The events described in this book come from the pages of the author's own letters and diary, written during the campaign in which he was present throughout. It is a record of his impressions and observations, written at the time without any thought of publication; it was at the request of several friends that the book got published - and a remarkably detailed record it is. The regiment embarked for the Crimea on 4th April 1854, less than two weeks after the declaration of war, with a strength of 32 officers and 879 other ranks "besides women allowed to accompany their husbands!" It did not return home till 21st July 1856 having suffered a total of 769 casualties of whom 350 were dead and of these 184 died of disease, some 52%. The Rangers were in action at the Alma, Inkerman, Sevastopol and at the assault on the Redan. Steevens, who embarked as a lieutenant, a company officer, emerged as a captain, awarded Brevet of Major for distinguished conduct in the field, and appointed Companion of the Bath (CB). This really is a fascinating account of one of the most disastrously managed campaigns in which the British Army has ever been involved, and the author pulls no punches, just listen to this catalogue of complaints: severe and constant overwork, want of proper cooking utensils, want of clothing (men in rags for many weeks), insufficiency of tents, want of transport, want of pickaxes and billhooks, faulty system of requisitions, lack of fresh meat and bread, green coffee with no means of roasting it and no vegetables - what a way to run an army on active service. Each chapter covers a specific period and the detail includes all the casualties by name as they occurred and the conditions under which the troops lived and fought. Lists of killed and wounded in various battles, Honours and Awards and casualty statistics are given in the appendix, even down to amputations. With the reinforcements that arrived during the course of the campaign a total of 1,954 officers and men served with the regiment in the Crimea. This is a great book.
The Crimean War has been called ‘the last great war to be fought without the help of modern resources of science’. It was also the last great war to be fought by the British army in all its splendour of scarlet and gold, using weapons and tactics which would not have astonished the Prince Rupert or the Duke of Marlborough. Many who fought in the First, and not a few who fought in the Second, World War will have known personally those who took part in such battles and heard their accounts from their own lips.
On the other hand no campaign should be more familiar, because none has been ‘covered’ more fully and more candidly. The historian of the Crimean battles has then (it would appear) only to make a synthesis of the innumerable letters and reports and his story is complete. Unfortunately this is not so. With smoke from the black powder then used drifting across the battlefield, lying heavily over batteries, the combatant could often see and report little more than what had happened in his vicinity; and even in this he is not necessarily reliable...
As for those who recollected in tranquillity—and there were many—it is enough to record the remark of a contemporary Canadian military historian: ‘Memory can play tricks upon an officer after some lapse of time, especially when the officer’s own interest and prejudice are engaged.’
Beset by these difficulties the writer who surrounds every incident with reservations and qualifications will rapidly weary his readers. He must on matters of moment, such for example as Nolan’s responsibility for the Light Brigade charge, use his judgment on the evidence available and make up his own mind. This I have tried to do.”
First published in 1956, this book is a rich collection of letters written by Major-General Sir Henry Clifford during his service in the Crimean War, where he received the appointment of aide-de-camp to Sir George Brown, commanding the light division, and was present at Alma and Inkerman. For his gallantry in the latter battle, Clifford was decorated with the Victoria Cross, in honour of leading one of the charges, killing one of the enemy with his sword, disabling another, and saving the life of a soldier.
“In reading these letters one cannot fail to be impressed by the noble character of the writer: a man of great courage, both moral and physical, a fine leader of men, and a first-rate officer, quick in his grasp of a difficult situation, forthright in his opinions and criticisms. Even by our standards of today he would certainly be classed as well above the average of his rank. [...]
It is a great privilege to read these frank and vivid letters of 100 years ago and to learn from them at first hand of the courage and endurance of the British soldier in adversity.”
Richly illustrated throughout with Clifford’s own sketches and notes, plus three maps.
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