Baltic 1854 and Crimean War Sea of Azoff operations pair awarded to Private Thomas Gringell, Royal Marines, who joined the 2 gun gun vessel Wrangler in July 1854, and then saw service under Lieutenant Commander Richard Hawkins in the Baltic, when she landed seamen and marines to destroy large quantities of corn and forage, during which three men were unfortunately captured by the Russians, and then sailed for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, where he participated in the naval operations in the Sea of Azoff between 25th May and 22nd September 1855, the Wrangler is noted for having detaining the Russian barque Clio, the vessel Alku, and the brig Eros, all detained on the same day, the 28th May 1855. Only around 2000 Azoff clasps were issued to men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Gingell is confirmed on the roll as one of them. Gingell’s service was however bought into question on 13th January 1859, when he stole from a fellow Royal Maine whilst stationed at Woolwich Barracks, being convicted at the Old Bailey and imprisoned.
Baltic Medal 1854-1855, named in neatly engraved upright capitals; (THOS. GINGELL. R.M. H.M.S. WRANGLER.); Crimea Medal 1854-1856, 1 Clasp: Azoff, this slipped onto ribbon, named in neatly engraved upright capitals; (THOS. GINGELL. R.M. H.M.S. WRANGLER.), both medals named at the same time in a matching style, being engraved by the same hand, both medals are also fitted with nearly matching top mounts for hanging from a jacket.
Condition: slight contact wear and light edge bruising to both, matching toning, overall Good Very Fine.
Thomas Gingell was born in 1831 in Wroughton, near Swindon, Wiltshire, and having worked as a labourer, originally attested at Bath for service with the Royal Marines as a Private on 27th March 1848. Posted to the Woolwich Division, he was embarked aboard the 4 gun gun vessel Tartarus from 5th April 1851 through to 27th July 1854, when stationed in Scotland. Gingell then transferred to recently launched 2 gun gun vessel Wrangler on 28th July 1854, commanded by Lieutenant Commander Richard Hawkins, who had been Gingell’s previously commander aboard Tartarus, and then proceeded with Wrangler to the Baltic to join the fleet there engaged with the Russians. For the brief period of service there, when amongst other things, men from Wrangler were landed to destroy large quantities of corn and forage, during which three men were unfortunately captured by the Russians, his commanding officer was promoted to Commander on 15th June 1855.
Gingell then transferred with Wrangler to the Mediterranean and then proceeded to the Black Sea to take part in naval operations during the Crimean War. As such Wrangler then went on to play a distinguished role in the highly successful naval campaign in the Sea of Azoff in the summer and autumn of 1855.
The Sea of Azoff lies to the north east of the Black Sea and is connected to it only by the narrow Straits of Kertch and Yenikale. Extending for about 90 miles north to south and 190 east to west, it is notoriously one of the shallowest seas on earth, the water only a few feet deep in most places, but it was nevertheless an important supply line for Russian forces, allowing the passage of men, materiel and supplies from other parts of the Russian Empire to the forces in the Caucasus and Crimea. All around the sea were fishing villages, farms, small ship yards and ports whose supplies of food and goods, especially fish, hay, grain, tar and timber, were of great importance to the Russian war effort. Its most important port was Rostov, but coastal towns like Azov, Taganrog, Mariaupol, Gheisk, Genitichi and Berdiansk were also locally significant as ports and producers of foodstuffs.
While the land campaign “before Sebastopol” was being waged in the winter of 1854 and the summer of 1855, early consideration was given to an attack on the ports of the Sea of Azoff. However, not until May 1855, when the siege of Sebastopol seemed to settling into something of a stalemate, was a serious expedition launched into the Sea. A large-scale Anglo-French naval force was ordered into the Straits of Kertch, carrying French and British troops intended to seize the major towns of Kertch and Yenikale, which they quickly and easily did; the Russians offered hardly any resistance and chose instead to destroy their fortifications and retreat inland.
The large warship fleet and its landing parties having secured the access point to the Sea, it was now time to unleash the squadron which was to operate within its shores throughout the summer of 1855. Because the Sea of Azoff is so shallow – especially around its actual coastline – no major British warships could operate within its limits. Therefore, a powerful squadron of smaller screw and paddle-steamers, “gunboats” requiring less depth of water, was sent into the Sea. This “flying squadron” initially comprised the Miranda, Vesuvius, Stromboli, Medina, Ardent, Arrow, Beagle, Lynx, Snake, Swallow, Viper, Wrangler and Curlew, with five French steamers in support. Their commander was the dynamic Captain Edmund Mowbray Lyons – the son of the commander of the British fleet in the Black Sea – and already well-known for his exploits in HMS Miranda around Kola in the White Sea. Because these were smaller warships with small crews, many of their commanders were young men, often no more than Lieutenants, anxious to make a name for themselves and given considerable opportunity to show their powers of initiative and command. It was cynically said of them that they were perhaps rather too anxious to get their names “mentioned” in dispatches and earn their promotion.
Between May and November 1855, these allied warships, sometimes in ones and twos and sometimes acting together in larger groups, simply wrought havoc along the coasts of the Sea of Azoff. They quickly halted all seaborne trade and fishing within the Sea, stopping and seizing any Russian vessels running between the coastal towns. In just three days of patrolling – the very first days of the allied invasion of the Sea – Lyons’ ships destroyed over two hundred enemy vessels, ninety on 29th May alone. The small Russian warship squadron at Kertch fled into the Sea, where it was scuttled and the Russian “Azov Squadron” never ventured to sea to challenge what then happened. All along the coast the major towns were “visited” – some of them repeatedly over the summer months – and anything deemed to be a worthy target lying along the shore was attacked and usually destroyed.
The raids took on a familiar format – a ship’s cutter would be sent under flag of truce to the target town and request that all government property be destroyed or handed over. When the request was refused (as it usually was) the warships shelled the local target (where they could get close enough, such was the shallow depth and danger of sandbanks), then landing parties of sailors and marines were sent ashore in the ships’ boats and a large-scale destruction of property began. It was always emphasised that Russian government property was the target and that private property would not be destroyed – but inevitably the distinction between the two was not often very clear. In some instances, and repeatedly, stores of grain, hay and fish, fishing boats, tackle and shipyards lying for miles along the coast were burned. In one action, supplies of hay extending for four miles along the shore were burned by one landing party.
Sometimes the enemy fought back – as at Genitchi on 29th May and at Gheisk, near the eastern end of the sea on the 3rd November. In the latter, leaving the Vesuvius, Weser, Curlew and Ardent standing offshore, Osborn entered the bay with Recruit, Boxer, Cracker and Clinker and some of the other ships’ boats and in quick time he burned stacks of newly-harvested corn, hay and fuel; in this, as on other occasions the ships fired “carcasses” – incendiary shells – into corn ricks lying near the shore and stretching for a distance of miles around Vodina and Glofira. The quantities were immense and as they were guarded by Cossacks and infantry the burning did not take place without a fight. A new entrenchment, designed to defend the town, was also shelled during the operations. Remarkably enough, allied casualties were negligible – no British or French sailors or marines were killed in any of the actions and few were wounded.
In terms of the ships themselves, the most serious (and embarrassing) loss to the allied squadron, and not the result of enemy action, came on 23rd July when HMS Jasper ran aground on unmarked rocks. The ship, under Lt. J. S. Hudson, had been detached to cruise off the Don and when relieved proceeded to join HMS Swallow to investigate the Krivaia or “Crooked Spit”. When day broke, the Russian defenders on the Crooked Spit had the considerable surprise of seeing a British warship lying stranded on the rocks before them and were not slow to open fire. Commander F. A. B. Crauford, coming up in Swallow, advised Hudson to lighten the ship, including throwing overboard his guns and ammunition and anything else which could be moved. But nothing worked and Hudson had the dubious pleasure of ordering the crew to abandon Jasper and then firing his own ship, having stripped her of whatever could be carried away. Later, British vessels returned to the wreck and removed some of her gear and one 68 pounder gun. She was then blown up with powder casks.
But even Commander Osborn had to admit to the Admiralty in October 1855 – “I despair of being able to convey to you any idea of the extraordinary quantity of corn, rye, hay, wood and other supplies, so necessary for the existence of the Russian armies both in the Caucasus and in the Crimea, which it has been our good fortune to destroy. That these vast stores should have been collected here so close to the sea while we were in the neighbourhood is only to be accounted for by their supposing that they could not be reached by us” and that “there do not appear to be any stores of corn, hay or provisions left within reach of our vessels”. This did not stop his squadron destroying “enormous quantities of grain and forage… extending over two miles along the coast near Gheisk” on 5th and 6th November – among the last actions of the Azoff squadron. As winter drew in and the sea began to freeze over in November, the British and French ships were withdrawn and rejoined their respective fleets at Balaklava or Kamiesch.
During this campaign, Wrangler is notable for detaining the Russian barque Clio, the vessel Alku, and the brig Eros, all detained on the same day, the 28th May 1855. Only around 2000 Azoff clasps were issued to men of the Royal Navy and Royal Marines, and Gingell is confirmed on the roll as one of them, his Crimea Medal with clasp Azoff being issued to him whilst he was still aboard Wrangler on 9th May 1857. In the meantime had returned to the Mediterranean on 10th May 1856, when commanded by Commander Joseph Henry Marryat. Gingell rejoined the Woolwich Division on 19th May 1857.
It was during this period of service ashore that Gingell was accused of stealing a money box from a fellow Royal Marine, one Private Joseph Drake on Tuesday morning of 13th January 1859. Arrested. he was tried at the Old Bailey on 31st January 1859. A Mr Langford conducted the prosecution, and the transcript of the proceedings are as follows:
Joseph Drake: ‘I am a Private in the Royal Marines at Woolwich - on Tuesday morning, 13th January, about 10 o’clock, I was in a room in the barracks called B1 - the prisoner came in with two others who had just come from parade, Dumbelow and Richards - they followed my out of the room again - my tunic hung up behind the bed, where it always hung when I was not on duty - it had been there three days - I saw my tobacco box about 10 minutes before ten - there was 14 shillings in it - I counted it; a witness who is here saw me do so - nobody else saw me count it - the prisoner saw my box - he owed me sixpence; and after he got his pay at a quarter after 8 that morning, he came to pay me; he gave me a shilling, and I gave him sixpence out - I took it out of the box, out of my tunic pocket - he saw the box, and remarked, “You have got a lot of money there;” I said, “Not much” - about 10 o’clock I went out to get a shave - the prisoner, Dumbelow and Richards were then in the room - I came back about five minutes, and the prisoner was alone in the room - I went to my pocket to get the money to go and pay for a pair of boots, and I found my boxing money gone - the prisoner asked me what I was searching for; I said, “for my tobacco-box, containing 14 shillings” - he said, “You must have mislaid it somewhere” - I looked about the room, but could not find it - I have not seen it since - I went and gave information to the Corporal, and went with him to the Coach and Horses public-house - the Corporal went in and came out with the prisoner - the prisoner said to me, “You do not think I have got your money, do you?” - I said, “I think you have” - he said, “All the money I have got is twopence; I only had sevenpence when I came out” - the Corporal wanted to get him to the barracks to have him searched - he was not willing to come - I had to go after the picquet, he then went with us - the Corporal went after the Sergeant; and while he was gone, the prisoner pulled off his boot and stocking - he held the stocking in his left hand for a few minutes, and when he thought no one was looking he chucked it under the ed - I heard something jink in the stocking - I went across to him and asked what he had there - he said, “It is the twopence I flung out but now; you can take it if you like” - I took up the stocking and found in its 5s. 4d., and amongst it was a six-pence that I could swear to - this is it (produced) - I know it by this hole at the bottom of the head, and it is rather dented on the tail side - I saw that sixpence amongst the other money just before I lost it - I asked the prisoner if anybody had been in the room while I went to be shaved, and he said no one had been.’
Question from the prisoner: ‘Where did you taken the sixpence from in the morning, which you gave me?’ Answer: ‘Out of my pocket, from the box - I swear I took it from the box; that was how you came to see my money.’
Court - question: ‘How much pay did he draw that morning?’ Answer: ‘I think it was 13d., and he owed me a sixpence out of that - I had no money loose in my pocket.’
Jury question: ‘Then how were you to pay for getting shaved?’ Answer: ‘We always get that without paying for it.’
John Rickards: ‘I am a Private in the Royal Marines quartered at Woolwich. About 10 o’clock on the morning of the 13th January I was in the barrack-room B1 - The prisoner Drake and Dumelow were with me - I saw Drake go out, Dumbelow followed him, and I followed Dumbelow, and left the prisoner behind.’
Prisoner question: ‘Did you not leave Drake and me in the room?’ Answer: ‘No - Dumbelow afterwards came into the room with a letter, that was after Drake had come back from being shaved, and after the money was taken - I was away about five minutes, smoking my pipe, but I returned to the room - Drake had then gone to call for the Sergeant, and you were alone in the room.’
George Lock: ‘I am Sergeant in the Royal Marines, quartered at Woolwich - On Tuesday morning , 13th January, about 10 o’clock, I went into the room B1, and searched the bags there - I did not find anything - at a quarter to 9 in the evening I found the prisoner in the room, and the prosecutor told me in his hearing that he had found 5s. 2d. in his stocking - I sent the prisoner to the guard-room - on the way there he said to me, “This looks rather black, but I am alright - when I came in from the Common I saw a friend, and she gave me 12s.” - we had been to the Common to drill - he said he had met his friend at the corner of the Queen’s Arms, and she had gone to London - he did not give her name or address, be said he did not know it - next morning, between 9 and 10, he was taken before the field-officer - he there stated that a friend, a man, had given him 10s. - he could not produce the man, in fact he did not know him - the prosecutor told me in the first instance of having lost his money, and I went and searched the men in the room - I did not search the prisoner, for I had very little suspicion of him at that time - it was his sudden disappearance from the barrack-room, after coming in from drill, that caused my suspicion - he left suddenly without taking his coffee, which was very unusual.’
Prisoner: ‘I did not mention whether the friend I met was a man or a woman.’ Witness: ‘You said, “I met a friend, and she me 10s.”
Prisoner’s Defence: ‘About 10 o’clock that morning I came from parade - there were four or five of us in the room - Drake left the room, and Dumbelow came in with a letter, and said, “Where is Rickards?” - I said, “I do not know, I suppose he is gone up stairs” - in a minute afterwards Rickards came into the room, and they went to the window and read the letter - I left the room and was below about ten minutes - when I came in again they were both sitting down writing, and Drake was overhauling his bed - I said, “What are you looking for?” - he said, “I have lost my tobacco-box and 14s.” - I said, “You must have mislaid it somewhere” - he said, “I could not; I had it when you gave me the 6d.” - in the afternoon at 2 o’clock we went to drill, and came in at 20 minutes before 4 - I saw a friend, and he begged me to come out - I went and met another marine, who asked me where I was going - I said, to see a friend outside; and we both went together and met him - he walked two or three paces ahead of me - he said, “Come and having something to drink” - I said, I could not, I had no money - he said, “Never mind, I have plenty,” and he put his hand in his pocket and gave me 10s. - I called to the other man and said, “Where will you go and having something to drink?” - we went to the Navy Arms, and had some porter - my friend left me and said he was going to London, and he would come again on Sunday to see me, and then he was going away for a long time - the other marine was going down the town and got among the girls, and I said I must take care of my money, and I went backwards and put 5s. 2d. in my stocking - I have been nearly 11 years in the service - it is not likely I should do such a thing - and in another 12 months my time us up - Edward Phipps is the marine that was along with me at the time - he is not here - neither he not I were allowed to speak, only the witnesses against me.’
George Lock (re-examined): ‘He did not mention Phipps’ name before the magistrate, or apply to speak to him - Dumbelow is not here.’
The verdict was ‘Guilty - Confined nine months.’
Gingell, who formerly had a Good Conduct Badge, lost it, and now bore and ‘indifferent character’ statement on his record, and also had his previous service up to 29th October 1859 subtracted owing the felony, this latter date being the one when he was released from prison.
Gingell ultimately saw service afloat aboard the 17 gun sloop Mutine from 4th November 1859 through to 17th July 1861, he being a part of her first crew on commissioning, and seeing service under Commander William Graham on the Pacific Station. Gingell was part of the detachment of one sergeant, one corporal, and 16 privates of the Royal Marines who embarked aboard her from the Woolwich Division.
Gingell however had contracted bronchitis ‘contracted in and by the service’, for which he was invalided from the service from the 24th Company on 17th November 1861. Additionally entitled to the Turkish Crimea Medal only. His brother, Private William Gingell, Royal Marines, had seen service in Russian War in the Baltic.