Sick and Hurt Commissioners
The Sick and Hurt Commissioners (also known as the Sick and Hurt Board, but formally and fully titled The Commissioners for taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Care and Treatment of Prisoners of War) were responsible for medical services in the British Royal Navy from 1715 to 1806. They were a separate (but subsidiary) body to the Navy Board, supplying surgeons to naval ships, and running shore and ship hospitals; they were also responsible for prisoners of war.
The Sick and Hurt Commissioners are credited with the eradication of scurvy from the Royal Navy by putting to use the ideas of Johann Bachstrom and James Lind, who believed lemons, limes or other citrus fruits could help prevent the disease. In his 1734 book Observationes circa scorbutum ("Observations on Scurvy"), Bachstrom wrote that:
scurvy is solely owing to a total abstinence from fresh vegetable food, and greens; which is alone the primary cause of the disease.
Lind's essay on the most effectual means of preserving the health of seamen appeared in 1762. It was Gilbert Blane who implemented a longer trial of citrus fruit. In an experiment in 1794, lemon juice was issued on board the HMS Suffolk on a twenty-three week, non-stop voyage to India. The daily ration of two-thirds of an ounce mixed in grog contained just about the minimum daily intake of 10 mg vitamin C. There was no serious outbreak of scurvy. The following year, the Admiralty took up the general issue of lemon juice to the whole fleet.
- Abell, Francis (1914). Prisoners of war in Britain, 1756 to 1815; a record of their lives, their romance and their sufferings. p. 4.
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