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Crimean texts

The Times 20.3.1863 p 5




Sir — May I ask the insertion in your columns of the following remarks?

As I have been referred to by many as to the truth of Mr Kinglake’s statement in his Invasion of the Crimea, “that the landing of our army at Old Fort was materially delayed by the wilful misplacement of a buoy by the French,” I feel called upon, in justice to the French naval service, to state the facts which came under my own observation; and here I desire to observe that, during two years of very close intercourse with that service, their whole conduct, so far from being such as to bring our harmony into grievous jeopardy, was that of chivalrous, loyal allies.

As I am the officer who by the direction of Sir Edmund Lyons planned the whole of the details connected with the embarcation, transfer, and landing of the army, it might suffice for me simply to say that I remember nothing about a buoy; that Mr Bower, the master of the Agamemnon, who conned the ship under my orders, remembers nothing about a buoy; and that Captain Spratt (who then commanded the Spitfire, and, as the senior surveying officer, was usually intrusted with such delicate and important duties) remembers nothing about a buoy; but I will not take upon myself to state positively that there was no buoy in question, as it is not impossible that Sir Edmund Lyons may have entered upon a confidential agreement with the French Admiral that the duty of placing a buoy on the coast selected by the allied Admirals and Generals during the final reconnaissance on the 10th should be kept in the hands of the French, to be laid by them during the night preceding the landing, in order to prevent so significant a mark of the designed locality becoming known to the enemy; but it is passing strange that Sir Edmund Lyons, in whose confidence I was, and who had intrusted the whole of the arrangements to me, should have given me no instructions relative to it, if he attached importance to it.

The Agamemnon, having weighed from Eupatoria at 1 am, accompanied by the Sanspareil, Triton, and Spitfire, and followed by all the transports, was the advance ship, by a long way, of the allied flotilla. Sir Edmund Lyons, in his eager desire to be in the van, pushed on to the southward of the beach, behind which lay lake Kamishli, the southernmost of the three lakes marked on the maps, until we arrived off the rocky headland lying between two shallow bays, within which lay the beaches, one having Lake Kamishli at the back of it (being that on which the British ultimately landed), the other, and more southern, beach (on which the French landed), having no lake behind it, and being circumscribed in its limits.

When off the Point, Sir Edmund Lyons, who was anxiously scanning the coast, desired me to stop the engines; while thus hove-to, with the ship’s head brought round to the NE, or inshore, the French Admiral, heading his fleet, came up, and, passing close to us, hailed to say we were too far to the southward, upon which a conversation ensued between Sir Edmund Lyons and the French Admiral from the poops of their respective ships until the onward movement of the French ship terminated it, whereupon a French naval officer came on board immediately with a message from his Admiral to Sir E Lyons to say that we were too far to the southward, the Point off which we then were being the line of demarcation between the armies. During this short suspense I called the attention of Sir Edmund to the approach of the transports, and pointed out that they would fall into confusion if he did not quickly decide upon his anchorage, as the Spitfire and Triton, the two steamers told off to anchor as the points within which our flotilla had been instructed to bring up, were looking to the Agamemnon for position. Sir Edmund instantly gave me orders to steer back to the northward of the Point, and close in with the beach as near as possible. Meanwhile the Agamemnon’s boats had been hoisted out and the artillery rafts put together, so that on the moment of anchoring., which we did about half-past 6, we were ready to commence the operation of landing, which Sir E Lyons desired to do at once, but Sir George Brown, who was on board the Agamemnon, wished to await the decision of Lord Raglan, who was approaching on board the Caradoc. The French had by this time many men landed, for seeing no prospect of opposition they began to disembark as fast as their ships got to the anchorage. As soon as the Caradoc closed Lord Raglan came on board the Agamemnon, and after a short consultation Sir Edmund Lyons desired me to make the signal to land, and we commenced immediately. Thus it will be seen that the French were the cause of no serious delay, as British transports had never even arrived at the point, to the southward of which a buoy is said to have been placed. If the choosing of the beach was left in the hands of the French, they certainly gave us the advantage of position, our landing-place having the lake at the back, and being less circumscribed.

Had it been decided to land both armies in the bay selected by the French, the space on the beach would not have sufficed for the work, and serious confusion would have ensued, while the anchorage would have been too limited for the assembling of so many vessels.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
W R MENDS, Captain, RN

United Services Club, Pall-mall, March 18

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