Drake Letters Index 70. The Times 10 April 1855 ◄ ● ► 72. The Times 7 June 1855
The Drake Letters
McNeill/Tulloch Commission of Inquiry into the Supplies of the British Army in the Crimea
Examination of William Henry Drake, 30 March 1855

TWELFTH DAY. – Friday, 30th March [1855].
W. H. Drake, Deputy Commissary General, examined.

        Has been in charge of the executive duties of the Commissariat since the army arrived in the Crimea. Has always been able to supply the requisitions for rations of the several divisional officers. Delay has occasionally occurred from deficiency of boats of stress of weather, which prevented supplies being landed in time. There never has been a deficiency of any of the articles included in the regulated rations, in the stores or harbour; but from the stowage of several of the vessels, some of these aricles could not be got at till others, which were over them, could be removed – for example, even within the last few days being desirous of landing rum, found that it had been stowed under biscuit and hay, and could not be got at till these were removed; the only place at which he is permitted to land hay, is so blocked up by hay and chopped straw, that no more can be landed at present. The railway affords greater facilities for removing the hay; but hitherto a sufficient number of railway carriages has not been obtained to carry it off as quickly as could be desired. There has never been a deficiency of barley, and when hay has been deficient, there has always been chopped straw; but from the difficulty of removing a sufficient quantity of the latter article, there has been great reluctance to receive it as forage, and on many occasions the parties to whom it was offered refused to take it away. Measures have recently been devised for pressing a part of the chopped straw, which is now pressed in bales to about one third the bulk of loose straw; but a sufficient quantity cannot be pressed, and therefore loose straw is still imported. Since about the middle of February, full rations of grain, and hay, or straw, have been available here for all the public horses. After the gale of the 14th November, efforts were made with the assistance of Captain Christie, principal agent of transports, to secure the hay that was floating in and about the harbour, and a considerable quantity was secured; but for the most part it was found to be unserviceable. There was a deficiency of transport to carry forage to the front; but understands that it has been usual in the British army, when in the field, to send troop horses for the forage when the distance does not exceed three miles. The non-issue of fuel to the troops around Balaklava, was by general order; and the issue at a subsequent period was also by a general order. About the end of October or beginning of November, he was instructed by the Commissary General to purchase for the troops all the fresh vegetables that could be procured in the harbour; and has, in consequence, purchased all that he had an opportunity of purchasing. In consequence of instructions from Lord Raglan, a large supply of vegetables was sent up from Constantinople and Varna, in the “Harbinger,” “Cormorant,” “Albatross,” “Jason,” &c. When the “Harbinger” arrived, the Captain reported to him that some of the vegetables were in a dreadful state of putridity, which he attributed to their having been thoroughly wetted by a heavy storm of rain at the time of shipment, the large quantity in the hold of the ship having, in consequence, heated. The cargo consisted of a great variety of green vegetables. He visited the ship and found the stench from the hold very great. His visit to the vessel was on the day of her arrival, and within four hours after her arrival had been reported to him. The Captain, with his own crew, commented on the following morning he thinks, to land the vegetables; and on the following day he believes received instructions from the Commissary General that they were to be issued gratuitously. Before receiving this instruction, he had, on his own responsibility, issued the vegetables to Quartermasters of regiments and other persons who applied for them, intimating that it was undetermined whether or not they were to be charged to the men, but that one penny per pound would be the extreme price. A considerable quantity was carried away on these conditions. Officers were sent down to hold a board of survey on the cargo, when it was partly condemned. All that were good were issued to the troops, and any one was allowed to remove away such portions as he chose from the part that was condemned. About four-fifths were condemned. The cargoes of vegetables in the other vessels referred to, were subjected to a similar survey, and disposed of in the same manner as the cargo of the “Harbinger;” there was a considerable loss on these also, but not quite so great as in the case of the “Harbinger.” The “Hope” and “Faith” are employed to bring general supplies chiefly from the Bosphorus. Will furnish a statement of the voyages of the “Faith” and “Hope” for commissariat supplies.

Memorandum respecting the Vegetables, ex “Harbinger,” &c.

        On the “Harbinger” being reported, the master stated many to be unfit for use. I reported this to the Commissary-General, and mentioned in my letter that part of those by the “Jason” remained unissued and in bad order. I requested instructions as to whether they were to be paid for or constitute part of the ration.

        I was instructed that “they were to be paid for as extra articles of diet,” and a general order notified “that they would be delivered on board the ships, and payment claimed as soon as the deliveries were completed.”

        Vegetables were landed on the 9th and consecutive days and issued, and some were issued direct from the “Harbinger” on the understanding that payment was to be made when demanded.

        A subsequent general order notified that vegetables were to be a gratuitous issue.

        During the period embraced from 8th to 13th November, 1854, heavy rains were almost continual; and the streets of Balaklava, more especially that bordering on the water, was a sea of mud.

        The rain, accompanied by high winds, delayed landing vegetables and other supplies.

        On the 14th, the hurricane put a stop to all landing or nearly so, such articles only as were absolutely necessary for existence, were landed on the 15th and 16th, as nearly every vessel was damaged.

        Some of the damaged vegetables remained on board the “Harbinger” at this time, but very few of those fit for use.

        These were landed subsequently, and those that were fit were issued on the same terms as those issued before the hurricane.

        A Board of Survey was held on the vegetables by “Harbinger” and other vessels.

(Signed) W. H. DRAKE,
Deputy Commissary-General

Balaklava, March 31, 1855.


        General order of 15th November, notifies that rice no longer forms part of the ration.

        General Order 27th December, directs rice to be again issued as part of the ration.

        General Order of 29th December, directs that fuel and light be issued to the troops in and near Balaklava, in the same manner as to those in camp before Sebastopol, as notified by general order of the 4th December, 1855.

(Signed) W. H. DRAKE,
Deputy Commissary-General

Commissariat, Crimea,
Balaklava, March 31, 1855.

[Report of the Commission of Inquiry into the Supplies of the British Army in the Crimea, With the Evidence Annexed. Presented to both Houses of Parliament by Command of Her Majesty. (London: Harrison and Sons, 1855), pp. 50-52.]

WH Drake Journal
178 – April 12. Up at 7. Dull. Bombardment continues. Received my dear wife’s letter saying she should leave Southampton on the 20 April with Lu Jr. 1 Letter dated 28/3/55.
In early May 1855 Henry was entrusted with the Charge of the Commissariat on the expedition to Kertch. The first expedition, leaving Balaklava on 4 May 1855, was aborted, but the second expedition left Balaklava on 24 May 1855. The following are extracts from Henry’s Journal. – MS.
197 – May 1st. Up at 7½. Fine. Dined on board Hope & walked on shore with Mrs. Bowen. 2 At 3½ a.m. sent for by Admiral Boxer to consult as to an expedition leaving.
198 – May 2nd. Up from ½ past 3 when called by Adml. Boxer. Mr. Filder told me I was to have charge of the Expedition about to start. At work all day preparing. Dined on board Hope. Went to Admiral in Evg.
199 – May 3. Up at 5. Fine. Continued preparations; wrote to Lu & C.G. 3 Dined on board Ottawa with Capt. & Mrs. Bowen, Mr. & Mrs. Hatfield [sic, 4 after working all day in preparing for expedition. Slept on board Hope.
200 – May 4. Up at 5½. Captain Heath 5 came on board the Hope. Put ‘Cuttingham’ [sic] Stm. under my Orders. Went on Shore, took leave of Mr. Filder. Left Balaclava at 11 a.m. Russell, 6 Wood, A.C.G. Cumming, 7 D.A.C.G. Moore, 8 Booth, 9 Turner, 10 C.C. A. R. Thompson, 11 Tempy. Clk Browning. 12 I got my horse on board. Admiral Boxer instructed Capt. Bowen to proceed to Kazatch Bay & get definite orders from Senior Naval Officer there. Kazatch at ½ past 12. Capt. Michel R.N. 13 of H.M.S. Queen had gone to Lord Raglan & left no orders. about 2 p.m. he returned. Ordered the Hope to the Rendezvous in Latitude 44° 54' Longitude 36° 28 just off Straits of Kertch. 14 We had to take H.M.S. Ardent, paddle wheel steamer, in tow, she towing “Orient” No. 78 and, some time after, the H. Cottingham [sic] No. 128 took us in tow making a line of 4.
May 5th. Up at 6. Fine morning. One steamer in sight. After breakfast, two in sight. At 3 p.m. made out the Fleet ahead & at 5 Steam Frigate Fury hailed us with an order from the Admiral to return to Balaclava. She gave the same order to Ardent & Cottingham [sic]. The whole Fleet steered W by S & we followed, continuing so during the night.
May 6th Sunday. Up at ½ past 7. Very fine. Fleet in Sight. At 10 a.m. in Balaclava Bay. Made our number at 4 got into the Harbor. I went ashore & reported myself to Mr. Filder. The cause of the return of the Expedition is stated to be an order received by Canrobert from the Emperor to concentrate all his force & it is also stated he recalled Admiral Bruat 15 without intimating it to Lord Raglan. Ottawa sailed early.
On 18 May 1855 Henry’s wife, Louisa, and their eldest daughter, Louisa Maria, arrived at Balaklava, and were there until Henry left again after the war was over. As Louisa and Louisa Maria had just arrived, they accompanied Henry on the second expedition to Kertch. – MS.
May 17. On board Hope. D.A.C.G. Palmer 16 wrote to A.C.G. Osborn 17 saying Mrs. & Miss Drake at Pera. Called on Captain Jenkins “Brandon” who said they come up in the “Ottawa”.
May 18. On board Hope. Very hot. At 9 p.m. Mr. Brown 1st officer of Ottawa came on board Hope and told me of Louisa’s arrival. I went out into the Bay to see her.
May 19. On board Ottawa. We went up to Admiral Lyons at Sevastopol & returned to Balaclava Bay. Nice cool breeze. I wrote letter to C.G. 18 just to say that had arrived [sic]. Found Blainey’s 19 Box on Board Ottawa.
May 20 Sunday. On board Ottawa. Landed about noon. We returned on board Ottawa. Dined on board Hope.
May 21. On board Ottawa. Expedition reorganized for Kertch. 20
May 22. On board Ottawa. Lunch on board Hope. Moved things and slept on board Hope. Louisa & Miss Lu wrote letters home. Mounted Blaineys Coat.
May 23. On board Hope. Left Balaclava at 2 p.m. Mrs. D. & Miss D., Russell, A.C.G. Cumming, D.A.C.G. Booth, Moore, Turner, C.C. Thompson.
May 24. On board Hope. At 8 stood for Kertch. At 10 a.m. saw some of the Fleet. At 2 went on board Royal Albert. Saw Lt. Sullivan of Ry. Albert. 21 Went in close & anchored close to Banchee [sic]. I went on board, reported myself to Sir G. Brown. Saw Sir Ed. Lyons, Admiral Stewart, 22 Capt. Mends. At. 6 p.m. went on shore, returned on board. Ambelaki.
May 25. Up at 4. Saw French troops march off at 6. Turks afterwards. Up anchor at 11, passed Kertch & anchored at Yenekali at 5 p.m. Went on shore, saw Sir George Brown & took a cruise on shore.
1. Their daughter, Louisa Maria Drake.
2. Emelia Catherine Anne Bowen (née Dundas).
3. Henry’s father, retired CG John Drake.
4. Possibly William Hadfield and his wife, Martha. William Hadfield was a merchant and commission agent, operating out of Constantinople.
5. Captain Leopold George Heath.
6. William Howard Russell, correspndent for The Times.
7. ACG Robert Cumming.
8. DACG Henry Moore.
9. DACG Robert Booth.
10. DACG Alexander Walter Turner.
11. CC Alfred Robert Thompson.
12. CC N. P. Browning.
13. Captain Frederick Thomas Michel, R.N. [Transcribed as Mitchell.]
14. Transcribed as Kutch.
15. Admiral Armand Joseph Bruat.
16. DACG Charles Palmer.
17. ACG Kean Osborn. [Transcribed as Osborne.]
18. Henry’s father, retired CG John Drake.
19. Blainey, the Charing Cross tailor?
20. Up to now, the spelling of Kertch in Henry’s Journal has been Kutch.
21. Lieutenant Thomas Baker Martin Sullivan, R.N.
22. Admiral Houston Stewart.

Drake Letters Index 70. The Times 10 April 1855 ◄ ● ► 72. The Times 7 June 1855