The following letter appeared in the most recent edition of the Naval Chronicle. While it has made its way around the Wardroom, and all the gentlemen therein seem in agreement that the letter sounds like something that might come from my pen, I was quick to point out that I did not sign the letter to the Editor, therefore there was no evidence to connect me to such a missive.
HAVING lately met with some remarks on the inadequate provisions for assistant-surgeons in the army, the contents of which I am most willing to allow, I trust that the Petty Officers (as they are termed in the nautical language), of that description in the navy, have no less a claim on the attention of government ; and as things of this nature are but too apt to be overlooked, from a want of due representation, will you be pleased to insert the following remarks on the comparatively great grievances under which the junior, and more particularly, the senior assistant-surgeons, in the navy, labour.
The naval assistants are all, on their first appointments, obliged to supply themselves with instruments, to the amount of 20l. or upwards, while the military assistants do not supply themselves with any.
The assistant in the army commences full pay from the date of his commission, the naval assistant from his appearance on board: the ship to which he is appointed by warrant being perhaps then up the Mediterranean, an interval, in all probability, of three months elapsing before he can join her. The half-pay of a naval assistant commences at two shillings after two years servitude, while that of the other commences, if reduced, the day after his first appointment, at three shillings. The full pay of the latter is seven shillings and sixpence, that of the former is only six shillings and sixpence. The former messes with his colonel, while the other labours under the painful necessity of living in a cockpit, among a set of noisy youngsters, just let loose from their mother's apron strings; the second lieutenant of marines, who, by His Majesty's Order in Council, is inferior in rank, living in the ward of a gun-room. What a situation for a man of liberal education, and of a contemplative and studious mind, to be placed in! The army assistant, if he happen to lose any part of his baggage on a march or otherwise, is most Handsomely compensated; the other, after braving all the inclemencies and fury of the tempestuous elements, and losing his all, by shipwreck, on application, receives only a flat denial, and is, if not blessed by fortune, obliged to run in debt, if he is lucky enough to find a creditor, or go nearly in a state of nudity, until his next quarterly bill becomes due.
He is thus constrained to make, an appearance, the most distressing to an officer, that of being unable to shew himself on the quarter-deck, in the dress suitable to his situation in the service. The military assistant, if ordered a passage on board any of His Majesty's ships, messes in the wardroom, and walks the starboard side of the quarter-deck, while the naval assistant is allowed neither of these privileges. This last circumstance I should not mention, as not being of any material consequence; but I wish to point out the great distinction made in the situation, and preference shewn to one set of officers, more than another, of the same rank, whose services and education (without meaning to give offence), I will venture to say, are, perhaps, at least on an equal footing. In a future communication, I shall point out the peculiar situation in which the senior naval assistants are placed.
I am, Sir, yours, &c.
A NAVAL SURGEON.
A NAVAL SURGEON.