Timothy the Tortoise: Crimean Hero & the Last Surviving Veteran of Sevastopol

(Image: Adrian Pingstone, public domain)

Believed to be around 165-years-old at the time of her death in 2004, Timothy the Tortoise arguably had the most impressive career of any land-dwelling turtle. A female despite her name, Timothy’s string of accolades included a successful maritime career that rendered her a veteran of the siege of Sevastopol and the last survivor of the Crimean War.

(Image: Illustrated London News via Robkam, public domain)

The Mediterranean Spur-thighed tortoise, born around 1839, was discovered aboard a Portuguese privateer captured by Captain John Courtenay Everard of the Royal Navy in 1854. Named Timothy, the tortoise went on to serve as mascot on a series of British ships including the first-rate ships of the line HMS Queen (pictured above in the breaker’s yard) and Princess Charlotte.

(Image: Jeannette, public domain)

Timothy (above) took retirement in 1892 and moved in with the Earl of Devon at his home Powderham Castle. On her underside was etched the family motto: “Where have I fallen? What have I done?” The tortoise’s sex was finally revealed in 1926 during unsuccessful mating attempts, although her name was never changed.

(Image: Martinevans123, public domain)

After a life spanning roughly 165 years – including at least 38 years at sea – the decorated tortoise died peacefully on April 4, 2004. Timothy was buried at Powderham Castle near her Rose Garden home, and will be remembered heroically as the only tortoise on active duty during the war in the Crimea, and most likely the only one to dig itself an air raid shelter during World War Two after feeling vibrations from bombs falling on Exeter.


About the author: Tom


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