COLLECTIONS> Reserve Collections > Curator's Choice archive > October 2004
Curator’s choice of ‘Object of the Month’.

What is it?

The Journals of Paymaster-in-Chief Henry Hardy Priest Shanks.

In May 2004 the Royal Naval Museum was given 3 journals which were kept by Henry Shanks between the years 1854 and 1869. Henry Shanks was born on the 15th November 1836 and joined the Paymaster Branch of the Royal Navy in 1852. The journals give a fascinating insight into the day-to-day life of an Assistant Clerk and Paymaster in the mid-Victorian period and include some wonderful illustrations.

The first journal is of particular interest because it covers his service on the steam screw ship-of-the-line HMS Sans Pareil during the Crimean War. 2004 marks the 150th anniversary of the start of this conflict between Russia and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, Britain, France and Sardinia. One of the Navy’s vital roles was transporting and landing troops and equipment.

The extract from the journal in September 1854 describes the landings on the River Alma which marked the start of the campaign.

Thursday 14th September 1854
Weighed at about 2 pm and steamed with the Agammenon and convoy to the place for landing the troops, about 25 miles from Sevastopol. Went aground at about 7am, but got off by going astern. Anchored near Agammenon. Signal was made to start disembarking troops. The horse boats had been put together previously and consisted of 2 large Turkish pinnaces lashed together with a platform across them, and rails around them with ridge ropes. Each was towed by a launch and a cutter. Other ships did the same and the disembarkation went very well. There were Cossacks on the beach, one officer and 3 men, but they scampered off when they saw signs of the troops going ashore. The officer had been examining the ship with his glass and taking notes. The French also got on very well with their disembarkation. Sans Pareil had not yet disembarked any Cavalry, or very much Artillery.

Friday 15th September
Heavy swell prevented further disembarkation until noon. The ships berth had been shifted a mile further out as when swinging inshore she had been touching the bottom. Completed disembarking the infantry and most of the Artillery. Lost a soldier of the 50th Regiment from fever.

Saturday to Monday 16th to 18th September
Employed landing the Artillery and the Cavalry, finishing on Monday afternoon. Went ashore on Sunday and saw Turner of the 1st Royals and the 50th Regiment officers who came up in Sans Pareil. They had spent a miserable night, no tents and heavy rain all night. They got tents the next day.

Tuesday, 19th September
The troops marched early this morning for the Alma River, about 12 miles, and arrived at about 1 or 2 pm. The ships accompanied them and anchored when the troops halted for the day. There were about 10,000 Russians encamped on the banks of the Alma. On Sunday, 30 Marines from the ship under Jolliffe RMA had been sent to garrison Eupatoria. 1,500 men there from the three fleets. Heard that Joe [brother] had gone there in charge of the Marines from the Queen.

Wednesday, 20th September
The troops were early on the move towards the Russians. Agammenon weighed and Sans Pareil followed, anchoring very near the land. About 1 pm, saw the allied troops advancing, the French having the right wing, the Turks the left wing and the English the centre. The Russians were in a very strong position on the slope and the top of a hill. The engagement commenced about 1.30 pm and lasted until about 5 pm when the Russians seemed to be completely routed. Some guns were seen to have been captured. Russians were being pursued while retreating along the valley.

Thursday, 21st September
Ships boats were sent ashore to bring off the wounded. These included 4 wounded officers. It appeared that the Russian force had consisted of 45,000 men. The Generals who had been taken prisoner had expected to hold out for at least 3 weeks. Estimated losses 1,500 and 2,000 Russians killed with a great number if Russian wounded and taken prisoner. There were more Russians 5 miles further on but they retreated to Sevastopol on hearing of the defeat.

Where is it?
These journals are held as part of the manuscript collection and are available to researchers through the Museum Library. Also see Enquiry

The choice of: Matthew Sheldon, Head of Research Collections