14 APRIL 1855, Page 11


London, 11th April 1856.

SIR—In a letter inserted in the Spectator of the 7th instant, Dr. John Davy makes some remarks on the evidence given by Dr. Andrew Smith be- fore Mr. Roebuck's Committee, and contrasts it with his own hospital expe- rience. Now, about 95 per cent of the sick in the British Army during peace are dieted and treated in regimental hospitals by regimental medical officers ; and the oldest member of that department does not recollect the day when either the one or the other of those two officers was a regimental surgeon. If there be any truth, then, in the adage, "ne sutor supra crepi- dam," neither of them could know where the shoe pinches that " bete de somme " the regimental medical officer. Both have superintended subordi- nates in the duties of a general hospital, both are known to fame as able cultivators of science during the long leisure of their staff employment ; but neither has had that practical experience in the management of military hospitals which, in this as in all other things, is the root of knowledge.

If Dr. Davy has never heard of a long and angry correspondence about an

error, barely exceeding one penny, in the expenditure return of a regimental hospital, perhaps Lord Grey could enlighten him on that point. If he is not aware that unseemly disputes have arisen between principal medical officers and regimental surgeons about a few pints of tea conceded to the longings of fever-stricken patients, in place of the regulation barley or rice water, there are fifty surgeons who can give him that information which he does not possess. If he has never curtailed the requisitions for medicines sent to him from regiments, there are few P. M. 0.s who have not done so. If Dr. Davy does not know regimental surgeons who have purchased me- dicines, wines, and comforts for the sick soldier, at their own cost, there are dozens of those officers who do know such men.

If he has not seen the cheap and nasty tea and sugar, &c., supplied to hospitals by purveyors, acting under the Secretary at War, complained of in vain, it is because he has never been in a position to care for those things. Poll the regimental officers, and you will soon ascertain now many of them have felt the pressure of that screw which Dr. Smith so justly says has been applied to the department for many years. That Dr. Smith committed a grievous error in calling these War Office

screws (the purveyors) to his counsels when the war began, there can be no doubt ; that he was long kept in utter ignorance of the wants of the hos- pitals, is manifest ; and that, when he awoke from his dreams of plenty and saw the nakedness of the land, he did his utmost to retrieve his previous error, is beyond dispute. Should the public indignation, then, demand any propitiatory sacrifice of individuals, its victims ought, in all justice, to be found among the high priests of that false economy which has been the idol of the War Office for forty years.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,

Flan PLAY.