We, the undersigned, are military historians of some standing, both Fellows of the Royal Historical Society, who have a good knowledge of the Crimean War and the personalities connected with it.
We are therefore disappointed at your museum’s repeated emphasis on, and support of, Mary Seacole, at the expense of Florence Nightingale whose memory you should be guarding against the politically-based misinformation which is so widespread.
Mary Seacole was a sutler with a shop and small restaurant in the Crimea which she set up with a partner called Day in the Spring of 1855. There is not a shred of evidence that she ran a hospital – one of the common and totally untrue stories about her – nor that she nursed in any meaningful sense. Her ‘supporters’ have been repeatedly challenged to produce evidence in support of their claims but have not been able to do so as there is none.
A distinguished Canadian professor, Lynn McDonald, has written widely exposing the myths using Mrs Seacole’s own autobiography and has defended Florence Nightingale – a task which, properly, should have been done by you. It is Florence who is paying the museum expenses and wages.
There is a heavy responsibility on all museums not to propagate falsehoods, and in our opinions you are presently falling far short of that duty.
Harold E. Raugh, Jr, Lt Col, PhD, FRHistS, FRAS, US Army, ret.
Colin Robins (Major) OBE, MA (Cantab), FRHistS, Editor Emeritus, The War Correspondent: Journal of the Crimean War Research Society