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Visit to Chatham Hospital

Queen Victoria and the royal family made their first visit to a military hospital on 3 March 1855 to meet some of the wounded soldiers recently returned from the Crimea. There were at least eight visits to Chatham, Portsmouth and Woolwich hospitals, with the last one in April 1856. The Queen commissioned photographic portraits of several of the men to whom she spoke on these occasions. The visits and the commission were reported in the press, but the photographs themselves remained private.

Corporal McMahon served with the 1st (the Royal) Regiment. He was shot through the neck and his shoulder was fractured. Private Dryden of the 11th Hussars was wounded during the Charge of the Light Brigade on 25 October 1855 after which he was taken prisoner by the Russians. Queen Victoria met both men at Chatham. She subsequently wrote in her Journal of Dryden: ‘Private John Dryden of the 11th Hussars, who had received 31 wounds, 26 of which lance wounds, the remainder, being sabre cuts, received at Balaklava, where he was completely surrounded by Russians & taken prisoner, being for a year in prison at Simpheropol. He only suffers from the cuts in his head & has a scar across the bridge of his nose’ (16 April 1856).