Crimean War

Set of revisions cards on the Crimean war. Information ranges from the causes of the war, events during the war, and finally effects of the war diplomatically and upon British society. 

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Causes of the Crimean War

With the decline of the Ottoman Empire the Tsar of Russia, Nicholas I, wanted to take advantage and 'carve up the Turkish Empire'. The Empire was appealing to the Tsar because it provided ice-free ports and access to the Meditteranean. Arguments arose about who held the keys to the 'Church of the Holy Sepulchre' in Bethlehem. The French and British supported the Catholics whereas Russians were in favour of the Orthodox monks. In 1852 the Turkish Sultan decided to support the Catholic monk's claim.

  • 1853- Tsar sent Prince Menshivok to 'maintain the priviledges of Orthodox Christians'. Arrived to find Turkish suppressing a revolt in Christian Montenegro and Menshivok simply added the withdrawal of Turkish troops to his demands
  • To encourage the Sultan's cooperation the Russian government announced it would occupy Moldova and Wallachia unless they complied. 
  • Behind the scenes the British ambassador, Lord Stratford de Redcliffe, had been encouraging the Sultan to reject Russian demands. 
  • 15th June 1853 a combined French and British fleet was send to the Dardanelles to show solidarity with Turkey.
  • July 1853: Tsar ordered Russian troops to occupy Moldavia and Wallachia
  • On the 5th October 1853 bouyed up by the expectation that Britain and France would help him rather than see the Turkish Empire collapse the Sultan declared war on Russia. 
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Britain declares war!

On 5th April 1854, the first contingent of British troops arrived at the Dardanelles and disembarked at Gallipoli where there French troops had already arrived. As more and more troops arrived they were first moved to Constantinople and then to Scutari.

In the middle of May, as the weather grew hotter, Lord Raglan and the French and Turkish commanders, agreed that the Anglo-French force should sail to the Black sea port of Varna and easily move to relieve the Russian siege of Silistria (a strategically important town on the River Danube). On 28th May British and French troops moved to Varna and by mid-June the Russian troops were in retreat. By mid-July they were safetly back over the River Pruth. 

At this point the war could've ended, as Russia was no longer a threat to the Turkish Empire, however the allied governments had decided and convinced themselves that the naval base of Sebastopol had to be taken and the Russian fleet destroyed. 

The war was outstandingly popular and on 23rd June the British government ordered Lord Raglan to invade the Crimea.

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The Battle of Alma

22nd September 1854:

The Russian commander Menshikov decided not to tattack the British and Frecnh during their first day of their march south and instead he and his troops took positions on high ground south of the River Alma. 

British and French commanders halted their troops close to the water, ready for the inevitable battle, and it was here that cholera began to take its toll on the allied armies. 

63,000 Allied troops in comparison to 33,000 Russian troops. 

Raglan had no idea of the size and strength of the Russian forces that would oppose him, and seemed to have forgotten the crucial nature of the first battle in the war. 

On 20th September at 1pm the British advance began and, coming under heavy fire, they halted to see how the French effort had developed. Informed that the French needed help Raglan ordered him men to advance and they captured the Great Redoubt and the Russians retreated against the strenght of two British nine-pounder guns. 

Russians lost 5700 men. British suffered 1500 and the French lost just under 1000. 

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Battle of Balaclava

The Russians, commanded by Menshikov and desperate to break the siege at Sebastopol began to advance with 25,000 men on the British supply base at Balaclava. 

Thin Red Line:

On the 25th October the Russian calvary advance on Balaclava was halted by the 93rd Highland regiment. Traditionally when infantry faced a cavalry charge they formed up into a square but their tought commander Sir Colin Campbell formed his men into a long line, two deep. The 93rd Highland regiment halted the advance, leaving them to be routed out by Lucan's Heavy Brigade.

Charge of the Light Brigade:

Raglan sends Captain Nolan, a swift and strong rider, to give Lord Lucan (cavalry commander) to stop the Russians removing captured cannons from the battlefield. Captain Nolan's verbal explanation led to Lord Lucan sending the Light Brigade up the wrong valley against the wrong guns. This led to a huge military disaster in which the men were remembered for their bravery and the commanders but their stupidity.  


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Russian Winter 1854-55

The British and French troops did not only have to face the Russian troops but they also had to contend with the horrors of the Russian Winter. 

  • They didn't have enough food or suitable supplies 
  • Lacked suitable clothing and accomadation 

Russel, the reporter, wasn't present during the Russian Winter and so his reports about them were not experienced first hand. 

Raglan: Wasn't prepared for the Russian Winter. Had not taken the necessary measures to keep up the morale of the troops and rarely showed himself to them.

Weather: Tents were blown to shreds and a terrible storm led to the loss of many ships (including the HMS Prince)

Admiral Boxer: The harbour was a place of chaos and he often turnef away supply ships into storms as the harbour wasn't run efficiently. His leadership led to lots of the supplied food rotting. 

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Reporting the War

Roger Fenton:

He was one of the first war photographers and was from the upper classes (therefore he could sometimes relate to the higher up people in the army). He was urged to go to the war by powerful friends and patrons, for example Prince Albert, emphasising very much that his representations may be published for a particular reason/objective. He was also only in the Crimea from the 8th March until 22nd June 1854 and therefore wasn't present for the Russian Winter. It could be argued that he was sent to offset the often negative critical reporting of William Howard Russel. He also had technological drawbacks of photography at the time. 

William H Russel:

He was a reporter for the Times newspaper, sent without permission of the government as well as the army. His results exposed the appaling conditions and he was AntI-Turk as well as Anti-French. Also he was absent for most of the appalling winter of 1854-1855 as well as being quite an anti-establishment person. 

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Medical Services

In February 1853 the Army Medical Department and the Ordnance Medical Department were joined into department under Dr Andrew Smith, who had a small staff. The services had no stretchers or wagons to transport the wounded to camp. As well as this a major base hospital was established in Scutari which could accomadate 6000 men. 

In the Crimea the main form of treatment was amputation of shattered limbs, which came with a 25% likelihood death from shock or infection. Anaesthesia in the form of either ether or chloroform was used but its impact was limited. With the bad sanitation there was always the ever present risk of infection. 


Hundreds of men camped in the open with barely a change of clothing and had to face the appaling weather, so they were prey to many diseases. Lack of washing facilities led to lice infestation and typhoid. 

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Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale led a expedition of 34 women to Scutari and is renowned for her caring personality and nursing expertise of the time, remembered even today. She was a symbol of hope for the soldiers, walking 16km each night and sending personal letters home to the families of those whom died under her care. 

However it is disputed whether or not she indeed had such a huge effect upon the medical services in the Crimea. Although it is true that the death rate reduced from 42 per 1000 in March 1855 to 2 per 1000 In June this could be down to a variety of different changes that occured (including the change of season, as well as the arrival of the sanitary commission). Many claimed that she spent too much time with the dying rather than those who still had chance to survive. 

Hugh Small's Nightingale:

Hugh Small launched a investigation into Florence Nightingale and discovers that in mid 1857 Nightingale removed herself from public life (perhaps realising her impact on health care wasn't as positive as the country made it out to be). 

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Mary Seacole

She was a Jamaican born woman of Scottish and Creole descent. When she applied to go help the war effort she was refused by the war effort, and so she had to fund her own  way to the Crimean independently. 

When she arrived in the Crimea she set up a "British Hotel" behind the lines. 

She was unique as she was there after all the major battles tending to the sick and the wounded, for example she was the first to enter Sebastopol when it fell in 1855 to tend to the wounded. 

She had volunteered to join Florence Nightingale's team of nurses, along with a letter of recommendation however she was refused (despite Nightingale having a distinct lack of nurses). 

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Peace Treaty

In 1856 when the war was ended and peace was achieved the following the followings terms were imposed:

  • Russia retained Sebastopol, Balaclava and all areas occupied by the Allies
  • The Black sea was to be neutralised; no naval bases or arsenals were to be maintained on its shores and no ships of war could enter the Black sea through the Bosphorus. 
  • The River Danube was made an international waterway
  • Sultan declared he was prepared to improve the conditions of all Christians within the Ottoman Empire. 
  • Turkish sovereignty over the Danubian principalities was guaranteed by the Great Powers, and the principaltieis were to be grouped into a new state called Romania. 
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Impacts of the war

Nursing: -Nightingale Fund: Sidney Herbert exploited the wave of national enthusiasm that was a result of what they beleived Nightingale achieved at Scutari. On the 29th November 1855 he launched a national appeal for subscriptions to the 'Nightingale Fund'. His aim was to raise enough money to improve the standard of female nursing. Money flooded in and as a result Nightingale was able to set up the Nightingale training school at St Thomas' Hospital in London in 1860 (The first secular nursing school in the world). 

Cardwell Army Reforms : Various military departments were combined under one roof- the war office. The country was divided into local regimental districts and the length of overseas service was cut from twelve years to six. The purchase of Commission was abolished and replaced with a system of promotion through merit. 

Civil Service Reforms: Brought about the abolition of patronage and corruption as well as innefficiency. It may have angered the aristocracy but it promoted equality of opportunity and made a cheaper, more efficient government. 

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