Selimiye Barracks at Scutari is an imposing building in modern Uskudar, Turkey. It stands on the Asian side of Istanbul, across the Bosphorus. The site of the Barracks has a long military history, first becoming a centre for trade and a strategic military base in the Byzantine period.
The first construction of the barracks was completed in 1806, but the landmark stone building that stands today was completed in 1827; with only a few additions and alterations it remains essentially unchanged.
When the British joined the Crimean War they were accommodated at the Selimiye Barracks, which was considered spacious and well equipped. Despite the war being fought on the Crimean peninsula hundreds of miles away, shiploads of wounded soldiers were transported back to the barracks and the British Military Hospital set up there. The hospital did not have the capacity to cope with the huge number of casualties.
Reports flooded back to Britain about the appalling conditions. This provoked the nursing expedition led by Florence Nightingale to introduce female nurses into the British Military Hospitals. The nurses’ quarters were in the wings flanking the tower facing the Selimiye Mosque, and Florence’s bedroom and study was in the tower, although it’s not clear which tower.
When the war ended the barracks was handed back to the Ottoman army. It continued to be used for training and quartering troops, until around 1923 when it was left empty. Only being used occasionally, it fell into disrepair. In 1963 it was extensively repaired and is today home to the First Army, as its Peace Headquarters. The northwest tower now houses the museum named in commemoration of Florence Nightingale. Over two floors the museum contains memorabilia of Florence, current artefacts related to nurses and nursing and army memorabilia. The barracks are still an active military base, and security is high so visits to the museum must be organised in advance and are accompanied by military guards.