War in the East – 31 Mar 1855

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Below is another excerpt from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, its a daily account from the battlelines during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

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War in the East – 31 Mar 1855

Saturday 31 March 1855

The weather has changed once more. It is now very raw and cold, and threatens another snowstorm. Indeed, there is no security against frost and snow in the Crimea till April is over. There was little firing last night and this morning. The Russians are still engaged in strengthening and extending the advanced works before the Mamelon and the Round Tower, and their artillerymen keep a sharp eye on the new parallel of the French on our right, and on our own advanced parallel on the extreme of the left attack, into which they keep up a fire throughout the day.

As a proof of the extreme severity with which the war presses on the Russians, and of the losses to which they are subject, I may mention a fact, which is stated on excellent authority, that out of seven Admirals who were in command at Sebastopol, no less than five have died or been killed since the siege began.

General Osten-Sacken commands the army in the field outside Sebastopol, and it is understood that he has expressed a confident belief that his position is impregnable to assault. From the town itself we hear that the men are not on full rations, and that they get no pay. The soldiers are exceedingly discontented at the non-fulfilment of the promises held out to them that their arrears of pay should be made up to them. Much more do they grumble at not receiving their current pay.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 30 Mar 1855

 

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Below is another excerpt from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, its a daily account from the battlelines during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.


Activity and Energy of the Russians

THE weather has been exceedingly fine since the despatch of the last mails, and has been very favourable for all siege operation. Nevertheless, the day on which the fire is to be reopened remains buried in the womb of the future, or, in other words, no one can say with any degree of confidence that our batteries will be ready on any fixed date to continue the work which has languished since the 22nd of last October. On the other hand, the Russians have displayed the greatest activity and energy. They have actually thrown up two new redoubts-one opposite the left, another on the flank, of the right attack, since my last letter was despatched, and the works which they have constructed on Mount Sapoune, to the right of the Mamelon, have been strengthened and partially armed, notwithstanding the enemy have had to work under a galling fire of shells. Their rifle pits are now regularly connected and intrenched, and in one of them they have mounted a heavy gun in advance of the Round Tower. In fact, they have made a parallel towards our works, and are now gradually approachiag the French right attack towards Inkermann. Heavy guns, with small charges, are used to “lob” shot and shell into the advanced works on both sides.

For the last three or four mornings the force under Sir Colin Campbell has been turned out before four o’clock a.m. The men are all under arms at dawn, and ready for any duty that may be required of them; but the Russians do not show in any numbers near Balaklava. Our two new batteries on the left attack have been finished, and the night before last our men made a covered way in front of these batteries with great energy.

The Russians have been greatly puzzled, and are exceedingly angry with the proceedings of our lime-burners in front of the Division. The volumes of smoke arising from the kilns have attracted their notice, and they have shelled the spot at intervals ever since, to the discomfiture of Major-General Barnard’s poultry in the rear of the quarries. One shell grazed the General’s tents, another burst among the little temporary establishment of cocks, hens, and sheep, and is said to have injured some of them, and the General has had to shift his quarters. The navies who were burning the lime took the exigencies of their position with great coolness, and contented themselves with expressing a wish for a private cannon to themselves to fight the Russians with in the intervals of lime-burning. The Russians evidently think the smoke arises from some works connected with the railway, and although the kiln, which is concealed by the quarried stone before it, is full two miles from their batteries, they direct shells at it now and then during the day.

The telegraph is now in full play between the right attack, the left attack, and Lord Raglan’s quarters. From the latter place there is also a line to Sir Colin Campbell’s, at Kadikoi. Our scattered camp is thus, as it were, concentrated and kept in close communication. The railway is now completed up to the plateau, and has been carried close to head-quarters, where there will be a large depot and station established.

Captain Christie, who has been superseded by Captain Heath, as Agent of Transports, has issued a memorandum taking leave of the Commanders in that branch of the service.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

War in the East – 27 Mar 1855

 

 

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Below is another excerpt from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, its a daily account from the battlelines during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

War in the East – 27 Mar 1855

Tuesday 27th March 1855

 

Last night Captain Hill, 89th Regiment, in proceeding to post his picquets, made a mistake in the dark, and got too near the Russian picquets. He was not very well acquainted with the country, and the uncertain light deceived him. The Russians challenged, “Qui va la?” “Nous, Francais!” was the reply. The two picquets instantly fired, and Captain Hill dropped.

There were only two or three men with him, and they retired, taking with them the Captain’s great-coat. They only went a few yards to the rear io get assistance, and returned at once in the place where Captain Hill fell, but his body had been already removed, and the Russian picquets had withdrawn. His fate is uncertain, but it is hoped that he is not severely wounded, and is safe in the hands of the Russians.

Two little “affairs,” calculated to break the monotony of Balaklavan existence, occurred on Monday. Imprimis, a fight broke out among the Croats. These gentry were all armed when they landed, and it was judged inexpedient to deprive them of their stomachs-full of pistols and yataghans. It was known for some time past that ill-blood existed between various little sections of these wild mountainers; Montenegrins, Albanians, Croats, Arnauts, Greeks, even Affghans and Koords – all had their quarrels. Some of the men accused the head men of cheating them. Last night a squabble took place between two parties of the Croats. They drew their pistols and daggers, a regular fight took place. Thirty or forty shots were fired, and men fell wounded, two of whom have since died. Colonel Harding, the commandant, with a party of men, proceeded to the spot and quelled the riot, and disarmed all the Croats on the spot. It is a pity it was not done before. Secundo, a fire broke out in the harbour on board a vessel (No. 113), I believe, laden with combustible stores. The alarm bell was rung, the “Leander” sent round her boats, and after an immense deal of excitement the fire was extinguished. An inquiry has taken place into the origin of the fire, but it appears to have sprang from nothing more than the drunkenness of some of her crew.

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil

Memoirs of Henry Keppel – 1904 – Little Admiral

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. Below is concluding installment from his memoirs as published in one of the books in our library ‘Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West’ -1905. 

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here.

Memoirs of Henry Keppel – 1904 – Little Admiral

Sir Henry Keppel and Grandson
Sir Henry Keppel and Grandson

And so the ‘Little Admiral,’ who had weathered so many storms, had at last ‘fitted foreign’ and set forth on the journey that he had long wished for, with a certainty that he would gain the haven where he would be. He often longed for a ‘mysterious union’ with his native sea, and always hoped to be buried in its voiceless embrace. ‘One must be eaten by something he would often say,’ and I would much rather be eaten by shrimps than by worms.’

I believe that when his nephew, Sir Harry Stephenson, was in command of the Channel Fleet he had made arrangements for a simple sailor’s funeral. But it was not to be, and on January 21, [1904], I attended the dear Admiral’s funeral at Winkfield. The solemnity of it will never be effaced from my memory. His coffin was draped with the Union Jack of the ‘Majestic,’ on which lay his cocked hat and sword. Behind the gun-carriage on which the coffin was placed there were drawn up petty officers from H.M.S. ‘Mars,’ ‘Hannibal,’ and ‘Gladiator’; behind them, ship’s companies from H.M.S. ‘Victoria and Albert,’ ‘Osborne,’ ‘Vernon,’ ‘Hannibal,’ and ‘Victory.’ Amongst the wealth of wreaths that covered the carriage, one was conspicuous, on which was written, with her own hand, ‘In loving memory of my beloved Little Admiral, the best and bravest of men. Rest in peace. ALEXANDRA.’ The King and the German Emperor were represented, and naval and military officers and troops of friends vied in the proof of their friendship and respect.

The little church was filled by sailors bringing garlands of flowers, which were placed on the coffin while the beautiful hymns, ‘Oh, rest in the Lord’ and ‘Lead, kindly light ,’ were being sung.


Safe home, safe home to port –
Rent cordage, shattered deck,
Torn sails, provisions short,
And only not a wreck.
But oh, the joy upon the shore
To tell our voyage – perils o’er.

And there were many tears silently shed by those who had known and loved the ‘Little Admiral.’ And when the body was lowered into the grave, in presence of his gallant son, and the orders were given to fire three volleys in the air, and the ‘Last Post’ was sounded, many sobs were heard, and it would have required a stony heart not to be moved. Those who were present saw his little grandson, who had just joined the Service, standing at the salute, with the tears rolling down his cheeks. He was thinking probably of his grandfather, who had once been as he was, and was now again as a little child.

While the funeral was taking place at Winkfield Church, an impressive service was being held at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s, which was attended by the King and Queen, who herself chose the hymns that were sung. Harry Keppel’s body sleeps in the little churchyard by the side of his wife, and surely neither Westminster Abbey nor St. Paul’s ever witnessed a more impressive ceremonial.

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Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1902

Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. Below is an excerpt from his memoirs as published in one of the books in our library ‘Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West’ -1905. 

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – 1902 – Order of Merit

His popularity was universal. At Cowes he visited Mr. Armour’s magnificent yacht, where he was piped on board at the suggestion of the quartermaster, who had never before seen him, but was an ardent admirer of his and had kept a record of all his exploits.

The inauguration of the new Order of Merit took place in Buckingham Palace on August 8, [1902], and Harry, who had been selected for that great honour, must have been, I imagine, ten years older than any of the others who assembled for their investiture on that day. Nothing could exceed the gracious manner of the King in bestowing these and other decorations; and I am sure that everyone felt, as I did, how the honour was enhanced by His Majesty’s kind words to each recipient. On this occasion I was also honoured by a command to attend, to be invested with the Grand Cross of the Bath, and so was able to accompany him to Buckingham Palace. It was a sight I shall never forget to see those who were selected for that high and new Order.

Shortly after this the Athenaeum Club invited all the knights of the new Order of Merit to a dinner. My son William, probably the youngest member of that distinguished assembly, accompanied his uncle, whose health was proposed; but Sir Harry left the toast to be responded to by Sir Edward Seymour, not trusting himself to speak.

Few things bring death so vividly to our minds as a room deprived of a beloved presence. ‘The empty chair’ as Thackeray, I think, somewhere says, ‘mournfully whispers what yours and mine will some day be.’

The little treasures so dear to the possessor, so worthless in other eyes; the photograph which once gave so much pleasure, and brought back memories of loving friends and happy days long passed away, become only an encumbrance to those who remain, ignorant even of what they were and what they meant.

In his last years when the Admiral became somewhat deaf, his old friend, Mr. Read, went to visit him with Mr. Buckley, another old friend from Singapore; but Mr. Read and he found it difficult to understand each other. Turning to Mr. Buckley, Harry said, ‘There is no doubt we ought both to be in a lunatic asylum.’ But some short time before his death this deafness became worse, so bad, indeed, that he could not discern that his friends were even speaking. You have lost your voice, dear Algie,’ he said to me; ‘I cannot hear a word you are saying.’ And then, one day, he said he had been having luncheon with the King. ‘D-d dull it was; nobody except myself opened their lips all the time.’ And, sadder still, when his daughter hastened home from Malta, he thought for a few days that she would not speak to him. But three days before his death his boy had returned from the Pacific, and God, as of old, worked a miracle, and restored to him, as he lay on his bed, the hearing of his youth.

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Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Autumn Cruise

 

 

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Admiral of the Fleet Sir Henry Keppel, GCB, OM (14 June 1809 – 17 January 1904) was a British admiral and son of the 4th Earl of Albemarle. Below is an excerpt from his memoirs as published in one of the books in our library ‘Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Admiral of the Fleet – by Sir Algernon Edward West’ -1905. 

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Sir Henry Keppel – Autumn Cruise

He never missed an autumn cruise with the Prince of Wales in the ‘Osborne’ at Cowes, and his face was well known in the clubhouse and on the lawn. Nothing could exceed the kindness of his Royal Host in looking after his guest. On one occasion the German Emperor, coming on board the ‘Osborne’ from the ‘Hohenzollern,’ wished to see Harry. It was at a time when he slept  – ‘his custom always of an afternoon’ – and the Prince, going down on tiptoe, refused to have him disturbed.

Walking with his niece, he met two young ladies who bowed to him. He seized them by the hand, saying how kind they were to recognise an old fellow, and kissed them both. His niece remonstrated, but he said: ‘I thought they were some more nieces – at any rate, they were devilish pretty girls!’

One day at Cowes it came on to rain in torrents, and two of his real nieces took shelter under a verandah of the hotel, which had been reserved for a certain rich stockbroker, who turned them out into the wet. Harry, hearing of this, was furious, and started out with his nephew to demand an apology he had an umbrella in his hand saying: ‘ I am too old to strike him, but I can poke his eye out.’ The stockbroker said: ‘How was I to know they were ladies?’ ‘Damn you, sir,’ said Harry, ‘don’t you know a thoroughbred from a carthorse? If you don’t, I’ll teach you.’

When paying a visit to the Royal yacht, the Prince of Wales told Queen Victoria that Harry was going to publish his recollections. Her Majesty called him up, and said: ‘I hear, Sir Harry, you are going to publish your recollections. I shall be glad to read them.’  ‘No, your Majesty,’ he said; ‘I fear they will not be fit reading for a lady.’ And yet, as everybody knows, there is not a sentence in them which might not have been read aloud at Miss Pinkerton’s Academy for Young Ladies on Chiswick Mall without calling up a blush on their innocent faces.

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Further Reading and External Links

Henry Keppel on Wikipedia

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Britannia

 

 

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is the fifth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – The Britannia

My chest on board the Britannia stood between the chests of poor “Andy” Wauchope and Henry John Thoroton Hildyard. Both subsequently left the Navy for the Army. The late Major-General Andrew Gilbert Wauchope, [D.S.O.], was fatally wounded at Magersfontein during the South African war. General Sir Henry J.T. Hildyard, [G.C.B.], [K.C.B.], retired in [1911], after long and distinguished service. I was strongly inclined to follow the example of my comrades and to join the Army; and I have since occasionally regretted that I remained in the Navy, in which Service there is less opportunity for attaining the highest rank.

I was raised to the rank of “captain” in the Britannia; but I regret to say that my enjoyment of that dignity was singularly brief, for I was disrated upon the same day, even before I had time to put on the stripe. For my delight at my promotion so exhilarated me, that I forgot to resist the temptation to empty a bread-barge upon the head of the old master-at-arms as he was coming up the hatchway, and the spectacle was so amusing that I stayed to laugh at it.

When I entered the Service, the system of training young seamen, as well as cadets, was in operation. To Sir James Graham, First Lord of the Admiralty, is due the credit of introducing the training of seamen. In [1854], he caused the Illustrious, two-decker, to be commissioned for that purpose, under the command of Captain Robert Harris. The fact was that as sails gave place to steam and as the science of gunnery progressed, it became necessary to enter seamen as boys and to train them for continuous service. For some time the short service and long service systems were concurrent. When I went to sea, captains still entered men direct from the merchant service, and very good seamen they were. They were engaged for a commission, at the end of which they could re-engage or not as they pleased. But in the meantime, under the admirable administration of Captain Harris, “Jimmy Graham’s novices,” as they were called, earned an excellent reputation in the Fleet; and continuous service gradually replaced intermittent service. In the continuous service system resided our chief superiority over foreign Navies. The objection to it on the part of the Government was (and is) the increasing permanent charge of pensions. But in the interests of the Service and of the country, it cannot be too clearly understood that the system is well worth the cost, and that the revival of the short service system is profoundly to be regretted.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861

 

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Lord Charles Beresford (1846-1919) was a British Admiral and Member of Parliament, he was a hero in battle and a champion of the Navy in Parliament.  This is the fourth installment in our series of his memoirs – taken from ‘The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford’ written by himself and published in 1914.

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Memoirs of Lord Charles Beresford – 1861 – School Curriculum

In addition to the ordinary school curriculum on board the Britannia, the cadets were taught seamanship, gunnery and navigation. Book-work did not interest me, but I took great pains to become proficient in seamanship, in which I always secured a high place.

A cadet entering the Britannia under 14 years of age, would be rejected from the Service if he failed to pass the fourth quarterly examination after his entrance. Having entered the Britannia in December, [1859], I was sent to sea in March, [1861]. I was very happy during my time in the Britannia. Out of school time, we did a great deal of boatpulling. My boat was called the Gazelle. I remember that one day, when I borrowed a private boat to put off to the Gazelle, my comrades pushed me out into the stream, and I drifted out to Spithead, without oars. There was nothing in the boat but a painter, which I considered it to be my duty neatly to coil down. Then I sat still and waited until a boat came to fetch me.

Seamanship was taught by the use of models, and saildrill was taught upon the mizen-mast. I remember being haunted by a doubt lest the handling of small models, and going aloft in a stationary ship, might not enable me to practise the knowledge thus acquired when I came to deal with the real full-size objects and to go aloft in a ship at sea. My prevision was largely justified; and when I came to command a ship, I made the youngsters learn their business by handling real things and not the models of them. For if anything goes wrong while teaching a youngster, for instance, to lay out a 6-ton anchor upon a model, he puts it right with his finger and thumb and thinks he can do the same with the real anchor.

The captain of the Britannia was Robert Harris, to whom the Service owes the inestimable benefit of cadet training ships. The first lieutenant was George S. Nares (now Vice-Admiral Sir George S. Nares, K.C.B.). He commanded the Challenger in her voyage of scientific discovery of [1872], during which he was recalled to proceed upon his celebrated voyage of Arctic exploration. Another lieutenant was William H. Heaton, whose long whiskers afforded the cadets much innocent amusement. On a windy day his whiskers used to stream backwards over his shoulders. Lieutenant Heaton chose to wear his stripes running longitudinally up his arm, a peculiarity which exemplifies the prevailing latitude with regard to uniform. There was no rule prescribing the pattern of cap or greatcoat worn in the Service. Officers might wear the mohair band and badge on any kind of cap that took their fancy. Some of them used to transfer plain clothes buttons to a uniform coat or greatcoat, if they were going ashore, for the sake of economy; for we were nearly all poor in those days. The chaplain and naval instructor was the Rev. Robert M. Inskip.

Excerpt from The Memoirs of Admiral Lord Charles Beresford written by himself and published in 1914.

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Further Reading and External Links

Lord Charles Beresford on Wikipedia

Lord Charles Beresford on The Dreadnought Project

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1843 – The Seribas

 

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James Brooke became the first White Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after inheriting £30,000 and investing it in the schooner ‘The Royalist’ and sailing for Borneo. 

We are publishing a blog series that covers his adventures – taken from one of the books in our library called Rajah Brooke by Sir Spenser St John published in 1899.

Catch-up with earlier posts in the James Rajah Brooke series here or search our library here.

James ‘Rajah’ Brooke – 1843 – The Seribas

One result of the defeat of the Seribas was the increased influence of the English ruler. Sherif Sahib of Sadong now thought it prudent to return to the Sow tribe of Dyaks fifty of the women and children whom his people had seized, and although this was but an instalment it was something gained.

In a few lines written on November 14, [1843], Brooke sketched the policy which he wished the English Government to pursue. ‘If we act, we ought to act without unnecessary delay. Take Sarawak and Labuan, or Labuan alone, and push our interest along the coast to Sulu, and from Sulu towards New Guinea, gaining an influence with such states (and acquiring dormant rights) as are clear of the Dutch on the one hand and of the Spaniards on the other.’ But this policy was neglected, and to some extent it is now too late to carry it out.

In December [1843] Brooke again visited Singapore, and there he shortly afterwards received news of his mother’s death. Though affectionate to all his relations, his love and tenderness centred in his mother, and her loss was the more acutely felt, as, from a mistaken feeling, the seriousness of her illness had not been reported to him.

Whilst visiting Penang Brooke joined in an expedition to punish some piratical communities on the coast of Sumatra; and as a guest on board H.M.S. Wanderer he went with the boats that were sent to attack the town of Murdoo. A strong current swept the captain’s gig under an enemy’s stockade. There was no help for it, so Brooke sprang out and led a rush upon the fort, during which he received a gash in the forehead and a shot in the arm. Reinforcements coming up, the place was soon captured. On the return of the expedition to Penang the ship’s crew begged the captain’s permission to man yards and give three cheers for their gallant guest. Here he met Captain Keppel on his way to Calcutta, who promised to pick him up at Singapore on his return and visit Sarawak again, and chastise the pirates of Sakarang.

Brooke therefore waited, but was again disappointed, as the Dido was ordered to China, and he had therefore to remain in the Straits until the end of May, when Captain Hastings gave him a passage over to Borneo in the Harlequin.

This long absence had encouraged his enemies, who now hoped that they were free from their troublesome neighbour. Sherif Sahib, however, though boasting as loudly as ever, did not feel secure in Sadong, and therefore prepared his vessels to remove himself and all his immediate following to the interior of the Batang Lupar river, where he would be in touch with the other Arab adventurers who commanded the different districts of that mighty stream. As a defiance to Sarawak, he invited all the Sakarang Dyaks to meet him at the entrance of the Sadong river, and there they rendezvoused to the number of two hundred Dyak bangkongs and Malay war boats. Some mischief was done along the coast, but Brooke surprised one of their expeditions and captured several of their war vessels.

During Brooke’s absence from Sarawak, his new house on the left bank of the river had been built on a rising knoll between two running streams, with the broad river flowing below. It was a pretty spot, and now he could write, I like couches, and flowers, and easy-chairs, and newspapers, and clear streams, and sunny walks.’ Here and there were planted and tended with uncommon care some rose plants, the Rajah’s favourite flower. “All breathes of peace and repose, and the very mid-day heat adds to the stillness around me. I love to allow my imagination to wander, and my senses to enjoy such a scene, for it is attended with a pleasing consciousness that the quiet and the peace are my own doing.’

 Excerpt from Rajah Brooke, published in 1899 by Sir Spenser St John

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Further Reading and External Links

James Rajah Brooke on Wikipedia

The Royalist Schooner

War in the East – 21 Mar 1855

 

 

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Below is another excerpt from “The War” by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper, its a daily account from the battlelines during the Crimean War (157 years ago).

Catch-up with earlier posts in this series here or search our library here.

Sir John Burgoyne Returns to England

Wednesday 21st March 1855

SIR JOHN BURGOYNE left the camp to-day and proceeded to Kamiesch, where he took a passage by the mail steamer, on his way to England. All kinds of opinions and acts have been attributed to Sir John while he was here superintending the earlier operations of the siege, but no one has ever denied the entire devotion and zeal which the veteran General displayed in the prosecution of the works so far as he could control them. If his manner exhibited that stoical apathy and indifference which distinguish the few remaining disciples of “the Great Duke,” his activity and personal energy were beyond his years. Whether he was for an immediate assault after we arrived before the place whether he originated the famous flank march to Balaklava, which has now fallen into popular disfavour whether he counselled delay at first, and afterwards recommended the bayonet whether he allowed the enemy’s defences to grow up under his eyes uninterruptedly whether he left our right at Inkermann undefended, whether he did all these things or not, he will, no doubt, be able to state to those who have a right to ascertain the truth; but it must in justice be remembered that Sir John Burgoyne was in an anomalous and difficult position from the time he joined the army at Varna, when Brigadier-General Tylden was in command of the Royal Engineers, up to the moment that he was relieved from responsibility by the recent arrival of Sir H. Jones.

The Orders are now signed by General Simpson, and the name of the Adjutant-General, Estcourt, is no longer appended to them. It is the Chief of the Staff who waits on Lord Raglan each day to ascertain his wishes, and to receive Orders, and he communicates those Orders to the Quartermaster and Adjutant-General, and sees that they are duly executed. General Simpson is very active for his years, and walks as well as most men. He has been on foot in all directions about the camp. Major-General Jones possesses activity and energy, and it is hoped that these two appointments will contribute to the improvement of the social and internal economy of the army, and to the accomplishment of the objects of this expedition. As yet the lines of our batteries remain very nearly identical with those from which we opened fire on the 17th of October.

The Engineer officers allege there is great difficulty in finding men to execute the necessary works, notwithstanding the improved condition of our army and the diminution of work and labour which has taken place since the co-operation of the French on our right. As steps are about to be taken to remedy the evils which have arisen from the weakness of the force on duty in the trenches, it can be no harm to state that we have frequently had not more than 900 men for duty in the trenches of the left attack, although it is considered that they ought to be defended by at least 1200 men, and that [1500] men would be by no means too many for the duty. I saw one parallel in which the officer on duty was told to cover the whole line of work. He had about 340 men with him, and when he had extended his line they were each nearly thirty paces apart. This was in a work exposed to attack at any moment notwithstanding the ground taken by the French, we are obliged to let the men stay for twenty-four hours at a time in the trenches. On an average the men have three or four nights out of seven in bed. The French have five nights out of seven in bed. With reference to the observations which have been made at home on the distribution of labour between the two armies, it must be borne in mind that when the French and English first broke ground before Balaklava we were as strong as our allies, and that it was some time after the siege began ere the relative proportions of the two armies were considerably altered to the advantage of the French by the arrival of their reinforcements. With that single remark all my comments on this portion of our proceedings here must cease for the present.

 

Excerpt from The War 1855 by W H Russell – Correspondent to The Times.

This volume contains the letters of The Times Correspondent from the seat of war in the East – The Crimean War – the first war with war correspondents.

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Further Reading and External Links

Maps, Plans and Pictures of the Crimean War

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil