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'The British Army' is extracted from 'The Armies of Europe', originally published in 1855, as a series of articles in Putnam’s Monthly Magazine, N.Y., USA. The series was published in three parts, in the August, September and December 1855 issues. Although unaccredited at the time, the author was Frederick Engels.

  1. The Crimean War, 1854-1856.
  2. On 25 October 1854 the Light Brigade charged a Russian battery at the end of a mile long valley, while exposed to enemy fire on both sides. They reached the Russian guns, rode through them and clashed with cavalry beyond. Around 650 men rode down the valley; over 100 were killed, and more than 200 were wounded or taken prisoner.
  3. Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) was Commander-in-Chief of the British Army, 1842-1852. He was succeeded by Henry, 1st Viscount Hardinge who held the position until 1856.
  4. Flogging took place in the Victorian army, but only to a limited degree compared to the Napoleonic Wars (where sentences of 500 lashes were not uncommon). Sentences had reduced to a maximum of 50 lashes, and by 1867 were restricted to mutiny or other such serious crimes. It was not until 1881 that flogging was abolished entirely.
  5. Sometimes referred to as ‘The Soldiers Battle,’ Inkermann was a desperately fought affair with soldiers shrouded in fog and smoke. Early on the morning of 5 November 1854 the Russians attacked. The British bore the brunt of the all day struggle, fighting a series of undirected encounters. The belated arrival of French troops under General Bosquet tipped the balance in the allies favour.
  6. Prussian attempt at occupation in 1848.
  7. 1855.
  8. Approved in 1851, the Minié rifle (Pattern 1851 Rifle-Musket) began to be issued to the troops from early in 1853. Its production ceased in 1855. The .702 calibre rifle was replaced by the improved Pattern 1853 Rifle-Musket. Improvements included a reduction in bore to .577 and an adjustable elevating rear sight.
  9. The Minié bullet utilised a small iron cup in its hollow base to ensure expansion of the bullet into the rifling of the barrel. William Metford designed a hollow base bullet, without plug. In 1852 Pritchett, a London gunmaker, suggested the bullet to the Ordnance authorities. The design required tight tolerances with regards to diameter. Later bullets used a taper plug to help in expanding the bullet.
  10. In 1855 commissions were largely purchased. War did offer more opportunity for promotion by ability. Commissioning exams were introduced in 1849, but these addressed the general education of the candidate, not military education. The purchase system was abolished in 1871.
  11. On 25 October 1854 the Russians advanced on Balaklava. The 93rd Highlanders found themselves barring the way. In the face of an advance of Russian cavalry, Sir Colin Campbell had placed the 93rd in a thin line, two deep, telling them they ‘must die where they stood.’ Standing their ground, the 93rd fired three volleys into the approaching cavalry. The Russians were halted, wheeled about and retired. William Russell, the Times correspondent, described the 93rd as “that thin red streak tipped with a line of steel.” This is the famous ‘thin red line.’

endnotes © D.B Minshall, 2019