The National Archives
Search our website
  • Search our website
  • Search our records
   
 

British Battles

British Battles
 
   

Crimea, 1854

After Balaklava

Battle of Inkerman

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

After the failure to break the British lines of communication on 25 October, the Russians made a further attempt to defeat the British with a surprise attack at Inkerman on 5 November 1854. The Russians attacked the British in very foggy conditions. There was a fierce hand-to-hand battle that raged all day and resulted in thousands of casualties, mostly on the Russian side. This action became known as 'the Soldier's Battle'. As dusk fell, the British finally held the field, having received useful, if belated, help from the French.

After Inkerman the British and French continued to besiege Sevastopol. Finally, following a major assault in September 1855, the Russians evacuated the city, having kept the allies out for almost a year.

The Crimean War ended in the spring of 1856 but wrangling over the details of the Charge of the Light Brigade and who was at fault continued into the following decade. The last man who took part in the Charge died in 1924.

Maladministration in the British army

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

One of the significant features of the Crimean War was the dreadful conditions and neglect endured by the troops. Not only were living conditions very poor, but medical supplies for troops in the field were also inadequate. W.H. Russell's reports for The Times revealed the true depth of suffering and maladministration, particularly during the winter of 1854. These accounts upset Queen Victoria, who described them as these 'infamous attacks against the army which have disgraced our newspapers'. Prince Albert, who took a keen interest in military matters, commented that 'the pen and ink of one miserable scribbler is despoiling the country'.

Medical care

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

But a public outcry concerning the care of the soldiers eventually led to a number of nurses, including Florence Nightingale, being sent to the hospital at Scutari, across the Bosphorus from Constantinople. Another famous woman who cared for the sick and wounded was Mary Seacole, who came from Jamaica.

Other improvements in medical care were developed, including the first hospital train built by the firm of Peto, Brassey and Betts, and the first prefabricated hospital designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel. This hospital with, initially, 22 wards was erected at Renkioi in Turkey. Although the care of sick and injured soldiers improved, disease had been the biggest killer in the Crimean War.

 

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

 

Thumbnail linking to pop-up window

Creation of the Medical Staff Corps - with transcript

 

Prefabricated wooden hospitals - with transcript

Following the war, a number of enquiries were made into the running of the British army, and the process of reforming its medical care, which was to take half a century, began.

Next chapter: Egypt, 1882Go to next topic