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Albion’s crew honour the ‘last’ British sailor killed in the Baltic during the Crimean War

1 June 2023
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For the second time in four years, crew of the nation’s amphibious flagship remembered a solitary sailor killed in the Crimean War.

The headless body of Leading Seaman George Quinnell was laid to rest on Isosaari, one of the outlying islands on the approaches to the Finnish capital Helsinki.

Although the 1854-56 conflict with Russia is best remembered for the fighting around Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula which gave the war its name, the conflict also extended to the Baltic.

British and French warships spent a year besieging and attacking Russian’s principal ports and naval bases, including Kronstadt near St Petersburg, and especially Helsinki – Finland was then under tsarist rule.

In June 1855, steam-powered frigate HMS Amphion was sent to reconnoitre the defences of the Finnish capital – in particular the fortress island of Sveaborg (today known as Suomenlinna and one of the country’s main tourist attractions).

The frigate drew heavy fire from several batteries in Helsinki’s forts before returning to the fleet’s anchorage, where shipmates found George Quinnell dead at Amphion’s helm; a cannonball had decapitated him. Records suggest he’s the last British Serviceman buried on Finnish soil in the 1854-56 war which ended the February after his death.

Originally from Sussex, Quinnell had joined the Royal Navy aged 18, served with distinction and earned promotion to leading seaman and a draft to HMS Amphion.

The ship was part of a combined force dispatched to the Baltic in 1854 involving more than 20,000 men.

Albion’s chaplain, the Rev Andrew Paul led around 20 people – members of Albion’s ship’s company headed by Commanding Officer Captain Marcus Hember, representatives from the British Embassy in Helsinki and Finnish Navy – in a service marking George Quinnell’s life before wreaths were placed on his grave, which stands on its own in a clearing on the southeast side of Isosaari.

The service was one of the more sombre moments during Albion’s visit to Helsinki – her latest port of call on her spring deployment to the Baltic which culminates with her participation in the largest NATO exercise held in these waters, Baltops.

The Devonport-based ship was alongside for sufficient time in the Finnish capital to open her gangway to the city’s inhabitants, welcoming more than 1,000 aboard.

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