Acoutrements of RN Surgeon




These two pieces belonged to the surgeon Dr Edward Lawton Moss a most interesting individual and the subject of the book Resurrecting Dr Moss as well as authoring an work on his time as surgeon to HMS Alert on the Arctic Expedition of 1875-6 called Shores of the Polar Sea and creating works of art depicting exploration, medical and naval warfare scenes. His sketches and watercolors were widely reproduced.

Dr Moss was born in Ireland in Ireland in 1843 and studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, graduating in 1862, after a short stint working privately he joined the Royal Navy in 1864 and for eight years was a sailing surgeon on fighting ships in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Pacific


His first ship, HMS Bulldog, in 1865 was ordered to be part of an expedition to protect civilians and diplomats from Haitian rebels whilst harrying the rebels from the sea and here the first record of Moss's work appears. After seeing the merchant ship RMS Jamaica being attacked by a rebel controlled gunboat HMS Bulldog intercepted and engaged, during the engagement she was run aground on an unmapped reef, unable to move a fierce battle ensued with Moss performing two amputations and many other surgical procedures in an operating room being shot through with cannon. Deciding to wait till nightfall to make for the boats and scupper the ship the Bulldog stoically took its punishment, between the waiting and the surgeries Moss painted Haiti: the surgery of HMS Bulldog, on display at the Welcome collection, which shows his operating room with cannon shot on the floor where they fell, holes in the wall and blood on the floor. In 1871 he helped renovate Esquimalt naval base and founded the new naval hospital there until 1875 when he was recalled to England.


From 1875 to 1876 he took part in the British Arctic Expedition led by Sir George Nares where he wrote Shores of the Polar Sea, describing in detail with numerous works of art the expedition, during this expedition not many scientific discoveries were attributed to Moss who had a full time job keeping the sailors healthy and providing his hunting and butchering expertise to the crew, providing much needed meat. Until 1879 he was in Turkey providing what appears to be medical assistance to the Ottomans, during this time he met and assisted archeologist Heinrich Schliemann as he was discovering what is now widely believed to be Troy.


In 1880 when being sent to the Caribbean the ship HMS Atalanta he was lost at sea, ages 37, when the ship dissapeared without a trace, all two hundred and eighty lives lost.


This collection consists of a sailors rope knife, an 1827 pattern junior officers RN sword, a hunting rifle, numerous business cards of his and what appears to be his diary/notebook started during 1863 during his final year as a student Doctor.


The sword is interestingly a black gripped mid Victorian 1827 pattern, the grip was painted or dyed white at some point which shows in the recesses but was cleaned off by the previous owner. An interesting The knife is a mid Victorian Encore turner rope and utility knife in great condition. The hunting gun is currently in storage but will be added as soon as I can get to it.



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