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Tales from St. Paul's Cathedral by  Mrs. Frewen Lord
Table of Contents


 

 

THE CRIMEAN MONUMENT

[20] MANY of you must have heard or read something about the Crimean War, when France and England joined together and went to war with Russia to prevent her from oppressing the Turks, who were not strong enough to fight her alone. It was at the end of the summer of 1854 that the war began, and by the 18th of September there were landed in the Crimea thousands and thousands of soldiers—English, French, and Turks, who were known as the Allied Army, because these three countries, England, France, and Turkey, were joined together (or allied) against Russia.

The Crimea, which you will see marked on the map of Russia, is a peninsula, a piece of land almost an island running out into the sea. On one side is the Black Sea, and on [21] the other the Sea of Azof. Here, in a bay where the cliffs were low, the armies (the English under the command of Lord Raglan) were landed to march along the seashore to capture Sebastopol, the chief town and fortress in the Crimea. The ships which had brought our men were to follow them, for on board were all the stores and provisions.

So on a hot September morning (the 19th of September) the march to Sebastopol began; and, with bands playing and flags waving in the fresh sea-breeze, the Allies set out to meet the enemy, whom they knew to be all around them, though as yet few of them had been seen. But later in the day large bands of Russians appeared in the distance. Once our men were fired on, and when at last they were halted for the night on the banks of the river, it was known that a battle must soon be fought. The very next day was fought and won the battle of the Alma, the first of the three Crimean battles about which I want [22] to tell you, and the names of which you can read on the tattered flags hanging in St. Paul's Cathedral, the very same flags which were carried through all the war, and then were put up where you see them in front of the monument to the men who fought and fell in these battles—the Alma, Balaclava, and Sebastopol.

As early as half-past five on the morning of this day the march began again. How different it was from the morning before! Then the bands were playing and the sun was shining. Now, in the grey morning light, all was silent; no drum and no bugle was heard, for hidden in the hollows and in the vineyards lurked Russian soldiers. So, with no other sound than the tramping of the feet of thousands of men, the army set out into the valley of the Alma, on the heights beyond which the enemy was waiting for them. Presently the Russian guns began to fire, and now the battle had begun, and it was not until nearly sunset (for so long did the fighting last) [23] that Lord Raglan, having watched the retreat of the last of the Russians, turned his horse's head and rode back over the field of battle among the men who had fought so long and so bravely. For although a great part of our soldiers were young, and had never until this day known what a battle was like, yet they were full of courage. There was one regiment, the men of which were for a time obliged to lie down on the grass in full view of the enemy and the enemy's guns, and, as the writer of the story says, "with no duty to perform, except the duty of being motionless." To do this—to lie quite still waiting for orders to fire, and while waiting to watch, as these men did, the enemies' guns; to see first the jet of smoke, then the flash of fire, and to know that almost instantly the cannon-ball and shot would be amongst them, killing and wounding many; to do all this needed far more courage than to be fighting as other regiments were, in the midst of the rush and [24] smoke of the battle. But these men did not complain; quietly they watched the enemy; they even nicknamed the guns, and "often," so it is said, "when an officer rode past them they would" (seeing better than he did that he was in danger) "advise him to move a little on one side or another to avoid a coming shot. And this the men would do, though they themselves" (however well they might see it coming) "lay riveted to the earth by duty." Some day you will read for yourselves this book about the Crimean War, and then you will find many more stories of brave and splendid deeds which were done, not only in this but in all the other battles during the war. And now when the battle was over, and Lord Raglan, who had been eagerly watched for, was seen by his soldiers coming amongst them, they gave him the greeting which Englishmen best know how to give, "and in the hour of victory and on the field of battle" they cheered him, regiment after regiment, as he passed along, "until the desolate [25] hills," so it is said by one who was there, "were made to sound like England;" and even the men so wounded that they hardly noticed anything, heard and tried to join in the rejoicings over the winning of the battle of the Alma.

About five weeks later (October 25) came the battle of Balaclava. Some of you may have read a poem by Lord Tennyson called "The Charge of the Light Brigade," which describes in a wonderful way the splendid bravery of 600 of our horse-soldiers—the Light Cavalry Brigade, as they were called. Early on the afternoon of that day, while the battle was still being fought, a message came that the Light Cavalry Brigade were to attack the enemy. The order was that they were to ride through a narrow valley to capture the enemy's guns at the other end—at least, this was the order that came to the officers. But it seems there had been some terrible mistake or misunderstanding about the message, for every one in the Light Brigade knew that 600 men could have no chance against the [26] thousands of Russians and the Russian guns that lined the valley on either side.

"Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do and die,"

Lord Tennyson says in his poem. A soldier's one duty is to obey, and so the order "Mount" was given, for the men had been resting by their horses, and having some "dinner" of biscuits and water after fighting all the morning. The rest of this story you shall hear, as far as is possible, in the words of a soldier who was there—one of the six hundred.

"We went off," he says, "at a walk till, getting into a ploughed field, we broke into a trot, which we continued till getting on to the grass, when we got into a gallop: all this time being fired upon in front by the guns which the enemy had placed in the centre of the valley," and which were the very guns "we were wanted to capture."

One of the first things that happened was that Captain Nolan, one of the officers, was [27] killed by a shot; "and as we tore past," says this soldier, "we saw him lying on the ground, and his faithful horse standing quietly by his master's body amidst all the fire. Now the order, 'Draw swords!' was given, and with a yell and shout of defiance . . we found ourselves careering over the ground as fast as our horses could carry us, onwards towards the guns in front, and which all the time were keeping up a deadly fire at us. Presently, too, they began to fire from the right and left as well, but we held on our course without swerving" (or turning aside). "Our officers were as cool as they could be; every now and then they called out, 'Steady, men, steady!' but the excitement of the gallop prevented the men from thinking of anything but one thing—to silence the fellows who worked the fatal guns. At last we were at the guns, and a slashing hand-to-hand fight followed with the men. . . Just then my horse dropped, wounded by a Russian gunner." And then he goes on to tell how he found himself [28] alone, "and so dense were the clouds of smoke hanging over the ground," that he could not see in what direction the others had gone, though he heard them galloping away.

Wonderful to say, he was not wounded, and presently, managing to catch a runaway Russian horse, he joined a little party of our men, who bit by bit came up, "stragglers like myself. We kept together" (and very glad they must have been to see one another), "and cut our way right through the crowd," to try and join what was left of the Light Brigade. Back through the valley they were riding, still fired on, but still never thinking of giving in, and showing not only the Russians, but "all the world," as Lord Tennyson says, how Englishmen could "do and die."

"We now saw "—to finish the story told by this soldier—"the Scots Greys" (another regiment); "a welcome enough sight, but it wasn't to do me any good," for at that moment his horse was killed by a cannon-ball. "I fell to [29] the ground, and in two or three minutes I was surrounded by Russians and taken prisoner. And so ended the memorable day of Balaclava as far as I was concerned with its doings."

This has been a long story, but it is one that will never be forgotten in England and by England, and when you go to St. Paul's Cathedral and see the name Balaclava on the tattered and stained flag hanging above the monument, "To the memory of the officers, non-commissioned officers and privates of the Cavalry division of the British army, who fell in action, or died of wounds or diseases during the war with Russia," you will be reminded of this story of the six hundred (four hundred of whom were killed) who rode the charge of the Light Brigade.

It was not until the next September, just a year after the war had begun, that the town and fortress of Sebastopol were taken by the Allies. The Russians were now defeated at last, and before leaving Sebastopol they set fire to the magazine (where the gunpowder was stored). [30] "The tremendous explosion," wrote an officer who was there, "and the blazing of the town which they set on fire, made a very beautiful spectacle." And so ended this long war, during which our soldiers, both officers and men, had suffered all manners of hardships, especially during the long cold Crimean winter, when those who were well had neither enough to eat nor enough to wear, and when those who were sick and wounded were crowded into hospitals more miserable and unwholesome and uncared for than can be imagined.

So far the story of the Crimea has been all about soldiers and fighting, but there is one more thing I must now tell you, to show you that the women of England did not forget to do what they could to help and comfort the men who were fighting for her and them. When it became known how terribly badly the hospitals were managed, Miss Florence Nightingale, the daughter of a rich country gentleman, who had trained herself to be a hospital nurse, offered to [31] go with a band of ladies and nurses to see what they could do to make things better and more comfortable for the sick and wounded.

The soldiers came to look upon these brave women who were afraid of nothing, who nursed them so carefully and who comforted them so much in all their sufferings, almost as guardian angels. And it is said that often when Miss Nightingale went round the dimly lighted rooms of the hospital during the night—talking or reading to those who could not sleep, and seeing that all were cared for—the men lying with their faces to the wall (and too weak to turn round) would watch for her shadow and kiss it as it passed. However ill they might be, they now felt that they had a friend with them who would do all that was possible to help them, and who would listen to and remember all the messages they wanted to send "home," when they knew that they were too ill to hope ever to go back again themselves.

All this happened forty years ago, and Miss [32] Nightingale is now an old lady of eighty, but she must often look back with pleasure to those sad days in the Crimea, knowing that she, and those who went with her, were able to do for hundreds of suffering soldiers what only women could do. The lives of Miss Nightingale, Miss Stanley, and Mrs. Seacole—all of whom were in the Crimea—are in their different ways as interesting as the lives of the soldiers and the stories of the battles in which they fought. And just as the waiting soldiers at the battle of the Alma showed as much courage and did their duty as bravely as those in the midst of the fight, so girls may feel, when they read these stories of brave soldiers and brave women, that though there are many things in this world which will be better and more wisely managed if left to "the fighters," yet there are many others which can be done for  "the fighters" only by women, and without which the world would be a sorry place. It is now sometimes said that women should work for their country [33] by actually doing with men, or indeed instead of men, the work in the world which seems  most important because it is seen and talked of by the world. But what a mistake this is! Miss Nightingale would have done little good fighting as a soldier, and would most likely have died from the hard work. But, in caring as she did for the fighters, she did more good than can be described, and gained the love and gratitude of them and of her country. The women and girls of England will best help England by doing as their mothers and grandmothers did (and as Miss Nightingale did) the work—and there is plenty of it—that men cannot do for or by themselves. And so English men and women will best work, side by side, for their country in the same way as Miss Nightingale and the soldiers did all those years ago in the Crimea.

In the next window is a large monument to General Gordon. I told you so much about him in the Tales from Westminster Abbey, that I will [34] not say more here. You must, however, look at this statue of him, for it is much larger than the one in the Abbey, and will give you a better idea of him. He is lying full length, dressed in his uniform, and with his sword by his side.

There is a beautiful verse of Lord Tennyson's about General Gordon which ought to be written here on his monument, so that every one coming to St. Paul's should read it—

"Warrior of God, man's friend, not laid below,

But somewhere dead far in the waste Soudan,

Thou livest in all hearts, for all men know

This earth has borne no simpler, nobler man."

Just behind his monument on the wall is a large tablet in memory of Sir Herbert Stewart, who was also a soldier. Herbert Stewart, when a boy, was at Winchester, and you will read here the words, "Manners makyth man," which many of you know is the motto of Winchester School. They are written here, not only because Sir Herbert Stewart had a kind of right to them [35] from having been a Winchester boy, but because he had earned a still greater right to them from having all his life put into practice these words of his school motto. He and General Gordon were great friends, and it was while Sir Herbert Stewart was trying to reach Khartoum (a town in Africa, where General Gordon was shut up and besieged by savages) that he was killed. On their way through the desert the English soldiers were attacked by the savages, and the battle of Abu-Kru was fought. Sir Herbert was wounded, but he would not allow the march to be stopped on that account, for he knew that every moment was of importance if they hoped to save General Gordon. So, being too ill to ride, he was carried by some of his soldiers on a kind of stretcher. A few days afterwards he died, having lived just long enough to hear that, in spite of all his efforts, the English had come too late—the natives had captured Khartoum, and his old friend was killed.

A little further on, under the next window, [36] we come to two brass tablets, on which are written the names of "the officers, seamen, marines, and boys" who were drowned when their ship, the Captain, went down one terrible stormy night off Cape Finisterre, in Spain, September 7, 1870. A little midshipman, who was on another ship (the Lord Warden), writing home a day or two afterwards, described how "the day before yesterday, Tuesday, our admiral went on board the Captain. He returned to us about six o'clock on Tuesday evening. . . After that it blew quite a hurricane, our captain and all the men saying they had never seen it blow so hard in all their lifetime. Well, at daylight on Wednesday morning the fleet was rather scattered, but still they were all visible except the Captain. As it was the first heavy gale she had been in, and as she was such a peculiarly constructed ship, great fears were entertained for her safety, and the signal was made for the fleet to steer in different directions and look for [37] her. We went on looking for her till about four in the afternoon, when we picked up two of her yards (part of the rigging), and one of the other ships picked up two more spars. So I am afraid the Captain  went down on the morning of the 7th, with all hands on board—nearly six hundred officers and men. Wasn't it lucky our admiral came on board of us at six on Tuesday evening from the Captain?—for if he had stopped another hour on board it would have been too late, it was blowing so hard. As it was, he was very nearly swamped on his way on board here."

A few men and boys were saved, and had a wonderful escape. One of them told how, when the ship began to sink, "Captain Burgoyne sung out" to those who were on deck—most of the men were asleep in their cabins—" 'Jump, men, jump,' but did not jump himself." The sea was white all round with the squall, the wind was howling, "and the roar of the steam from the funnel [was] roaring horribly above everything." But still it was their only chance, [38] so they jumped, and when they were in the water managed to get hold of some bits of wood, to which they clung. Presently, a boat in which were a few of their comrades came toward them. They scrambled in, and after what seemed to them an endless time, managed to reach the shore. Landing, they walked ten miles to a village, where they were kindly received and cared for, and the next day sent on board the Monarch  one of the ships which, like the Lord Warden, had been looking for hours for the missing Captain. Of the great ship herself and all the rest of the crew nothing was ever seen or heard.

We must now cross the nave and walk down on the other side (towards the door by which we came in), principally that you may see a large monument in memory of Captain George Westcott, a sailor who fought with Nelson against France, and was killed in the battle of the Nile. Later on in the book, when we come to the story of Nelson, [39] I shall tell you some more about this Captain Westcott, but now we must go on round the nave and see the other monuments which are most interesting to know. There are not many more in the nave. Near the door is another Crimean monument, and here again hang the torn, faded, and well-worn colours which belonged to the regiment of the Coldstream Guards. On the tablet underneath the flags are written the names of the officers who were killed or died of illness during the war.

And now, once again turning to walk up the middle of the nave, you will see on your left hand between two pillars a great monument, the greatest and noblest in all the cathedral. This is the monument made by Stevens (a sculptor you will all hear of some day), and put up in St. Paul's Cathedral by the people of England in memory of the Duke of Wellington.

[40] The greatest English soldier—Wellington—and the greatest English sailor—Nelson—are buried close to one another in the crypt of St. Paul's. Presently, after seeing all the monuments, you will go down into the crypt, where you will see their tombs. And now, before we go on into the north and the south transepts, which is all we have left to see except the crypt and the galleries and ball, about which I told you in the third chapter, you will, I think, like to hear something about the Duke of Wellington—the Iron Duke, as he was sometimes called. Many of you may already know the story of this great man, and remember how for many years he defended England against France and Napoleon Buonaparte. Others may know his name, but have heard little about him, and so I should like to tell you something about the life of the greatest of all the many great men who are buried here in St. Paul's.


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