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Monday 28 January 2008

A Crimean Memorial

Although the most familiar memorials commemorate the events of 1914-18 & 1939-45 there are many others that owe their existence to obscure and long forgotten events in the country's history.

In Gosforth church there is a large marble plaque describing the death of Captain Charles Allan Parker, Royal Marines, who was killed during during the Crimean War (1853-56) fought between Russia and an alliance of Britain, Turkey, France & Sardinia. Though the principal and most memorable events of this absurd & tragic conflict took place on the Crimean Peninsula on the north coast of the Black Sea, most famously the charge of the Light Brigade, there were other less well known encounters, principally naval actions aimed at disrupting Russia's Far Eastern trade routes. One was at Kamtschatka (Kamchatka) on Russia's Pacific seaboard.

On August 28, 1854 a small force of four British and French warships under the command of Rear Admiral David Price entered Avalska Bay on the south-west coast of the Kamchatka peninsula, at the head of which lies the small town of Petropaulovski (now Petropavlovski). Two days later the allied force commenced firing on Russian batteries in the town, but this was suspended when Admiral Price went into his cabin on HMS President and for no apparent reason shot himself! Following the unfortunate man's burial at Tarinski Bay, the action was resumed on September 4th with the landing of 700 allied seamen and marines under the command of Captain Burridge of the President and de La Grandiere of the French ship Eurydice. They were assisted by one of a group of American whalers who had deserted their ships and joined up with the Brits while they were burying their suicidal commander. Although there was some initial success in silencing the Russian batteries the party ran into an ambush on the hill above the town and in an attempt to break through Captain Charles Parker was killed leading a charge. There was some question as to whether the American ally had deliberately led them into an ambush - mmmh! Bit of blue on blue - and they're still at it!. After some deliberation the party called off the attack and returned to their ships. British and French casualties numbered some 208. I imagine the dead were buried in a grave pit somewhere close to shore. Four days later, after burning a Russian transport, the rather dispirited group sailed away.

For a fuller description of this and other similar actions see; .

Overlooked by a towering and still active volcano, Petropavlovski remains an important base for Russia's eastern fleet and a quick look at Google Earth will show a number of facilities, including floating docks and significant storage facilities. It also illustrates what a God forsaken piece of desolation this place is - but a small patch must be 'Forever England'!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this.

Charles Parker was one of my ancestors, and yours is the only place I've been able to find the monument online.

I didn't know the details of the Petropaulovski engagement - thanks for that too.