Classic History Books

Great Britain and Her Queen - by Anne E. Keeling

But other benefits, not of a political nature, arose out of the hideous mismanagement which had
disgraced the earlier stages of the war. It is a very lamentable fact that of the 24,000 good Englishmen

who left their bones in the Crimea, scarce 5,000 had fallen in fair fight or died of wounds received

therein. Bad and deficient food, insufficient shelter and clothing, utter disorganisation and confusion in

the hospital department, accounted for the rest. These evils, when exposed in the English newspapers,

called forth a cry of shame and wrath from all the nation, and stirred noble men and women into the

endeavour to mitigate at least the sufferings of the unhappy wounded. Miss Florence Nightingale, the

daughter of a wealthy English gentleman, was known to take a deep and well-informed interest in

hospital management; and this lady was induced to superintend personally the nursing of the wounded in

our military hospitals in the East. Entrusted with plenary powers over the nurses, and accompanied by a

trained staff of lady assistants, she went out to wrestle with and overcome the crying evils which too

truly existed, and which were the despair of the army doctors. Her success in this noble work,

magnificently complete as it was, did indeed "multiply the good," as Sidney Herbert had foretold: we

may hope it will continue so to multiply it "to all time." The horrors of war have been mitigated to an

incalculable extent by the exertions of the noble men and women who, following in the path first trodden

by the Crimean heroines, formed the Geneva Convention, and have borne the Red Cross, its most sacred

badge, on many a bloody field, in many a scene of terrible suffering - suffering touched with gleams of

human pity and human gratitude; for the courageous tenderness of many a soft-handed and lion-hearted

nursing sister, since the days of Florence Nightingale, has aroused the same half-adoring thankfulness

which made helpless soldiers turn to kiss that lady's shadow, thrown by her lamp on the hospital wall.

The horrors thus mitigated have become more than ever repugnant to the educated perception of
Christendom, because of the merciful devotion which, ever toiling to lessen them, keeps them before the

world's eye. In every great war that has shaken the civilised world since the strife in the Crimea broke

out, the ambulance, its patients, its attendants, have always been in the foreground of the picture. Never

have the inseparable miseries of warfare been so well understood and so widely realised, thanks in part to

that new literary force of the Victorian age, the war correspondent, and chiefly, perhaps, to the

new position henceforth assumed by the military medical and hospital service. To the same source we

may fairly attribute the great improvements wrought in the whole conduct of that distinctively Christian

charity, unknown to heathenism, the hospital system: the opening of a new field of usefulness to

educated and devoted women of good position, as nurses in hospitals and out; and the vast increase of

public interest in and public support of such agencies. Even the Female Medical Mission, now rising into

such importance in the jealous lands of the East, may be traced not very indirectly to the same cause.

The Queen, whose enthusiasm for her beloved army and navy was very earnest, and frankly shown, who
had suffered with their sufferings and exulted in their exploits, followed with a keen, personal,

unfaltering interest the efforts made for their relief. "Tell these poor, noble wounded and sick men

that no one takes a warmer interest, or feels more for their sufferings, or admires their courage

and heroism more than their Queen. So does the Prince," was the impulsive, heart-warm message which

Her Majesty sent for transmission through Miss Nightingale to her soldier-patients. Her deeds proved

that these words were words of truth. Not content with subscribing largely to the fund raised on behalf of

those left orphaned and widowed by the war, she took part in the work of providing fitting clothing for

the men exposed to all the terrors of a Russian winter; and her daughters, enlisted to aid in this pious

work, began that career of beneficence which two of them were to pursue afterwards to such good

purpose, amid the ravages of wars whose colossal awfulness dwarfed the Crimean campaign in the

memories of men.


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