The experience of warfare in Britain 1854-1929

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Crimean war 1853-55

How the crimean war started:

  • Russia wanted ice free ports.
  • Britain wanted are around the Black seda to be in safe hands 
  • Turkey was a weak empire 
  • On October 5th 1853 Turkish Sultan declared war on Russia (sultan knew Britain and France would help)


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How the Crimean war was reported

William Russell

  • correspondent for The Times newspaper 
  • did not have the armies of goverments permission to go to Crimea.
  • Exposed appalling conditions.
  • he was absent from the crimea for most of the winter (1854-55) 
  • Russell left Crimea early in December 1855.

Roger Fenton 

  • Due to his camera he was restricted to take moving pictures 
  • he was told not to take pictures of the horrors of the war 
  • overll he took 400 pictures
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The battle of Alma 22 September 1854

  • Russian commander did not attack British on the first day of the march (19th sept)
  • the next day the French commander and Lord Raglan discussed tactics. 
  • The commanders could not communicate well as a mixture of French and Englush was used.
  • Lord Raglan told the French nothing of his plans and no proper reconnaissance had been carried out.
  • The french lost and surprisingly the British won.
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The Battle of Balaclava 25th October 1854

The Thin Red Line

  • The 93rd Highland regiment led by commander Sir Colin Campbell halted the advances of the Russians by forming a long line, two men deep. Normally infantry form a square.
  • William Russell watched this attack and wrote that only a 'thin red streak tipped with a line of steal' stood between the Russian cavalry and the defenceless British Base of Balaclava.

The charge of the Light Brigade

  • Lord Raglan ordered Lord Lucan to stop the Russians moving captured cannons 
  • Lord Raglan gave a written order to captain Nolan, but the captains explantation and arm gesture gave the wrong impression to Lord Lucan, which ended in him ordering his cavalry into the wrong valley.
  • Lord Cardigan led his men into the valley against the wrong guns.
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The Russian winter January 1855

  • there was just enough food to keep the soldiers alive.
  • there was a lack of suitable clothing and decent accomodation
  • The soldiers were falling ill and dying.
  • many horses died

Problems with supplies:

  • there was a lack of coordination between the different departments that were responsible for different aspects of the armies supply.
  • In November, the crimea was hit by a storm, british army were badly affected and many of the supplies arriving on the ships were lost 
  • London government had more foresight than the military commanders, from August they had been gathering supplies for the winter and in October sent ships to the Crimea carrying the necessary supplies.
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Medical Services

  • Lord Raglan only ordered a small number of medical assistants (roughly 4 per 100 men) 
  • doctors were to be recruited on a volunteer basis.
  • many supplies were misplaced and when found unable to be used.
  • The biggest problem for the medical services was the provision of clean water and sanitation, which led to lice infestation, typhus, typhoid, dysentery and cholera.


  • The major base hospital established in Scutari - could accomodate up to 6000 men.
  • The general hospital opened in september 1854- as soon as British troops arrived in that area.


Main form of treatment was the amputation of limbs but had a 25% liklihood of death due to shock/infection.

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Florence Nightingale & Mary Seacole

Florence Nightingale 

  • came from a rich family - was educated 
  • had the support of Sidney Herbert .
  • sideney Herbert appointed her to oversee  introduction of nurses in military hospitals.
  • she raised nursing to a level of being a respectable profession.
  • the Nightingale school was established with help from the funds she was given.
  • she published notes for nursing which was translated into 11 languages.

Mary Seacole

  • From Jamaica. 
  • learned her skills from her mother 
  • she was an expert in teating yellow fever and cholera victims 
  • British authorities rejected her offer and she paid for her own passage to the crimea
  • she formed the company 'seacole and day' to purchase provisions for the troops. 
  • she set up the British hotel where she provided food and drinks 
  • she worked close to the front line 
  • end of the war she became Bankrupt. funds were raised to support her by soldiers and the public.


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The outcomes of the war

On the 30th March 1856 the peace treaty was signed in Paris. It stated that Russia retained Sebastopol, the black sea was to remain neutral, 



  • sidney Herbert appealed for subscriptions to teh Nightingale fund 
  • Queen victoria sent a diamond brooch 
  • Nightingale didnt want much to do with the training school.


  • Report on the mismanagement of supplies - set of instructions 


  • Lenght of overseas service cut from 12 years to 6.
  • Purchase of commissions abolished and replaced by system of merit.
  • not all problems were addressed 
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The outcomes continued


  • exams had to be taken 
  • many were recruited from students at oxford and Cambridge (they were wealthy)


  • at first only given to officers 
  • after available to all ranks - 
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Boer war 1899 - 1902

How it started 

History of the tension:

  • Boers want independence.
  • Britain wanted trade routes across Africa and to keep empire.
  • Britain wanted to protect India.

Zulu Wars 1970s:

  • Britain fought with Boers to overturn the last of the Zulus.
  • Britain confirmed occupation of the northern states.
  • Boers give Britain sovereignty (ownership) over their area.

First Boer War 1880-1881:

  • Boers demanded independence after the Zulu Wars.
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other reasons war started


  • Found in Transvaal in 1886.
  • 1898 – Transvaal produced 27% of World Gold, Britain wanted this gold as it was technically there’s because they have rights to Transvaal.
  • Kruger wouldn’t release gold.
  • imported Krupp rifles from Germany for protection, a lot better than British weapons.

Utilanders (foreigners):

  • Kruger wouldn’t give them rights.
  • Many worked in gold mines, 1000s of Britain’s emigrated to work in the mines.
  • George Milner owned large amounts of gold.
  • Cecil Rhodes was the PM of the Cape Colony, had a mine in Boer territory.

Jameson Raid 29 December 1895 – 2 January 1896:

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what the army was like

  • British had 249,466 regulars with 78000 regular reservists (small force)
  • 60000 - 70000 were stationed in india 
  • Tommy - very poor soldiers.

Black Week: 10-17 December 1899.

  • At Kimberley, Mafeking and Ladysmith.
  • 2,776 men killed.
  • 450,000 volunteered after Black Week, in response to Queen Victoria’s calls.
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The press

Liberals - serious papers 

  • Daily news 
  • Daily Chronicle 


  • Morning posts 


  • The times 
  • Daily Mail 
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David Lloyd George 

  • Pro boer 
  • Liberal 
  • held losts of antiwar meetings like in Birmingham 

the liberals were split into 3 

1) senior figures who supported the war 

2) group of radicals like Lloyd George who opposed of the war (pro boers)

3) those in the middle who tried to keep the party together.

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Concentration camps and the Khaki elections

Concentration camps

  • Kitchener adapted to guerrilla warfare by putting boers in camps for their safety.
  • the camps were not meant to kill the boers it was intended to keep them safe 
  • however the conditions turned cramped and unhygienice 

Khaki elections

  • called the khaki elections as many candidates were serving officers
  • the conservatives won 51% of the votes  
  • however turnout was low at 75%
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other people

Emily Hobhouse, 1901:

  • Highlighted problems in camps.
  • Family connections with anti-war politicians.
  • Wrote back to Alfred Milner (High Commissioner).
  • Presented views in a report to parliament.

Millicent Fawcett, 1902:

  • Liberal Unionist
  • Confirmed Hobhouse’s claims.
  • Passed ideas onto Alfred Milner.

Alfred Milner, 1901-1902:

  • Wrote to Joseph Chamberlain over problems in concentration camps.
  • Death rate fell to 2%.
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World war one

Battle of Somme 1916

  • ritish tried to relieve the pressure on the French 
  • 1 and a half million shells were fired but 1 million were shrapnel so were not effective 
  • out of 120000 british troops taking part over 57000 were casaulties and over 19000 died. (on the first day)
  • Britain suffered 420,000 casualties across the whole battle (many from across the Empire).
  • Germany lost 500,000 casualties – more than Britain.


  • Infantry learned new trics and tactics 
  • Tanks were used which was a surprise
  • creeping barrage used - when men 
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  • Death penalties still in operation, 346 out of 5,700,000 were executed during WW1. 
  • Death penalty stopped mutinies through fear, experienced in the French army.
  • Field punishments, humiliating, test of character.
  • Send back to barracks from trenches.
  • No pay.
  • Could be Court Marshalled.
  • Field punishment number 1 introduced instead of fogging - the punishment was that a person would be tied to a cannon for 2-3 hours 
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No conscription

When the First World War was declared, two pacifists, Clifford Allen and Fenner Brockway, formed the No-Conscription Fellowship (NCF),

  • an organisation that encouraged men to refuse war service,  because they consider human life to be sacred.
  •   The No-Conscription Fellowship was made up by members of the Socialist Independent Labour Party and the Quakers. 
  • About 16,000 men refused to fight. Most of these men were pacifists, who believed that even during wartime it was wrong to kill another human being. 
  • When conscription was introduced in 1916, 16,500 applied for exemption from the war as CO’s. This was relatively small compared with the 2.5 million who were conscripted and the 2.5 million who had volunteered. 
  • At the end of 1917 the peak number of members only reached around 5,500 which shows that although there was opposition to the war from the start, it was only a minority. 
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