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Sick and Hurt Board
Agency overview
JurisdictionKingdom of England Kingdom of England Kingdom of Great Britain Kingdom of Great Britain United Kingdom United Kingdom
Agency executive
  • Chairman of the Board
Parent agencyAdmiralty

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 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]

They were responsible for the relief of sick or wounded seamen; at first the relief they provided was of an improvised nature. The Royal Greenwich Hospital, a home for superannuated seamen, had only a limited number of places for invalids; no naval hospitals were especially built until the middle of the eighteenth century, though hospital ships were employed intermittently from at least as early as the mid-seventeenth century. On board ship surgeons with warrant rank had been carried since the seventeenth century.[4]

Between 1692 and 1702 and between 1713 and 1715 their duties were performed by the Commissioners of the Register Office and from 1715 until 1717 by two Commissioners of the Navy Board. One Commissioner each from the Sick and Hurt Board and the Navy Board then conducted the business from the Navy Office until 1740, when at least two Commissioners of the Sick and Hurt Board were appointed during peace and up to five in wartime. This Board appointed ships' surgeons and their assistants, ensured that they were equipped and supplied with medicines, superintended the dispensers who issued medicines, supervised the furnishing and equipment of hospitals and hospital ships, examined and cleared accounts and made returns of the sick and wounded to the Admiralty and Navy Boards. In 1743 the Board was also made responsible for the care of prisoners of war.[5]

The Sick and Hurt Board was responsible for the management of Royal Naval Hospitals and the early version of the Royal Navy Medical Service, although until 1796 it neither examined nor appointed naval surgeons. From 1740 the Sick and Hurt Board was in addition charged with the care and exchange of prisoners of war of all services, both enemy in British hands and British in enemy hands. In the Sick and Hurt Board's records both medical and prisoner-of-war business was generally mixed.[6]

Demise and aftermath

In 1796 responsibility for prisoners of war was transferred to the Transport Board. The Transport Board was given full responsibility for the care of prisoners of war on 22 December 1799,[7] and in 1805 the Transport Board had taken over the business of the Sick and Hurt Board. In 1806 the Sick and Hurt Board was wound up and its medical duties also transferred to the Transport Board, which now had a medical commissioner. When the Transport Board was itself abolished in 1817, the medical side of its work, together with the medical commissioner, was transferred to the Victualling Board. On the abolition of the Victualling Board in 1832, the erstwhile medical commissioner was designated Physician General of the Navy;[8] as such he had charge of all medical stores, instruments and medicines, and was 'to superintend all professional details connected with the various medical establishments'.[9] (This was part of a process by which the civil departments of the Navy, formerly overseen by the Navy Board, were instead placed under the direct control of the Board of Admiralty; each department now had its own principal officer, and also a designated Superintending Lord as its representative on the Board).[9]

In 1841 the Physician General was renamed Inspector-General of Naval Hospitals and Fleets, and in 1844 Director General of the Medical Department. At the same time ships' surgeons were given commissioned status.[10]


Commissioners include:[7]


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 1753.[11] It was Gilbert Blane who implemented a longer trial of citrus fruit. In an experiment in 1794, lemon juice was issued on board 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.

Structure of the Board



Note: Below is a timeline of responsibility for medical services for the Royal Navy.

  • Navy Board, Sick and Hurt Board (Office of the Commissioners of Sick and Wounded Seamen), 1653–1806
  • Navy Board, Victualling Board, 1683–1793
  • Navy Board, Transport Board, 1794–1817
  • Board of Admiralty, Department of the Physician of the Navy, 1832–1835
  • Board of Admiralty, Department of the Physician General of the Navy, 1835–1843
  • Board of Admiralty, Department of the Inspector-General of Naval Hospitals and Fleets, 1843–1844
  • Board of Admiralty, Director-General Medical Department of the Navy, 1844–1917
  • Board of Admiralty, Medical Director General of the Navy, Royal Navy Medical Service, 1917–1964


  • Source:Royal Museums Greenwich

This article contains text from this source, which is available under the [ Open Government Licence v3.0]. © Crown copyright.

  • Source: National Archives

This article contains text from this source, which is available under the [ Open Government Licence v3.0]. © Crown copyright.


  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. ^ "Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments". The National Archives, 1696–1988. Retrieved 2 June 2017. This article contains text from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright
  5. ^ "Sick And Hurt Board, In-Letters And Orders – National Maritime Museum". Royal Maritime Museums Greenwich. Retrieved 2 June 2017. This article contains text from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright.
  6. ^ "Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments". The National Archives, 1696–1988. Retrieved 2 June 2017. This article contains text from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright
  7. ^ a b Abell, Francis (1914). Prisoners of war in Britain, 1756 to 1815; a record of their lives, their romance and their sufferings. p. 4.
  8. ^ Dod, Charles R. (1848). The Peerage, Baronetage, and Knightage, of Britain and Ireland. London: Whittaker and Co. p. 116.
  9. ^ a b Brassey, Lord, ed. (1888). "Extracts from Report of Royal Commission on Civil Establishments". The Naval Annual 1887. Portsmouth: J. Griffin and Co. pp. 609–610.
  10. ^ "Records of Medical and Prisoner of War Departments". The National Archives, 1696–1988. Retrieved 2 June 2017. This article contains text from this source, which is available under the Open Government Licence v3.0. © Crown copyright
  11. ^ Lind, James (1753). A Treatise of the Scurvy in Three Parts. Kincaid.
  12. ^ Cock, Randolph; Rodger, N.A,M. "A Guide to the Naval Records in the National Archives OF THE UK, (2008)" (PDF). University of London School of advanced study Institute of Historical Research, pp,224–232,. Retrieved 30 July 2017.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links

15 Annotations

Second Reading

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I found a paper on the housing, care and feeding of Dutch prisoners-of-war and the sick in all three Anglo-Dutch Wars, enquiring whether these functions were state sponsored or privately provided. The entire paper by Gijs Rommelse and Roger Downing is at…

These notes mostly pertain to the Second Dutch War.

Developments in naval shipbuilding, gunnery and tactics (such as abandoning boarding and mêlée in favor of fighting in line) transformed ocean warfare. This forced changes in state apparatus like taxation, a modernized bureaucracy, and educated administrators. This often appears to be unconscious interactions between politicians, merchants and the military, but there were practical reasons for the extension of state involvement in modernizing the fighting forces. In order to guarantee the reliability of military and naval supplies, this required the systematization, standardization and quality control of increasing complex supply chain, and the protection of proprietary technology.

The concentration in state production facilities under Queen Elizabeth included the Ordnance Board and the Victualling Board. From the mid-17th century, the building, maintenance and repair of warships became concentrated in naval dockyards such as Chatham, Deptford, Harwich and Portsmouth. Jointly, these became the largest industrial organization in the country and the largest employer of civilians. (The Royal Arsenal at Woolwich was founded in 1670.)

During the First Anglo-Dutch War, government commissioners were appointed to supervise the dockyard activities. Materials, manufactures and services continued to be sourced from approved commercial suppliers. England become a hybrid economy, in which the distinction between private and state enterprise was frequently unclear, like the Post Office, run as a monopoly by the Stuarts, who extracted substantial profits from it.

As well as economic rivalry, ideological differences and the ambitions of English courtiers are now acknowledged to have played a powerful role in the provocations leading to the first and second conflicts.

In the First Anglo-Dutch War (1652–54) the converted merchantmen, on which the Dutch relied, were no match for Cromwell’s purpose-built warships. Grand Pensionary Johan de Witt, who headed the ‘regent’ government of the urban merchant elite after the premature death of Stadhouder Willem II, consequently modernized the Dutch navy and its administration.

By the Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–67), because of De Witt’s reforms, the Dutch had a fleet which could hold its own against the English.

The three wars were characterized by a scale of ferocity unknown before, resulting in large numbers of prisoners (PoWs), including the officers and crews of captured ships, seamen forced to abandon crippled vessels, and those who had taken to the water to escape burning or sinking ships.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

There were fewer battles in the second war, but were fought between larger forces, so the numbers of PoWs generated in the first and second wars were comparable.
The number of prize ships taken by privateers in the two wars differed greatly.

Following naval engagements, secure places were needed for the PoWs. They included Scandinavians, Germans and even British seamen, attracted by the strong Dutch economy. The presence of British PoWs led to questions in Parliament about how they should be punished, as there may have been reluctance to deal harshly with seamen who found themselves on the wrong side at the outbreak, so some were treated leniently after undertaking future good behavior.

In the first war 1,250 - 1,500 Dutch ships were taken, compared with about 500 in the second. Even if all the ships captured in the first had been the cargo ‘flyboats’ (with crews of 12), the number of PoWs taken would have been over 15,000, which bears no relation to the numbers still in England at the war’s end. Prize ships were taken to seaports all around the British coast, while PoWs were landed at major naval ports. Local authorities probably decided to repatriate prize ship crews if they had no safe places in which to keep them.

England had experience dealing with prisoners of war. The release of captured troops from the last battles of the Civil War was still proceeding at the end of 1651. There were also numbers taken in naval engagements, such as those of the undeclared war against France of the early 1650s, seizures of Dutch ships by English privateers, and by naval ships searching for goods forbidden by the 1651 Navigation Act

Before the outbreak of the first war the prisons were congested, and early attempts to deal with the PoWs was to use existing gaols. The reception and processing of PoWs landed at the seaports was the responsibility of the local authorities: the governors, mayors or bailiffs. National coordination was provided initially by Cromwell’s Council of State

In the second war, Charles II’s Privy Council, and their Admiralty Committees coordinated the local authorities. These bodies issued orders for actions, and warrants for payments. They communicated with local officials regarding the distribution of PoWs to prisons inland for their long-term confinement, and to avoid concentrations which could facilitate revolts. As gaols were filled, they tried to repatriate PoWs in exchange for English PoWs. This eased the financial burden of the PoWs’ allowances for the cash-strapped administration.

The Exchequer was also paid for supplying PoWs to work. Some seamen were placing was as crew members on colliers plying between Newcastle and London or on merchant ships to the colonies. Some were set to work as agricultural or dockyard laborers. Large numbers were also supplied to the drainage operations in the East Anglian fens, under the naturalized Englishman Sir Cornelius Vermuyden.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Funds for PoW maintenance were initially provided by the Prize Commissioners from the proceeds of auctions. Financial transactions were in the hands of the Navy Commissioners. They received bills from the local authorities, which were then passed to the Treasurer of the Navy for payment.

Closely related to the activities for PoWs were those on behalf of the sick and wounded battle victims, many of them also prisoners. Medical attention was provided by physicians and surgeons contracted at the seaports and nursing care by the ‘landladies’, often widows, in their own homes, for which they received payment. However, a system that had proved satisfactory for the casualties of peacetime shipping, or an occasional captured prize, proved deficient when required to deal with much larger numbers.

In October, 1664, when conflict threatened, Charles II remade a Commission for Sick and Wounded and Prisoners (the Commission). Four ‘gentlemen of quality’ were appointed as commissioners, at a salary of £300 a year, plus expenses. Each had responsibility for a coastal region: for Essex and Suffolk Sir William D’oyly, for Kent and Sussex John Evelyn, for Hampshire and Dorset Col. Bullen Reymes, and for Devon and Cornwall Sir Thomas Clifford.

The naval contractor George Cocke was appointed their ‘Receiver’ (cashier). The Commission had the power to appoint provost marshals (officers responsible for taking the PoWs into custody).

For the sick and wounded the Commission contracted physicians and surgeons and were to have at their disposal ‘half the hospitals thro England’. This single commission, reporting to Charles II and the Privy Council, with effective lines of communication, coordinated all aspects of the POWs’ custody, and the care of the sick and wounded, while the receipt and payment of accounts remained the responsibility of the Navy Commissioners and Treasurer.

With the exception of Evelyn, all the Commission were Members of Parliament with extensive committee experience. Clifford had been a commissioner and Reymes a deputy commissioner of prizes.

Several commissioners had commercial interests, including Evelyn who was a Merchant Adventurer and East India Company stockholder, Reymes was a government sailcloth contractor, and Cocke was a hemp merchant.

Evelyn was primus inter pares of the Commission as his proximity to London gave him the opportunity to lobby for money with Charles II personally, who directed him to the Lord Treasurer, later the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, or to the Lord Chancellor.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

In January 1665, Evelyn visited Dover and his fellow commissioners visited their own seaports to begin appointing agents, clerks and provost marshals.

Improvisation required for the temporary custody of PoWs, while permanent gaols were organized. The PoWs could initially remain on their own or captured enemy ships (if in a fit condition) or accommodated in dockside buildings such as warehouses. Decommissioned ships (no longer seaworthy, known as hulks), were also used.

For the sick and wounded, physicians and ‘chirurgeons’ needed to be contracted, and hospital accommodation arranged for the more serious cases. First-aid and nursing care by the ‘landladies’ was also organized.

Following initial confinement, PoWs needed to be transferred to permanent gaols, generally by being marched in groups under guard, but occasionally prize ships were commandeered to transport them.

Since demands to make prison space available required a higher authority than the Commission, it was the Crown and Privy Council who issued directives for their transfer. Mayors or local officials were commanded to provide accommodation for some PoWs, and to pay them the agreed allowances. This required exact information on numbers and locations supplied to them by the generals at sea, and the commissioners and local officials concerned with their initial reception.

Prison authorities were required to keep Whitehall informed of the number of the PoWs in their custody to avoid civil unrest. Lists were also needed by the Exchequer to provide funds for PoW maintenance.

There were many complaints of misbehavior and damage to property by PoWs on the march, or billeted overnight, and many escaped, so port authorities had to look for escapees. PoWs assigned to fen drainage also escaped. Few runaways succeeded in securing a passage so many, facing starvation, gave themselves up.

Transferred PoWs were received by a variety of institutions. Major seaports such as Dover, Southampton and Portsmouth had gaols, but transfers inland become necessary as they became full.

At smaller coastal towns, PoWs needed to be moved directly inland, for example from Harwich to Colchester Castle, or from Southwold to Sudbury. Dover Castle and its associated forts, and Landguard Fort in Suffolk formed part of the national coastal defenses and were thus under military jurisdiction.

From Dover and other prisons the directives of Charles II’s Council to receive PoWs went unquestioned, except at Winchester where authorities tried to refuse to take PoWs when the Great Plague was at its height in September 1665.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Civil prisons, while nominally institutions of the Crown, were run on private-enterprise lines. County gaols, such as Winchester and Colchester Castle, were presided over by the sheriffs, and municipal prisons by the town authorities. London prisons might have remote landlords (ecclesiastical or other foundations) who leased them to sub-contractors. The Tower and the Marshalsea Prison were under direct Crown control and were used for officers and special prisoners.

Since the Middle Ages, the running of a prison had been in most cases sub-contracted to a gaoler or keeper, who sought to make it a profitable enterprise. For the inmates, the resulting regime was often harsh. The system followed the fee-taking culture of public administration at this time. For everything but the most basic subsistence, money was demanded from prisoners, not only by the gaoler but also by underlings such as turnkeys.

Civil prisons provide an example of the hybrid public/private culture. Finding room in them for PoWs was possible because of a drop in civil indictments.

When hundreds of PoWs were taken after a sea-fight in the second war, attention turned to places in London where the large numbers of captured troops from the last battles of the Civil War had been held. Among these were the artillery ground at Tothill Fields in Westminster, the Mews prison on the site of the old royal stables, and Chelsea College.

In June 1665 the High Sheriff of Kent was summoned by warrant to allow prisoners to be received into the county gaols of Canterbury, Maidstone and Rochester, and to provide other places for them ‘if these be not sufficient’.

This was soon the case and, with Chelsea College also full, Evelyn was charged with finding more accommodation. High Sheriffs were requested to assist him with the provision of guards. The commissioner had to search for facilities where the government writ did not automatically run, necessitating negotiation. [I’M GUESSING THIS WAS AUGUST AND SEPTEMBER 1665]

Evelyn’s search took him to Lord Culpeper, owner of Leeds Castle, Kent, which he leased. This privately-owned Jacobean country house occupied the site of an earlier castle, but the moat survived, making it secure for PoWs.

Improvised gaols like Chelsea College and Leeds Castle had no prison organization so it was necessary for Evelyn to appoint marshals to ensure the secure custody of the prisoners and to supply them with straw and other basic needs, and sutlers for their provisioning.

During the second war both Downing (Charles II’s envoy extraordinary to The Hague), and Dutch ambassador Michiel van Gogh remained at their posts for the first year of hostilities. Both were able to communicate to their respective countries complaints from PoWs confined there.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Apart from that, treatment of PoWs generally conformed to current ‘Laws of War’. By now the responsibility of the state, they were no longer ransomed for the profit of their captors, although hard bargains still might be struck with respect to the numbers of ‘other ranks’ to be exchanged for a high-ranking officer.

PoWs were confined until it was possible to release them, but they were not subjected to arbitrary punishments.

Some accommodation (Chelsea College and the Mews) was inadequate, causing great suffering, it was little different from that endured by British prisoners at the end of the Civil War.

There is no evidence that the demonization of the Dutch in the pamphlet campaigns resulted in vindictiveness in PoWs’ treatment.

The significant reason for the miserable PoW conditions in England was the desperate lack of money that afflicted the government. The revenue granted by Parliament to Charles II following his Restoration, although sufficient for peacetime purposes, proved inadequate for a war economy, leading to the impossibility of setting out the fleet in 1667 and the humiliation of the Dutch raid that destroyed a large part of it at Chatham, which speeded the end of the second war.

The Great Plague and the great fire of London were causes of additional disruption during the second war. Evelyn’s diary entries of the period, and his correspondence with Pepys and others, are full of his desperate attempts to beg and find money from privy seals and other sources to feed, clothe and care for PoW, when the condition of the English sick and wounded in the commissioners’ care was no less critical, and English unpaid seamen were starving to death in the streets.

It was not until the wars at the end of the 18th century that purpose-built state accommodation for prisoners of war began to be constructed. And even at this late date, the services of the ‘landladies’ were still being resorted to for fallback care for the wounded among them.

Both countries found it hard to find man their warships, so neither wished to advantage the other by returning PoWs unless they received an equal number in return. Lists of prisoners were requested with their or ranks so like would be exchanged for like. This was to the disadvantage of the Dutch, as there were far fewer English captives available for exchange. The Commissioners were told to make sure no prisoners were released until the Dutch had dismissed theirs, and that equal numbers were exchanged.

However, people tried to turn PoW exchanges to their own advantage. Despite its being emphasized that Dutch PoWs were to be released, given passports and transported, without fees, it was necessary for the Dutch intermediary to remind English officials of this. For released English prisoners the clerk of the passage at Dover had extracted 10 pence a head, although Downing had made it clear they were to be charged nothing.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

A compromise was reached whereby the clerk received fourpence for each man, of which he was allowed to retain twopence.

Traders wished to import goods along with their human cargo, but the legality of this was disputed. A Dutch ship was at first impounded but released by warrant on appeal, on the grounds that the Republic permitted English masters to do so.

The Commissions were charged with the secure custody of PoWs until they could be repatriated at the end of hostilities. Placement for them in the prisons was authorized by warrants from the appropriate state bodies, while their transfer to and between them was conducted by military escorts. For other needs, such as medical care, arranging passages for their journey home, and improvising overflow accommodation, the ‘marshalling of private resources’ became necessary.

Additional PoWs, once the gaols had filled, could only be housed by leasing buildings or enclosures suitable for temporary conversion from private individuals or official bodies. It is clear that, for the effective operation of services provided by the state and local authorities, the buffering capacity provided by the private sector in a number of areas was essential.

The Commissioners tried to provide humane conditions for the PoWs. Shortage of money was at its worst as the country faced bankruptcy during the second war. With their allowances unpaid, prisoners faced starvation, as Evelyn’s appeals for emergency funds attest.

The various solutions resorted to for the incarceration, care and repatriation of the prisoners illustrate aspects of the hybrid public/private culture of the period. The keepers of prisons ran their establishments as private fiefs. When public gaols proved inadequate it was necessary to negotiate for the use of privately-owned facilities.
Complaints needed to be taken seriously, since credible reports of ill-treatment of the other’s captives carried the danger of retaliatory action against one’s own.

Presumably to avert such a possibility, Commissioner Reymes and, following his return, Downing, wrote and had translated into Dutch assurances of their humane treatment, for endorsement by the prisoners in Winchester and the Essex prisons. The circumstances under which these reports were obtained suggests they be treated with caution.

The most pitiable complaints were from Dutch PoWs towards the end of the second war, when the approaching bankruptcy of Charles II’s government made it impossible to send out the fleet or to find money to feed the captives held at Leeds Castle and elsewhere. Some even begged to be put out of their misery when Evelyn was unable to find ‘bread to relieve the dying creatures’.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Seaport officials, merchants and shippers engaged in PoW repatriation took advantage of their contracts to take their ‘cuts’ and to secure business for themselves.

For the naval contractors Cocke and Reymes, public service no doubt provided them with useful contacts. The dividing line between state and private-enterprise facilities and services was often indistinct. The Commissioners needed to adapt this system to secure a workable regime.

The development of institutions and procedures for dealing with prisoners of war illustrates that state formation in this period was an unplanned and non-deterministic process, and the product of interactions between a variety of collective interests.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

The same Gijs Rommelse who co-authored the paper excerpted above, is a guest on a blog I follow. He reveals in this blog the concerns raised about the welfare of Dutch sailors captured in the Wars, and the discrepancy between theory and reality in the treatment of foreign prisoners of war in England, with examples and citations not included in the above.…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

FINALLY the Painted Gallery at Greenwich is open, the restoration finished. They have done a magnificent job. But as the editorial says, the seamen rarely got to use the room. Lovely pictures and more information at…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

Wednesday 11 July 1666

“Up, and by water to Sir G. Downing’s, there to discourse with him about the reliefe of the prisoners in Holland; which I did, and we do resolve of the manner of sending them some.” … “By and by called to wait on the Duke, the King being present; and there agreed, among other things, ... and as to the relief of prisoners in Holland.”

L&M note those in the gaol at Flushing/Vlissingen were in need of food and medical attention.

Pepys went to see Sir George Downing about the prisoners because (taken from Evelyn's Diary):

"12 July, 1666. We sat the first time in the Star-Chamber. There was now added to our HOSPITAL commission Sir George Downing (one that had been a great against his Majesty, but now insinuated into his favor; and, from a pedagogue and fanatic preacher, not worth a groat, had become excessively rich), to inspect the hospitals and treat about prisons."

Not only was Downing Pepys' former boss, but he had spent years at The Hague as the representative from England for both Charles II and Parliament, so he knew everyone, and probably speaks the language.

Downing joins John Evelyn, Sir William D'Oyly, Sir Thomas Clifford and Col. Bullen Reymes as a Commissioner for taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

I repost this obituary with permission of the author:

10/11/2020 by J D Davies 2 Comments

It’s become something of a cliche to say that 2020 has been a year of tragedies on a global scale. Amid such horrors, it’s perhaps possible for individual losses to be diminished and to have less impact than would usually be the case. Last week, though, I learned the shocking news that my friend, the Dutch naval historian Gijs Rommelse, had died suddenly at the age of forty-three. Such an early death would be tragic in any circumstances, especially as he leaves a widow and a young family, but for the small world of seventeenth century naval history, his death represents an incalculable loss.

I first met Gijs twenty or so years ago when he was studying at the University of London. We hit it off immediately – the ranks of six-foot-something non-English naval historians of the 17th century were and are not large – and we stayed in touch after he went back to the Netherlands. There was also a similarity in our career paths; Gijs, too, forged a career outside the university sector by teaching secondary-age students while researching and writing naval history in his spare time. In that respect, though, I was always astonished (and perhaps a little shamed) by just how productive he was in the time available to him, especially as he had a growing family too. His first book, The Second Anglo-Dutch War (1665–1667). International raison d’état, mercantilism and maritime strife, a modified version of his doctoral thesis, was published in 2006, and he followed it with a biography of Sir George Downing, a history of the Dutch in the early modern world, a book on ideology and foreign policy in the early modern world, and several other titles in Dutch. A number of these books were jointly authored; Gijs loved to collaborate with others, and it was a pleasure to work with him and Alan James as a co-editor of our book on western naval ideologies, c.1500-1815. The planning session that the three of us had in Amsterdam, where we worked out the themes and overall plan for the book, was a particularly memorable time.

San Diego Sarah  •  Link


He always had a new project in the pipeline, the most notable at the time of his untimely death being a history of the Dutch navy from 1400 to 1815. He was also a good friend of this blog and contributed several guest posts, probably the most memorable of which was his review of the film known in the Netherlands as Michiel de Ruyter and elsewhere as Admiral: Command and Conquer. His workrate was phenomenal, as was his ability to juggle several ambitious projects at any one time – not to mention family life and teaching History to teenagers. He was remarkably modest, always self-deprecating about his command of English (which was actually better than that of many native speakers) and profusely apologetic when asking me if I could check references in British sources for him – his sign off line, ‘thanks ever so much’, was more than just a standard courtesy because I knew he absolutely meant it.

Historians should die in the fullness of their years, leaving a substantial body of work behind them. Gijs certainly achieved the latter in the limited time given to him, but it is a tragedy both for his family and for naval history that he was denied the former. He had so much more to contribute, and for my part I shall miss a good friend who has been taken far too soon.

-- J.D. Davies

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

John Evelyn's Diary – he and Mary Browne Evelyn live at Sayes Court, Deptford.…


27 October, 1664.
Being casually in the privy gallery at Whitehall, his Majesty gave me thanks before divers lords and noblemen for my book of "Architecture," and again for my "Sylva" saying they were the best designed and useful for the matter and subject, the best printed and designed (meaning the taille-douces of the Parallel of Architecture) that he had seen.

He then caused me to follow him alone to one of the windows, and asked me if I had any paper about me unwritten, and a crayon; I presented him with both, and then laying it on the window-stool, he with his own hands designed to me the plot for the future building of Whitehall, together with the rooms of state, and other particulars. After this, he talked with me of several matters, asking my advice, in which I find his Majesty had an extraordinary talent becoming a magnificent prince.

The same day at Council, there being Commissioners to be made to take care of such sick and wounded and prisoners of war, as might be expected upon occasion of a succeeding war and action at sea, war being already declared against the Hollanders, his Majesty was pleased to nominate me to be one, with three other gentlemen, Parliament men, viz, Sir William D’oily, Knt. and Bart., Sir Thomas Clifford, and Bullein Rheymes, Esq.; with a salary of 1,200/. a year among us, besides extraordinaries for our care and attention in time of station, each of us being appointed to a particular district, mine falling out to be Kent and Sussex, with power to constitute officers, physicians, chirurgeons, provost-marshals, and to dispose of half of the hospitals through England.

After the Council, we kissed his Majesty's hand.

At this Council I heard Mr. Solicitor Finch plead most elegantly for the merchants trading to the Canaries, praying for a new Charter.


"Architecture," and "Sylva" --…

Canaries --…

The Commissioners for taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Care and Treatment of Prisoners of War =…

Sir William D’oyly MP, Knt. and Bart., =…

Sir Thomas Clifford MP =…

Col. Bullen Reymes MP =…

Sir Heneage Finch, becomes the Solicitor GENERAL in 1670, so he must be just a Solicitor now =…

San Diego Sarah  •  Link

2 December, 1664.
We delivered the Privy Council's letters to the Governors of St. Thomas's Hospital, in Southwark, that a moiety of the house should be reserved for such sick and wounded as should from time to time be sent from the fleet during the war.

This being delivered at their Court, the President and several Aldermen, Governors of that Hospital, invited us to a great feast in Fishmongers' Hall.


We = The Commissioners for taking Care of Sick and Wounded Seamen and for the Care and Treatment of Prisoners of War =…

St. Thomas’s Hospital =…

Fishmongers’ Hall =…

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Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.