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Samuel Osborn of the Van Alen American Field Hospital 5 years 4 months ago #54829

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One of my projects for 2017 is to rebuild, as far as I can, the broken group to Surgeon Samuel Osborn.



This is as far as I have managed.



Samuel Osborn was born in Brixton and was educated at Epsom and at Wren's coaching establishment. He received his medical training at St.Thomas's Hospital where he qualified as MRCS in 1871 and held the resident appointments of House Physician, House Surgeon, and Accoucheur. He became FRCS in 1876 and was for a time Surgical Registrar at St.Thomas's Hospital, and from 1878 onwards held the post of Anaesthetist for five years. He was elected Surgeon to the Hospital for Women in Soho Square. His service with the St. John Ambulance covered over 40 years, his lectures on First Aid to the Injured and on Nursing were fully recognised at the time of their issue, and were translated into many languages.

He was in charge of the medical arrangements of the SJAB at the 1887 Jubilee celebrations [Awarded medal and, later, the 1897 clasp].

During the 1880s Osborn became involved with voluntary first aid and nursing services. He worked with Sir John Furley to establish the British Red Cross Committee by bringing together the National Society for Aid to Sick and Wounded in War, the Army Nursing Reserve and the St John Ambulance Association.

He was Surgeon to the Red Cross in the Greco-Turkish War in 1897 and appointed to the Greek Order of the Redeemer.

Boer War. Chief Surgeon of the Van Alen Hospital. MID and awarded the Knight of Grace of the Order of St. John. 15 QSAs to the unit.



He was one of the first recipients of the Service Medal of the Order of St John. Presented by HRH Price of Wales at Malborough on 6 Jan 1900. I presume he also received the Order of St John Bronze Medal for South Africa.

He became permanent secretary of the International Red Cross Congress. He received the Japanese Royal Red Cross decoration, having previously been an honorary member of the Japanese Red Cross Society.

In the Balkan War of 1912 he was Surgeon with the Red Crescent to the Turkish forces.

In August 1914 War, he travelled to Gembloux, Belgium with a small ambulance unit and 6 nurses, including his own daughter, working under the Croix Rouge de Belgique, When they arrived, they found the Germans already in occupation having advanced so quickly they were without doctors or nurses, For several weeks and working from a private house, they gave aid to both sides impartially.  

On a visit back to England, Osborn wrote about the conditions of the soldiers in France: November 1914, the Times: ‘Dr Samuel Osborn of Datchet, near Windsor, who has just returned from France, says in a letter to the Lord Mayor that frostbite to a serious degree has begun to attack the soldiers. Snow-shoes (large size), knitted helmets and warm woollen gloves or mittens are wanted immediately. Oil, especially cod liver oil, is a splendid application for rubbing into the extremities to keep out cold. Dr Osborn will be pleased to convey any such gifts to the troops when he goes back to France in a few days.’

Decorated by the King of the Belgians with the Order of the Crown for his services. Afterwards he worked in Bruges, starting a hospital in the English convent. Later, he was for two years resident surgeon to Lady Dundonald's Hospital in Eaton Square, London.

His MIC states he was ineligible for the 1914 Star because he operated in an "entirely independent hospital'.

He was a Lieutenant for the City of London and a JP for the County of Buckinghamshire. He was Consulting Surgeon to the Surgical Appliance Society and the Metropolitan Convalescent Institute, and was for many years Surgeon to the Royal Naval Artillery Volunteers. For a period he sat upon the General Medical Council as a representative of the Society of Apothecaries, and he was Master of the Society in 1919-20.

He died 16th April 1936 at his home in Datchet aged 88.

"Sam" Osborn specialised in ambulance work in military campaigns.
(Vanity Fair, 15 May 1922)

Dr David Biggins
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Samuel Osborn of the Van Alen American Field Hospital 5 years 4 months ago #54830

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There's a single QSA roll page for the Van Alen Hospital, WO100/225p239

The 15 recipients



Samuel Osborn's name listed with the additional 'e'.

Dr David Biggins
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Samuel Osborn of the Van Alen American Field Hospital 5 years 4 months ago #54859

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Now that is a project and you are to be congratulated on what you have achieved.
I was particularly interested in what appears to be medical qualifications impressed after his name on the QSA- am I correct in what I am seeing?

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Samuel Osborn of the Van Alen American Field Hospital 5 years 4 months ago #54863

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Georgegt351,

Yes, you're correct. F.R.C.S.

I think it is unusual but not unknown for recipient's qualifications to be included in the naming.
Dr David Biggins

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Samuel Osborn of the Van Alen American Field Hospital 5 years 3 months ago #55177

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I was reading the Lovell part II catalogue from 1978 last night (as you do!) looking for any Burma Mounted Infantry medals - there were none.

I came across this medal. Lot 877, QSA (2) CC OFS to 1st Gde. Ord. J Lingard, Van Alen American Hosp.

This sold for £260.

It is the only other Van Alen medal I have seen, Has anyone seen any others?
Dr David Biggins

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Samuel Osborn of the Van Alen American Field Hospital 3 years 5 months ago #64369

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I came cross a series of accounts written by Samuel Osborn that began to appear in The Graphic on 21 July 1900.

This is the first part.



A Medical Officer’s Experiences in the South African Campaign

By S. OSBORN
Part 1

It is rather a difficult matter to say anything fresh about the war in South Africa, and I fear anything I may tell you has already been told before. I went out to the war as chief surgeon, attached to the Van Alen Divisional Field Hospital, and, therefore, my experiences have a good deal to do with the surgical aspect of the campaign, but I do not intend to be drawn into the controversy which is now taking place as to the so-called defective management of the Army Medical Department. A commission has been appointed by Government which will, it is sincerely hoped, find out the rights of those stories. Personally I will state that I believe everything was done that could possibly have been done. The Van Alen Divisional Field Hospital was presented to the Government, and maintained by the philanthropic action of Mr. J. J. Van Alen, an American gentleman, of Newport, Rhode Island, U.S.A., and consequently we were generally looked upon by the soldiers as an American Hospital, and the personnel supposed to be American also, while, as a matter of fact, we were all Englishmen, except the worthy donor himself, who accompanied us throughout our travels.

We left England early in the year on the ss. Norman, accompanied by the Bucks and Berks contingents of the Imperial Yeomanry, under the command of Lord Chesham. I did not then know, as we only received our marching orders on arriving at the Cape, that our Field Hospital would have the surgical care of these men at the front; and as a Bucks man it gave me great pleasure that it was so. The journey out to Madeira was an exceptionally rough one, and one poor fellow was washed down on deck and broke his leg, besides the quarter-master having his head cut open. His being landed wounded at Madeira without any of the glory of the campaign was to him a bitter disappointment, and he was carried on the ambulance over the ship’s side in tears.

The Imperial Yeomanry were berthed in the foremost hold, and their first experience of a trooper’s life was an awful one to many of them accustomed to good homes and a comfortable bringing-up. Packed together like sardines in a tin, the majority helplessly seasick, and with the sea washing down upon them, their situation could not have been more uncomfortable. This was a very great trial to their patriotism. Two of them told me that if they had known what it would have been like they would have paid their own passage out. We had also a number of Lord Loch’s contingent, who were called “Loch’s Lambs,” because, I suppose, they were so very unlamblike. They were enlisted from former Colonial residents, and were of all others most loyal to Queen and country, and travelled out to the Cape with the second class passengers. Being Colonials, their enrollment as soldiers and placing under military control could not be accomplished until their arriving at the Cape of Good Hope, a matter of importance when discipline had to be maintained. Amongst these second class passengers were some pro-Boers, and as may be supposed the relation between them and the Colonials became somewhat strained. One night, in the rough weather which we encountered in the Bay of Biscay, a large wave swept overboard all the deck chairs belonging to these pro-Boer passengers. It was a very discriminating wave, as it carried over none of those belonging to anyone else. On another occasion these so-called “lambs” made all the second class passengers, ladies’-maids and pro-Boers alike, fall in in single file and march round the saloon, and salute the British flag. One man was, perhaps not unnaturally, rather restive on being called upon to do this, and objected. However, two minutes grace was given him, with the assurance that at the end of that time, if he had not done it, he would be taken by the scruff of his neck and made to kiss it. He naturally thought it better to comply.

When at Madeira I visited the proposed Convalescent Home for wounded officers, which was to be under the management of Miss Faithful. It was situated about 2,000 feet above the sea level. It was a lovely place and very nicely furnished, and even had a lake with rowing boats on it in the grounds. It seemed to me that if wounded soldiers came so far on their way home they might as well go home altogether. This was my opinion at the time, and apparently it has proved correct.

Several men on board were inoculated against typhoid, and it played sad havoc amongst some of them. One officer was delirious the whole of the night, so it is not such an innocent affair as would appear. Nearly all had elevation of their temperature, and several of the soldiers absolutely refused to have “that stuff put into them.” On arriving at Cape Town I put up at the Mount Nelson Hotel. It was a very charming residence, and almost as fashionable as Shepherd’s at Cairo. The central hall, with all the fashionable and highly dressed ladies sitting about, and officers in uniform and with excellent instrumental music playing was everything that one could desire. One could hardly suppose that we were in a country where war was going on, and I was very glad when the time came for me to proceed to the front.

The enthusiasm at Cape Town on the relief of Ladysmith was intense. The crowd marched through its streets with flags in their hands,: and at times their attitude to the offices of the papers having Boer sympathies was somewhat hostile. On arriving outside Parliament House one man placed a flag in the hands of the Queen’s statue. They then angrily demanded that the Union Jack should be run up on the top of the building where it had not been placed for some very long time. There was some hesitation for a time to comply with this request, and it looked ominously as if all the windows would be broken.

A gentleman appeared on the balcony and informed the crowd that a Union Jack was not in the building, but one had been sent for, and would be hoisted as soon as possible. The crowd did not wait for this, but stormed the building, rushed in and got on to the roof, and the lanyards of the flagstaff breaking away a man swarmed up the mast and tied a Union Jack on to the lightning conductor with a piece of rope. It is gratifying to say that although the crowd paraded the streets till quite a late hour in the evening, no actual breach of the peace took place.

I have visited the hospitals at Wynberg and Rondebosch and the Portland Hospital, all of which are models of what hospitals ought to be in point of position, equipment, and the skill of their surgical and nursing staffs.

I also visited the private yacht Rhouma, the property of Mr. Bullough, who has fitted it up as a convalescent hospital for the soldiers. It certainly was a most luxurious life for Tommy Atkins. Indeed, many visitors have been heard to express some envy, for the poor fellows who had been called upon involuntarily to occupy a bed in this beautiful floating home. I also visited the Boer prisoners at Simonstown, a letter of introduction to the Military Commandant, Captain Perkins, having been kindly given me. It was more especially an interesting visit, because I happened to arrive there on the very day on which the tunnel of eighty feet in length, which had been constructed by the Boers as a means of escape, was discovered. Whilst lunching at the officers mess, a great disturbance was manifest amongst the prisoners, and it was in the removing of the officers’ tents to accommodate a greater number of bell tents for the privates that the opening into this tunnel under one of them was discovered. At one time things undoubtedly looked rather ugly, and I thought there might be an occasion of an outbreak among them. When going round the camp with the officer in charge I expressed my astonishment at these Boers being allowed axes and hatchets for the chopping up of their daily supply of wood, because these instruments would have been very ugly weapons in the case of any sudden outburst, as well as forming very useful implements for demolishing the barbed wire fencing which surrounded the camp. I then took a sailing boat and visited the prisoners out in the Bay. Here the men certainly looked most surly and bad tempered, and not nearly so cheerful and agreeable as those on shore. If putting them on board ship was intended as part of their punishment, it undoubtedly was to them a severe one. Never having been on the sea, and, in some instances, never having seen it before, to be stationed on a boat and subjected to the constant movement, was a sore trial to many of them. When on shore I spoke to an old quartermaster of the Royal Navy about this and he said, “Oh, it will do them good, sir. If I had my way I would have the ships anchored outside the breakwater, where they would get a little more of it.”

When we eventually started for Kimberley I was glad that we went by a regimental train and not by the ordinary service train, as by that means we left by daylight, and I could see the country outside Cape Town. At the railway the Mayor and Corporation of Cape Town supplied to every soldier paper and envelopes, two boxes of matches, bags of biscuits and grapes, as well as cigarettes; and lime juice was served out in pails and wash-hand jugs ad lib. Really everything was done that could possibly be done for the Tommies and officers proceeding up to the front. To show you how well everything was done, we had a time-table given to us of all the stations where we stopped, and printed on it the names of places where we were to have our meals supplied to us. Just outside Cape Town I thought it was the most awful country I had ever seen. One might just as well live in a brick kiln: no trees, all rocks and sand. I could not understand why we should be so anxious to possess more of a country like this. The line on either side going up to Kimberley was strewn at intervals with broken beer bottles, showing Tommy’s favourite beverage and his course up to the front. The Royal Canadian Field Artillery were in the train going up with us, and a very nice lot of men they were. It was to our great regret that they had to disen-train at Victoria Road West, as we heard the rebels were giving a great deal of trouble on the west side, and Lord Kitchener, whom we met on De Aar platform, was going to punish these men who had risen in revolt in our rear.

One great trouble we found in proceeding in our train, was having three truckloads of mules in front of us, as the rapid passage of the train carried anything but an agreeable odour to us in the open Pullman car carriages behind. Their presence also between us and the engine broke the connection of the electric current, and we had at night-time to illumine the darkness by means of candles stuck on the table by means of melted wax. The oppressive heat made open places at the end of the cars quite cool, but dangerous sleeping places, and it was thus that a hospital orderly, named Sergeant Vassie, met his death.
Dr David Biggins
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