In the autumn of 1854 Florence Nightingale, soon to be enshrined as ‘the Lady with the Lamp’, arrived with a party of nurses at the squalid hospital barracks in Scutari. She was responding to the graphic accounts in The Times of the sick and wounded British soldiers lying unattended there. The shortage of doctors and nurses meant that even the most basic care and hygiene had been neglected while 8,000 men, many still in their filthy uniforms, some bloodstained from battle, suffered and died.
There were sights of equal, but unreported, horror in the hospital basements. Some 300 women, lice-ridden and starving, were living in the cellars in the most wretched conditions. Many had taken to prostitution and drink to survive. These were the forgotten victims of the war, the soldiers’ wives who had