23 JUNE 1860, Page 19

CAMP LIFE AT KERTCH. * CAPTAIN Wraxall enters upon the history

of his first and last campaign in the spirit of Jacques, marvelling how it should

"Come to pass That any man turns, ass, Leaving his wealth and ease

A stubborn will to please." It was not patriotism, or hatred of the Russians, or love of the Turks, that made him give up a comfortable income for one not so good' and accept a commission as captain of artillery in the Turkish Contingent serving at Kertch. He thinks he was in- fected with the mania for soldiering which raged epidemically at the outbreak of the Crimean war, and that the virus was con- veyed into his system through the medium of a smart blue uni- form with a red collar and lots of gold lace on the sleeve. His only consoling thought with reference to the affair is, that the one seizure to which he succumbed has guaranteed him for all the rest of his days against a second attack of the same malady. It is very natural that he should look back with disgust on his brief experience as a campaigner, for he and his comrades of the Con- tingent shared largely enough in the squalid miseries of the war, but had no opportunity given them to partake of its nobler emo- tions, for they never came into action, great or small, with the enemy. This was not their fault, on the contrary when Captain Wraxall says :—" That our defensive preparations were not bad, in spite of the abuse lavished on us in England, is tolerably proved by the fact, that the Russians, with all their intimate knowledge of our movements never ventured to attack our posi- tion "—it must be owned that there is much force in his argu- ment. It is notorious, he alleges, that the Contingent was placed at Kertch as a bait to induce the enemy to advance, and that if the Russians had cut it to pieces the event would probably have been regarded as a happy riddance. Everything was ripe for such a result in the beginning of the winter when the Turks had not yet become reconciled to their British officers, whom they at first regarded with the deepest distrust. They had been fright- ened into a mutiny at Biyuk-Dereh by the tales told them by the Greeks. They firmly believed that their transferrence to Kertch was the prelude for their delivery into the hands of the Russians, and their fears were eonfimed by the news of the treatment ex- perienced by their countrymen at the front. The position of the British officers was made much more difficult by the misconduct of a French regiment of Infanterie de la Marine at Fort Paul, to which place they had been exiled for rank cowardice before Se- bastopol. " We had, in and about Kerteh, some sixteen thousand Turkish soldiers, as a body, the finest and most muscular soldiers in the world. We were a handful. of English to command them, and had a most delicate course to steer in overcoming their susceptibilities. There were moments, when our lives were not worth a minute's purchase, and this was the time when these dirty little French vagabonds chose to annoy our men in every pos- sible way.

The Turks at Fort Paul lived under canvas, a bell tent being served out to every twenty men, and every tent had its sleek skinned, well fed eat, the Turks being intensely fond of domestic favourites. By and by the cats began to disappear gradually at • cane Lffe; or Passages from the Story of a Contingent. Be Duman Wraxall, author of" The .Okrmitis of Europe," Ste. Published by Skeet. first and then more rapidly, and the Frenchmen to grow plump and more saucy in the same ratio ; they had cooked and eaten the cats. Slowly the truth dawned upon the mind of the Turks ; at last one of them, meeting a French marine, accosted him with a prolonged Mia-a-a-au-aw. The convicted thief slunk away, and soon the whole encampment rang with a mighty chorus of catcalls. The Frenchmen took a cowardly revenge. "Each evening at six, deputations from all the regiments used to as- semble at the filtering apparatus, to receive their allowance of water for the

next day Well, the French scoundrels waylaid our Turks as they were groaning up the hill, under the pail yoke; and made a most brutal and cowardly attack upon them with sticks and sword-belts. They were some- thing like five to one, and the Turks were frightfully mauled.

"It was of no use complaining to the French fort commandant, so the English officers took the law into their own hands. A conference was held with the Ilimbashis ; and it was arranged that the French should receive as pretty a thrashing in return as they could endure. And, let me tell you, when a Turk does hit, there is no mistake about it—it is like the kick of a horse. Well, at watering time, the French, who had some suspicion that reprisals were intended, assembled in large numbers, and a body of Turks marched down to the battle-field. They very soon came into collision, and for about ten minutes, there was as pretty a game of 'Wigs on the green,' as was ever seen at Donnybrook Fair. But the puny Frenchmen were as children in the hands of their powerful assailants; they broke and fled, ex- yr,rewh.o found convenient been defeated on ttheetrgroo cel``figfsaormall 11 the Frenchnchn h undiame, and all should have remained as you were' ; but the French commandant ordered the rappel to be beaten, and soon marched down with half a batta- lion under arms. This rendered matters at once serious; the Turks, alive to their danger, silently fell in, their English officers took their places, and there was a very awkward pause. "I am afraid that some among us would not not have broken our hearts had it come to blows ; for there was no love lost between ourselves and the Marines ; but, of course, this was to be prevented at any price. Unfortu- nately, at the decisive moment, a very fierce altercation broke out between the English and French town commandant, and the matter thus at once be- came personal. The troops gradually retired from the scene, and the French officer sent in a report to head-quarters of the gross way in which he had been insulted. He certainly had cause of complaint—forty of his men rendered hors de combat, scores of others with aching bones, and hardly a Turk disabled ; but I think he need not have made such a dis- turbance. When, though, was a Frenchman ever manly enough to own himself wrong ? 4" The result was very unhappy for our countryman, for he was dismissed the service without appeal, owing to that wretched system of conciliation which accompanied us throughout the Crimean war, and which caused the French to form such an exaggerated notion of their own importance. I firmly believe that the impertinences French officers are periodically guilty of towards this country have their origin in the deference we showed them in the Crimea ; and they have at length ascribed to fear what was only the result of a haughty feeling of superiority. " There was one benefit, however, derivable from the coroborry.' The marines were shipped off within a fortnight ; the Turks lining the heights to see them depart, and saluting them with an universal Miauw 1' The word consequence of the affair was, that the ill-feeling rapidly spread to Kertch, and the chasseurs and Turks soon came to loggerheads, for the soul of Mohammed, once conscious of their power, would no longer meekly en- dure cuffs and blows."

The French commandant at Kertch was a man of more good temper and discretion than his colleague at Fort Paul, and took effectual means to prevent collisions between his men and the Turks. Nevertheless, Captain Wraxall confesses that he and his brother officers hated the French intensely for the alarm the latter had caused them, and for the domineering spirit which makes it most unpleasant to be quartered with them ; and he greatly fears that our countrymen who form part of the joint expedition to China will have personal cause to imbibe a similar antipathy.