By the way the Canè plastics, the last of the pieces ever to be moulded are on my PLASTIC TOY SOLDIERS PAGEblog)
The Crimea guards.The Guards salute Victoria as they march off never to be seen again . All wars begin with the party like atmosphere that was present in the grounds of Buckingham palace that day as Victoria saluted her guards; only amputees, the lucky ones would return.
It was one of those wars that sunk into the background of history, not much on the wargames or military modelling and one enterprise entirely losing out in the venture of popularizing the conflict(alma ltd).
Maybe the reason was that the "DNA" of this war lives on in a negative way in the unconscious; It had its players the mad,the self indulgent, the braver than brave but above all a war that was an object lesson in how not to go to war.
It started with an excuse. That excuse was that Russia wanted to safeguard the rights of Russian citizens who wanted to go on pilgramage to Jerusalem; they far outnumbered Christian pilgrims.
The holy places had been put in the care of Latin priests and fist-fights had regularly broken out between them and Russian Orthodox ones; if ever religion was a non-entity this was it.
No one really gave a monkey's about it though but it was a good pretext for taking over the Danubian territory of the "sick man of Europe" The Turkish Ottoman empire.
To be fair this empire was not falling apart but looked as if it was on the cards that it would do.
The real object was to take over the Turkish provinces of the Danubian territory. They wanted control of the 12 million christians of the Orthodox church in the Danubian provinces of Turkey.
The Russian Zsar had this firmly in mind but Lord Stratford called his hand, he told him that he could have all the things he asked for as regards the holy places.
When he realised Stratford had called his bluff he went into a fit; it is said that he was of a pathological condition and if this was true it gives us the idea that power should never be placed in the hands of one man. But he was determined so Russia sent a warship out of Sevastopol that then sunk the Turkish fleet at Sinope.
To the British this meant war; do what you like but don't mess about on the high seas.
It was a time when the British thought nothing of sending a "battle wagon" to some far flung corner of the empire to resolve a mere snub to a British citizen.In the period they had forced America to eat bitter fruit with the threat of war after a small incident on the high seas involving the SS San Jacinto searching a British cargo ship.
The attitude was "Don't like it? Then bring it on". The Union Jack spread terror into all and its message was "Mess with us and you'll be a sorry -------- ---------!!!!!!!!!! But what the British did not understand was that the Zsar of all Russia thought the same way.He insulted the French who were allied to UK.
"Be careful what we did in 1812 we can do in 1854"
On the morn after this Napoleon the third wanted war quick.Honour at the foremost.
SO war it was; plans? Destroy Sevastopol the port that menaced Constantinople but Todleben was doing something there , building an impregnable fortress.(He was the genius that came out of this war along with Nightingale).
On one side BRITISH ,FRENCH,TURKS on the other RUSSIANS,CHOLERA,COLIC , DYSENTERY.
And the guards died in droves.Long before winter it was already a disaster.Finest troops dead or wounded behind them nearly nothing.In London the crowds cheered but..................................................... . First the Alma; great courage, great daring BUT a costly victory.Balaclava Harbour was a cess pit .Amputated limbs floated in it. The light brigade=useless, a military ridicule of sense but great courage,great daring=led by a mad aristocrat with men who said "I go with you to the devil and beyond Sir".
AT INKERMAN the next stop on our tour of hell the Russians were legion=but won only just.
Then Sevastopol , an abject diaster, never imagined before , never hinted at horror never before.
Troops=dying,dying caked in mud and shite.Marooned like a light house in a never ending force 10 storm.Horror like never before, bravery like never before,cowardice like never before but "dare call it treason"
Here the army finally died 65 per cent mortality rate the rest on stumps or nerves shot to shit! But "dare call it treason".
The Queen's Cousin fled to Malta saying he couldn't endure it anymore,no one could.
Then the Zsar died. In Frances losses were as high as the UK.
The British though, were gone; the guards and those fine regiments that had won at Alma and Inkerman were all dead.
Fine white ivory turning the eyeless socket top to see a new dawn of mud.
In 1854 a seriously bad tempered debate had seen the passing of "The Enlistment of Foreigners Bill" , passed through the Lords at Westminster instead of the commons for easy passage.
It meant that Swiss ,Germans and above all Sardinians would fight for British money.
The common idea of a British/Sardinian alliance is rubbish, this was OUT AND OUT PAYMENT FOR SOLDIERS OF FORTUNE. And as this law was passed a politician said . "Well we have to pay mercenaries because our men are too chary to fight".
These mercenaries must not be confused with the type of men who made up Wellington's muster against Napoleon; that was a kind of alliance like that of the Second World War, this was different.
But the British had but 11'000 raw recruits in the trenches on the other hand the French had sent in a new army of 78,000.
Sevastopol attacked on Waterloo day=6,000 dead French or nearly, 600 British gone. The British had searched for mercenaries and found them in Sardinia.15,000 Bersaglieri but Asiatic Cholera devasted them on their arrival.
BUT the French won with the elàn of the bayonet at Tchernaya which opened up Sevastopol to terrible cannon fire.
A FRENCH victory because, hush hush, the British "refused to soldier" that means refused to advance.Refused to leave the shelter of the parapets.
The greatest disgrace that had ever befallen an English/British army.
Young officers pleaded cajoled begged killed but the men, well, no way leaving the trenches. No way was Tommy Atkins going to meet his maker this time.
"IT is the greatest disgrace that has ever befallen the British army" .Said Colonel Windham. "We failed to support the French through lack of pluck and method"
The Queen celebrated back in Scotland=bonfires,mulled wine,Champagne the works but she celebrated an entirely French victory.
Then the French died=sixty per cent casualties from the sniper called Cholera; the death count dragged down the vitality of the country;they'd shown the elan of the bayonet and they could retire satisfied.
The English wanted war but had no more army to do it without the French.
The wind balloons of English politics not much different to some over Iraq today wanted to push on but Napoleon the third called it a day; his men had
bathed themselves in glory.That was enough for peace. He had emulated the great Napoleon the 1st.
The Russians had yearned for peace, their death counts were startling.They had marched troops to Sevastopol and out of every ten only one arrived. 250 miles of walking.
They had no railway and Shank's pony was their only transport. Nearly one million dead and now they wanted to return to the lines of embarkation before the war. Nothing had changed or had it?
The British army was no longer feared, in 50 odd years it would be challenged to a fight ; it would accept that fight and win with the aid of the French backing them the next time, the great French fighting man.
The Crimea War left a great warrior nation bereft of military vigour, made pallid by the sudden lack of daring;the school bully made to look ridiculous and the former "mice" gaining the want of revenge regretting their previous self-gringing.Next time next time................................................
more mud,more daring,more trench confessions.
On the 30th of March 1856 peace came with a whimper. END