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British Battles

British Battles
 
   

Crimea, 1854

Before Balaklava

Allied landings

A joint invasion force, over 60,000 strong, of British, French and Turkish troops landed at Kalamatia Bay, north of Sevastopol, on 14 -16 September 1854. The landings were unopposed by the Russians. W.H. Russell, an Irish journalist writing for The Times, witnessed the early allied operations and noted that 'The French, though they had tents, had no cavalry; the Turks had neither cavalry nor food; the British had cavalry, but they had neither tents nor transport, nor ambulances nor litters.' It was clear that there were flaws in the organisation of the joint forces.

On 19 September, the allies started their move south towards the strategically important city of Sevastopol. There was a minor skirmish on the Bulganek River on 21 September, paving the way for the first set-piece battle of the war which took place on the following day at Alma.

The Battle of Alma

The Battle of Alma saw the combined British and French armies attack a Russian force that was occupying high land above the River Alma. The French were on the right, with their right flank next to the sea and the British to their left. Facing the allies were some 33,000 Russian troops. In order to drive forward the advance to Sevastapol, it was necessary for the allies to cross the River Alma and then attack well-defended positions on higher ground. So confident were the Russians that the allies would be defeated that picnic parties came out of the city to watch the expected victory. The French opened the assault but they faltered, pinned down in vineyards below the Russian positions. Following the order 'The infantry will advance', an uphill attack was taken up by the British Light and Second Divisions. It was a powerful offensive and the Russians were forced to flee their positions, having lost 1,755 men and sustained some 6,000 casualties. The British lost 362 men with 1,600 wounded.

 

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Report of the defeat of the Russians at the Battle of Alma - with transcript

 

Casualty return for the Battle of Alma - with transcript

The siege of Sevastopol

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The move to take Sevastopol continued the following day. Once they had secured operating bases - the British at Balaklava and the French at Kamiesch Bay adjacent to Sevastopol - the allies set about besieging the city. However, as they only held positions to the south of Sevastopol, this allowed the Russians free access to the city from the north and east, enabling them to threaten the allied bases and forces.

The Russian army lay to the east of Sevastopol in order both to defend its supply lines from the eastern side of the Crimean peninsular and to threaten the British lines of communication. On 25 October, this Russian army moved towards the British lines between their base at Balaklava and Sevastopol. This move resulted in the Battle of Balaklava and the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Battle of BalaklavaGo to next topic