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The Diary of William Jowett

The Diary of William Jowett

This diary and the associated collection of letters, written by Sergeant William Jowett to describe his experiences fighting in the Crimean War is an extremely interesting - and historically important - document and deserves a wider audience than it has so far received. Except for a few copies in private hands and, it is rumoured, a leather-bound copy in the Royal collection, perhaps the most accessible copy that is available is a fragile copy in the Local Studies collection at Angel Row, Nottingham. Now, encouraged by the enthusiasm of Andy Bywater and, more recently, a contact by Ruth Jowett - both with connections to William's line - I have provided a transcript here to reach the wider audience it deserves.

Despite little or no formal education, William taught himself to read and write as a young adult and, as will be seen, was able to develop a vivid and coherent writing style that provides what is possibly a unique account of what a soldier's life was like - facing both the Russian enemy they went to the Crimean to defeat and the unexpected enemies of cold, disease and misery they faced as a result of maladministration and failure of command from the Army they served in. Despite everything, he was unwavering in his loyalty and his caring thoughts for his family and friends and steadfast in his faith. It is, indeed, an inspiring and touching story.

William and three more of the five men from Beeston who fought in the Crimea, died, some, like William, of wounds and - like the majority - others of disease caused by the conditions they found themselves in. With feelings aroused back in Beeston - as in towns and villages across Britain - by reports from the front, it seems that the diary - published immediately following his death by a Beeston bookseller, become a catalyst for local action to perpetuate their memory. The Crimean War memorial - almost unique of its type - survives today to remind us of Jowett and his colleagues' sacrifice.

And, it seems, it had its effect beyond Beeston. The Second Edition - which is transcribed here - includes letters which indicate that it had been read and appreciated far beyond Beeston - even by Florence Nightingale herself. Perhaps this diary, written by a soldier from Beeston, made a contribution to the changes which needed to be made after the organisational disaster of the Crimean Campaign.

Preamble & Introduction

(Cover and Title Pages)


Memoir and Diary
Seventh Royal Fusiliers

Diary of
Sergeant William Jowett
of the Seventh Fusiliers
Written During the Crimean War
To Which is added
A Brief Memoir

Let not ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys and destiny obscure,
Nor grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the poor

Published By
R. Porter, Bookseller, Beeston, Nottinghamshire



In preparing the second issue of this little work, the Publisher gladly avails himself of the opportunity this afforded of tendering his sincere thanks to those friends of selfimprovement, who (perceiving his object in bringing this truthful narrative before the public) secured for the first issue a demand far beyond his most sanguine expectations.

Having received and obtained permission to publish, another valuable Testimonial to the character of Sergeant Jowett - and that, too from an individual whose name fell in grateful accents from his dying lips - we here insert it.

30, Old Burlington Street, London.

Sir, - The Diary of Sergeant Jowett, published by you, has interested me extremely. I knew the man (though he was but for a very short time in the Hospitals nursed by us). He was a good, but by no means unusual, specimen of the manly English soldier.

P.p. 41-50, and the letter at p.59, are a type of the qualities which distinguish our men; of their good sense, heroic simplicity, and indomitable unmurmuring patience under prolonged suffering. Others may have ranted and canted about the Crimean war - our men never did.

I have sent copies of this Diary to a great many people; among others interested in English education generally, to the Dean of Hereford, the Bishop of Bath and Wells, Mr Godolphin Osborne, and Mr Best. Among those interested more particularly in Military education, to the Chaplain General, the Senior Chaplain at the Camp at Aldershot, and also to the Royal Military Asylum, at Chelsea. All have been strongly interested in the simple, manly telling of a sad story;

I remain, Sir,
Your Obedt. Servt.,

Mr Robert Porter,
Beeston, Notts.


The reader of the accompanying Diary need scarcely be informed that it was not written for publication: the sole object of the writer being his own improvement and the instruction of his relatives and private friends. About to leave his native country in a service the most exciting and dangerous - that of planting the standard of his beloved Queen in the soil of a foreign foe - where climate, scenery, inhabitants, their language, manners and customs, would all be new to him, and frequently in striking contrast with everything he had before witnessed, he readily adopted, at the suggestion of a friend, the method of transmitting to paper, daily, every extraordinary appearance and occurrence which came under his observation: by way of improving himself in writing and composition, strengthening his memory, keeping him from less eligible pursuits, and enabling him (should he survive the hardships and dangers to which he was exposed) to instruct and interest those most dear to him, on his return. "His path of glory led but to the grave" - thus depriving his friends of much information which he had in store for them; and as they cannot, together.

Sit by their fires and talk the night away
Weep o’er his wounds, alike untir’d to stay
Whilst he, for want of sword or deadly gun,
Shoulders his crutch to show how fields were won

The publication of his Diary appears their only compensation. A brief account of his early life and parentage is added, in order to connect his history from the cradle to the grave - under the impression that it will depict the natural development of a mind regulated by independence, and self-reliance, in mental and moral culture, not beneath the genial influence of a good education or the smile of fortune, but under the most adverse and depressing circumstances.

For Knowledge, to his eyes, her ample page.
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne’er unroll;
Chill penury repressed his noble rage,
And froze the genial current of his soul.

Beeston, Nov. 2, 1856.

The copy in The Local Studies Library in Nottingham was donated on January 10 1857, by Mr Richard Barlow of New Chilwell, Notts.
The book was publised by Mr R Porter, a bookseller with premises on High Road, Beeston.