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,
Many thanks for your kind letter (dated October 20th) which I received a day or two ago since, I have also received lately two other letters of yours which have been carried about by the persons who brought them out, in expectation of seeing me, but they had not an opportunity of delivering before, as an Officer now so seldom leaves his Division except on duty, that one meets even one's best friends, but at long intervals.
I wrote to my Mother a long letter by the last mail, giving her I am afraid a very confused description of a Battle we had fought on the 5th, but I was in a great hurry at the time to catch the mail and hardly recovered from the excitement of the action, and my sorrow for poor Wappy's death, poor fellow. I went over the day before to see him, and found him full of spirits, and quite recovered from his illness and he was coming over to dine with me the day he was killed. The next thing I heard of him was towards the end of the action, hearing an officer of the 50th was killed close by me, I immediately ran to see who it was and found him laying in a blanket, terribly wounded by a shell which had struck him just above the hip, he was torn to pieces, but was still alive, but died immediately after. I do not know if he recognised me, but I caused every care to be taken of him and had his remains carried to the rear. His men who were very fond of him were all of them in tears, at any rate he died gloriously in front of the enemy, and in a just cause, which will be some consolation to his poor Sisters and Grandmother pray give them my best love when you write, and say how sincerely I sympathise with them in their sad loss. I was sorry afterwards that I did not cut off a lock of his hair, but in the hurry of the moment, having to return to my guns, which were in action, I forgot it, but I hope some of his brother officers did, before he was buried. The battle was much more severe than that of the Alma. Our loss was about 38 officers killed, 92 wounded, and 2,500 men killed and wounded.
I was obliged to leave off my letter three days ago, for the purpose of going to headquarters. On my way I called at the Camp of the 50th and saw Walpole's grave. They have put up a stone with his name, Regiment and the words 'Killed Nov. 5th 1854'. Harry was at his funeral, and has got all his things and some of his hair.
Since I commenced this we have had a terrible storm of wind, rain, and snow, giving us a taste of what the winter will be. We have suffered great loss, in the first place, eight store ships, three of them steamers, were wrecked outside Balaklava, and 300 lives lost, not only this, they contained almost all the winter clothing sent for us, so God knows what we shall do, as it will take at least two months to get more from England.
It is calculated that property to the amount of three millions was lost, amongst which I will mention 9,000 gallons of rum and from four to six million rounds of mine and musket armaments, immense quantities of beef, pork, biscuit, hay, barley, sugar, and clothes for the troops, a large quantity of siege ammunition, which was much wanted, in addition to this the wind blew a perfect hurricane, levelled nearly every tent, mine amongst the number, the consequence was that everything got wet in our tents, and half our things spoilt, it was bitterly cold also.
I am afraid we are in for a bad business, as Lord Raglan has wasted time awfully, and they intend wintering out here, and hutting the troops, but they have made up their minds much too late. We ought to have been under cover now, instead of which, they have only just sent for the timber to make our huts. The horses also will never be able to stand the cold, each battery loses two or three of a night from the cold and wind. The road to Balaklava is nearly impassable so that even if we get provisions sent regularly, I do not see how we are to bring them seven miles up, as we shall not have any horses fit to drag shortly.
I believe this is not Lord Raglan's fault, it is generally known he is acting on orders received from England, the army is much discontented as there is not the slightest doubt in the world that if we had assaulted in the first instance, during their panic after Alma, we should have taken the place, now they have recovered from that, flung up batteries, manned the place, barricaded every house, etc., etc., and I do not think we shall ever take it, as it will take all the reinforcements that are to come out in the Spring, to fill the places of those we shall lose during the Winter, and it gives the enemy so much time to prepare for us. They are also collecting large forces in our rear, in fact the general opinion is that we are in a sad mess, and I do not see our way out of it, unless we storm it at once, which everyone is anxious for.
Dysentery is also making its appearance, as well as Ague, not a pleasant picture you will say, but nevertheless a very true one. There ought to be a terrible example made of that old Traitor Aberdeen, for thus sacrificing the finest army England ever sent into the field. I would not give much for his skin if we got him out here. I wish he could hear how the whole army abuse him.
I am now in Command of the Battery, as Wodehouse is sick in bed and Barstow is going to Scutari being very ill from dysentery and other similar complaints. It is wonderful how my health keeps up. I have not been a day sick or sorry since I have been out. I am now eighth for promotion. (I wish seven or eight of those old brutes at Woolwich would leave, and then I might stand a chance of getting out of this. I am heartily sick of the whole affair and would if I could afford it send in my resignation tomorrow). Lord G[eorge] Paget and Godfrey Morgan have already done so, and lots of the Guards threatened to do the same. As regards the Russian General, he was taken during the action, and Col. Dacres wrote a letter about him.
Our battery was also mentioned by Sir De Lacy Evans, but somebody at headquarters altered his dispatch and put Colonel Dupuis and Fitzmayer, but he has written to Lord Raglan about it. The two guns you see mentioned in the papers as having been brought up, and breaking the Russian battalions by an officer of artillery, name unknown, were my two guns, but throughout Lord R[aglan] has shown a marked commission of the Artillery.
Layard, the great Traveller, who is an M.P. has been out here ever since we landed, taking notes, and he is full of it, and says it is disgraceful how we are passed over. (You will see it will be the same for the Inkerman). He is going to bring it before Parliament.
I wish if you or Mama have any, that you would spare me a little more Arrowroot. It is the best thing in the world, and has been a great comfort to me, and others in the battery, and it is getting rather low now. Many thanks for the paper, I will write on it next time. One sheet was spoilt by the gum of the wafer, so give the next sheet an inside berth. (When next you write to my Uncle Edwards tell him I should like to hear from him, and I hope he will forget any differences we may have had. I will write in return).
I have not met Captain Powell of the Vesuvius, if I should I will introduce myself. I do not know what to do for warm clothing, as one's stay is so uncertain, we might take the place in a week or we might have to beat a retreat on board ship, not only that, it will take such a time to get things from England. Ask my Mother when she writes to Laleston to give my best love to my aunts, and say their socks are a great comfort, and that I should not turn up my nose at a few more, if they could get them for me, but I should like them long, as one's shins suffer much when one is on horseback, like I am, for about 10 or 12 hours a day. I do not know whether you will make this out , as I am writing nearly in the dark. Tell my mother that it is all bosh about putting the tin away, I wish she would spend at least two thirds of it and bottle up the remainder.
Tell Mary Stacey when next you write, that we are very hungry out here, and that I expect a good lump of cake. I will drink an extra ration of rum on the occasion, being the only liquor we boast of at present, except an occasional bottle of bad Sherry from the ships.
By the way, my mother in one of her letters says you had not received a letter from me. I have written several, one or rather three just before we landed, in three envelopes marked 1, 2, 3. Let me know if you have received them, It was all one letter, I entrusted them to the Captain of the Transport to post. I shall write to him about it, as it was a tremendous letter, and I would like you to have it.
I have now given you a pretty fair one, so goodbye, with best love to all at home and hoping to return soon, believe me, dear Aunt,
Ever most affectionately yours, W.P.R.
Last modified 23 April 2002