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Medics call for crowdfunding support to save Nelsonian relic

The opened cabinet with its medical contents
15 January 2021
Navy medics are hoping people will dip into their pockets to help save a key Nelsonian/medical relic for posterity.

The medicine cabinet used by Sir William Beatty – HMS Victory’s surgeon at Trafalgar and the man who tended to Nelson when he was mortally wounded ­– has emerged for sale.

Just before Christmas we reported that the important Nelsonian/medical relic was being sold by Hampshire antiques dealer Charles Wallrock for £16,000.

That prompted a crowdfunding drive by today’s Royal Navy medics to ensure the chest ended up in a museum rather than out of sight in a private collector’s home.

They thought acquiring the small cabinet would serve as a fitting tribute not only to Beatty and his colleagues who worked tirelessly in grim conditions at Trafalgar, but also would recognise the efforts of all Senior Service doctors, surgeons, nurses, medical assistants and officers who’ve been involved in the national struggle against Covid.

Mr Wallrock, who hails from a naval family, has agreed to hold the chest until January 28 to give medics the chance to hit the asking price through crowdfunding here.

If they reach their target, the chest will be donated to the Haslar Heritage Group which is developing a museum/visitor centre at the former hospital site in Gosport (or if the group can’t find space for it, the chest will go back ‘home’ to HMS Victory).

Beatty is a hugely important figure in the history of naval medicine and surgery and to have something connected with him and Nelson would be wonderful

Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Jo Laird

“When we saw the cabinet it struck us as such an important artefact that we ought to try and buy it for the new museum planned for the Haslar site,” said Surgeon Lieutenant Commander Jo Laird.

“Beatty is a hugely important figure in the history of naval medicine and surgery and to have something connected with him and Nelson would be wonderful. 

“We set up a crowdfunding page and the response has been amazing, but we still need to raise more money to secure it.”

Dated 1803, just two years before Trafalgar, the portable cabinet stands just over ten inches high and opens to reveal drawers and shelves, with two original glass jars remaining. It would have contained a variety of tinctures from laudanum to cures for venereal disease.

Beatty was appointed to Victory in December 1804. He treated scores of casualties on October 21 1805, but was unable to save his admiral.

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