The sad story of Dr Sidney Bernard

Photo Nick Ardley.

Local interest piece on BBC Southeast current,y scheduled for Wednesday 9 September at 6.30 pm: Dr Sidney Bernard, Stangate Quarantine Station and the brave doctor’s burial site – “the loneliest grave in England.”

11 thoughts on “The sad story of Dr Sidney Bernard

  1. Many years ago I served as an engineer on BP tankers there was a boat called ‘Sidney Bernard’ which used to bring out the ships stores it was run I think by Ivan Dollimore. I often used to wonder about the origins of the name which I only discovered a couple of years ago.

  2. The grave slab is now one metre below the surface. I wonder if it sank into the soft mud of Burntwick Island or if the mud has built up by that amount in 175 years.

    • The saltings have built up over the last 100 years since land was flooded and let to the sea.
      Over past ten years the level has risen by around 10 cm, which equates to approximately 10 cm per decade. One of the corners has a grassy mound over it now.
      When the plaque was retrieved in c1952 there was around 20 to 25 cm silt over the grave slab. So the siltation has been happening at a fairly steady and consistent rate.
      I would ask that people don’t go traipsing around looking for grave: Sidney Bernard should continue to rest in peace.

    • That’s great to have the link, Nick – the BBC picked my brains before filming but didn’t tell me when it was broadcast – I caught something very, very brief but it didn’t seem to be the whole story.

      I recall that you were one of the first people who consulted with me about Sidney Bernard, when I was still relatively new in post at the Institute of Naval Medicine. It took years but I eventually found the plaque from the grave which had been in the chapel at RN Hospital Chatham – it was in the basement and is now on display!

      I am still at INM looking after the Historic Collections but will be retiring in October.

  3. The Story of the HMS Eclair (the vessel on which Dr. Bernard had returned to England) is scandalous, too. I have researched the story from the very beginnings in 1844 when HMS Eclair started to control slave ships on the west African Coast until it’s return to England in October 1845 and the following examinations about the epidemic disease that wiped out at least half of Boa Vista’s population – disease and quarantine as a an element of economic relations in the 19th Century. The history of the HMS Hankey which introduced yellow fever to the US fifty years before this happening is shocking, too. Unfortunately, my text is in German, but if you like to read it don’t hesitate to contact me on my website. Claus Donau, Basel/Switzerland

    • Hi Claus
      Thank you for your interesting comment on the article about Dr Sidney Bernard and for your offer of your account of the tragic story.
      However I doubt of there are more than a few around here who can read German well enough to understand it.
      best wishes
      Tony Lavelle
      MSBA Webmaster

    • Hallo Claus,

      I too have researched the story, although I have not produced anything except in parts of presentations which were reprinted in the Journal of the Royal Naval Medical Service.

      If anybody else is interested, many of the original printed sources are available online and I can give directions.

      • I am interested, indeed. Where and how can I find informations? Maybe we can share our sources and texts (unfortunately mine are in German since I’m German, but anyway). Best from Basel, Switzerland. Claus

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