Dr. Conan Doyle's Evidence

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Dr. Conan Doyle's Evidence is an article published in the Daily Mail on 6 july 1900, reproducing a letter written by Arthur Conan Doyle (published initially in The British Medical Journal on 7 july 1900).

Dr. Conan Doyle's Evidence

Daily Mail (6 july 1900, p. 3)


Dr. Conan Doyle has addressed a letter to the "British Medical Journal" from the Langman Field Hospital dated June 5.

"The outbreak of enteric among the troops in South Africa," he writes, "was a calamity the magnitude of which had not been foreseen and which even now is imperfectly appreciated. We naturally did not dwell too much upon it while the war was in progress. But it was appalling in its severity both in quantity and quality.

"I knew of no instance of such an epidemic in modern warfare. I have not had access to any official figures, but I believe that in one month there were from 10,000 to 12,000 men down with this the most debilitating and lingering of continued fevers. I know that in one month 600 men were laid in the Bloemfontein Cemetery. A single day in this one town saw 40 deaths.

"How was this unforeseen and unprecedented crisis grappled with? Entirely by the efforts of the medical men and by the devotion of the orderlies. When a department is confronted by a task which demands four time more men than it has, the only way of meeting it is for each man to work four times as hard.

"This is exactly what occurred and the crisis was met. In some of the general hospitals orderlies were on duty for thirty-six hours in forty-eight, and what their duties were — how sordid and obscene — let those who have been through such an epidemic tell.

"I do not think any men have ever expended money better than those who fitted out the private hospitals... Without the Yeomanry, the Portland, the Irish, the Scotch, the Welsh, and the other hospitals fitted up by private effort, and manned by volunteers, it is difficult to see how the epidemic could have been met."

Canadians Robbed.

Strong statements against the field hospital arrangements of the Army Service Corps were made yesterday by a number of members of the 1st Canadian contingent, who left Liverpool for home in the Allan, liner Parisian.

It was alleged that the patients, were robbed by "dirty, unprincipled orderlies," who acted as nurses. One soldier said that when be was taken to Bloemfontein Field Hospital with enteric he had in his possession a number of Boer coins, £2 in English money, and numerous curios he had picked up at Paardeberg. The whole were stolen, together with his khaki uniform.

The same man also stated that at Bloemfontein he saw enteric patients flung from the stretchers on to the bare floors of the field hospital, and left for hours absolutely unattended.