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Saturday, 25 October 2014

Casualty Roll for the Crimea 1854-56 Book Review

A recent holiday to the Trelissick Gardens (http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/trelissick-garden/) in Cornwall reminded me that you should always be on the look out for genealogical gems. Trelissick is a garden in the ownership of the National Trust at Feock, near Truro, Cornwall. As well as a wonderful garden, the 121-hectare (300-acre) estate, with its countryside, woodlands and coast, makes for breathtaking walks. The estate includes wonderful accommodation including the romantic Water Tower.


But most interestingly from a genealogical perspective the estate has a wonderful second-hand book shop.

I picked up three interesting books: David Hey’s “The Oxford Guide to Family History”, Asa Briggs’ “Victorian Things” and most interesting for me The John B Hayward edited “Casualty Roll for the Crimea 1854-56”.

The details of the publication are as follows:

Casualty Roll for the Crimea 1854-56: The Casualty Rolls for the Siege of Sebastopol and Other Major Actions During the Crimea War 1854-56
Compiled by Frank and Andrea Cook
Edited and Arranged by John B Hayward
Foreword by Vivian Stuart
292 Pages
Black and white illustrations
Savannah Publications
London 2004
Previous edition published by J B Hayward and Son 1976

Historical Background

During 1854 and 1855, Britain fought its only war in Europe between the Napoleonic Wars ending in 1815 and the start of the First World War in 1914. In 1853, Russia sent troops to occupy the Crimean parts of the Ottoman Empire and as a result the Turks declared war on Russia. On 28 March 1854, Britain and France declared war on Russia. In September 1854, British and allied troops invaded the Crimea and within a month were besieging the Russian held city of Sevastopol. On 25 October 1854, the Russians were driven back at the Battle of Balaclava (famous for the Charge of Light Brigade). Eleven days later, the Battle of Inkerman was fought with high casualties on both sides. The British troops suffered immense casualties - 4,600 died in battle; 13,000 were wounded; and 17,500 died of disease. The allied forces achieved the fall of Sevastopol on 11 September 1855 and a peace treaty was subsequently agreed at Paris.

About the Book

This publication was compiled from reports in the London Gazette, it lists approximately 16,000 battle casualties, many of whom are not identified as such on the medal rolls. The nine army sections, each relating to a specific battle, engagement, or series of bombardments, are listed in regimental order with casualties listed in rank and alphabetical sequence together with details, date, and authority.

The Battle of the Alma, 20th September 1854
The First Bombardment of Sebastopol, 17th October 1854, First Battle of Inkennann, 26thOctober 1854 and Minor Actions
The Action at Balaklava, 25th October 1854
The Battle of Inkermann, 5th November 1854
The Assault on the Quarries, 7th June 1855
The First Attack on the Redan, 18th June 1855
The Final Attack on the Redan, 8th September 1855
The Second, Third, Fourth, Fifth and Final Bombardment of Sebastopol and Minor Actions, 5th November 1854 - 8th September 1855
The Magazine Explosion at the French Siege Train, 15th November 1855

Two similar lists for the Royal Navy are arranged by ship. Most entries include the name, regimental number, regiment and nature of the injuries incurred.

The Bombardment of Sebastopol by the Naval Squadron, 17th October 1854
The Naval Brigade, 1854 - 1855

Also included in the work is an appendix of copies of official returns which summarise casualty statistics and troop strength levels and another appendix with a chronological list of events in the war.

I Complete Analysis of the Casualties in the Crimea; Regimental or Corps Strength etc. Returns of the Name, Rank and Regiment of all Officers who Died or Fell in Action etc.
II Chronological Precis of the Events of the War

This is considered to be the most comprehensive and authoritative casualty list of the Crimean War in print. The book has established itself as a classic work of reference and is of particular interest to military historians and collectors. In Hayward’s Editor’s Notes he states that this is “One of the most sought after works of reference amongst the medal collecting fraternity”. I also consider it is an excellent index for family historians researching their forebears who served and were killed or wounded in the Crimea albeit that as there is no surname index you need to have information about your ancestors regiment and date of death to make finding them straightforward.

For those who would like to see the similar information provided in Surname order a listing is also given at the British Medals website (http://www.britishmedals.us/kevin/casualty.html) where Kevin Asplin has “added in a few details taken from musters and Depot books and changed the rolls from Regimental order to Surname order”. Kevin identifies that the London Gazette information is “mostly second-hand details of battle casualties (not disease) and are not renowned for accuracy, however they are a good starting point”.

Rating:

Whilst normally I would not have bought this book as it retails on Amazon at £17.51 and I have no current research need for it as I said at the beginning of this review I found it in a second hand book shop. It cost me the princely sum of £1 and as such was excellent value for money. If you have a current research need for this information it is a very handy text and certainly would enable you find any ancestors who were in the Crimea and recorded in the London Gazette before researching more widely. 3 stars ***

Other Texts which may be of interest:


So did your ancestor appear in a Crimean War casualty list? What did you find? Was it accurate? Tell us all about him and his role in the war in the comments below.