It’s amazing the letters that sometimes find their way into newspapers. This despairing and incredibly moving letter, written in January 1855 by an officer (known only as ‘M.M.’) serving at a ‘Camp Above Sebastopol’ during the Crimean War, is one such example of a letter you might not expect to see in a newspaper during wartime.
Having to thaw the ink before being able to even write this letter, the officer reports the starvation and horrific conditions endured by the British soldiers at Sebastopol. What makes the letter so controversial, however, is the soldier’s apportioning of the blame for this desperate state of affairs on the incompetence of the military top brass and Whitehall ministers. It’s the old, familiar theme of ‘lions led by donkeys’ and the tragic irony of the humble ‘Tommy': i.e. he can defeat any enemy, except his political and military masters.
With so much censorship during wartime, the story of how this letter made its way into the newspapers is likely a fascinating tale in itself, as is finding out the identity of the person who wrote it.
The Archive contains 1,000s of newspaper reports (and numerous letters) about the Crimean War – just enter ‘Crimea’ into the search box and see what stories you can discover…
Source: ‘Reading Mercury’ – Saturday 27 January 1855
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