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Florence Nightingale & the Dorset Clergyman

While Florence Nightingale may be regarded as the pioneer of modern nursing a now almost forgotten Dorset cleric played a not insignificant role.

Reverend Sydney Godolphin Osborne from Durweston travelled out to Turkey, at his own expense, to witness the appalling conditions in a British military hospital in Scutari, Constantinople. This was during the Crimean War (1853-56) when the British, French & Turks were fighting the Russians. He found soldiers wounded and dying in horrifying conditions. There were rats and lice in the hospital which was located close to a cesspit. He observed men lying in bed with dysentery or with open sores who had not had a change in linen for months. It is reckoned for every British soldier who lost his life in battle there were seven who died due to disease.

He wrote:

‘I sought the truth and took my own way to arrive at it. Whether that truth would please or displease the public or the Government was to me a matter of indifference.’

Osborne spent six weeks in Turkey and met and observed the work and organisational abilities of Florence Nightingale who had arrived a few days before him.

‘Her nerve is wonderful. I have been with her at very severe operations…I have known her spend hours over men dying of cholera or fever.’

When he left Scutari, he passed a four mile long line of occupied beds. Back in Britain he wrote ‘Scutari & its Hospital’ – a book by Sydney Godolphin Osborne. Such was the effectiveness among the public and parliamentarians of his publication, exposing the hospital’s shortcomings and of Florence Nightingale’s good work that a Parliamentary Committee of Enquiry was set up.

While Florence Nightingale after Crimea turned nursing into a true profession, the Reverend Sidney Godolphin Osborne from Durweston played his part.

(Illustration: Sydney Godolphin Osborne)


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