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After Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914)

Royal Commission of the Patriotic Fund 1855

RCIN 751236

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The Patriotic Fund was set up ‘By Her Majesty’s Command’ in October 1854 with Prince Albert as its President. Its purpose was to co-ordinate the collection and distribution of money donated by the public for the widows and orphans of men killed during the war. Commissioners were appointed across the country and aid was distributed according to the needs of each family. This printed letter of 12 March 1855 from the Secretaries of the fund to the Commissioners in aid illustrates the continuing efforts to co-ordinate the relief: at least £290,000 had already been collected. Queen Victoria, anxious to hear about the welfare of the soldiers, was kept informed of events, and copies of some of the soldiers’ letters were circulated. ‘We have had miserable work lately perpetual rain for / a fortnight which at times comes down by bucket-fulls / the men are very badly off, their clothes being completely / worn out, our clothing which was due last May / never having arrived and we are afraid it went to the bottom in ‘The Prince’ during the late gales, so the / consequence is they are almost in a state of nudity, / and many of them are obliged to wear white trousers / as their blacks are worn out. There is some warm / clothing at Balaklava, but owing to the Commissariat / being so badly off for transport to bring it up, we / cannot get it, the roads also are in a dreadful state...... We have got over 100 men sick in our Hospital tents / and I am sorry to say that the cholera has broken / out amongst us again, which is very sad as the / sick have nothing to lie upon but the wet ground, / our clergyman who has only just come out to us, / visited our Hospitals up here for the first time / yesterday, and told me ‘he expected to see them in / a very bad state, but certainly he never thought / they were as bad as they are’... RA/VIC/F1/72 Queen Victoria, anxious to hear about the welfare of the soldiers, was kept informed of events, and copies of some of the soldiers’ letters were circulated. From an archive letter - "... I quite agree with you / that things have been reported here as / bad as possible, but - indeed, they have / not been exaggerated. I assure you that / when I look back to the time which / elapsed between the first week of November, / to the end of December, I am astonished / at my having survived it - and still more / so, at my being in health. It was not the / personal privation, the cold, & bad food / that I felt - but it was the terrible horrors / that met me at every step - suffering, and / death of man & beast, that ground my / heart into the dust. Pain is pain, & / death is death - however much we may / shut our eyes to it, & harden our hearts. / And had you seen our frostbitten men / coming from the front to Balaklava, / in December, & the first part of January / and had you seen our wretched, wretched, / horses, dying and dead in every direction / you would have admitted that humanity / could suffer no more..." The document shows the daily changes in numbers of patients with cholera in the Crimea over two days in June 1855. Lord Raglan, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, was also to become one of the disease’s victims that month, dying on 28 June 1855. During the Crimean War 16,000 men died from illness, mainly cholera and typhus; 4,000 died as a result of military action. RA/VIC/F2/122