Thursday, 15 November 2012

Leek Soldier in the Crimea 1854-5 Part 2

The 20th Regiment of Foot was involved in one of the major battles of the campaign at Inkerman when they were part of the Second Division under the command of Sir George Cathcart at Shell Hill above Sevastopol. The Russians launched an attack on the heights, which nearly took the British by surprise on the 5th November 1854. It was a bloody and closely fought affair as a report from the New York Times describes

“It was a series of dreadful deeds of daring, of sanguinary hand-to-hand fights, of despairing rallies, of desperate assaults - in glens and valleys, in brushwood glades and remote dells, hidden from all human eyes. No one, however placed, could have witnessed even a small portion of the doings of this eventful day; for the vapours, fog and drizzling mist, obscured the ground where the struggle took place to such an extent as to render it impossible to see what was going on at the distance of a few yards”

The Leek soldier must have been heavily involved in the murderous fighting which took the life, amongst the 597 British soldiers that Sunday morning of the commander Cathcart. He was forlorn

“I have left many thousands of my brother soldiers dead on the field of battle, praying that their souls are in heaven are far better place where any are of us are at this time. The miseries that I endure are unaccountable”

He was cold and starving as there were difficulties with transporting supplies  handicapped by impassable roads and frequent blizzards. Basic supplies were not getting through. The French by contrast had a better stores. Stuck in the trenches before Sevastopol he was knee deep in mud and water. The conditions predict the conditions endured by First World War soldiers 60 years later. “May God send you and yours may not suffer what I have suffered”, he wearily wrote. He sent his brother a gift of 3 red feathers taken from the hat of a Russian General at Inkerman. He asked that they be distributed to friends and his niece Ann. “I could tell you things that would blood turn chilly, if I should return I could tell you many a tale”. The ink, which the soldier had written his letter, was made from gunpowder, as there was a shortage of ink and paper.

The fate of the Leek soldier is unknown but his account indicates that the lot of the ordinary soldier is a common one throughout the ages.