If a book can help me chip into a new seam of reading then it's worth its weight in gold and No Place For Ladies by Helen Rappaport has done exactly that. I've hit motherlode with this one and am now a mine of information on all things interesting about the Crimean War.
I can bore the muffatees off anyone so here's a selection of my Crimean Cameos pronounced over kitchen table coffee at the weekend
"Did you know that Queen Victoria asked Lord Rokeby to take a break from military duties and go out and pick her a nosegay of flowers in the Crimea and he did? It was sent back to England and is preserved at Windsor Castle to this very day"
"Do you know one nurse assisted at 56 amputations in 30 hours...or was it 30 in 56?"
"Do you know Prince Albert designed the Victoria Cross and they are all made from the metal of the guns?"
"Everyone knows that and they're running out"
"So where were the guns captured then?" Silence..."Ah see, Sebastopol"
"Do you know the soldiers dug up Crimean snowdrop bulbs and sent them home?"
I won't tell you anymore but rest assured there is plenty more in this extremely readable account of the role of the women at the Front and one that you desperately want to talk about afterwards, especially if like me you have a bit of a gap in your Crimean War knowledge.
Florence Nightingale was busy trying to keep order and discipline in the nursing world, Mary Seacole was out there as the hostess with the mostest providing food and supplies as well as her vast array of very effective alternative remedies.Wherever there was a need Mary Seacole seemed to be the one to anticipate and fulfill it, red tape was there to be ignored.
Meanwhile the army wives, who were allowed to travel in small numbers with each regiment, seemed to struggle to find a role for themselves beyond attempting to care for their husbands and living in utter squalor and poverty as it became clear the army could barely look after itself, let alone its women.
Whenever I lay hands on a book like this I turn first to the bibliography to see what else might be worth reading.Helen Rappaport's research is formidable and there is a wealth of other reading to choose from and one book in particular that you will certainly want to read
It's the day to day events that are so fascinating and if it hadn't been for Mrs Fanny Duberley's diary I suspect a great deal of this would remain a mystery.
Fanny was the army wife with a difference.
More about Mrs Duberley's diary tomorrow but meanwhile I'm delighted to have read this one.