The Crimean War is full of resonance - not least, the Charge of the Light Brigade, the Siege of Sevastopol and Florence Nightingale at Scutari with her lamp. In this fascinating book, Clive Ponting separates the myths from the reality, and tells the true story of the heroism of the ordinary soldiers, often through eye-witness accounts of the men who fought and those who survived the terrible winter of 1854-55.
To contemporaries, it was 'The Great War with Russia' - fought not only in the Black Sea and the Crimea but in the Baltic, the Arctic, the Pacific and the Caucasus. Ironically, Britain's allies were France, her traditional enemy, ably commanded (from home) by Napoleon III himself, and the Muslim Ottoman Empire, widely seen as an infidel corrupt power. It was the first of the 'modern' wars, using rifles, artillery, trench systems, steam battleships, telegraph and railways; yet the British soldiers wore their old highly coloured uniforms and took part in their last cavalry charge in Europe. There were over 650,000 casualties.
Britain was unable fully to deploy her greatest strength, her Navy, while her Army was led by incompetent aristocrats. The views of ordinary soldiers about Raglan, Cardigan and Lucan make painful reading.