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Hazard in Circassia (The Phillip Hazard Novels #5)

Hazard in Circassia (The Phillip Hazard Novels #5)

by V. A. Stuart

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To break the stalemate in the Crimea, the British must search for unlikely help among the self-reliant mountain people of Circassia. Commander Phillip Hazard of HMS Huntress is dispatched with a select handful of his crew to seek out the guerrilla leader Serfir Pasha and win him over as an ally.


To break the stalemate in the Crimea, the British must search for unlikely help among the self-reliant mountain people of Circassia. Commander Phillip Hazard of HMS Huntress is dispatched with a select handful of his crew to seek out the guerrilla leader Serfir Pasha and win him over as an ally.

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"Stuart tells a story so well, with such convincing detail, that Phillip Hazard may stand on the same proud deck as Horatio Hornblower."  —Ships Monthly

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McBooks Press
Publication date:
Phillip Hazard Novels Series , #5
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Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)

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Hazard in Circassia

The Phillip Hazard Novels, No. 5

By V. A. Stuart

McBooks Press, Inc.

Copyright © 1973 Vivian Stuart
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-59013-062-9


The two Allied squadrons which composed the expedition to Kertch came to anchor off Cape Takli in thick fog, some fifteen miles from the beach at Kamish -Bourno, at which it had been planned to set the troops ashore.

Phillip Horatio Hazard, commanding Her Majesty's steam-screw sloop Huntress, of 14 guns, stood with one foot braced against the weather hammock netting and his glass to his eye. Since sunrise, when the fog had started to clear, there had been a constant to-ing and fro-ing of boats between the Royal Albert, flying the flag of Rear-Admiral Lyons, and the Montebello, flying that of Vice-Admiral Bruat, and now he saw the French flagship was preparing to weigh anchor. Two other French ships, both frigates with troops on board, had already left the anchorage and set course, not, as might have been expected, for Kamish Burun, but to the south-west, as if their intention were to return to Sebastopol, and Phillip was puzzled.

The Huntress had been on patrol off the Circassian coast between Soujak and Anapa and, on instructions from Captain Moore of the Highflyer, senior British naval officer in the Strait, she had gone in company with the Spitfire to the rendezvous of the two Allied squadrons, in order to report the result of her observation of the enemy's movements, at first hand, to Admiral Lyons. The two squadrons had reached the rendezvous in the late afternoon and, soon after the arrival of the first ship, the fog had rolled in, shrouding the anchorage in a swirling white blanket of mist and causing some delay. Captain Spratt of the Spitfire had duly delivered his letters to the Royal Albert, but Phillip had not, as yet, been summoned to make his report. He had watched, in growing bewilderment, as a small French steamer had loomed suddenly out of the mist, coming from the direction of Sebastopol and, with scant regard for the danger of the prevailing conditions, had passed swiftly between the lines of anchored and still moving ships. Scarcely waiting until her own paddle-wheels ceased churning, she had sent a boat to the Montebello and shortly afterwards — although the fog was as dense as ever — the to-ing and fro-ing had begun.

The Montebello's barge had taken the French Commanderin-Chief, with his staff and what appeared, in the dimness, to be a number of army officers, to the Royal Albert, and Rear-Admiral Houston Stewart had followed them when the Hannibal came to anchor, an hour or so later. The boats had remained alongside the British flagship until long after the fog had been succeeded by darkness, and since sunrise — when the Spiteful made an unexpected appearance from Sebastopol — boats and barges had been going back and forth between the flagships, with both naval and military officers crowded into the sternsheets.

Now, however, it seemed to the anxiously watching Phillip, whatever sudden emergency had been causing the expedition's commanders such concern had been resolved, although with precisely what result it was impossible to say. Unless ... frowning, he watched the Montebello cat her bower anchor, saw her screw start to rotate and, slowly and majestically, she moved out from the anchorage, her course — like that of the two frigates which had preceded her — south-westerly.

"She's heading back to Kamiesch!" A voice exclaimed at his elbow. Phillip turned, lowering his Dollond, as his brother Graham, now acting as his First Lieutenant, crossed the quarterdeck to join him. Since the restoration of his commission, Graham Hazard had been a changed personality, and their relationship — although, as Captain of the Huntress, Phillip still outranked him — had now been established on a new and happier footing. Not quite as it had been during their boyhood, of course ... Graham was the elder by seven years, and those lost years, when he had drifted round the world, sometimes as an officer but more often as a seaman in the merchant service, had left their mark on him and, no doubt, would never be completely erased. But he was an efficient, conscientious, and very able First Lieutenant, under whose taut but always just administration the ship's company had shaken down in a manner Phillip had despaired of when Ambrose Quinn had been his second-in-command.

He shrugged and said, answering his brother's shocked observation, "So it would seem — and, by the look of things, the rest of the French squadron's about to follow her."

Graham lifted his own glass to his eye and subjected the slowly moving three-decker to a lengthy scrutiny. "No signal ... nothing. That's odd. What do you make of it, Phillip? Surely the French can't be leaving us to take Kertch on our own?"

Phillip repeated his shrug. "At a guess, I'd say they were. The Mouette joined in the most almighty hurry last evening, just after you handed over the deck to Anthony Cochrane ... she had her gig out and pulling across to the French flagship almost before she'd lost way. And I'm not sure, but I thought I recognized Fred Maxse in the Spiteful's boat this morning, which suggests that Lord Raglan may have sent a despatch to our Admiral. He would scarcely have done that if all was as it should be, I'm afraid. Besides, you know General Canrobert, do you not? His indecision is becoming proverbial, so it's not beyond the bounds of possibility that he has changed his mind concerning the usefulness of sending a flotilla into the Sea of Azoff."

"Perdition take him!" Graham exclaimed. "At this stage, when we're in sight of our objective? I find it hard to believe — even of Robert Can't!"

"Nevertheless I very much fear he has," Phillip told him flatly. "As to the lateness of the hour, you surely haven't forgotten how he changed his mind when we had cleared for action, ready to bombard the Sebastopol sea forts, last October? I'd say that he's quite capable of countermanding this attack. He's never been in favour of it, according to Jack Lyons."

"By God, I hope you're wrong, Phillip!"

"So do I. But the fact that the Admiral has not yet summoned me to report on the Circassian coastal forts does suggest that there has been some change of plan and ... as you can see" — Phillip pointed — "the Lucifer and the Megère are under way now. And Sedaiges of the Lucifer was supposed to be Jack's second-in-command, was he not?"

They watched in dismayed silence as the two French frigates, their decks swarming with blue-uniformed infantrymen, steamed past in the wake of the Montebello. Both had been designated to form part of the Allied steam squadron which, under Jack Lyons's command, had been under orders to enter the Sea of Azoff when Kertch was taken. This would just about break Jack's heart, Phillip thought. He and the Admiral had worked with such dedicated determination to ensure that the operation they had — as long ago as last December — termed "The Spring Offensive," should be carried out without a hitch when the time came. And now it was already May ... he sighed, and Graham, guessing his thoughts, turned from his contemplation of the departing ships and gave a rueful shrug.

"I fear you are right, Phillip — there is something up. Dammit, I suppose it will be back to blockade duties and coastal patrols for us — if we're not ferrying troops — and we can kiss good-bye to any hope of action. I feel almost inclined to volunteer for service with the Naval Brigade on shore, if that's all that lies before us." He spoke with so much feeling that Phillip turned to stare at him in surprise.

"You're not serious, are you?"

"About volunteering for the Naval Brigade? Well ..." Graham hesitated and then shook his head. "No, not really. I'm disappointed, even frustrated, at the thought of turning tail and leaving the enemy in undisputed possession of the whole of the Azoff coast. It's a natural reaction, and every man in this convoy will share it, I imagine, if that's really what we're going to do. But is it? Don't you think the Admiral might make an attempt to take Kertch without the infernal French?"

"He has too few troops," Phillip said regretfully. "I don't see how he can, alas, but ..." He broke off as the Officer of the Watch sang out a warning from the port side of the quarterdeck.

"Signal from the Flag, sir." The young mate, Robin Grey, now confirmed in his acting rank and taking a regular watch, read the signal hoist with swift competence. "General signal for all Captains to repair on board, sir. Shall I call away your gig?"

"If you please, Mr Grey," Phillip turned back to his brother with a wry smile. "Well we shall soon know, shall we not? I see Captain Keppel's smartly away" — he gestured to starboard, where the fine two-decker, St Jean d'Acre, of 101 guns, lay at anchor, dwarfing the clumsy, paddle-wheel steam frigates ahead and astern of her — "If anyone can persuade the Admiral to carry on without the French it will be Keppel! He must have had his gig in the water as soon as he got here, waiting for the signal ... and Lord Clarence Paget is after him. With those two as advocates, we may see action after all."

"Indeed we may," Graham agreed, his expression more cheerful. They descended to the entry port together and, as the side party came to attention, Phillip lowered himself into his waiting gig, taking his place in the sternsheets beside the boat commander, Midshipman Sean O'Hara, who gave the order to cast off in a high-pitched treble. The fog was clearing quite rapidly now, with the warmth of the sun and a lively offshore breeze and, as they joined a procession of boats all pulling in the direction of the flagship, O'Hara's sharp eyes spied a Cossack patrol, keeping observation from the high ground on the western side of the Cape.

"D'you see the bounders, sir?" He pointed, both tone and manner the cool, faintly contemptuous reaction of a veteran, to whom Cossack videttes were no novelty. At an age when most of his contemporaries were still schoolboys, the fourteenyear-old O'Hara — whose voice, to his impotent annoyance, had only recently started to break — had twice tried conclusions with roving bands of Cossack cavalry and had, on both occasions, distinguished himself. Phillip's mouth twitched as the youngster added belligerently, "They're in for quite a shock, sir, aren't they, when they realize that we intend to take Kertch?"

"It's to be hoped they are, Mr O'Hara." Phillip's reply was deliberately non-committal and the midshipman glanced at him in mute question, the eager light fading from his eyes when his glance elicited no further information. But he was too well trained to press the point, and only when he brought the gig alongside the Royal Albert's starboard chains did he venture a diffident, "Good luck, sir," as an indication that, even if he did not understand the reason for his commander's evasiveness, he did not resent it. They would evidently need more than luck, however, Phillip decided, when he joined his fellow commanders in the Admiral's stateroom and glimpsed the glum expressions on the faces of those who had preceded him. The Admiral himself looked pale and strained; beside him, Sir George Brown, to whom command of the military part of the operation had been entrusted, was giving forcible vent to his feelings in a somewhat one -sided conversation with Sir Colin Campbell and Colonel Ainslie of the 93rd. Phillip caught the word "Canrobert" uttered as if it were an oath and then his attention was drawn to a group of senior officers of his own Service, who were subjecting Frederick Maxse — naval liaison officer to Lord Raglan — to a spate of questions which, apparently, he was unable to answer. Both Captain Keppel — his one-time commander in his midshipman days — and Captain Lord Clarence Paget of the Princess Royal were in this group and his heart sank as he heard the red-haired little Keppel say bitterly, "That's it, then. But I tell you, they'd run as soon as they saw our to'gallant masts above the horizon — they wouldn't stay to fight!"

There was a deep-voiced murmur of agreement, which died to expectant silence when Admiral Lyons moved to the head of the long table. "If you will be seated, gentlemen," he requested quietly. "I will endeavour to explain the situation in which we, most unhappily, have been placed. As some of you will have observed, General Canrobert sent a despatch steamer after us, with orders to Admiral Bruat to return to Kamiesch immediately, with the ships under his command and the troops they are carrying. The reason given for this change of plan was, I understand from Admiral Bruat, the fact that the General received urgent instructions by electric telegraph from the Emperor Napoleon, requiring him to bring up the French Reserve Corps from the Bosphorus without a single day's delay." There was another loud and concerted murmur of shocked protest from the assembled Captains, but the Admiral, his voice stern and controlled, went on, "Needless, I feel sure, to tell you, gentlemen, we" — his raised hand indicated the two British Generals seated on either side of him — "we did everything in our power to persuade Admiral Bruat and General D'Autemarre to continue with us to the selected landing beach at Kamish -Bourno and, at least, set the French troops ashore, to enable us to take possession of Kertch."

"And they refused, sir?" Lord Clarence Paget asked incredulously. "They're returning to Sebastopol?"

Admiral Lyons bowed his head in reluctant assent. "I observed to them that General Canrobert had not sent us the text of the message from Paris, nor had he clearly defined it or ventured to say that Lord Raglan agreed with him in his interpretation of it. I assured Admiral Bruat that, were I in his place, I would unhesitatingly go on in the conviction that the Emperor, if he were on the spot and aware of our plans for this expedition, would undoubtedly command it. I observed, too, that it appeared from the statement of the officer who brought General Canrobert's letter that Lord Raglan had declined to write to me by him, which showed clearly that his lordship had no wish to see the expedition return. But ..." he spread his hands in a gesture of resignation, "although the Admiral, after lengthy discussion, agreed to give the matter a night's reflection, he and General D'Autemarre came on board early this morning and they both said, to me and to General Brown, that they considered it their duty to obey this order. Do not, I beg you, gentlemen, attach any blame to my gallant colleague. Admiral Bruat has worked heart and hand with me to bring about this enterprise and it was evident that his decision to abandon it was reached with extreme reluctance. As he reminded me during our discussion, he is entirely under the orders of the Commander of the French Land Forces and, although it was most painful to him, he deemed it his inescapable duty to obey the instructions received yesterday evening, since these came not only from General Canrobert but, in fact, directly from the Emperor."

Again there was a chorus of outraged voices, but Admiral Lyons wearily silenced them. "You remarked, my dear Henry," he said, addressing Captain Keppel, "that the enemy had but to see our to'gallant masts over the horizon and they would not stay to fight ... and I should dearly like to put your contention to the test, believe me. Unhappily I have received a letter from Captain Moore, who, as you know, has had Kertch under constant observation since early in April. It was delivered to me this morning by Captain Spratt of the Spitfire and you may read it, if you wish." He motioned to his secretary, who laid the letter on the table in front of him. "There it is. In it, Captain Moore agrees with Colonel Desaint and Major Gordon, of the French and English Engineers, in thinking the moment very propitious for an attack, but all three officers recommend that it should not be undertaken with less than ten thousand men. And we have only two and a half thousand ... in addition, a considerable portion of the French troops are being carried in our ships-of-the-line, as Admiral Bruat reminded me. He also reminded me that it was of the utmost importance to preserve our unity of action, and the good feeling which has hitherto existed between the two fleets and the two armies, and said that he took it for granted that we would not separate from him."


Excerpted from Hazard in Circassia by V. A. Stuart. Copyright © 1973 Vivian Stuart. Excerpted by permission of McBooks Press, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

V. A. Stuart wrote several series of military fiction and numerous other novels under various pseudonyms. Her settings span history and the globe, from the Napoleonic wars of Europe to India under the British Raj. Born in 1914, she was in Burma with the British Fourteenth Army, became a lieutenant, and was decorated with the Burma Star and the Pacific Star.

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