Tag Archives: PURKIS Louisa /

The Drake Crimean Letters

My MA thesis was largely based on original letters written by William Henry Drake and his wife, Louisa, during the Crimean War. I also used a transcript of the Journal Drake kept during his time in the Crimea and after.

I have always felt that these letters should be made available to those who study the history of the Crimean War and to family historians interested in the Drake family. They provide a unique perspective on the conduct of the war from the viewpoint of a Commissariat officer, and also of the family interactions of that officer and the perspectives of his wife and daughter who joined him in the theatre of war.

I had toyed with the idea of trying to find a publisher, but wondered why any publisher would wish to publish such a large collection of letters, the subject matter of which has such a small audience, especially in this era of ebooks. That is why, having done all this work, I am thrilled to say that the Crimean War Research Society has agreed to publish them.

In transcribing the letters, I investigated all the places, events and especially people mentioned and have annotated the letters accordingly. I have also included ancillary documents, such as newspaper articles surrounding some of the events that occurred, as well as the evidence that Drake gave before the McNeill/Tulloch commission, and the Strathnairn committee of enquiry. These, I feel, provide context for the letters and will assist readers interpret and appreciate them.

The letters can be found here.

My thanks to web master Tom Muir for uploading the letters to the Crimean War Research Society web site.

©Megan Stevens 2018

More enjoyable times

On 21 February 1856, Henry was informed that he had been appointed a Companion of the Bath. He was justly proud of the award and in writing to his parents said, “I shall want a bit of ribbon, C.B. colour to put on my coat. So you see with my Red Ribbon, my Chevalier Cross and Medal & three Clasps, I shall make an imposing appearance!”

Louisa sewed “Henry’s Red Ribbon on his Coat” and wrote to Henry’s parents that she “thought it looked very well and I am not a little proud of it.”

The war was coming to an end and the Drake’s enjoyed entertainment, theatre and the Grand Races on the Tchernaya River which was a great festival reportedly attended by some 100,000 people.

Peace came with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 30 March 1856, but news only reached the Crimea on 2nd of April. Nonetheless, the Drakes attended the Great Ball on board the Bruiser on 31 March with Henry reported in the Illustrated London News as proposing the toast to the Captain and his wife.

More celebrations followed including an “excellent dinner” on board the Ottawa. The only sour note was that that night the Drakes’ stable burnt down singing Louisa’s horse, Jack.

The Drakes then went home via Kertch, but not before Louisa had “mustered Courage … to call on Miss Nightingale” who she regarded as “one of the Lions of the present day.” They stopped off in Constantinople, where Henry had some duties to attend to, and visited the tourist attractions. They eventually left on 21 July and arrived in London in early August and took up residence at 21 Regents Park Terrace where neighbours were to play a part in introducing their younger daughter Charlotte Augusta Dring to her future husband, Charles Henry Marshall.

The detailed description of these events can be found HERE

©Megan Stevens 2018

Balaklava, Kertch and the spoils of war

The first letter Henry wrote to Louisa following his arrival in Balaklava contains the sketch in the banner showing the layout of the town and its harbour. The painting below it by William Simpson provides a better view of what Balaklava was like.

Henry’s letters and Journal at this time contain interesting descriptions of his domestic arrangements. He talks of his accommodation, his furnishings and his servants.

He mentions ongoing contact with William Howard Russell of the Times.

He also starts raising with Louisa the possibility of her coming out to the Crimea while leaving the younger girls in England to continue their education.

On 14 November 1854 he writes to Louisa to describe “One of the most miserable & wretched days.” This was the hurricane that destroyed and damaged many ships in and near Balaklava harbour and caused the loss of significant amounts of food, clothing and equipment just at the beginning of winter.

Henry worked and waited through the winter and in April 1855 heard that Louisa and their daughter Louisa Maria would leave Southampton at the end of the month. They arrived on 18 May, just in time to accompany Henry on the expedition to capture Kertch along with William Howard Russell and William Simpson.

The upper centre image in the banner is Simpson’s depiction of the burning of Kertch. The image below it, also by Simpson, shows the battleship HMS Agamemnon and the steamer Hope passing by Prince Woronzoff’s Palace near Yalta on the return voyage. The Drakes were onboard the Hope so would have enjoyed this view.

Not long after they returned, the British Commanding Officer, Lord Raglan, died. Henry was called on to provide lead for the coffin so that Raglan’s body could be returned to England. Louisa and Louisa Maria went to view the funeral procession which is depicted in the lithograph by William Simpson.

The cannon stands outside Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire and was one of those captured by the Allies and distributed by the Commission Mixte of which Henry was a member.

The new sections I have added are:

Balaklava and the Crimean Peninsular

Kertch

Death of Raglan and the spoils of war


©Megan Stevens 2018

More on William Henry Drake

Here is the next instalment in my updates to the information on William Henry Drake and his family.

My last blog provided links to a short summary of his life and information on his early life including his posting to the Swan River Colony (Perth, Western Australia).

The Drakes were transferred from Perth to Hobart, Tasmania, where they stayed for two years. Henry was then posted to St John, New Brunswick, Canada, but had the opportunity to spend some time in England on the way which allowed his family to meet his parents.

He was also not in Canada for long and was transferred back to London, but did not spend any time there as the Crimean War began while he was in transit and he was rerouted.

He travelled to the Crimea via Greece (Piræus) and Bulgaria (Varna). He met a number of historic figures along the way and even banqueted at the Acropolis.

The updates can be found here:

Hobart

London and New Brunswick

Crimea

I have also added some navigation links so that you can move backwards and forwards through the various articles.


©Megan Stevens 2018

Updating William Henry Drake’s information

My thesis contains a lot of information about William Henry Drake and his family, but there was a lot of information that didn’t make it into my thesis because of the tight requirements for the word count of theses. Since completing my thesis, I have also found a lot more information about their lives. My aim is to make this information available here.

I am, therefore, writing a series of blogs on various aspects of the family and will be publishing them as they are completed. I have started with three articles.

The first is a short summary of Henry’s life which provides a framework for the other articles.

The second covers the movements of Henry’s family following his birth in Portugal until, as a young man, he went to the Swan River Colony (Perth, Western Australia).

The third looks at his time in WA including his marriage and the birth of his children.

Other blogs will follow in due course.


©Megan Stevens 2018