Added by Marjie Bloy, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore. Christopher Hibbert, who used parts of these letters in his Destruction of Lord Raglan acknowledges Richard Dyer-Bennet, Snr. Cynthia Dyer-Bennet, his granddaughter, has graciously granted permission to include the correspondence in the Victorian Web, and according to her, her grandfather typed the transcriptions in 1961.
My dear Aunt,
I have been so busy lately, what with duty, fatigue parties and going backwards and forwards to Balaklava, that my correspondence has got very much behind hand, not only this the weather has been so very cold, that at night (which is the only time we have for writing), we find it very difficult to hold a pen for any length of time, for instance I am writing this sitting up in bed, with a heavy coat, and wide awake over my upper works, and my nether entrenchments between the blankets, with a box on my knees as a table, and a dip of the very worst description to give me light, a short black pipe to assist my essays, and obliged to shove my fingers every now and then, under the blanket for warmth, so now you have my picture writing away for my very life, as I have seven letters to go by this post in the morning, at 5 a.m., five to ladies and two to gentlemen. It is now eleven p.m. and this is my first.
I cannot exactly make out the reason, but I think lately you have not received all my letters, as in a letter I received from Mammy January 18th, she says you had not heard, and were afraid I was ill. She also alludes to the two boxes sent out. Now I wrote long ago to answer their arrival, in future I intend keeping a roster of all letters received and sent, and shall put at the head of each the date of the last received, and my last written., Vide the top of this one. My last letter to my Mother was written in great haste, so I could not write a long one, since then nothing of any note has taken place, the weather broke and became much warmer on the 1st, but on the 2nd and 3rd it froze very hard, the thermometer being down to 12 degrees today it has thawed again, and tonight blows a good deal and looks like rain.
The Camp is in consequence terribly muddy and sticks to one's boots like gum. As regards the siege, we are getting on with our new batteries but slowly, as we have few men, and hardly any horses left.
And now let me tell you, or rather explain an error in your last letter, as regards the Times which you abuse, all I can say is, that everything it contains is true, and only one half is given of what we undergo, and suffer, and as regards Lord Raglan, I can only say that everybody in the Army dislikes and blames him. No doubt he has many difficulties to contend with, but he has not done half he might have done, and what the officers, and men, feel still more, is that he never comes amongst us, or visits the sick, but lives like a fighting cock in his quarters. If he went about like Canrobert, he would see that the heads of departments did not do their work, and what was wanted, besides the cheering effect it would have on the men, but since the Times has stirred him up in his hole he is out nearly every day, if any of us reach home alive, which is at present much doubted, it will all come out. It would be impossible in the space of many letters, to tell you half we have to undergo, and put up with, all from bad management, so I will leave all the yarns to some future day, and now tell you something about myself.
I am quite well, in fact never was better. I had a bad cold from being continually wet through but have now got over that. I have been very anxious about my promotion, hoping that Maude, who was passed over, would not have been promoted until I had got my step. This would have thrown me to Strange's vacancy at Corfu, and as the Company was just going home, would have suited me beautifully, but by the last Mail I see he is gazetted, so I now cover Gregory's, a Horse Artillery man, so I go to the Company of the man who gets Gregory's Jacket, and Lord knows who that might be. It is generally supposed out here that it will be Reilly who belongs to Adair's company which is under orders to come out here. If this is the case, I am in for it until the end of the War, which I do not like, as I am like everyone out here, heartily sick of it, we all see that, that infernal old blackguard Aberdeen will make a most disgraceful peace, and allow Nick to humbug us in toto.
What on earth are the people of England about, is the general cry out here, and there is but one opinion, which is that if Sebastopol is not taken by us, or razed to the ground by Treaty, that we shall not be a bit the better for the War, and all our hard won actions, but will have merely added 10 or 30 millions, to the National debt, lost tens of thousands of brave men, and in the end be as far off as ever, in putting a stop to the encroachment of Russia.
Many thanks dear Aunt for your exertions to get me an Adjutancy, the only way to do so, is to ask long before it becomes vacant. Now I will tell you two that you have not thought of, viz. Colonels Smith and Dynely, who will very likely get R[oyal] H[orse] A[rtillery] Jackets shortly, in that case the Adjutancy would become vacant. I have not yet received the box sent by the Black Prince, but she is expected daily at Balaklava. I do not want anything more sent out at present, having plenty of everything and if I should be promoted home, things would only pass me on the way, but if I fall out here, I will then send you a list of some books (1/- ones) which I should like to read, I remember there is one thing you may send me, but it must be sent by post, as if it is sent by hand it would be too long in coming, viz. Soyers's shilling cookery book, which would assist me much in my compounds. I am becoming a first rate cook.
My Hut turned into smoke, I could not get wood to cover it. We are still under canvas, but have sunk our tent. I am going to write to Selenah by this Mail, and will give you an account of it in that. As regards my goose, it was much too fat, but I roasted it to a turn.
I will tell you how, for fear you should be put to it one of these days in Dardham Down. I first got two pieces of iron hoop, straightened them and then took a tin lining of a box, put the bits of iron across the top, and suspended my goose from the centre of the two so that it hung in the centre of the box without touching the sides. I then lighted a large fire, round the outside, and kept it up, till my friend inside was done to a turn. We had for dinner (our party consisted of eight) soup, a case of preserved salmon, roast goose, hashed goose, a curry of mutton, two capital plum puddings (made by Blandford and myself) cheese, and lots of Rum Punch, topped up with coffee curacao, and finally pipes and Cavendish. Not so bad, you will say.
By the way I do not know whether I told you before, that our present Colonel's name is Morris, who was a Cadet at Cardiff, "In the merry days when you was young", and remembers my poor father, in fact everybody, he is an old man now, I cannot describe him better, than by telling you, he is like all Artillery Colonels: too old for his work, and dreads responsibility. He suffers terribly from cold, having been long in the West Indies, but is very good natured and kind to me.
I have a Canteen, cooking kettle, and all my baggage with me, you will not catch me parting from my traps in a hurry, being much too old a hand for that. It is true the coffee has been green up to the present time, they are now going to give tea for a change, a ¼ of oz. per day, but ground coffee is to be issued every other time.
With all due deference to your old friend Mrs. Parker, I consider she is of the asinine species to marry at her time of life, it will be a queer sight, two old people, each with as many quirks, and cranks, as would drive anyone mad, making a fresh start in life at the early age of 70. I hope the young lady who is going to run down and tell you of my step will not be a Barr to my promotion!!! I see Lady Gore Booth is dead, another of the Dunraven family, misfortunes seldom come singly. I firmly believe the old gentleman at Laleston, is either a second old Barr, or if he were not in bed, the Wandering Jew.
I have now answered all your questions, and filled my paper, so must conclude for the present, with best love to all at home, and kind remembrances to all I know, believe me, dear Aunt,
Your affectionate nephew, W.P.R.
Last modified 23 April 2002