A previously unseen war diary which includes a first-hand account of the fateful Charge of the Light Brigade on October 25th, 1854, was sold for £8,500 at Cheffins Fine Art Auctioneers on 23rd June.
It was sold to a UK based trade buyer.
Handwritten in ink by Captain Michael Stocks of The Royal Dragoons, the diary includes entries from 1854 to 1855, and gives a detailed, first-hand account of everyday military life by a serving officer during the Crimean War. Captain Stocks witnessed events on that fateful day which saw few survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade, which was led by the British light cavalry against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava and left 118 cavalrymen dead.
The diary was part of a large consignment from Wood Hall in Hilgay, Norfolk, and has been in the same Stocks/Ellison/Charlesworth family, having been handed down to the sellers, along with other family medals and militaria, including another Crimean War group to Colonel Ellison whose father had been involved with the North Lincolnshire Militia.
The diary records many events during the Crimean Campaigns as witnessed by Captain, later Major, Stocks, though for that day, he calls the Charge “the greatest trap that ever was made.’”
Describing the horror of the offensive and how the Dragoons fought alongside the Royal Scots Greys, Captain Stocks writes: “we and the Greys advanced first and then somebody said let the light cavalry go on, and on they went ... to take some guns in front, we followed at a trot, they went at a gallop and we saw nothing more of them until we saw them coming back by ones and twos some mounted but mostly dis-mounted, such a smash never was seen , they were murdered it seems they got & took - killed the gunners at the guns but could not keep them, the infantry played on them and when they looked round they found their way stopped by cossacks, then they cut their way through and about 40 came back in a body, the French Cavalry came down at this time and cleared the opposite hills of the guns but for us now we got about three parts of the way and the shot & shells & bullets came down on us like hail, every second I expected to get one, when luckily Scarlett gave the word Halt."
That fateful day’s diary entry begins with Stocks’ reflections on the day’s events: "..Thank God I am here to write this, we all as usual turned out half an hour before day break, and when it got light the guns on the advanced field works thrown up by the turks began to fire, an aide de camp came galloping in to us to say we were to advance, as the enemy were approaching in large numbers, so on we went near the field works, the enemy still continued to move on & the round shot came into us (spent balls) but still with sufficient force to do damage, one ball came rolling down the hill straight where I stood, I saw it was coming right to me, so put the spurs into my horse and only just in time, for it went close behind me and broke the legs of two horses, the next took a long hop and hit a man on the head and he never moved more.”
Also offered within the lot was a Russian pressed metal medallion, with a note which reads “This medal was taken from the body of a dead Russian on the field of Inkermann the day after the Battle, by Major Stocks, Royal Dragoons, Crimea 1852.” These will be sold with his Crimean War medal with clasps for Sebastopol, Inkermann and Balaclava, with miniature medals, as well as a portrait miniature of Major Stocks.
Nicolas Martineau, Director, Cheffins says: “Whilst being almost 170 years old and written and carried by Captain Stocks throughout the Crimean Campaign, the diary was still in remarkably good condition, and gives a fascinating insight into life as a young officer of the day as well as of course a very vivid first-hand account of one of the most fabled and ill-fated events in British military history. It saw a great deal of pre-sale interest. This was a wonderful opportunity for enthusiasts and collectors of military history to acquire a rare and important manuscript detailing accounts of the Crimean War together with the medals awarded to its author and we saw a combination of both private and UK trade bidders participating in the sale, with it eventually selling to a UK based trade buyer.”
The price recorded is the hammer price, not inclusive of buyers’ premium at 24.5% + VAT (29.4%).