October 1, 1809
- [The Scheldt expedition]
By the end of September about 9300 out of seventeen thousand men on Walcheren were sick. Because of the emergency, Dr James McGrigor, Inspector of Army Hospitals, was requested to go there immediately. In just a few hours he reached Deal, where there were four transports and the 74-gun ship Venerable warship of Sir Home Popham, then commanded by Acting Captain Andrew King. The port admiral gave Captain King orders to convey Dr McGrigor and any other medical officers without delay to Walcheren, but the captain was furious at being used as a transport ship. Despite the urgency, he was in no hurry to leave, as McGrigor reported: 'After the vessel was under weigh, and had stood out to sea, and after repeated signals from the admiral on shore, she made no way on her passage, and intended, as it appeared, to make little, till a lady came on board. That lady was the wife of an officer at Walcheren, Captain Codrington . . . She was at Canterbury [actually Walmer], whither I was informed an express had been sent for her.'
McGrigor's sudden arrival had obviously upset a prior arrangement to convey Codrington's wife to Walcheren, and 'although we got under weigh, and so far as to get beyond the reach of the admiral's glasses; I soon found out that we were not making our passage. In reality, Captain King was waiting for Mrs. Codrington, and it was not till late at night, or perhaps the following morning, that she, with a lady her companion, came on board.'
[to be continued]