War in the East – 15 Nov

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The Hurricane – 15th November 1854

by William Howard Russell – War Correspondent to The Times Newspaper

Wednesday – 15th November 1854

THE camp was visited by a hurricane to-day.  It commenced shortly after six o’clock a.m., and was preceded by rain and squalls from S.W. and S.S.W.  

For about an hour I had been in a listless state between waking and sleeping, listening to the pelting of the rain against the fluttering canvas of the tent, or dodging the streams of water which flowed underneath it, saturating our blankets and collecting on the mackintosh sheets in pools.  The sound of the rain, its heavy beating on the earth, had become gradually swallowed up by the noise of the rushing of the wind over the common, and by the flapping of the tents as they rocked more violently beneath its force.  Gradually the sides of the canvas, which were tucked in under big stones to secure them, began to rise and flutter, permitting the wind to enter playfully and drive before it sheets of rain right into one’s face; the pegs began to indicate painful indecision and want of firmness of purpose.  The glimpses afforded of the state of affairs outside, by the lifting of the tent walls, were little calculated to produce a spirit of resignation to the fate which threatened our frail shelter.

The ground had lost its character of solidity, and pools of mud marked the horse and cattle-tracks in front of the tents.  Mud and nothing but mud flying before the wind and drifting as though it were rain, covered the face of the earth as far as it was visible.  Meantime the storm-fiend was coming, terrible and strong as when he smote the bark of the Ancient Mariner.  At every fresh blast the pole of the tent played and bent like a salmon-rod; the canvas tugged at the ropes to pull them up, and the pegs yielded gently.  A startling crack!  I looked at my companions, who seemed determined to shut out all sound and sense by piling as much clothes as they could collect over their heads.  A roar of wind, and the pole bent till the fatal “crack” was heard again.  “Get up, Doctor!  up with you;  E—–, the tent is coming down!”  The Doctor rose from beneath his tumulus of clothes.  Now, if there was anything in which the Doctor put confidence more than another, it was his tent-pole.  There was a decided bend in the middle of it, but he used to argue, on sound anatomical, mathematical, and physical principles, that the bend was a decided improvement, and he believed that no power of AEolus could ever shake it.  He looked on the pole blandly, as he looks at all things, put his hand out, and shook it. “Why, man,” said he, reproachfully, “it’s all right that pole would stand for ever,” and then he crouched down and burrowed under his bedclothes.  Scarcely had he given the last convulsive heave of the blankets which indicates perfect comfort and satisfaction, when a harsh screaming sound, increasing in vehemence as it approached, struck us with horror.  As it passed along we heard the snapping of tent-poles and the sharp crack of timber and canvas.   On it came, “a mighty and a strong wind;”  the pole broke off short in the middle, as if it were glass, and in an instant we were pressed down and half stifled by the heavy folds of the wet canvas, which beat us about the head with the greatest fury. Half breathless and blind, I struggled for the door. Such a sight as met the eye! The whole head quarters’ camp was beaten fiat to the earth, and the unhappy occupants were rushing through the mud in all directions in chase of their effects and clothes, or holding on by the walls of the enclosure as they strove to make their way to the roofless and windowless barns and stables for shelter.

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.


Further Reading and External Links

William Howard Russell on Wikipedia

William Howard Russell on BikWil