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Miss Nightingale Grieves to Say...

Among the soldiers who took part in the Crimean War was Howell Evans, the son of one of the tenants of the Glaspant estate in northwest Carmarthenshire. The date of his enlistment is not known, but the letter printed below shows that he was a Gunner and Driver in Number 1 Company, 12th Battalion, Royal Artillery. In June 1855 he was posted as "missing". His parents were alarmed at receiving no news of their son and finally asked their landlady, Mrs Howell of Glaspant, to assist them. Accordingly, Mrs Howell wrote direct to Florence Nightingale as it was possible that Howell was in a hospital, or had come to her attention in some way. It is clear that Miss Nightingale went to some trouble in the matter and her reply, written in her own hand, indicates the extent of her humanity and concern. I am grateful to Mr Harry Howell, J.P., of Glaspant, Newcastle Emlyn, for permission to reproduce the letter. Francis Jones, County Archivist.

General Hospital, Baleclava.
May 20/56

It is with very sincere sorrow that I am obliged to confirm the fears of the father of the late Howell Evans about his poor son.

I grieve to say that Gunner & Driver Howell Evans, of No 1 Company, 12th Battalion, Royal Artillery, was struck off the strength of this Army, June 29/55, as having been "missing since February 6/55 ".

His Company was in the Siege Train and went home in February/56. It is now at Woolwich. His father had better apply at the Office of the 12th Battalion. No trace of the missing man being obtainable here.

To you, Madam, I will say that, after the most diligent inquiry, it appears to the Commanding Officer of the unfortunate man & to myself, from the evidence, to be feared that Howell Evans is a deserter.

To the father, I would say, (if on enquiry at the above address it appears that nothing more is to be learnt,) that I regret very much that I am unable to send him any of those particulars concerning his son which it is natural that he should wish to hear, but though I have made every enquiry in my power, I am unable to do more than send him the sad certainty of his death. (for I would fain put it so.)

Although it be impossible to us to retain particulars of the deaths of all those brave soldiers, who have died in the service of their country, during that fearful winter, it is a comfort to me, who have seen so much of their patient suffering, to remember that no one is forgotten by the Father of us! I trust it will be a comfort to the father to remember that all are in His hands. I doubt not he has suffered much from painful uncertainty concerning his poor son. Let him, (if no farther news is to be obtained, know that he now is at rest from all cares, & sorrows of this world. May he be supported to bear them, till it please God that those who have been separated by death shall meet again in the better life to come.

I have never had so painful & unsatisfactory a letter to write. I beg to remain, Madam,

Your obedt servt

Florence Nightingale.

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