Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Wakefield Voices from the Crimea

New book of soldier's letters

Letters sent home from Wakefield Soldiers during the Crimean War

A collection of letters sent home from Wakefield men to their friends and families from the Siege of Sebastopol, from both the Army and Navy.

Oddly this collection includes no letters from Yorkshire Regiments, such as the 19th (Green Howards) or 33rd (Duke of Wellington's). There are also only two sets of correspondance from an Officer, which contradicts the assumed levels of literacy of the Other Ranks, that they did not or could not write home and also challenges the assumption that it was largely the officers who wrote home. This collection of letters from Wakefield and a cursory study of letters published in the Leeds Mercury and the Huddersfield Chronicle suggests that the ORs (from Private to Colour Sergeant) were frequently writing home to their families, detailing their daily lives and experiences in often graphic detail as well as criticisng their officers and also newspapers such as The Times, often coming to the defence of Lord Raglan (whom The Times portrayed as hauty and out of touch with his men). Uniquely there are letters from a bandsman.

The scope of the letters includes the army in Bulgaria, accounts of the battles of the Alma and Inkerman, the winter 1854-1855 and also the fall of Sebastopol. The letters of the Barnsley-born Sergeant James Wallis cover his arrival in the Crimea, the Alma, Winter 1854-1855, the first attack (18 June 1855), the final assault and mopping up during winter 1855-1856; the letters of 'An anonymous young [Naval] officer' give a fascinating insight into the daily life of a naval officer and how officers of differant services viewed each other.

Below are the details of the men, their units and place of residence in this collection:


Name Rank Regiment Town
John Ainsley Private 68th Durham Light Infantry Wakefield
William Baines Private 30th (East Devonshire) Wakefield
John Burgoyne Private 23d (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Wakefield
Robert Crawford Private 28th (North Gloucester) Wakefield
James Evans ? Rifle Brigade Barnsley
Samuel Evans Private Scots Fusilier Guards(1st Battn) Wakefield
George Firth Private 4th (Kings Own)
Henry Firth ? ? Dewsbury
James Greenwood Bandsman 34th (Cumberland) Barnsley
Hincliffe Sergeant 2nd Battn. Rifle Brigade Wakefield
William Hamlet Floyd Private 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Wakefield
George Haigh Bombardier Royal Artillery Wakefield
William Leache Private Royal Sappers and Miners Barnsley
David Maguire ? ? Barnsley
John Murray Private 23rd (Royal Welch Fusiliers) Wakefield
Edwin Peat Gunner Royal Artillery Barnsley
William Pegman Private 54th (West Norfolk) Barnsley
Selby Sergeant 50th (Kent) Barnsley
William Shelley Corporal 34th (Cumberland), Light Company Wakefield
John Sidebottom Private Royal Marines Wakefield
"BS" Private 39th (Dorsetshire) Wakefield
John Swift Corporal 34th (Cumberland) Barnsley
James Wallis Sergeant 2nd Battn. Rifle Brigade Barnsley
Samuel Weale Corporal 30th (Cambridgeshire) Wakefield
Anon Officer 21st (Royal North British Fusiliers) Wakefield

There appears to be strong recruiting links between Wakefield and the Royal Welch Fusiliers and the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment and Barnsley.

I hope to follow up this volume with "White Roses Before Sebastopol: letters fromWest Yorkshire men in the Crimean War" based on letters in the Leeds Mercury, Huddersfield Chronicle, Sheffiled Independent and the York Herald.

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