Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Crimea: Michael Pope, 100th Regiment, 1853-1857

Crimea: Michael Pope, 100th Regiment, 1853-1857

Bryan Perrett
Historical Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic (UK), 2004   ISBN: 978-0439981118

The son of a poor country wheelwright, Michael is one of a large number of children. There is very little food to go around, or anything else for that matter, and thus when an army recruiter comes to Michael’s village the boy sizes the opportunity to sign up. At least there will be one less mouth to feed at home and Michael will have food, clothing, and a job. Still very young but knowing music, Michael has high hopes that he will be able to become a drummer boy and then a bugler.

Michael makes it through basic training and moves on to become a drummer and begins his bugle training. He has many new things to learn, new rules to get familiar with and hardest of all is the fact that he has to accept that the general public think that soldiers are little better than criminals - unless they go to war of course.

Michael is one of the ones who is given this dubious honour, for England and France declare war on Russia on March 28th 1854 and soon enough he is heading for the Crimea. Michael and his friends all too soon find out what war is really like and they discover how disorganised everything is. Men start dying from disease due to unsanitary conditions, bad food, insufficient clothing and shelter. Then when the fighting starts more die simply because the medical facilities are so primitive. Michael is a witness to the battle at Alma and he watches with horror as the charge of the Light Brigade takes place before his eyes. Surely such an attack should never have taken place for anyone with any sense could see that the losses would be horrific. Michael begins to wonder if the powers that be know what they are doing.

Then Michael and his comrades become a part of the long siege on Sevastopol. It is a terrible time and Michael gets very ill, his life only being saved by the care and attention of Miss Nightingale and her nurses at the hospital at Scutari.

We can clearly see, through Michael’s eyes, how dreadful this war was, how badly mismanaged it was and how this mismanagement caused great loss of life and misery. At the same time we can appreciate how the hard times also brought out the best in some of the men. Michael himself risks his life to save a wounded French drummer boy and his friend Tom is awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery. We get to ‘meet’ some of leaders and principal characters who influenced the events of the war, and are given a fascinating picture of English Society in the late 1800’s.


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