The Crimean War (1853-1856) provided us with three everyday terms despite the war itself getting buried deeper and deeper in the history books. Although most people will be familiar with the expressions below, not many will remember their story or why they are famous.
Florence Nightingale (1820-1910)- Was a nurse during the Crimean War who reformed hospital sanitation methods and later laid the foundations for professional nursing when she established her nursing school in St Thomas’ Hospital in London. Nursing graduates take the Nightingale Pledge, which was named in her honor.
Charge of the Light Brigade (25 October 1854)- The infamous Charge of the Light Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava has been popularized by a poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Alfred Tennyson as well as two movies of the same name, the first in 1936 with Errol Flynn and again in 1968 starring David Hemmings and Trevor Howard.
The action though gloriously named was actually a British Defeat by Russian forces. The British cavalry was tasked by their Commander to attack a retreating Russian artillery unit. That would have been an appropriate use of cavalry. Unfortunately for the British, there was a miscommunication of the order.
The terrain was such that there were two valleys, each having a Russian artillery unit in it. The British General could see both Russian artillery batteries as he was on high ground. The leader of the British cavalry was in a valley and only saw one battery. The problem was that the only battery he saw and subsequently attacked, was not retreating, was well fortified, and was pointing right at him.
The cavalry mounted a frontal assault and the results were predictable, carnage. Although the British made it to the Russian lines, the cost had been very high and they had to immediately retreat as they could not hope to hold the position.
Victoria Cross- The Victoria Cross is Britain’s highest military honor. It is the British equivalent of America’s Medal of Honor. Queen Victoria introduced it in 1856 to honor acts of valor in the Crimean War and every other war thereafter. The medals are actually struck from gunmetal. The gunmetal came from the Russian cannons seized at the Siege of Sevastopol (1854-1855).
With the recent events involving Ukraine, Russia, and Crimea still transpiring at the time of writing this and with the world once again hearing names like Sevastopol and Balaklava, it is worth remembering that a war has already been fought there once.