Welcome to my blog, where I take pleasure in words and pictures, be they my own or those of others. I'm a creative individual, and the crafty side I explore on my 'other blog', Picking Up The Threads, which I hope you'll visit too. I'm sure you understand that I have sole copyright of my original work and any of my contributions, so please ask if you want to use them. A polite request is rarely refused. So, as they used to say on the BBC's 'Listen With Mother' radio programme, many years ago: "Are you sitting comfortably? Then we'll begin."

Friday, 9 October 2015

Frightened Faces and Fearless Actions


The two children in this photograph look frightened of the camera and very unsure of themselves. Their parents also look unhappy, but the wife is staring stoically ahead and the husband fixes the lens with a grim, but determined, look. Examine this photograph a little a closer and you will see the row of medals displayed on the soldier’s chest This is Corporal John Ross V.C., of the Royal Engineers. John Ross was anything but a frightened man; just over a hundred and fifty years ago (21st July 1865), during the Crimean War, he was awarded the highest honour for valour, for his fearless actions on three separate occasions. First for linking trenches with a large working party, secondly for repeating this action under heavy fire, and thirdly, creeping up to the Redan, and on finding it had been evacuated, returned to report this, but discovered a wounded man whom he then rescued.

Ross lived a further twenty years, dying aged 57 on 23rd October 1879, having achieved the rank of sergeant, and is buried in an unmarked, but consecrated, grave in Islington Cemetery London. However, he is named in the family memorial headstone and on the ‘For Valour’ board at the museum. On the headstone we can read that Ann Jane Ross, daughter of John and Lydia. departed this life in her hundredth year in 1957. She must be the frightened little girl above. Clearly, she overcame her fear and went on to live to a ripe old age. It appears from the headstone that her brother died a few months before his father.


I apologise for the quality of the image as I took the photo through the glass of a display cabinet at the Royal Engineers Museum, Gillingham, Kent, last week. It was my son’s idea that we go, as it is near his home and it would be an interesting day out for the children (our 7.5 year old twin grandchildren) when we paid a flying visit to England from our home in Lanzarote. It was a good choice; the museum was fascinating and we adults could happily have spent all day and still returned on further occasions, as there was so much to see. The twins loved the hands-on  experiences and dressing-up in the soldiers’ uniforms. Of course they were too young too fully understand the stories behind some of the  photographs. Naturally, I was in Sepia Heaven and stories like those of John Ross, completely absorbed me.











This week Sepia Saturday celebrated its 300th edition with a photo of a family who appear both frightened and frightening at the same time. There is a view that one or two of them may be deceased and that this is a Victorian post-mortem photograph. This could account for the frightened look on the face of the child - or is he/she also a dead and merely being propped up by the dead grandfather. Don’t dwell on it too much; it may give you nightmares - save those for Hallowe’en in a couple of weeks time. Ponder instead on the valour of Corporal John Ross V.C. I’d never heard of him before, but now I hope I’ve done my bit to make this unknown face more widely seen and his bravery appreciated. Why not join us to see what other Sepians made of the prompt.


17 comments:

  1. A beautifully expressed post, and your title was spot on.

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  2. Thank you!! very detailed story. X T

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  3. Wow, quite the history on John Ross! He was a brave man.

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  4. Both kids seem to match the parent that is holding them in looks.

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  5. The museum sounds very interesting. How fun for the twins to dress up? I'm always amazed at how meticulous the record keeping was during various wars when you would think chaos reigned. In the packet I received from the Canadian government about my father's first world war service, I even got his dental records. The photo you selected is a well chosen match for the theme.

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  6. A welcome tribute to a good man! The wife looks solemn but also looks like she could & would tackle anything and come out on the winning side!

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  7. You've chosen a very appropriate photo. I just recently finished a terrific history of the Crimean War by Orlando Figes. The battles were incredibly fierce with much of it in close quarter combat in trenches. The casualty rates were nearly as high as WW1 and the living conditions for soldiers were atrocious. It also produced the first war photographs which are fascinating for depicting the stalwart soldiers and brutal landscape of this critical war. The book makes a very good argument that the roots of today's turmoil in the Middle East are traced to the Crimean War.

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  8. The Crimean War was not a walk in the park indeed. The Victoria Cross was handed to him June 26, 1857 by Queen Victoria at Hyde Park, London. I like his sideburns and his wife's Lydia's bonnet is pretty. His son died at the age of 14, and he died 4 months later, that's sad.

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  9. I'd much rather spend an hour or two with your family than with the mysteriously frightening prompt family.

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  10. From the wording of the headstone, it sounds like young Harry who died aged 14 might have suffered from some unfortunate disease or condition, which could have been another reason for his apprehensive appearance. A nice tribute to JohnRoss and family.

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  11. Photographs like these always make me wonder about the occasion for the photograph. They look all dressed up. Was he off to another battle? Were they headed to church or to some event? We'll never know, of course, but the questions still come.

    For taking the photograph through glass you did a great job!

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  12. Wow- they all do look frightened...mostly the kids. I imagine the parents probably laid the law down about being still! This is a nice tribute to Mr Ross.

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  13. I appreciate museums that bring history to life with hands-on exhibits for children and amazing stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things like John Ross.

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  14. That photo is perfection. I feel like I'm looking at characters from a Dicken's novel.

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  15. The boy's hat is interesting. In fact his whole outfit is interesting.
    It must have been so hard to get children to sit still long enough to take a photo.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this bit of sepian heaven!!
    :)

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