Tag Archives: Major Edward Wellesley

End of the Crimean War

Today marks 160 years since the end of the Crimean War, the most important Great Power conflict fought between the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815 and the outbreak of World War One in 1914.

The war took place mainly on the Crimean Peninsula between an alliance of Britain, France, Turkey and Sardinia on one side, and Russia on the other. Beginning in 1853, the immediate cause of the conflict resulted from religious tensions in the Middle East, including a dispute between Russia and France over the privileges of the Russian Orthodox and Roman Catholic churches in the Holy Land. The Holy Land was then part of the Ottoman Empire ruled by Turkey and Tsar Nicholas I demanded that the Turks resolve the dispute in favour of the Orthodox Church. Nicholas’ demands, however, were not met, leading to the mobilisation of Russian forces against Turkey.

‘Siege of Sebastopol – General View’, Illustrated London News, 18 November 1854 [quarto per A]

‘Siege of Sebastopol – General View’, Illustrated London News, 18 November 1854 [quarto per A]

Turkey, by this time, was beginning to lose its grip on its empire and both Britain and France were concerned about Russian expansion and the potential danger posed to their trade routes. Turkey declared war on Russia on 5 October 1853, in response to initial Russian operations. The following month the Russian Black Sea fleet destroyed a Turkish squadron at Sinope, on Turkey’s Black Sea coast. The British and French responded by aligning themselves with Turkey and both declared war on Russia in March 1854.

An allied army of over 60,000 British, French and Turkish troops was initially stationed in Turkey, ready to defend Istanbul from attack. In a letter from Major Edward Wellesley to his wife, Annot, dated 4 May 1854, he complains of the inexperience of staff and attendant confusion of arrangements as the British and French forces set up their bases in the Bosphorus:

A number of our Artillery Transports are hourly arriving and are stationed about 4 miles from here, the bustle and confusion attendant on all these arrivals are immense more particularly as all the staff nearly are new and there is too much discussion and too little actual work. You can imagine I have had enough to do and undo.
[MS 63 A904/4/18]

In order to strengthen their naval supremacy, the allies adopted a plan to land in the Crimea and conduct an all-out attack on Russian forces in the region, with the aim of seizing the naval base at Sebastopol and destroying the fleet and dockyard. In mid-September 1854, the joint allied invasion force landed at Kalamatia Bay. In order to advance on Sebastopol, the allies first had to cross the River Alma and attack heavily defended Russian positions on higher ground. With the advantage of new rifled muskets, together with superior skill and numbers, the allies were able to conduct a powerful offensive and force the Russians to flee their positions.

However, they failed to pursue the Russians directly, losing an opportunity to easily capture Sebastopol. This provided time for the Russians to fortify the city and stage two flank attacks. The first of these took place on 25 October, with Russian forces moving towards the British position at Balaclava. The Battle of Balaclava is best remembered for the infamous ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ in which miscommunication in the chain of command led to the British Light Brigade conducting a frontal assault against well-fortified Russian artillery. The brigade suffered heavy casualties under a bombardment of direct fire. While criticised as a major blunder at the time, the charge also came to symbolise the valour and bravery of the British cavalry. The result of the battle was indecisive, with the Russians failing to break through the British lines. A further attempt was made to defeat the British with a surprise attack at Inkerman on 5 November 1854. The intense fighting resulted in massive losses, mostly on the Russian side, and ended with the allied troops continuing to hold their ground.

‘Charge of the Light Cavalry, at Balaclava’, Illustrated London News, 23 December 1854 [quarto per A]

‘Charge of the Light Cavalry, at Balaclava’, Illustrated London News, 23 December 1854 [quarto per A]

Soon after the Battle of Inkerman, winter set in. The winter of 1854 was a harrowing one for the troops. Not only were living conditions extremely poor, but medical supplies in the field were also inadequate. Media reporting from the front line highlighted the dreadful conditions and the level of maladministration in the army which led to widespread public outrage.

Even before the first significant battle of the war the allied forces found their numbers depleted by a wave of fever and cholera, as is noted by Major Edward Wellesley in a letter to his sister-in-law, Mary, on 25 August 1854:

The troops have suffered much from fever and cholera and the French army most dreadfully, we have lost many officers and soldiers and the fleet has also suffered materially… There is no doubt this is the most unhealthy place at this season of the year, in fact the Russians lost half their army when they besieged the town in 1828 and we are fortunate in escaping as we have…
[MS 63 A904/4/34]

Having twice acted as Foreign Secretary between 1830 and 1851, Henry John Temple, third Viscount Palmerston, was serving as Home Secretary when the Crimean War broke out. As such, he had limited control over British policy during the lead up to the war. In a memorandum, date 20 January 1855, Palmerston writes of the “present lamentable condition of our army in the Crimea” and places the blame on those in authority. He suggests that they should be removed with the exception of Lord Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, first Baron Raglan, despite his having shown himself to be “deficient” in caring for his officers and troops. Palmerston continues by declaring that if a remedy is not found, the reinforcements would be “victims sent to the slaughter” and that “defeat and disgrace must be the inevitable result”. He also criticises the decision to attack Sebastopol, believing that the “first thing then to be done is to put the army into a good condition”. [MS 62 Broadlands Archives BR22(i)/1/96]

The public outcry eventually led to a number of organisations and individuals setting out for the war zone to minister to the troops. Among the nurses was Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. She emphasised the need for well trained nurses and clean hospitals to aid in the recovery of the sick and wounded. Following the war she continued to campaign tirelessly to improve health standards.

In the spring of 1855 the allies, now joined by the Sardinians, resumed their siege of Sebastopol. The siege continued until September 1855 when, having defended the city for almost a year, the Russians finally evacuated. By now Palmerston had become Prime Minister and was involved in negotiating the terms of peace. The Crimean War ended in the spring of 1856 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 30 March.

In his diary entry, dated 31 March 1856, Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury, writes:

Yesterday Sunday. Peace was signed and the intelligence sent by electric telegraph. The guns announced it to the people. Let us bless the Lord who has brought us out of so many and great dangers, who has shown us such unspeakable and undeserved mercies, and who has taught us how and why to thank Him! May it be a true peace, a lasting peace, a fruitful peace. May it give double energy and double capacity to our thoughts, desires and efforts.
[MS 62 Broadlands Archives SHA/PD/7]

Alongside the Palmerston Papers, Special Collections houses a range of other material providing perspectives on the Crimean War. These include the diaries of Anthony Ashley Cooper, seventh Earl of Shaftesbury (MS 62); the letters of the Major Edward Wellesley (MS 63); a diary and notebook of General Sir John St. George, who served as an artillery officer in the Crimea (MS 59); and the Crimea journal of Henry Parnell, fourth Baron Congleton (MS 64). Parnell joined the Buffs or the Third Regiment of Foot in 1855 at the age of 16 years of age. He served with them in the Crimea after the fall of Sebastapol in 1856 and his journal presents a very different picture from the records of officers in a combat situation.

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Reflections on war and warfare: Week 42 (15 – 21 December 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, until recently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

16 December 1914 The German Navy shell British towns
The attack by the German Navy on the north east seaport towns of Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby caused public outrage. Rich’s early estimate of 100 killed and wounded is modest; there were 137 fatalities and 592 casualties. The Royal Navy was criticised of the for failing to prevent the attack and “Remember Scarborough” was used in army recruitment posters.

“The war has come to England. Hartlepool, Scarborough and Whitby shelled by German warships this morning. Over 100 killed and wounded!”

MS 168 AJ 217/10 Journal of Samuel Rich


17 December 1942 United Nations proclamation about the Holocaust
On 17 December 1942, the joint declaration by Members of the United Nations, or a statement by the American and British governments on behalf of the allied powers, was issued relating to extermination of Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe.  Anthony Eden, the Foreign Secretary, read this statement to the House of Commons.  The UN statement was made in response to a document The mass extermination of Jews in German occupied Poland addressed to the allied governments by the Polish government-in-exile.

“Two important news items: The United Nations proclamation about the murder of Jews by Germans. The H[ouse] of C[ommons] stood when Eden announced it. (J. de Rothschild spoke for the Jews and the 8th army’s flanking movement).”

MS 168 AJ 217/38 Journal of Samuel Rich, 16 December 1942


19 December 1851 The continuous nature of hostilities

“The colony … is quiet …. No signs of submission are however apparent in any of the chiefs and the war seems as far from its termination as at the commencement of the hostilities.”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 19 December 1851


20 December 1917 Division following the Balfour Declaration
The League of British Jews was founded in November 1917, shortly after British Foreign Secretary, Arthur Balfour wrote a letter – later known as the “Balfour Declaration” – stating that the British Government would support the establishment of a national home for the Jewish people in Palestine.  The LBJ aimed to oppose the idea that Jews constituted a political nation. At the time of writing, the British Army had occupied Palestine and Stein was serving in the Palestine Military Administration.

“I have looked at the papers rescued by the League of British Jews and must say I am not much impressed with them. Some of the more violent attendees of the Zionist Leaders certainly have been rather hurtful to English-born Jews, whose English feelings they, having been brought aboard, are naturally unable to appreciate.”

MS 170 AJ244/119 Letter from Leonard Stein to his family

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 40 (1 – 7 December 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

2 December 1851 The cavalry arrive in South Africa
The regiment that was to become the 12th Lancers was originally raised in 1715. It served with distinguish in various conflicts. Yet while the appearance of cavalry made an impression in South Africa in the 1850s, the Lancers weaponry did not prove the most suitable for the warfare being undertaken.

“The 12th Lancers who have lately arrived create a great impression amongst the natives who never saw a Lance before in their lives, it is however a weapon perfectly useless against the Kafirs in this warfare…”

MS 63 A904/3/10 Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 2 December 1851


2 December 1939 Blackout blinds and Russian aggression

“Willie came to do the kitchen blackout, the W.C. ditto, & the bedroom ditto – all very neat and expert. Lal & he to lunch, & we left Willie at it when I went off to service. S.I.H. read, I preached on, “Oh, that I knew” – there were 31 there, including the Levers – Jack & Ray, back from a weekend from Guildford where they are evacuated. Erna at the service. Lal came back with us for a cosy evening. Our supper in the kitchen, the first fully illuminated since the war began. The whole world aghast at the Russian aggression on the Finns,–: even the Germans (when there’s a different aggressor) are uncomfortable about it.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 2 December 1939


3 December 1940 Evacuating students from the University College of Southampton

A special meeting of the Senate held on 3 December 1940:

“Senate considered the situation which had been created by the intensive raids on Southampton over the weekend, particularly in relation to the halls of residence. Although none of the halls had been damaged, apart from the loss of windows at South Stoneham House, Senate were of the opinion that they were not justified in keeping the students in residence at this time in view of the following considerations:

1. The inadequacy of the air raid shelters

2. Possible difficulties in obtaining food

3. The interference with the public service, e.g. electric light, gas and water

4. The impossibility of doing useful study in these conditions

It was agreed that it was impossible to obtain alternative accommodation at short notice and that the Chairman of Council stressed the point that the College would be rendering signal services to the community by placing the facilities of the Halls at the disposal of the local authorities in the vacation for housing evacuees or for some other useful purpose […]

Senate discussed the question as to what action should be taken in the event of the intensive raids on Southampton continuing and conditions becoming worse. The general opinion was that the previous decision of the Emergency Committee to evacuate to Nottingham was not so desirable in the light of recent events and it was agreed that a recommendation be sent to the Emergency Committee to consider the possibility of securing several large houses in the country within easy distance of Southampton, and that these houses be used in the first instance as temporary halls of residence. If the College was damaged and it became impossible to carry on instruction in the existing buildings it would then be feasible to adapt the houses acquired for residential purposes as places of instruction also.”

MS 1 MBK2/1/6 Senate minutes 1937-45, pp. 90-1


4 December 1917 Cease fire agreements made in the run up to Soviet Russia and Central Powers armistice
As a result of the Russian economy being on the brink of collapsing and Tsar Nicholas II’s abdication, Russia was forced to withdraw itself from the war. Following the Bolsheviks accession to power in Russia in November 1917, Vladimir Lenin approached the Central Powers to arrange an armistice. The first cease fire agreement in the run up to the armistice was made on 4 December 1917 between the Russians and the Germans on the Eastern Front. The second cease fire agreement included all Central Powers and was signed on 5 December 1917. The final armistice was signed on 15 December 1917, which signified Russia’s intention to leave the war permanently and begin peace negotiations.

“I so wonder if you have been in all this fearful fighting when the Germans are trying to regain the ground they have lost. One feels if it weren’t for Russia having given in, that they could never have done this vast counter attacking.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/3 Letter from Sybil Henriques to Basil Henriques, 4 December 1917

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 36 (3 – 9 November 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

3 November 1812 Madrid is retaken
Having liberated Madrid on 12 August 1812, Wellington made the decision to move against French forces in northern Spain in the hope of capturing the strategically important stronghold of Burgos. However, the castle proved too tough a target and Wellington raised the siege on 21 October. As French relief armies moved in Wellington ordered his forces to withdraw towards Ciudad Rodrigo. He ordered Lieutenant General Rowland Hill to abandon Madrid and march to join him. This allowed Joseph Bonaparte to re-enter the capital on 2 November.

“I do not know how the French can contrive to keep together the force which they have brought against us; but at all events as we have got together they cannot do us much harm and sooner or later they must separate and we then shall resume again the upper hand.

At all events although the evacuation of Madrid is a material deterioration of the campaign, its effects on the contest in the Peninsula are still most important.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Letter from General Sir Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Rueda, to Robert Banks Jenkinson, second Earl of Liverpool, Prime Minister, 3 November 1812


4 November 1939 Opposing Fascism

“Coming back from service, we came upon a Fascist meeting at the corner by W.H.Smiths opp. The lib[rar]y.  The speaker wanted a general election: the people to vote peace or war. Mosley for peace.  I noticed a “supporter” abuse a non-Jewish member of the crowd by calling him a Jew “you were in a synagogue being yitched when the last war was on!”  A large crowd was hostile to the speaker & the police stopped him & the meeting.”

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Diary of Samuel Rich, 4 November 1939


5 November 1918 The Armistice of Villa Giusti
As a result of being defeated at the Battle of Vittorio Veneto, the troops of Austria-Hungary were finished as a combat force. This state of the army made it imperative for Austria-Hungary to secure an immediate armistice. On 1 November the rough draft of the armistice conditions were disseminated to the Austro-Hungarian Armistice Commission by General Badoglio, Assistant Chief of the Italian General Staff and Chairman of the Italian Armistice Commission. The conditions included Austria-Hungary reducing her army to 20 divisions on a peace footing, surrendering over half of her artillery, and releasing all prisoners of war. On 3 November the Austro-Hungarians accepted the peace terms.

“There was quite a lot of excitement in Cairo yesterday at the news of the Armistice with Austria – particularly among the Cairene Italians.”

MS 116/8 AJ 14 Volume of typescript ‘excerpts’ from letters from H.D. Myer, 5 November 1918


4 November 1852 Winning the peace
Faced with the problem of how to retain peace in areas conquered by the British in South Africa for the long term, the best way of settling the colony was investigated. One suggestion was to move Swiss settlers into the area.

“An Englishman always looks forward to returning home and that his residence in a colony is only temporary, but if you could transplant a community of Swiss who would make the Amatola mountains their home, you only effectively render them inaccessible to the Kafirs, but secure to yourself an industrious sober population a most certain safeguard on your most exposed border.”

MS 63 A904/3/23 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 4 November 1852

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 35 (27 October – 2 November 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

27 October 1939 “Dead-end kids”

“Ritchie Calder (now Lord Ritchie-Calder) wrote a brilliant article in the Daily Herald on the “Dead-end kids”. In it he gave due publicity to the great problem that Basil had warned against when he urged the Authorities to provide adequate occupation and supervised recreation for children who had not been evacuated with their schools. He constantly had cases of their delinquency before him in court; they were in grave moral danger. He continued admonishing parents for keeping their children in London. A boy had misbehaved in his place of evacuation, and the Police were wiling to drop the charge against him, provided he went home. At this Basil really did “go off the deep end”. He said in Court that if the Police in Country Courts were going to do this, uncharged young delinquents would be wandering about the streets of London… Richie Calder came to see Basil on the subject. In his article he says “He” (Basil) “had been sitting 8 ½ hours in the Bench. ‘yes, it’s serious’ he said, taking off his glasses wearily, ‘Every case of under 14 I had today was a by-product of the evacuation – or the non-evacuation. We are threatened with a generation of little gansters.”

MS 132 AJ 195/3/31 Typescript of biographical journal of Sir Basil Henriques


28 October 1813 Negotiations for the surrender of Pamplona
Following the withdraw of the French Army of the North over the Pyrenees in June 1813, a Spanish army, led by Captain General Henry Enrique José O’Donnell, laid siege to a French garrison at the fortified city of Pamplona. As O’Donnell’s blockade tightened, the French troops in the city were eventually reduced to starvation and negotiations for surrendered were opened. The French finally capitulated on 31 October.

“The last I heard from Pamplona was that at half past 2 p.m. on the 26th the French negotiators had returned into the fort having offered to surrender it on condition of being allowed to return to France under an engagement not to serve for a year and a day; and declaring that they would prefer to die to surrender prisoners of war.”

MS 61 WP1/377 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Vera, to Marshal Sir William Carr Beresford, 28 October 1813, 1 p.m.


29 October 1917 The battle of Caporetto
Fought on the Austro-Hungarian front between 24 October and 19 November 1917, the battle of Caporetto, formed part of Germany’s plan to keep the Austro-Hungarians in the war and defeat Italy. Through the use of poison gas and supporting the Austro-Hungarian forces with their troops, Germany played a significant role in the breaking through of the Italian front line and defeating the Italian Second Army. Italy suffered major losses, which included the lives of 10,000 soldiers and 265,000 taken prisoner.

“The grave Italian defeats are casting a gloom on everybody – Gorizia gone, 100,000 prisoners, 700 guns of the Germans in the Hains. What a war! Some are so sick of it that they even find a kind of consolation in the thought that these German Victories may give us some kind of a peace by Xmas! I find none and would take no comfort in such a peace. Italy, it seems, may be driven to a separate peace and things may work out as they were a century ago – England alone doing the work of the alliance.”

MS 168 AJ 217/13 Journal of Samuel Rich, 29 October 1917


30 October 1851 The situation of soldiers’ wives

“I fret for you very much… why do people marry soldiers – a farmer’s wife jogs on from day to day never having her beloved object out of her sight for perhaps one day in three score and ten. Perhaps they get tired of one another, although of course you on reading this, in fact I see you, blush and say not if they love each other. I think the Duke [of Wellington] in the Peninsula did not see his wife and children for six or seven years.”

MS 63 A904/3 Captain Edward Wellesley to his wife, Annot, 30 October 1851

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 34 (20 – 26 October 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home. The quotes tie in with the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’, currently on display at the Special Collections Gallery.

21 October 1812 End of the Siege of Burgos
After the victory at Salamanca on 22 July 1812, and the liberation of Madrid on 12 August, Wellington made the decision to move against French forces in Northern Spain, leading to an attempted to capture the castle of Burgos. However, the French garrison managed to repulse every attempt by the Allies to seize the fortress. In the meantime, large French relief armies were moving from both the northeast and southeast. On 21 October, Wellington was forced to raise the siege and retreat to Cuidad Rodrigo, losing 5,000 men to hunger or exposure in the severe winter conditions.

“I am sorry to say that I am afraid that I shall be obliged to give up our position here, in consequence of the intelligence which I have received from General Hill of the movements of the enemy in the south ; and unless I should receive a contradiction of the intelligence, I propose to march this night.”

MS 61 WP1/351 Copy of a letter from General Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, Riobena, to Brigadier General Denis Pack, 21 October 1812


21 October 1851 The difficulties of operations in the Kroome valley

“Major General Somerset has had some hard fighting in the Kroome range where Macomo a cunning and influential Chief of the Gaikas is located. There had been hard fighting for two days and Somerset would go on until he effectively clears this difficult country from all the enemy who infests it…. If Somerset completely effects this duty it may have more influence on the termination of the war…”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 21 October 1851


21 October 1917 The October Revolution
As a result of military defeat and starvation, as well as internal disagreements within the provisional government, the public of Russia were unhappy with the state of their country. Citizens of Russia became irritated by Russia’s continued involvement in World War One, which led to the rise of the national debt and living costs. Consequently, strikes by Moscow and Petrograd workers occurred and the provisional government was overthrown. Power was handed to the local Soviets dominated by the majority faction of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

“All the same, one gets most awfully fed up – my dear, two bombs have just stopped 50 yards away or less! Yes very fed up, (more so than when I started this sentence) with the war. The Russian news is disgusting, and most serious. However, perhaps by the time this reaches you there may be something better to read in the papers.”

MS 132 AJ 322 2/3 Letter from Basil Henriques to Sybil Henriques, 21 October 1917


21 October 1940 Life in the East End during the Blitz

“Let me try and describe an incident on the night of 21 October 1940, at Tonybee Hall. I lived in the immediate vicinity of Tonybee Hall and thanks to Dr. Jimmy Mallon, the work done there during the Blitz was incalculable. A number of people who had special responsibilities there, slept in a room, all on mattresses on the floor, except for one lady over 80, who had a camp bed. On this night, Winston Churchill was due to speak, and so we assembled to hear him. […] The final words were completely drowned by the noise of a nearby plane and in seconds a bomb had exploded. The ceiling of our room partly collapsed, all the glass was broken; mortar and shrapnel hit us all and there was no electricity. Covered with debris, cut by glass, bruised by falling masonry, our hair matted with dirt, we stood silent for a minute. The somebody called: “I’m alright; who is hurt?” The silence was broken and nobody in that room was seriously hurt. But curiously, as we waited, we all kissed each other – a strange occurrence for a group of highly undemonstrative people, and, as always, we thanked God and prayed to Him.”

MS 116/82 AJ 221 Typescript of “Life in Stepney during World War II, 1939-45” by Edith Ramsey

A news release for the current exhibition can be viewed at:
http://www.southampton.ac.uk/mediacentre/news/2014/oct/14_190.shtml

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 33 (13 – 19 October 2014)

Today sees the opening of the exhibition ‘When “the days of conquest are passed”: reflections on war and warfare’ at the Special Collections Gallery. The exhibition forms part of the special events taking place across campus to mark the anniversary of the First World War. In conjunction with these events we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

15 October 1812 In praise of Wellington
The diary of John Holt Beaver charts his travels in Portugal and Spain in the aftermath of the Battle of Salamanca. While crossing the Sierra de Guadarrama mountain range he lodges in a house belonging to the alcalde of the village of Guadarrama. During their conversation his host praises Wellington for his decisive victory over the French at Salamanca.

“He is a young man and told us that the French had destroyed 5 houses that he had in the village, the one we were in being the only one habitable, and this was no better than an English barn […] Our host was loud in praise of the English nation, and Lord Wellington he said was the saviour of Spain, which had been ruined by a bad government and betrayed by those leading men, who ought to have defended her.”

MS 362 Diary of John Holt Beaver, 15 October 1812


16 October 1851 Operations in Kroome Forest
In 1851 the heavily outnumbered British forces began to receive reinforcements which enabled them to sweep through the Cape region. On 14 October, the first two-pronged assault was undertaken by Major General Henry Somerset and Colonel Fordyce in the Kroome Forest area which was used as a base by their opponents. Ultimately the mission was aborted as dense fog made it difficult for the forces to meet up.

“We have as yet not been able to attack from the paucity of our numbers and vast extent of forest to be cleared, where Macomo a chief of the Gaikas is located, a clever and influential man with some two or three thousand followers and Major General Somerset is about to attack him having been strongly from here. If he succeeds well it may have an important effect on the termination of the war.”

MS 63 A904/3/9 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother, Richard, 16 October 1851


17 October 1918 The Battle of Courtrai
The Battle of Courtrai began early in the morning of 14 October 1918 with an attack from the Groupe d’Armées des Flandres and the French Sixth Army. Located at the Lys river at Comines towards Dixmude, the group comprised of twelve Belgian divisions and ten divisions of the British Second Army. While the British forces had conquered Werviq, Memnin, Morslede, Gulleghem and Steenbeck, Belgian troops had reached Iseeghem and Coretemarck. On 15 October Roulers fell to the French Army, and by the 17 October, Thourout, Ostend, Lille and Douai had been recaptured. As a result of the British Second Army crossing the Lye and capturing Coutrai, German troops retreated on the front of the Fifth Army, who encircled Lille on 18 October.

“Yesterday’s rumours were baseless but during the day enough good news came up; Ostend occupied by the British – Lille taken!…We must be careful or we’ll miss a victory or two.”

MS 168 AJ 217/14 Journal of Samuel Rich, 17 October 1918


18 October 1939 War time necessitates economies in lighting for the University College
A meeting of the Senate held on 18 October 1939 the Senate considered various suggestions for effecting an economy in lighting.

Resolved: “(a) That the start of the Easter term be deferred a week, and begin on 15 January instead of the 8th, and that the summer term be brought forward a week, and begin on 15th April instead of the 22nd April.

(b) That heads of departments be authorised to start the afternoon session at 1.30 p.m. instead of 2 p.m. if they so desire.”

MS 1/MBK/2/1/6 University College Southampton Senate minutes 1937-45, p. 77

The current exhibition forms part of the University of Southampton’s Great War: Unknown War programme – a series of events, talks, workshops and conferences taking place in 2014-15 across campus, as part of the wider global WW1 commemoration. A full programme of events can be found at: http://www.southampton.ac.uk/greatwar_unknownwar

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 31 (29 September – 5 October 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

29 September 1918 British and Arab troops conquer Damascus
Commanded by Edmund Henry Hynman Allenby, the British-led Egyptian expeditionary force broke through the Ottoman line at the Battle of Megiddo. This led to them being able to block the Turkish retreat. Damascus was occupied on 1 October, was followed by Homs on 16 October and Aleppo on 25 October. This eventually led to the surrender of Turkey on 30 October 1918.

The reference to Turkey in the quote below as “Johnny Turk” is an example of Digger slang, first used by the Australian armed forces during the First World War.

“The past week has passed away very quietly with nothing important happening except the great offensive, which has begun on our front. We have given Johnny Turk a wonderful surprise and it is really marvellous how we have taken such big hills with such a small amount of casualties.”

MS 124 AJ 15/3 Letter from Private Paul Epstein to parents, Aby and Frieda, 29 September 1918


3 October 1940 Evacuated students from University College London come to Southampton
The Principal reported that he has been asked by the provost of University College, London, to accommodate a number of his students who had been compelled to evacuate from London, and that he had once agreed to offer them hospitality. There were approximately thirty-four of these students, mostly in the Faculty of Arts, who had accepted the offer and had now joined the College.

Resolved: “That the action of the Principal be confirmed, and that a cordial welcome be extended to these London students”

MS 1/MBK/2/1/6 University College Southampton Senate minute book 1937-45, p.87


5 October 1813 The Siege of Pamplona continues
Following Wellington’s decisive victory at the Battle of Vitoria, on 21 June 1813, the French army in northern Spain withdrew over the Pyrenees. As Wellington’s forces laid siege to the city of San Sebastián, a Spanish army, under Captain General Enrique O’Donnell, laid siege to a French garrison at the fortified city of Pamplona. While the Siege of San Sebastián reached a successful conclusion in early September the garrison at Pamplona held out. However, having eaten all the dogs and rats they could find in the city the French troops were eventually reduced to starvation and surrendered to the Spanish on 31 October.

“From what we can make out of an intercepted letter in cipher from the Governor of Pamplona I judge that he can hold out till the 20th or the 25th and till that time we certainly cannot move our right. But the heights on the right of the Bidasoa command such a view of us that we must have them and the sooner we get them the better.”

MS 61 WP1/377 Copy of a letter from Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, to Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Graham, 5 October 1813


3 October 1851 Post from home
For many of those serving on military campaigns communication with their loved ones and family back home was something they clung to and which sustained them, as the following extract from Captain Wellesley indicates.

“I received your letter of the 25th and all the newspapers and the mail from the Retribution… The people from the Retribution have not yet arrived as the bar at the Buffalo mouth has been impracticable for landing so Reeve with your parcel has not yet made an appearance. How lazy they are in England not to write even one line….”

MS 63 A904/3 Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley, King William’s Town, to his wife Annot, 3 October 1851

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 29 (15 – 21 September 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

15 September 1939 Business as usual the University College, Southampton
As this special meeting of the Council shows, at this early stage, the war had not yet had a big impact on academic life in the University – previous Council and Senate minutes do indicate that the institution had accepted refugee scholars. As the war progressed, however, Army and Senior Training Corps were based at Southampton; both staff and students enlisted and, as the port of Southampton became a target for German bombs, the College looked at alternative student accommodation and the possibility of evacuating whole the institution.

The Council considered the recommendation of the General Purposes Committee and Senate with regard to the policy to be adopted by the College in the view of the outbreak of war.  It was pointed out that at the present stage it was impossible to say to what extent the number of available staff and students would be reduced. The Principal explained that the Government had left it to the College Authorities to decide whether or not the work of the College should proceed at Southampton. After careful consideration of all the circumstances involved, it was resolved:

“(a) That Council approve that the work of the College should continue as usual, and that the Autumn term should begin on 2nd October.

(b) That the position be revised from time to time in the light of subsequent events, and that the Principal be authorised in the meantime to negotiate with other university institutions  as to the possibility of their accommodating students of this College should circumstances arise to make this necessary.”

MS 1/MBK1/8 Council minute book: University College of Southampton 1938-51, p.34


16 September 1939 The invasions on Poland

On 1 September 1939 German troops invaded Poland, on the pretext of protecting Germany from a Polish invasion. On 17 September Russia invaded from the east, having signed a secret pact with Germany.

“Russia is an enigma. The poor Poles are bearing the brunt of this barbaric attack on civilisation. I went into England’s garden to inspect progression of their dug-out – a living grave!’’

MS 168 AJ 217/35 Journal of Samuel Rich, 16 September 1939


18 September 1916 Battle of Flers-Courcelette

The Battle of Flers-Courcelette marked the third phase of the Somme offensive and signified the first use of the tank in warfare. Built in secrecy, the armoured vehicle was developed with the objective of breaking the gridlock of armed conflict. The first prototype was produced in January 1916. Despite mechanical failings and the trouble the tanks had with the terrain of the Somme, Sir Douglas Haig wished to use them to support the 41st Division in the attack on Flers-Courcelette. Whilst only 32 of 43 available tanks managed to reach the starting line for attack, the Allies advanced two kilometres and gained control of the villages of Fler, Courcelette, Martinpuich and High Wood.

“We’re training like the Devil! Up at 4.30am when a narrow little band on the horizon proclaims the coming of dawn, and with a break for brekker, it’s parade work until the weather gets too hot at 11am and from 3.30pm until dusk. It makes a long day for all, but we seem to be standing the strain well.”

MS 116/8 AJ 14 Volume of typescript ‘excerpts’ from letters from H.D. Myer, 18 September 1916


September 1852 Waterkloof is taken

Waterkloof, which has been the stronghold of the Xhosa leader Maqoma, was finally taken by the British in September 1852.

“On the 15th the Waterkloof was assailed for the third time and the operations have been so far quite successful, about 100 Kafirs are reported to have been killed, 200 women and children (miserable starved objects) taken prisoners.”

MS 63 A904/3/ Letter from Captain Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 20 September 1852


21 September 1812 Attitudes of French prisoners
The diary of John Holt Beaver charts his travels in Portugal and Spain in the aftermath of the Battle of Salamanca, from August to November 1812. In the below passage he notes the attitudes of French soldiers taken prisoner during the battle.

“There are 5 convents converted into hospital for the British, and 2 for the Portuguese and a college is made an hospital for the wounded French prisoners…Many of them were taken at the Battle of Salamanca and are terribly cut about the head by our cavalry, some have lost their noses or ears and even eyes. The British sergeant who has charge of the prison said some of them were glad to have become our prisoners and others thought their Emperor the greatest hero in the world…”

MS 362 Diary of John Holt Beaver, 21 September 1812

Reflections on war and warfare: Week 27 (1 – 7 September 2014)

As of March 2014, we are posting weekly extracts of writings on war and warfare drawn from our manuscript and printed collections. Ranging from items on the Maratha wars to the Second World War, the extracts will reflect opinions both from the battle front and from those at home.

31 August – 8 September 1813 The sacking and burning of San Sebastián
The town of San Sebastián was capture by assault on 31 August 1813. As the Allied forces entered the town, the French retreated to the security of the castle. As was the case at Badajoz, the victorious soldiers indulged in drunkenness and plunder while their officers attempted to enforce discipline. Meanwhile, fire from the artillery bombardment swept through the streets of the town and after several days only a small number of buildings remained. The castle capitulated on 8 September.

“The state of the town notwithstanding every exertion of General Hay and the staff officers, was such from the drunkenness of our soldiers, and the plundering of all, especially from the Portuguese, that I sent from the place an order for Lord Aylmer’s brigade to come immediately […] and I could not help considering that there is very great risk of misfortune, were the enemy to make a serious attempt against the town.”

MS 61 WP1/376 Letter from Lieutenant General Sir Thomas Graham to Field Marshal Arthur Wellesley, first Marquis of Wellington, 1 September 1813


7 September 1854 The strength of the allied forces in the Crimea
Many of the troops who died in the Crimea did so as a result of disease and 7,000 were lost before the first significant battle of the war in September 1854.

“In these operations everything will depend upon combination as the forces divided are not strong enough to meet the Russians said to be in the Crimea, the French having as usual much exaggerated the numbers they would send out here, and having also lost 7,000 men by disease..”

MS 63 A904/4/35 Letter from Major Edward Wellesley to his brother Richard, 7 September 1854


7 September 1916 The Battle of Guillemont, the Somme
Throughout late July and August 1916, Guillemont, which was on the right flank of the British line and the French Sixth Army boundary, defied repeated British attacks. Another major attack was made in early September, commencing with bombardments on 2 September. The main assault began on 3 September and fighting lasted until 6 September when a major portion of wood was secured.

“We are really having a very good time, the battle goes on day and night in different parts of the line. You can’t imagine how wonderful it is at night – a constant thunder of gun and flashes seem to light up the whole countryside. There are camp fires every as far as the eye can see, so you can understand that we are not yet very close up.”

MS 336 A2097/7/2 Letter from Frederick Dudley Samuel to his fiancée and subsequent wife, Dorothy, 7 September 1916