The Crimean War

The Causes and Course of the War

  • Fought between the Russian Empire and Britain, France and the Ottoman Empire.
  • Fighting started in southern Daube region of Europe 1853. Britain got involved in 1854.
  • British and French fought the Russians in the Crimea.
  • Religious disputes; the Russians and the Ottomans were in dispute about control of the church of the holy sepulchre in Jerusalem and the position of Orthodox Christians within the Ottoman Empire
  • Territory and control; the Ottoman Empire was weakening. The Russian Tsar referred to it as the 'sick man of Europe'. Russia was interested in expanding its influence in the Southern Danube region, which was controlled by Ottomans. Britain and France wanted to prevent the Russians becoming too powerful in the Black Seas region.
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The Impact of War Reporting

First war reporting in newspapers; war reporters from eyewitnesses on ground. Enormous impact: new technology- telegraph reports reached Britain rapidly. Times; influential newspaper, largest circulation in Europe, rose during war. William Russell sent to Crimean, reports showed sympathy for situation of soldiers, attacked incompetence by army hierarchy. Criticised army medical facilities, living conditions. Following reports:problems with medical supplies, Times established 'Crimea Fund' October 1854 raise money, send supplies to Crimea. Reports;valuable information- conduct of Crimean War. Not all reliable. After 25th Nov 1854, deliberate campaign ordered by Times' editor, undermine/attack Lord Raglan. Russell didn't witness all event described in winter 1854-55, spent winter in Constantinople, relied on unnamed informants. Following editorial in The Times accusing leadership of British Army of incompetence, political crisis triggered. House of Commons;two-thirds majority-establish committee, investigate Army, work of government departments in charge of war effort. PM Lord Aberdeen resigned, replaced by Lord Palmerson. Roger Fenton's Photos: military camps/soldiers/lives/aftermath of battles. Images; unpretentious/un-heroic soldiers. October 1855 photographs exhibited in London. Limited; instructed no dead bodies/staged, nomoving people/objects. Reports/photographs engaged public in conflict; concerned about conditions. Russell's reports Times' campaign:pressure to reform officer class/organisation: after Crimean, reforms made. Times' campaign created political crisis, show power of press/public opinion

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Depictions and Remembrances of the War

Battle of Balaclava, Russian advanced on British Line. Organised in formation of two rows, 93rd Highlanders stopped Russian by firing volleys of musket shots. Watching from the hills, William Russell depicted the soldiers as the thin red line. Soldiers remembered as symbol of determination, heroism. Lord Raglan: commander-in-chief. Died in Crimea in June 1855. The Earl of Lucan: commander of calvary division. Earl of Cardigan; commander of light brigade. 

Charge of the Light Brigade; Remains infamous, controversial event. During Battle of Balaclava, Lord Raglan issued hurried, poorly explained order to Lord Lucan to charge at the Russians' guns. Lord Raglan intended Lucan to focus upon retaking British guns that the Russians had taken on Causeway Heights. Orders vague and Captain Nolan, officer in charge of delivering message to Lord Lucan, not able to clarify the order properly to Lucan. Lucan pushed ahead with the Charge, and mistakenly sent the Light Brigade down a valley where they were surrounded by Russian forces who attacked them from higher ground. The Charge of the Light Brigade has gone down in history as a horrendous military blinder accompained by astonishing heroism of ordinary soldiers. Of the 661 who set off on the charge, 113 were killed, 134 were wounded and 45 were taken prisoner: the Russian casualty rate was similar. The Light Brigade were only saved from complete destruction by a French charge.

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Medical and Nursing Provision During the Crimean W

The major British hospitals were based at Scutari, near Constantinople in Turkey. Approximately 6,000 men could be treated there. Medical provision was inadequate with only four medical assistants for every 100 soldiers: provision of medical supplies was inefficient and hospitals were insanitary and lacked washing facilities. Disease was very significant problem: of 18,058 British deaths, 1761 were directly killed by enemy action and a great deal perished because of diseases such as: typhus, typhoid, dysentery and cholera. Anaesthesia was only infrequently used.

Florence Nightingale, British nurse, arrived at Scutari in November 1854 with 38 nurses. She collected information to analyse mortality rates and introduced improvements to the water supply, organisation, cleanliness and food at Scutari. Using money from The Times Crimea Fund, Nightingales bought supplies and she acted independently of military authorities and purchased these herself. In the nineteenth century, Nightingale was turned into an iconic ideal figure and idealised as the angelic 'lady with the lamp', a ministering angel. In the twentieth century some questioned her reputation and she has been criticised for her treatment of her nurses and for not doing more to improve sanitation in Scutari.

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Medical and Nursing Provision During the Crimean W

As morality rates in the British Army remained high, Lord Padmore ordered a Sanitary Commission to inspect and try to improve the hospitals at Scutari. The Sanitary Commission arrived in March 1855 and identified continuing problems with ventilation and sanitation. The commissioners recognised what Nightingale has not, that the entire sanitation system at the Barracks Hospital at Scutari was inadequate and they ordered structural works to rectify this. Mortality rates started to drop after March 1855.

Mary Seacole was a nurse of Jamaican origin, travelled to the Crimea independently after British officials rejected her offer of assistance. Her company, Seacole and Day, established the British Hotel near Balaclava to supply provisions to the soldiers on the front line. The British Hotel was also a place where soldiers could obtain respite. Seacole had some medical knowledge and nursed soldiers on the battlefield. She wrote about her experiences in her autobiography, The Wonderful Adventures of Mrs Seacole in Many Lands in 1857. She was popular and famous in Britain in her day, but her reputation was eclipsed for many years by that of Nightingale. 

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Disorganisation and Inefficiency in the British Ar

Medical supplies of Scutari were inadequate. Basic items like bandages were locking, as were more modern innovations. In the Crimea, there was a shortage of wagons to transport the wounded to hospital and it took until early 1855 to get four hospitals ship running. British soldiers were inadequately housed: they camped in tents during the Great Storm of 14th November 1854 and during the cold winter of January-March 1855 and lacked sufficient supplies of warm clothing. During the Great Storm, the ships the Resolute and the Prince sank carrying ammunition, winter clothing and hay for horses. Supplies that did reach the Crimea were often not effectively distributed and by the time they came to be transported were sometimes no longer useable. One particular occasion, horses starved whilst supplies waited in Balaclava. 

Problems of supply were partly down to overlapping structures in the British Army and a lack of co-ordination and clear lines of accountability. There were 11 different departments of the army and the government responsible for aspects of the army's supply and welfare. These included the secretary of state for war and the colonies, the commander in chief and the quarter-master general.

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Disorganisation and Inefficiency in the British Ar

Leadership of the British Army was dominated by the aristocratic elite of British Society. Officers often obtained their job through purchase of commission rather than through promotion on merit. This system came under attack as the failure to equip the army properly during the winter of 1854-5 and the perceived disaster of the Charge of the Light Brigade were attributed to poor army leadership. The top of the British Army was also seen as nepotistic: five of Lord Raglan;s aides de camp were his nephews.

The reputations of some senior members of the British Army were ruined by an impression of an inefficient and incompetently led campaign. Lord Cardigan was initially perceived as a hero after the Charge of the Light Brigade after her charged out ahead of his troops. He was later accused of deserting the Brigade at a crucial moment of the battle, however, and of incompetence in relation to his failure to distribute provision in Balaclava Harbour. Cardigan later unsuccessfully sued an author who suggested that he had performed badly during the Charge. Lord Lucan received most of the blame for the Charge, accused of implementing an order he knew to be senseless and of failing to seek proper clarification of it. Lord Raglan died in the Crimea in June 1855 and was held responsible for many of the problems of leadership, and organisation during the Crimean campaign.

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Medical, Army and Civil Service Reform

Nightingale's work and her iconic status helped to establish nursing as a respectable profession for women. Nightingale's Notes on Nursing was widely read and translated. Nightingale's name was used to raise funds to establish nursing training; £45,000 was raised by 1859. St Thomas' Hospital in London established a training school for 10 nurses in 1860. Nightingale used her statistical work on mortality rates to illustrate the need for sanitary reform in all military hospitals.

One military development after the Crimean war was the establishment in 1856 of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for bravery in the British Army. In 1857, 111 Crimean War soldiers were awarded the cross. The Victorian Cross embodied the new, more meritocratic approach in the British Army as soldiers of any rank could receive it. 

In 1855, Sir John McNeill and Colonel Alexander Tulloch went to the Crimea on the instructions of the Minister of War to investigate the provision and distribution of supplies to the British Army. Their report exposed civilian and military mismanagement. Partly as a result of the McNeill-Tulloch report, many reforms were introduced; The Cardwell Reforms

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Medical, Army and Civil Service Reform

Cardwell Reforms 1870-71

Conditions for ordinary soldiers were improved; the period of overseas service was reduced from 12 years to 6, pay was increased and flogging was abolished in peacetime. The structure of army organisation was simplified and combined under the responsibility of one department, the War Office. The Commander-in-Chief of the army was made responsible to the Secretary of War and, through him, to parliament. The country was divided into local regimental districts and each area had two battalions. One would stay at home to train, the other could be sent overseas. 

These reforms were an attack on inefficiency and aristocratic privilege in the army. They did have some limitations. Entrenched interests in the army resisted the reforms. No General Staff was established to engage in military planning. British artillery was not modernised. The 35,000 reserve forces were inadequate for fighting a European War. 

Civil Service Reform

During Gladstone's first administration, 1868-74, all departments, except for Foreign Office, adopted a new system of recruiting by competitive examination.

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