The Medical Chest that Belonged to Nelson’s Surgeon

January 2021

The medicine cabinet that belonged to William Beatty, Nelson’s surgeon on HMS Victory.

An early nineteenth century medicine chest with a brass plaque engraved ‘William Beatty Warranted Surgeon RN 1803’ has come into the possession of a Hampshire antiques dealer from a private collector near Bristol. Members of the Royal Navy Medical Service are aiming to crowdfund to buy it to retain a part of the RNMS history and to donate it to the Haslar Heritage Group. The Haslar Heritage Group have been granted the use of the Old Medical Supplies Agency building at the site of Haslar Hospital to develop into a visitor’s centre with a museum for the Royal Navy Medical and Dental Services. In this episode, Dr Sam Willis speaks to Jo Laird, one of the navy medics behind the campaign – about her role as a naval medic in today’s navy, and her interest in the chest as a means of commemorating the past but also of bringing attention to the role of navy medics today in the fight against Covid. This episode will be followed soon by a special episode on William Beatty and life as a surgeon in Nelson’s navy.