Medical facilities

For all discussions relating to the Seventh, Eigth and Nineth Cape Frontier Wars fought between 1846 and 1878.

Medical facilities

Postby garoethlin » 29 May 2011 08:55

Hi,
This is my first posting to this list, so a little apprehensive. I'm interested in the 9th Frontier War and in the medical facilities available to the troops in particular. Does anybody have any suggestions where I might obtain information on the medical facilities in this war and/or the previous frontier wars?
With many thanks, Gail
garoethlin
New Member
 
Posts: 2
Joined: 29 May 2011 08:17

Re: Medical facilities

Postby Keith Smith » 30 May 2011 00:43

Gail

The medical facilities during the Eighth Frontier War (1850-53) were every bit as primitive as were those during the Crimean War only three years afterwards, and these have been well covered in the literature.

Let me describe one incident in the battle of the Boma Pass on 24 December 1850:

"[Major Bissett] spurred his horse but at that moment he was hit by a musket ball which entered low down on the outside of his left thigh, the ball passing upwards and, narrowly missing vital parts, coming out just below his right hip. The shock was like a blow from a sledgehammer and even his horse staggered."

Bissett describes the initial treatment for a wound which had breached his femoral artery:

"I managed to sit my horse until I reached the cavalry; but as I approached a knot of dismounted brother officers I felt so faint that I should have fallen from my horse had I not been caught by one or two of them. The blood had been continually pouring from my wounds, and I should have bled to death before a doctor arrived had it not been for Carey, who had a tourniquet round his body, which he at once took off and applied to my thigh, and so partially stopped the bleeding."

When the doctor arrived, Bissett described what then happened:

"Dr. Fraser, one of the finest officers in the service, who was the second medical officer, soon arrived on the spot; but the excitement and anguish of mind had been too much for him, and as he kneeled down to examine my wounds he fainted—grand, fine fellow ! It was not from the sight of my wounds that he did this, but from the knowledge that he had to leave the dead and dying in the pass to the merciless tortures and mutilations of the savage enemy. I always carried a flask of cold tea with me in the field, which I managed to take off, and offered it to Fraser. The cool beverage soon recovered him, and his first exclamation was, Oh, my God! I was obliged to leave Stewart." [Dr Stuart had been severly wounded in the chest and then shot through the head - his brains still spattered Bissett's jacket.]

"This has taken me some time to tell, but all this time Dr. Fraser was dressing my wounds; that is to say, he was plugging up the holes and adjusting the tourniquet. Before he had finished, however, a man ran up to say that Captain Catty was badly wounded and dying; so I told the Doctor to go at once; but he soon returned, saying he could not help Catty, and from indications he thought nothing could save him–three balls appeared to have entered his right side and passed into the intestines." [Catty actually survived, his intestines not beingdamaged.]

Bissett's next trauma came when he was transported from the battle site, several kilometres to a place of relative safety.

"We had now to push on for two or three miles through a comparatively open country to the Keiskam[m]a Hoek, where we formed a camp for the night—I say camp; but as there was nothing but soldiers without tents, it was a queer sort of camp. What we did was to form a square, with the soldiers lying down with their muskets facing outwards. The Doctor then attended to the wounded. My mode of conveyance from where I was lifted from my horse to the camp was far from a pleasant one. It was in this wise: a man got me by each arm, with his elbow well into my armpits; my face was towards the ground, every now and then scratching over mimosa bush, brambles, and long grass; whilst a third man was between my legs, well up into the fork, with one of my thighs tucked under each of his arms. I don't wish my worst enemy to be in the same position."

I hope that this will give you some idea of the agonies suffered on a Victorian battlefield. The quotations are taken from John Jarvis Bisset, Sport and War: or Recollections of Fighting and Hunting in South Africa from the Years 1834 to 1867, John Murray: London, 1875.

Gail, after all that I have just realised that you were referring to the Ninth Frontier War 1897-98. Rather than go through it again, may I respectfully recommend my own book, The Wedding Feast War, which will give you more current information. It is available from the Museum of the Royal Regiment of Wales at http://www.rrw.org.uk/

KIS
Keith Smith
New Member
 
Posts: 61
Joined: 20 Nov 2008 00:17
Location: Australia

Re: Medical facilities

Postby Jonathan » 30 May 2011 02:46

Keith,
Thank you for taking the time to post such an excellent response. It was a very good read and I have been prompted to add your book to my wish list. :)

Jonathan
User avatar
Jonathan
Forum Moderator
 
Posts: 1452
Joined: 15 Nov 2007 17:52
Location: Wisconsin

Re: Medical facilities

Postby Keith Smith » 30 May 2011 12:49

Jonathan

Thank you for the kind words, they are greatly appreciated. The extracts I quoted below, however, were not from The Wedding Feast War. I would not want you to be disappointed, not finding what you expected.

KIS
Keith Smith
New Member
 
Posts: 61
Joined: 20 Nov 2008 00:17
Location: Australia

Re: Medical facilities

Postby Brett Hendey » 31 May 2011 06:43

Keith

I second Jonathan's comments. That was an excellent post.

It was interesting to read of the man who survived because his intestines had not been breached. It seems that being "mortally wounded" in Victorian wars often meant a stomach wound for which there was then no treatment, only a few days of agony before death from peritonitis. There must have been many other wounds that were beyond treatment in those days. Even when treatments saved the patient (e.g. through amputations), the future of survivors must often have been bleak.

War really was hell for Victoria's soldiers.

Regards
Brett
Brett Hendey
Senior Member
 
Posts: 215
Joined: 04 Jun 2008 06:37

Re: Medical facilities

Postby garoethlin » 31 May 2011 08:32

Keith,
Thanks for your detailed response. I have a copy of your book and have just begun reading it. Gail
garoethlin
New Member
 
Posts: 2
Joined: 29 May 2011 08:17

Re: Medical facilities

Postby Keith Smith » 01 Jun 2011 13:57

All

In my first reply on this thread, I said that the Ninth Frontier War took place in 1897-98. This is nonsense, of course, since it immediately preceded the Zulu War of 1879. The Ninth War occurred in 1877-1878. Sorry if I misled anyone with my lapsus digiti!

KIS
Keith Smith
New Member
 
Posts: 61
Joined: 20 Nov 2008 00:17
Location: Australia


Return to Cape Frontier Wars 1846 -1878

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest