British Foreign Policy 1815-65
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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.
My dearest Mother,
I received by the last mail a letter from my Aunt dated in your hand October 2nd in a corner of the envelope in which she begs me to write as she, nor you have received a line from me. Now I cannot make this out, as I have written six or seven letters to you and my Aunt alternately in fact I have written by every mail, except two since I left Varna, but I hope by the mail which arrives here on 24th to hear you have received at least some of them.
I have seen The Times of the 3rd of this month, in which there is a very flourishing account of the fall of this place, but the event has not yet taken place, for between you and I, do I see the slightest chance of its coming off. We have made several mistakes, in the first place we ought to have stormed it directly we came up when they were in a great stew after the Battle of Alma, and they had no idea where we were going to attack it. Instead we took up a position in front of the place we were going to attack, remained quiet for ten days, and allowed them to throw up batteries, earthworks, etc. etc., without firing a shot and now we have been for five days firing as hard as we can, without being able to destroy what they threw up in that time, and our ammunition is half expended and the army disgusted. I do not know which is the greatest ass, Raglan or Burgoyne. The French also detained us. They could not get their siege guns landed for six or seven days after ours, and they did not like us to begin before them, for fear we should take the place before they had fired a shot, however, this cannot last much longer, as the weather is on the point of changing, not only this there is a large army of Russians coming up in our rear, so we shall have to take it by a dash or beat a retreat till next year, which will be a terrible hit both for us and the nation generally besides we shall have shown the Russians their weak points, which they will repair against next time, however, I hope it well not come to this, and that the next time I write will be able to say we have taken it.
We are very hardly worked now that is the Field Batteries, as we not only form part of the covering army and are turned out very often twice a night by false alarms of sallies, or the enemy in the rear, but besides have to drag the siege guns into the breaching batteries, and take down ammunition and under a tremendous fire, however, I have escaped as yet although I have had two or three narrow shaves.
Last night Lord Dunkellin of the Guards, who is as blind as a bat, was sent out in charge of a working party, lost his way and walked slap into the Russian Outposts, and was made prisoner, his men escaped by running away. They had no arms, so could do nothing, you may depend the Russians will make a good story out of this.
Poor Young of ours died last night of Cholera, which has by the way nearly disappeared, poor Lady Young! who lives in Clifton has thus lost both her sons, one the Baronet, who only married about a fortnight before he left England, was killed at Alma and now the second, and I believe the last of cholera. I think you will hear this from me before she can, do you not think you could break it to her, as I do not think Paynter, who commands his battery, will write, and if he does will do it badly. I am going to attend his funeral this afternoon, and I have also offered to take charge of anything that is to be sent home which I will forward to you. The rest of his things will be sold by auction. He was a very nice fellow, and universally liked.
Poor Colonel Alexander of the R. Engineers is also dead, of Apoplexy, said to be brought on by anxiety, he being in charge of the siege. I attended a sale of his effects yesterday, which went for above cost price.
My Aunt told me in her letter of Mr. Smith's death and Eustacia's death but I had seen them both in the papers before her letter arrived. His must have been sudden. I was surprised to hear from my Aunt that he had left you nothing, as he was always so kind to you, but everything is done for the best, as the old song says. Poor Eustacia's death must have been quite a release to her. I would if I had time have written to Mrs. Lewis, but I have to go on duty in the trenches at five o'clock, and shall be away for nine hours, so the post will have left e'er that.
I am getting up the list, being about 19th or less from the top, I hope to be promoted soon and get home, as I am very sick of Campaigning, and have seen quite enough of it. Tell my Aunt I have still got Blandford, and he is a great comfort to me, in some respects, but my things he considers common property, as of old, also that I have not seen Captain Powell.
I have no more room and nothing more to tell you at present so must pull up, with best love to all at home, believe me dearest mother.
Ever your affectionate son, W.P.R.
P.S. Only fancy I had Champagne on my Birthday.
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Last modified 5 January, 2011
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