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Fanny Duberly

(1829 - 1903)

I have often prayed that I may "wear  out my life, and not rust it out," and it may be that my dreams and aspirations will be realised 

Fanny (Frances Isabella) Duberly was the epitome of the Victorian heroine, whose courage, intelligence and determination set her apart from the majority of men who travelled alongside her. Though she was raised in a culture which frowned on women risking their lives in foreign places, Fanny managed to express her joie de vivre by marrying Captain Henry Duberly, an officer in the dashing 8th Hussars. Thanks to the lax military restrictions of the day, in 1855 Fanny was able to accompany her husband and his regiment when they went into battle in the Crimean War. Despite the dangers from cholera which slew thousands around her, having ridden through cannon fire and having witnessed the “charge of the Light Brigade,” the indomitable young woman was the only officer’s wife who stayed with the army during the length of that brutal campaign. It was while she was still camped in the Crimea that her first book became a runaway best-seller.

 

Yet not long after Fanny had returned to England, alongside Henry and his regiment, the Hussars were ordered to sail to India in order to help suppress the Sepoy Rebellion which had broken out in 1857. Having already survived enough hardships to make a marine weep, upon arriving in India the indomitable Fanny saddled her horse and proceeded to make an extraordinary journey alongside the English army. This superb horsewoman rode sidesaddle nearly 2,000 miles through the deserts of western India, all the while surviving 120 degree heat and Indian ambushes. Fanny’s suffering, especially when the army doctor was forced to perform a crude operation on the young woman, was extreme.

 

Perhaps because she was no stranger to hardship, Fanny Duberly welded an extraordinarily bold pen. She lashed incompetent British generals when they allowed their men to die in droves in the Crimea. She revealed the secrets of Indian harems. She regaled her readers with a fascinating mixture of terrors, adventures, secrets, everyday events and ferocious characters. She was what many women dreamed of being and few men dared emulate.

 

In an age which normally prided itself on restricting a woman’s choices, Fanny Duberly was an icon of bravery, talent and individuality. This is the first time her two travel books have been published simultaneously.

 

Please click here to read a superb review of Crimean Journal which was published in the February 2007 issue of the Royal Geographical Society's magazine, Geographical.

Crimean Journal

With a foreword by John Barham.

ISBN 1590482352

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In this modern age we would call her an embedded journalist, a news reporter who is attached to a military unit involved in an armed conflict. Yet English society in the 1850s encouraged women to act demurely and stay at home, not follow their husbands into combat. Even if Fanny Duberly, the unorthodox author of this best-selling book, noticed that her actions were raising disapproving Victorian eyebrows, that didn’t stop her from riding straight into one of the most brutal wars of the 19th century.

Fanny Duberly was just twenty-five when her husband, Captain Henry Duberly, and his unit, the 8th Royal Irish Hussars, were ordered into battle. Rather than remain at home, the avid horsewoman announced that she was packing her side-saddle and going with Henry to Russia’s Crimean Peninsula. The intrepid amateur war correspondent spent the next two years camped alongside her husband and his troops during the course of their brutal campaign.

What she saw and recorded in letters home to her sister shocked the English world, for there was little glory but plenty of death. Cholera slew elite officers and lowly enlisted men alike. Horses starved. The wounded lay untended. The dead went unburied. Allies argued. Incompetence was rampant. The Crimea was hell for men and indescribable for a woman on her own. Yet against the odds, Fanny Duberly rode through it all. She witnessed the battle of Balaklava, explored the ruins of captured Sebastopol, dined with lords, drank with soldiers and watched the ill-fated charge of the noble Light Brigade.

No account of the Crimean War neglects to mention this courageous lady and her own recollections were turned into a historically accurate book which was published while the author was still risking her life in Russia.

Rescued now from an undeserved oblivion, “Crimean Journal,” tells how cities fell and nations argued, while half a million soldiers died in a bitter and largely forgotten conflict. Though no great military male figures emerged, two remarkable women are remembered. Florence Nightingale made her reputation improving the medical needs of soldiers and Fanny Duberly penned this vivid eye witness account of an unnecessary war. Fascinating, remarkable, courageous, mysterious, sympathetic, Fanny Duberly was the Victorian heroine deluxe and this is the true story of her astonishing adventure.

Click here to go to Amazon.co.uk or Barnes & Noble.

 

Indian Journal

With a foreword by John Barham.

ISBN 1590482360

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was a barbarous war and is known today by various names including the Indian Mutiny or the First War for Independence. Regardless of what it’s called, the struggle which swept across India in 1857 remains a blood-soaked memory, one wherein hordes of innocent civilians were wantonly slaughtered by merciless men on both sides. Having established an economic and political stranglehold over much of India by the mid-19th century, the merchant princes who ran the British East India Company were content to enjoy their profits in faraway London. Meanwhile, they left the actual running of the various seized principalities to a mercenary army, whose officers were primarily British and whose rank and file had been recruited from a variety of Indian races and religions.

In this climate of political complacency English expansionists treated their Indian subjects with contempt. Equally damaging was the unfounded rumour stating Indian princes would be forced to marry English widows so as to ensure a Christian succession. Worst of all were the reports that Indian soldiers would be forced to bite cartridges covered in pig or cow grease, a sacrilege supposedly designed by the British to break the religious laws of Moslem and Hindu recruits. When this political powder-keg exploded, the Indian soldiers revolted and murdered European officers and civilians. Thereafter a savage war raged across India pitting vengeful Europeans against outraged Indians. The carnage was indescribable.

In the middle of this politically inspired gang war appeared the “Heroine of the Crimea,” for thus was the author of this remarkable book known. Fanny Duberly had already kept a horde of guardian angels busy watching out for her welfare as she rode beside her husband, Captain Henry Duberly, through the recently concluded Crimean War, the same conflict during which Fanny had witnessed the infamous ‘charge of the Light Brigade.’ Now, with a new war afoot and her beloved Henry called to serve, the indomitable Fanny packed her pen and sailed to India alongside her husband and his men.

Though she was a hardened campaigner, the resultant 1,800 mile equestrian journey which Fanny undertook is a feat of endurance unequalled by any other 19th century female traveller. Ordered to cross the Rajastani desert, Fanny rode alongside Henry and his hussars through a sun-baked wilderness where the midday temperatures often reached 119 degrees in the author’s tiny tent. The indomitable Fanny witnessed battles, dodged cannon balls, dined with captured maharajahs and survived a battlefield surgical procedure that left a three inch hole in her body. This book, available for the first time in many years, is the astonishing true chronicle of a brave woman whose eyewitness account of a terrible conflict still resonates throughout India today.

Click here to go to Amazon.co.uk or Barnes & Noble.

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