Tracing Sevastopol fighters
If your ancestor was at Sevastopol but didn’t leave a personal account of the siege, what can you do? We make some suggestions
Sergeant Timothy Gowing of the Royal Fusiliers was among those who made that final assault on Sevastopol on 8 June. “As the hour of 12 drew near, all hands were on the alert; we knew well it was death for many of us,” he later wrote. “Several who had gone through the whole campaign shook hands, saying, ‘This is hot! Goodbye, old boy!’”
The British ran a 200m gauntlet to reach the Great Redan bastion, along which a terrible fire of grape, canister and musket “swept down whole companies at a time”. Those who survived found the hard work had only just begun. “The fighting inside the works was desperate — butt and bayonet, foot and fist … Some of the older hands did their best to get together sufficient men for one charge at the enemy, for we had often proved that they were no lovers of cold steel; but our poor fellows melted away almost as fast as they scaled those bloody parapets, from a cross-fire the enemy brought to bear upon us from the rear.”
There are a number of resources you can trace family members who fought in this bitter battle and the preceding months of the siege. Army muster and pay lists for the years 1730-1878 are held by the National Archives (www.nationalarchives.gov.uk) at Kew under WO 12; WO 14 will also be relevant, as it holds the records of the Scutari Depot in Istanbul, from which the British departed for the Crimea. Pension records for men who were discharged prior to 1883 can be found in WO 97.
If your ancestor survived, look for their name in the medal rolls (WO 100) – everyone who fought at Sevastopol was awarded the Crimea Medal. A handful of civilians also received this decoration, among them William Howard Russell.