions as to extra diets, which indeed had been given to all the “English” cases: soup, eggs, wine, and raki.
Every man had a ticket pinned to him, “English Hospital, Belgrade,” and we wrote the same in German over every bed. It was pleasant to see how proud and pleased the men were; how, when we came to them, they pointed to the ticket and smiled, whilst others made signs that they, too, wished to be labelled “English”.
It was fully arranged that night between Dr. Barkan and Mr. McKellar, that the weather had broken up too much for tents, and that Dr. Barkan would take up a nice house next door to the ambulance, which we would prepare, and take charge of; that one English surgeon should be left at Paratjin, who could mess with the doctors, and that all the wounded they sent back from the front should be placed there under his care and ours.