Sick and Hurt Commissioners

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Sick and Hurt Board
Naval Ensign of the United Kingdom.svg
Agency overview
Formed (1653-1806)
Jurisdiction Kingdom of England Kingdom of England Kingdom of Great Britain Kingdom of Great Britain United Kingdom United Kingdom
Headquarters London
Agency executive
  • Chairman of the Board
Parent agency Admiralty

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. They were a separate (but subsidiary) body to the Navy Board, supplying surgeons to naval ships, providing them with medicines and equipment, and running shore and ship hospitals; they were also responsible for prisoners of war.[1]


The Commissioners were established on a permanent footing from 1715 to 1806, however a series of temporary Commissions had been established prior to this date, particularly at time of war, beginning under the Commonwealth in 1653. Commissions were set up for the duration of the Anglo-Dutch Wars in 1665-7 and 1672-4.[2] The Fifth Commission for Sick, Wounded and Prisoners, inaugurated in 1702, was instrumental in setting up Royal Naval Hospitals in naval ports both at home and abroad.[3]


The Transport Board was given responsibility for the care of prisoners of war on 22 December 1799,[4] and in 1806 the Transport Board had taken over the business of the Sick and Hurt Board. Following the demise of the Transport Board, the Victualling Board assumed responsibility of prisoners of war in 1819.[4]


Commissioners include:[4]


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.


  1. ^ "National Maritime Museum". 
  2. ^ Tanner, J. R. (1971) [1920]. Samuel Pepys and the Royal Navy. New York: Haskell House. pp. 48–50. 
  3. ^ Coad, Jonathan (2013). Support for the Fleet. Swindon: English Heritage. p. 344. 
  4. ^ a b c Abell, Francis (1914). Prisoners of war in Britain, 1756 to 1815; a record of their lives, their romance and their sufferings. p. 4.