Crimea Veteran’s Death at Hornsey

Hornsey Journal, 21 February 1919

The tiny band of Crimea veterans living in Hornsey has been made still smaller by the death of Mr. William Coombs. Mr Coombs went out with the expeditionary force to the Crimea as a sapper in the Royal Engineers.

He took part in the siege and capture of Sebastopol, and for this he received the Crimea medal with the Sebastopol clasp and the Turkish medal. After completing his service in the army Mr Coombs went back to his old trade of tailor which he practiced for some years at Torquay. After the loss of his wife in 1908, he came to live with his daughter, Mrs Earle, at 30, St Mary’s Road and, with the exception of an almost complete failure of eyesight in his later years, he enjoyed wonderfully good health for his age.

Three of Mr Coomb’s sons served in the late war. Two who were in the navy lost their lives, one in saving the lives of others. For this his widow received a medal. The third son, Lieut. Quartermaster Coombs, won the D.C.M. in Egypt, and is now with the army in Germany. Through an unfortunate delay attending the forwarding of a telegram, Lieut. Coombs was unable to be present at his father’s funeral.

Mr Coombs, who was in his 85th year, died on the 10th inst. after a few days illness, and was buried at the Islington Cemetery, Finchley, on Tuesday last. The officer commanding at Mill Hill barracks sent a firing party to pay the last honours to the old soldier. After the firing of the customary three volleys the bugler accompanying the party sounded the “Last Post”. Mr Coombs took a keen and intelligent interest in the war, and will be much missed by his friends, who enjoyed a chat with him. Much sympathy is felt for his daughter, Mrs Earle, who lost her husband only a few weeks ago.

Website editor’s note

The Crimean War, 1854 – 1856, was fought by Britain, France and Turkey against Russia which was attempting to take over possessions belonging to the crumbling Ottoman Empire.  The war took place on the Crimean Peninsula in the Ukraine. The Allies won a limited victory but did curb Russian expansion.  Sebastopol was the major Russian port on the Black Sea. The Allies needed to capture it in order to destroy the Russian fleet. Their siege of the town lasted from 17 October 1854 until it fell on 11 September 1855.

The British campaign became a by-word for incompetence, most famously at the costly Battle of Balaclava on 25 October 1854, when the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade was later immortalised as a magnificent act of bravery by Alfred, Lord Tennyson, in his poem of that name.

The Crimea Medal was a campaign medal approved on 15 December 1854, for issue to officers and men of British units which fought against Russia. 275,000 Turkish Crimea Medals (British version) were awarded.

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