Who Do You Think You Are?

Did Peter Campbell fight in the Crimean War?

- Simon Wills Kate Brial

QMy great great grandfathe­r, Peter Campbell, is thought to have been born on 1 January 1825 at Inveraray, Argyllshir­e, to Nicol Campbell and Mary McNicol – although I can’t find any record of this. His obituary suggests that he was in the Mercantile Marine and fought in the Crimean War, was cared for by Florence Nightingal­e and was awarded the Victoria Cross. He died on 28 April 1915 at Glen Innes, New South Wales, aged 90. His death certificat­e suggests he came to Australia c1857. How accurate was his obituary?

ASeafarers commonly exaggerate­d their careers. Since you can’t verify his date and place of birth, maybe Peter adopted an alias. Investigat­e his alleged parents and any possible siblings.

You should also look at Merchant Navy apprentice­ship records on Ancestry ( ancestry.co.uk) and TheGenealo­gist ( the genealogis­t.co.uk). I found two Peter Campbells, born in the 1820s, who registered at Greenock. National registers of merchant seamen for 1835–1857 are on Findmypast ( findmypast. co.uk). There are a few Peter Campbells including one born in 1824 from Scotland, who joined the ship Kent at Melbourne in 1854, but who left it at Calcutta. Another was born in 1823 in Dumbarton.

Some merchant seamen joined the Royal Navy. I couldn’t find a match in the service records at The National Archives (TNA) in Kew, but they only begin in 1853.

Merchant Navy troop ships were controlled by the Admiralty, so if Peter was injured he may have gone to the naval hospitals at Therapia or Malta. These hospitals kept written musters (‘roll calls’) of patients, and you can see them for 1853–1854 at TNA in series ADM102/759 and ADM102/552–53. He didn’t get a Victoria Cross, but gallantry medals were cited in the Gazette, which you can search for free at thegazette.co.uk. The Crimea Medal was only issued to servicemen.

If you can’t find him entering Australia, then maybe he worked as crew on board a merchant ship and deserted when he arrived.

 ?? ?? Kate has this amazing photo of her forebear
Kate has this amazing photo of her forebear
 ?? ?? Peter’s obituary from the Armidale Express in 1915
Peter’s obituary from the Armidale Express in 1915

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