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Thomas Alexander C.B, Director General of the Medical Dept

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Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 1200
Location: Musselburgh Scotland

PostPosted: Sat Nov 07, 2009 5:42 am    Post subject: Thomas Alexander C.B, Director General of the Medical Dept Reply with quote

This statue commemorating Thomas Alexander C.B can be found in a "Memorial Garden" in Prestonpans High Street.

There is an inscription on all four sides of the statue plinth.

Front: In memory of Thomas Alexander C.B Director General of the Military Department of the British Army. Born Prestonpans 6th May 1812 Died 1 February 1860.

Right side: The improved sanitary conditions of the British army as well as the elevation in rank and consideration of its Medical Officers are mainly to his exertions, his high professional attainments and his great administrative powers were wholly devoted to the service of his country and to the cause of humanity.


Left side: Throughout a long military career he laboured incessantly to eleviate the condition of the soldier and during the Crimean War his indefatigable efforts as Principle Medical Officer of the Light Division to alleviate the sufferings of the troops were of inestimable value in stimulating others to follow his example.

Thomas Alexander (1812-1860) L.R.C.S Ed 1851. He joined as assistant surgeon 1834, staff surgeon March 1854, served in the east April 1854-June 1856. D.I.G January 1855, local rank of I.G in Crimea Jan 1856, F.R.C.S Ed 1858. Medical Director-General 1858, died in office 1860.
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Adam Brown

Joined: 14 Dec 2006
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Location: Edinburgh (From Sutherland)

PostPosted: Sun Nov 08, 2009 8:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

From a local website

Historical, Ecclesiastical, and Traditional. P. M'NEILL, TRANENT,

PRESTONPANS has been the birthplace of at least two Physicians highly distinguished in their days. Firstly, the late Thomas Alexander, C. B., Director- General of the Medical Department of the British Army, to whose memory a handsome monument was erected in 1862, in the main street of the town. It consists of a stone statue 8| feet high, and is set on a square stone pedestal 6 1/2 feet high, within an enclosure immediately north of the parish church.

The United Service Gazette of July 1860 says: " The account of Dr Alexander's death was received in his native town of Prestonpans with deep and universal sorrow. The picturesque sea-coast village in the neighbourhood of Edinburgh, where his respected parents and immediate relatives reside, was a never failing source of interest to him; and during the eventful life which he so earnestly devoted to the service of his country, whenever he was relieved from duty, he, with joyous feelings, returned to the home of his boyhood, and with childlike simplicity lived in the midst of his affectionate family, recalling the associations of his early days.

"As in the discharge of his public duty Dr Alexander was always the steady friend and the champion of the soldier, in private he was ever ready with a generous heart and a liberal hand to minister to the necessities of the poor, and many in his native place live to bless his memory.

" His remains were removed to Prestonpans and laid in the family burying-ground, on the 6th inst. The scene was a solemn one: the places of business were closed; the inhabitants following the procession to the grave; and the fishermen —in whom he took a deep interest—gave up their avocations at sea, to enable them to pay a last mark of respect to one whom they were proud to claim as a townsman. His body was lowered into the tomb amid the deepest manifestations of grief—all present feeling that an able man and a true Christian was lost to his country and his friends. "

The following brief sketch tells the story of a truly active and eventful career. It is from the Illustrated London News of 18th July 1860: —"Not only the medical service, but the army and the country at large, have sustained a great loss in the death of Dr Alexander, who has been taken from us in the midst of a career which promised the largest results that could be effected by untiring industry, unswerving honesty, a clear intellect, the highest practical knowledge, and the warmest sympathies with the body over which he was so recently called to preside.

"Thomas Alexander entered the service on the staff in 1834, and proceeded to the West Indies, where he did duty for five years and six months, at the end of which time he came home in charge of invalids. He remained at home only nine months, when he embarked for Nova Scotia, where he did duty till he was removed in August 1846 as Second Class Staff Surgeon to North America, where he served with the Rifle Brigade as Regimental-Assistant-Surgeon, till he embarked for the Cape of Good Hope in 1851, and served with the 60th Rifles for the next two years throughout the Kaffir war. He was principal medical officer of the expedition despatched beyond the Kei, and he was thanked in general orders for his services throughout the war.

" In 1854 he was promoted to the rank of First Class Staff Surgeon, and received orders to join the Turkish expedition. He was in charge of the Light Division under Sir George Brown, and landed at Gallipoli with the first detachment of the expeditionary force, consisting of his old comrades of the Rifle Brigade, and a detachment of Royal Engineers, Sappers and Miners, on the 6th March. With the Light Division he remained to the close of the war.

" At the Alma, his tenderness, his inexhaustible endurance and noble devotion in the most terrible trial to which a surgeon, overwhelmed with calls on his utmost powers, and poorly provided with the means of relief, could be exposed were especially remarkable.

" At Inkermann, hour after hour, and day after day, he toiled through scenes which those who have not witnessed a battlefield, and the terrors of the hospital tents, can never imagine or conceive, upheld by the noblest sense of duty; and many men now alive can bear witness to the heroic calm and skill which saved life and limb for them, and the prodigality of care he bestowed on others regardless of everything but his sacred duties. In Lord Raglan's despatch he is described 'as deserving to be most honourably mentioned. ' All through the winter he never left his post—nay more, from the time he joined the Light Division till the British army quitted the shores of the Crimea, he never was absent from his duty a single day.

"On the 12th of January 1855 he was appointed Deputy-Inspector-General, and he went to Kertch with Sir George Brown as principal medical officer of the expeditionary force.

"In General Codrington's despatch of March 18th 1856, in answer to an address from the House of Commons, Dr Alexander is also mentioned, and he was recommended by Dr Andrew Smith for promotion to the rank of Local-Inspector-General for service during the Russian war.

" Dr Alexander remained at home just one month and twenty-one days, when he was again ordered for service in Canada as principal medical officer; but after performing that duty for six months Lord Panmure nominated him one of the Royal Commissioners to inquire into the sanitary state of the army, and he returned to England to discharge the functions of his appointment.

" He was also selected to draw up a new code of regulations for the management of barracks and hospitals; and on the retirement of Sir Andrew Smith on the 22nd June 1858, Dr Alexander was appointed Director-General of the Army Medical Department, which appointment he held up to the day of his death.

" He was also one of the Honorary Surgeons to Her Majesty, and a Companion of the Bath.

" A few weeks ago he was interrupted in the usual assiduous discharge of his duties by an attack of gout, complicated with an inflammatory condition of the nervous system, and he died on the morning of the 1st inst. at his residence in Norfolk Square, the immediate cause of death being, it is supposed, determination of gout to the heart. He leaves a widow to mourn his loss, and in her grief she has many deep sympathisers, for few men ever had a larger number of sincere friends among those whom he admitted to his acquaintance than Dr Alexander. "

Shortly after his decease it was resolved by the good folks of Prestonpans to do honour to the memory of this " son " of the village. To this end a public meeting was held on February 12th 1861, with the view of erecting in his native place a monument to the memory of the late Thomas Alexander, C. B., Director-General of the Medical Department of the British Army.

Sir George Grant Suttie, presiding, said the object of the meeting was, in his opinion, a most proper and a laudable one. He believed many gentlemen present had had the honour of being personally known to the late Mr Alexander, and were more or less acquainted with his history. The high character held by Mr Alexander might, in some sense, be considered public property, as he had certainly conferred great benefits on our suffering soldiers, at times when they most needed it. He felt an anxious interest in the proposal to commemorate the memory of a man who, a native of Prestonpans, had raised himself to the high position which he had ultimately held in the service of his country, solely by his own exertions.

Letters apologising for absence, and of sympathy with the object of the meeting, were read from Professor Ferguson, London, Dr M'Lagan, Berwick-on-Tweed, and others. Mr J. F. Hislop moved, " That this meeting deeply regrets the loss the country has sustained by the death of Thomas Alexander, C. B., Director-General of the Army Medical Department, in which, as well as in previous appointments, he rendered invaluable services; and appreciating also the warm interest he evinced for the welfare of the people of his native place, desire to testify their high sense of his merits and character by erecting a suitable monument to his memory. " Mr H. F. Cadell, Cockenzie, seconded the resolution. Dr Scott, Musselburgh, proposed a committee, and Mr James Mellis, Prestonpans, seconded.

It was altogether a most successful gathering. Towards the close of the meeting a subscription sheet was tabled, and this was at once headed by the chairman, Sir George Grant Suttie, with the sum of £20, and in a few minutes afterwards the sheet showed a total of £70. Subscriptions came in fast, and the result was the very handsome and finely-cut stone statue which stands within the enclosure towards the east end of the village, directly beneath the walls of the weatherbeaten church. The work was executed by Mr W. Brodie, R. S. A., Edinburgh, and bears the following inscriptions: —

On front of the pedestal-
In Memory of
Of the Medical Department of the
British Army.
Born at Prestonpans, 6th May 1812,
Died 1st February, 1860.

On the west side—

The improved sanitary condition
Of the British Army,
As well as the elevation in rank and consideration
Of its Medical Officers,
Are mainly due to his exertions.
His high professional attainments,
And his great administrative powers,
Were wholly devoted to the service of his country
And to the cause of humanity.

On the east side—

Throughout a long military career
He laboured incessantly to elevate the condition
Of the Soldier.
And during the Crimean War
His indefatigable efforts,
As principal Medical Officer of the Light
To alleviate the sufferings of the troops
Were of inestimable value in stimulating others
To follow his example.

On the back—

West Indies.
North America.
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