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Albert Jackson R.A.

Army Service : I.
The Crimean War 1854-1856

Albert Jackson R.A.

Signing on

On 14 August 1854 Albert went from Templeton to Tiverton to enlist for the war in the Crimea. He was then aged 19 years and one month. He appears in his father's account book, being paid for one or two labouring jobs, but the information recorded by the army suggests that he had already served an apprenticeship as his trade was listed as carpenter. He was attested in Tiverton the following day, but if he thought he would 'see some action' very soon he was to be disappointed for it was to be quite a few months before he sailed to the Crimea. The account which follows does not attempt to describe the war except for the events which obviously affected Albert. There are books, websites, personal memoirs dealing with the politics, the campaigns, the battles and the personalities which can be easily accessed, as well as Russell's famous newspaper reports containing eye-witness reports, the first of the kind which are now commonplace.

In the early eighteen fifties national affairs were beginning to impinge on the public far more than in previous wars. There were many more people now who were literate and could follow events in the newspapers. France and England had decided that Russia's desire for greater power needed curbing for there was trouble in the Baltic as well as at the end of the Mediterranean, and the call to the flag had many young men itching to join the fray. As has happened in such conflicts since, the prospect of a doubtless overwhelming victory and a short sharp lesson for the Russians was bound to be very exciting! The lesson that 'Britain ruled the waves' was growing in strength, well-illustrated by the globe which was becoming popular in schools with its impressive proportion of colonies marked in pink. In general foreigners were probably not to be trusted, and in any case the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London in the extraordinary Crystal Palace had proved that Britain was the cleverest and most inventive nation on the planet. There was a rapidly growing network of trains criss-crossing the country and factories springing up everywhere.

Albert was recorded as 5' 8" in height with brown hair and 'no marks or scars. He had probably never been far from a very quiet rural backwater but was good with horses and used to hard work. He signed on for ten years in the Royal Artillery and was sent to Woolwich Barracks. Large guns were drawn by horses though later in India he had to learn to cope with new challenges, either bullocks or elephants. As a gunner and driver, he trained under Captain F.W.Hastings at Woolwich and then Norwich, until October. By October he was with the 13th Battalion in Norwich,

There were recruits from Exeter on his muster for the '13th Battalion', including Arthur Pearce, Thomas Amey, John Mugford and Absolem Dicker, none of whom have yet been identified.

Albert was then transferred to the 6th Battalion by 31st of October and on November 1st 1854 to No.1 Company, 6th Battalion, under Captain J.E.Thring at Ipswich. In January 1855 he spent a month in Woolwich Hospital and was then moved first to the adjutant's detachment under Captain H.J.Campbell and on March 1st back to No.1 Company, Captain Smythe now being the C.O. There had been a lot of travelling up and down the country, sometimes by train, much of it just marching, from one camp to another where conditions would have been quite primitive, and p[erhaps even under canvas, compared to living in a village which was probably old-fashioned for the times.

There were always long waits for there were never enough ships - despite many requisitions of passenger and cargo ships - but at last on March 6th 1855 Albert's company set sail from Liverpool for Constantinople in SS Etna, a very large ship of the kind he'd probably never seen before, arriving on the 23rd March.

It was on the many ships that became familiar over the years that he picked up the army 'slang' - that the officers travelled 'port out' and 'starboard home' (posh) which he explained to his children. These were of course steamships by this time, though there were still plenty of sailing ships around, but for long journeys the steamship was faster and mor reliable, not being dependent on the wind. They did not belong to the army but were requisitioned, using ships that were already carrying huge numbers of passengers around the world. From Constantinople, a place probably as different from Templeton as it could be, the new contingent moved in troop ships (also steam), to Scutari, just across the straits, still quite a distance from the Crimea itself ansd famous for the hospital run there by Florence Nightingale (though very unlike a modern hospital, conditons being terrible).

Albert's subsequent adventures are described on his own pages of which this is the first. He did keep in touch with all his family throughout his years away, all letters being long lost, but the proof of them is their eventual reunion in Sussex.

There was another wait at Scutari. E.Mowbray was now made a Captain with Captain J.E.Thring his second in command, the other officers being Lts F.G.Ravenhill and M.Tweedie. It was here that Albert was in trouble for the only time in his career. His offence - whatever it was - landed him in the garrison cells for six days with a loss of pay during that time, his pay being reduced from 1s 3źd a day to 6d. Scutari was altogether a very unpleasant place for anyone, overcrowded, hot, filthy, disease-ridden and full of flies. Sanitary arrangements in such places were appalling. Now it was a staging post for recruits from England who had never travelled more than a dozen miles from their homes before.

From Scutari it took another week, from April 22nd to the 26th, to sail, in the troop ship Magnet across the Black Sea to Balaclava in the Crimea. The long narrow harbour was crowded with boats of every description, from ships carrying men and supplies - and of course horses - to the superb yachts of the wealthiest of the senior officers or of the many sightseers. There was probably little time for Albert to look around or enjoy a vicarious thrill. The harbour must have been a continual seething crowd of men, wagons, guns, horses and baggage struggling up and down the hill often in mud or in unbearable dust and to Karani camp on the plain some distance away. At Karani camp there were rows of white tents as far as the eye could see. The fresh columns of marching men were no doubt a welcome sight for those already there who had just returned from the second bombardment of Sebastopol.

It is not known but seems quite likely that Albert was moved with his group up to the Kadikoi camp to join the first depot of siege artillery. Sebastopol, a crucially strategic port still in the hands of the Russians, was a long encircling ridge bristling with forts which resisted all efforts at capture. No doubt the casualties from the constant heavy bombardment passed Albert on the way up, many carried on litters, on makeshift crutches, men deafened and subdued by the constant din, their bandages blood-soaked from being cut to pieces in their frequent near-suicidal attempts to storm the forts. They were the 'lucky' ones who had survived a winter more bitter than any they had ever known with inadequate food, clothing and shelter - and who had been presented - late in the winter - with shiploads of new boots sent out from England. The boots would have been fine if they hadn't all been left boots without one right boot among them!

Siege of Sebastopol
The siege of Sebastopol which had now begun after many months of bitter fighting was the turning point in the war, the Russians finally evacuating the town on September 8th. There could have been little distinction between new arrivals and the 'old hands' - they were all immediately thrown into the action, for a War Office record dated May 8th at the Karani camp names 'a nominal list of officers, N.C.O.s and men of No.1 Coy. 6th Battalion R.A. as entitled to receive a medal for service in the Crimea.' There was still another year to go though most accounts give the impression that the dramatic events of the summer of 1855 marked the end of the fighting. Albert's part in the action is not recorded but he used to tell a story which was passed down in the family, told to many of the regulars at the Rowbarge in Woking St John's in Surrey and reported in the local newspapers when describing his funeral.

'Of the deceased's narrowest escape his only son Mr George Albert Jackson who is foreman of the St John's section of the Woking Fire Brigade, has an interesting memento in the shape of a brass blunderbuss pistol with flint lock. It was during the Russian war that this was presented at his head by a burly Russian. Fortunately the pistol missed fire, and before his assailant could snap the lock a second time, Mr Jackson felled him with the butt of his musket.'

Both guns, mounted in a display cabinet, was treasured by the family until about 1948 but they then 'disappeared'.
It waot uncommon for guns to misfire, hence the warning, 'Keep your powder dry!' They were often more dangerous for the person firing than for his enemy.

From June 6th to 7th 1855 the artillery put down a huge barrage. Some 500 guns finally silenced the Mamelon, though the attempt to storm the Redan failed. The batteries at the Redan appeared to have been silenced but the fighting continued into August when the heat and the flies were at their worst. At some point in those long dreadful weeks 21 men died of cholera in Karani camp. Those like Albert who survived the war without so much as a scratch must have felt they bore a charmed life. There were so many casualties that a day's armistice was agreed in the middle of August to bury the dead, essential not just for decency but to prevent more outbreaks of disease.

It was announced at Karani camp in November that 'those who have served with the army between 1st October 1854 and 9th September 1855 are entitled to receive the clasp for Sebastopol.'

There was still the bitter cold of the winter to endure. Perhaps by then the wooden huts sent out from England to replace some of the tents had arrived. One hopes so though nowhere would have any heating for there was no fuel and probably little enough for cooking Whatever scrubby bushes there were in the area must have long been burnt up. There was snow much of the time, never enough blankets, difficulty in thawing water and men still dying from inadequate and very basic food rations. It must have been impossible for individuals to wash themselves very often, let alone their clothes and they were probably crawling with lice and fleas. Yet at the same time the luxury yachts remained anchored off the coast and the occupants would venture out in the day to see the 'spectacle', retiring aboard in the evening for a splendid meal.

Return to England
At last, on May 30th 1856 peace was declared in the Crimea. The first boat, the Hydaspes, sailed for Portsmouth on May 26th. Perhaps Albert was still at Kadikoi with Captain A.H.W.Williams who was now CO there, from April to June in 1856. Albert's service in Scutari and the Crimea was dated as 24 Mar 1855-26 Jun 1856 but he still had to wait till July 11th before embarking for home on the S.S.Terrable(sic), with the rest of No.1 Company 6th Battalion under Lt Awley. It was about the end of the month that he is recorded as arriving in Woolwich, the officers of his battalion still 'on duty' being Captain J.Singleton the CO, 2nd Captain A.H.W.Williams his 2nd in command, along with Lts Ravenhill, M.Tweedie, Awley and Hare. He had served in the Crimea for a year and three months.

From October 5th to the 21st Albert was 'on furlough' from Woolwich. In three weeks there was time to travel to Tiverton by train to stay in Templeton. By this time his sister Emma had been married for just under a year and was living at Burton Park in Sussex. Albert was probably anxious to meet his new brother-in-law, George Mason, and could have visited both places quite easily. If not then he was even nearer to Emma the following year, spending April to November at Hilsea, Portsmouth under Captain Singleton who was promoted to Major in October. Albert was described just as a Gunner instead of Gunner and Driver, though this probably meant little difference.

The records do not give quite so many details of Albert's travels from this time onwards. There are no furloughs listed but he could have visited Burton Park. He must have had one or two longer leaves before embarking again, this time for India at the time of the Mutiny, and where he was to spend the next 16 years. He sailed there during the winter of 1857-1858. His journey outwards was not through the Suez Canal which was still in the planning stage - about to be begun about a year later - but round the Cape of Good Hope, a much longer and more dangerous journey especially with its treacherous currents and sudden violent storms. By sailing from England in winter they would escape the worst as it was summer of course in South Africa at that time.

1. Albert
in the Crimea
2. Albert
in India
3. Albert
in Woking
4. Newspaper