Topic: The Field of Battle
Voice from the Ranks; A Personal Narrative of the Crimean Campaign by a Sergeant of the Royal Fusiliers, edited by Kenneth Fenwick, 1954
Sergeant-Major Timothy Gowing
All our wounded found in [Sevastopol] were carried as quickly as possible to camp, and then the men set to work to get what they could for themselves out of the midst of the ruins—set to work plundering, if you choose to call it so.
But it was dangerous work and many of them lost their limbs—and some their lives—through their foolishness, by the fire from the enemy across the harbour. Some who were laden with all sorts of articles were stopped by the officers, who wanted to know what they were going to do with all that rubbish. The men would at once throw down their loads and salute the officers, who repeated the question:
'What on earth do you want with all that rubbish, my men?'
'An' sure, your 'onor, don't we mane to let furnished lodgings!'
They were carrying chairs, tables, bed-cots—in fact articles too numerous to mention:
'Sure, your 'onor, we are not going to let the Zouaves have it all!'
A stalwart Irish grenadier, when being rebuked for pilfering, answered:
'Sure an', your 'onor them nice gentlemen they call Zouaves have been after emptying the place clane out. Troth, if the Divil would kindly go to sleep for only one minute them Zouaves would stale one of his horns, if it was only useful to keep his coffee in.'
Truly these gentlemen were capital hands at fishing up all that was likely to be useful!
Some of our Hibernian boys had got a good haul, and were making off as fast as possible, when a party of Zouaves stopped them and wanted to go halves, but Paddy was not half such a fool as he was taken for—he would not give up anything until he had found out which was the best man, so the load was thrown down, and the Frenchmen were very soon satisfied and only too glad to get out of the way.
It was a common saying in camp that there was nothing too hot or too heavy for the Zouaves to walk off with; and where there was room for a rat, there was room for one of these nimble little gentlemen to get in. They proved themselves all, during the fighting, troublesome customers to the enemy; and now that the fight was over they distinguished themselves by pilfering everything they could lay hands upon. But they did not get all—our huts were made very comfortable by the wood that our men brought out of the town.