This text has been taken, with the author's kind permission, from Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan (Longmans, 1961). Copyright, of course, remains with Dr. Hibbert. Alvin Wee of the University Scholar's Programme, scanned the image, converting it to electronic format. — Marjie Bloy Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore.
The landing at Eupatoria: William Simpson, The Seat of War in the East, second series. Click on image for a larger view.
On 13 September 1854 the transports arrived off Eupatoria, and the Mayor of the town was ordered to surrender to the Allies. Before accepting the written order he fumigated it in accordance with the health regulations of the town, and then told the Allies that they could land, provided they considered themselves to be in strict quarantine.
The following day the Allies began to land. The French landed first and within an hour several French Regiments were on shore; they had advanced posts as much as four miles inland. By noon, an entire division was established in a defensive position. The British, however, were not able to follow this impressive example. They were already in something of a muddle. It had been intended that a buoy should be placed opposite the old fort to mark the dividing line between the French and British disembarkation points. But during the night the buoy had been moved some way to the south. No one knew who moved it. The French, who by its removal enjoyed the use of the whole of the intended landing-place, were naturally blamed. And the British, now left facing a sandstone cliff, had to move south to a point where the beach began again.
It was not, then, until nine o'clock that a gun was fired on the Agamemnon drawing attention to the signal for the landing-craft to come alongside the transports. A few minutes later rope ladders were flung over the sides of the ships and hundreds of soldiers clambered down, helped from rung to rung by roughly sympathetic sailors who treated them 'like stupid children', patting them on the back and telling them 'not to be afeerd on the water'. On a mile-wide front the small boats rushed inshore. Ahead of the others a gig with and Captain Dacres, the beachmaster, raced a boat from the Britannia carrying a party of Royal Welch Fusiliers, the passengers in each boat cheering excitedly, and then vociferously claiming the victory as both of them grounded almost in the same instant. Soon afterwards Lord Raglan landed and 'wherever he went the troops cheered him'.
All morning the landing continued. The black and tranquil sea of the night before was now alive with colour and movement as the rowing-boats, plying back and forth between the ships and the shore, carried thousands of troops towards the arms of swearing, laughing sailors, who lifted them with good-natured insults on to dry land. 'Come on, girls,' they shouted at the kilted Highlanders, throwing their arms wide open, and the Highlanders, accepting remarks which would have earned a Guardsman a broken jaw, improved on them and then held hands to skip with elaborate delicacy up the beach.
But these high spirits and gaiety were far from common. The faces of many of the men, as they fanned out over the beach between the coloured marking-posts and filed up the hill beyond, were white and drawn in weakness and pain. All the infantry were weighed down with a mass of cumbersome equipment. In addition to his rifle, to which his bayonet was now fixed, each man carried fifty rounds of ammunition; his blanket and greatcoat folded up into a sort of knapsack with an extra pair of boots, socks, a shirt and forage cap inside; a canteen of water; part of his unit's cooking apparatus; and three days' rations comprising 4½ lb. of meat and 4½ lb. of biscuit. There was no transport. Even the ambulance wagons had been left behind, as they had proved 'very rough' in Bulgaria and were considered too rickety to be of any use in the Crimea.
Soldiers struggled under their burdens to reach the hill beyond the beach, only to collapse in exhaustion or agony on reaching it. By noon, when the sun had disappeared behind threatening clouds and a drizzle of rain had begun to fall through the sea breeze, several men were being carried back to be buried under the sands they had marched across so short a time before. The desperately sick were carried back also and next morning were put aboard the Kangaroo, a ship with accommodation for 250 sick into which more than four times that number were crammed. When signalled to proceed to Scutari, her Captain reported back, 'It is a dangerous experiment.' An officer from the Agamemnon went on board and 'found the decks covered with dead and dying men; he described the scene as one of the most horrible he had ever witnessed; he could scarcely walk the decks for the dead'. Lord Raglan when he heard of it made some 'very strong remarks', but he could not alter a system which acquitted the responsible officer at a subsequent court-martial because he had complied with the regulations of his department.
Most of that first afternoon the fine rain fell steadily down, and the tentless troops looked disconsolately back at the ships riding at anchor against the blackening sky. Some of them tried to make fires, Timothy Gowing remembered, 'the best way we could, with broken boats and rafts'. At nightfall the storm broke, and the men huddled together on the beach and on the plateau above it, crowding miserably in the few places of shelter or lying in the open, resignedly trying to sleep in the wet and cold and waiting for the morning. Officers did their best to protect their full-dress uniforms; Colonel Bell of the Royals lamenting his 'expensive nightdress' of gold-embroidered scarlet with its epaulettes that cost him twenty guineas, wet through under a 'scotch plaid and a six foot square of waterproof'; Lieutenant Hugh Annesley of the Scots Fusilier Guards deriving some comfort from the adequate pillow he discovered his bearskin to be, when placed on a haversack full of biscuit.
The rain stopped before dawn, and once again the sun rose in a cloudless sky. All the infantry and some of the artillery had been disembarked the day before, but the cavalry was still aboard and it was more difficult to get one horse on shore than a hundred men. Some officers could not bear to watch their strapped and frightened animals, most of whom had had a fearful crossing, being lowered into the boats, where they stamped and snorted in terror. Several boats were overturned at the water's edge and their horses were tipped out to flounder in the sea 'with their heads in the air and the surf driving into their poor mouths'. At length it was decided that the landings would have to be discontinued until the sea became calmer.
By the evening of the following day, however, all the remaining horses and most of the army's stores had been got on shore. But the problem now was to move these enormous piles of biscuits, barrels of salt meat, tins and sacks, ammunition boxes and equipment which lay in dumps all along the beach. Already it had been necessary to re-ship, the tents, which had been unloaded after the first night's storm and which there now seemed to be no possibility of carrying.
Last modified 8 April 2002