British Foreign Policy 1815-65

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Letters from the Crimea

Captain WP Richards

I am grateful to Cynthia Dyer-Bennet for permission to reproduce these letters from her grandfather's transcripts. The spelling and grammar are exactly in the original letters.

Letter 11: Camp Sebastopol; January 17th 1855

My dearest Mother,

I have been in a fidget for this last fortnight expecting a letter from home, but none have arrived for three Mails, the last of the three arrived today. The last letter I received was one from Carry, which I answered by the Mail before last. Let me know when next some of you write if any one has written and the date, as I will kick up a row if one has been lost, as there is nothing I hate so much, it puts one out so completely.

I have not much to tell you, since I last wrote, we have been very quiet as regards the Russians, but the cold has been intense and the Army has suffered terribly. We have not above 12,000 men fit for duty. The snow is nearly two feet deep, but it is the wind which cuts one up. The huts are not yet up, and only part of the warm clothing arrived. No one in England has any idea how badly things are managed out here, or know half what the Army have suffered. The weather has changed today and it is much warmer, and the snow is beginning to thaw, but I do not know whether it will last. At any rate I saw a day or two ago, a Pilot who has resided in the Crimea for 14 years, and he told me, we should not have much more snow, and that the worst part of the Winter was over. He said the two next months would be cold, with a good deal of wind, but not much snow or rain, and it will be much warmer than it is now.

I am expecting by the next mail to see my name in the Gazette as Captain. I am now 6th that is by the Army list, but I know of at least 15 steps, now I am in a fix, and do not know what to do, so I will give it to you in full, and then you can tell me in your next what you think. One side of the case is this. When I am promoted, I fall to a company at Corfu, which has been out there for five years, and will be relieved in about a year or eighteen months, when it will go home for five years, so altogether that will be six years and a half, now I expect to be a first Captain by that time, and might again fall to a home Station. Now take the other side, if I do not apply to Lord Raglan, I shall be sent to join my Company. I shall (although I have been worked pretty nearly to death, for these last four months at this siege), lose the medal and clasp, which will be given when this place falls, not only this, I stand a very good chance of getting a Majority if I stay, but none if I go, as every Captain who commands a Company in the siege train, when the place falls, will be sure to get it, and there are two Companies here at present without Captains, and I am sure I could get one if I asked, as I have been favourably mentioned to Lord Raglan more than once. Now what is to be done, rest on one's laurels and retreat to Corfu, or, to remain, get another Clasp, and most likely a Majority. I confess I incline much to the latter, again take it in another point of view, suppose I was to stay, and after all the place was not to fall, I should be sold, and perhaps would not get the good Company at Corfu, but this last case is very improbable, because have it we will, if we could only get somebody who was not so confoundedly cautious as Lord Raglan is, we should have taken it long ago, not only this, we are losing more men by the weather, than we should in the bloodiest assault, and perhaps after losing all these men we shall have to take it in that way at last.

I heard today that they have received 40,000 men as reinforcement. We are ordered to be in readiness for the next 24 hours, to turn out at an instant's warning, as it is one of their festivals and they always like to celebrate them by fighting. I can tell them if they do come, they shall have it to their heart's content.

Let me know in your next when the parcel is coming out, and by what ship, as unless I nab it directly it is sure to disappear. Hay was kind enough to send me out one dozen Rum Shrub [1], which came from his estate in the West Indies, and it is delicious. Tell Miss Selenah I have not yet received her long promised letter, but hope to do so soon.

I have not much more to tell you, and a Cove has just come to say he wants the table to put the dinner on, so goodbye, with best love to all at home. Believe me dearest Mother,

Your affectionate son, W.P. Richards.

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[1] Rum shrub appears to be a cocktail comprising citrus fruit (lemon, orange, lime - depending on one's taste) the juice of the same fruit, lots of sugar and vast quantities of rum.

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