The Crimean War at Sea, Peter Duckers

The Crimean War at Sea, Peter Duckers

The Naval Campaigns against Russia, 1854-56

Although the Crimean War is best known for the fighting in the Crimea and the siege of Sebastopol it also featured a great deal of naval warfare. At the time the British public expected a great deal from the Royal Navy, and the disappointment when no major naval battle took place was similar to that experienced during the First World War. The first commander of the Allied Baltic Fleet was removed after the disappointing campaign of 1854, and a vast programme of naval building was put in place.

Although these new ships arrived too late to take part in the fighting, the Allied navies still had plenty to do. They spent most of their time attacking Russian shipping and the Russian coast, an activity that took British and French warships to the farthest extremities of Russia. Squadrons operated in Pacific, where Russia still held footholds in Alaska, in the Baltic where the most important Russian naval bases were located and in the White Sea in the frozen north. Most of the campaigns were of somewhat limited scope, and mainly involved some rather controversial attacks on coastal communities and the destruction of vast amounts of shipping.

The fleet in Crimea had a rather more varied time. A significant number of naval personnel found themselves fighting on land, where they held part of the Allied lines around Sebastopol. At sea the navies took part in the bombardment of the city, helped protect the Allied positions on the coast and also carried out similar coastal raids as elsewhere.

This period is of most interest because of the changes in naval technology that were going on. Steam powered warships, iron armour and explosive shells all played a part in the fighting, although many of the ships involved would have looked familiar to Nelson. Even some of these large line-of-battle ships were steam powered. During the war it became clear that the bigger ships with their deep drafts were unsuited to coastal operations, and a new generation of inshore gunships were built.

Duckers has organised his text by theatre, with the changes in naval technology introduced where most appropriate. The public reaction to each naval campaign is also examined, an interesting sign of the way in which the development of a mass press began to have an impact on warfare. This is a useful contribution to the literature on the Crimea, and on the development of naval warfare during the nineteenth century.

1 - The Battle Fleets, 1854
2 - The Baltic Campaigns, 1854
3 - Opening Moves in the Black Sea, Summer 1854
4 - 'The Invasion of the Crimea': The Navy Ashore
5 - Operations in the White Sea, 1854-5
6 - Operations in the Pacific, 1854-5
7 - The Campaign in the Baltic, 1855
8 - Scouring the Sea of Azoff, Summer 1855
9 - Black Sea, 1855 and the Attack on Fort Kinburn

I - The British Fleet Reviewed at Spithead, August 1853
II - The Opposing Fleets at Sinope, 30 November 1853
III - Russian Ships of the Black Sea Fleet at Sebastopol, 1854-5
IV - Russian Warships in the Baltic, 1854-5
V - British Warships in the Baltic, 1854-5
VI - Napier's Defence
VII - Major Allied Warships in the Baltic, 1855
VIII - British Warships in the Black Sea, 1854-5
IX - Ships Engaged at Kertch and in the Sea of Azoff, 1855
X - British Ships Engaged in the Bombardment of Sebastopol, 17 October 1854
XI - Casualties in the Naval Bombardment, 17 October 1854
XII - Casualties to the Naval Brigade
XIII - Allied Warships in the Pacific, 1854-5
XIV - Victoria Crosses Awarded for the Baltic, Crimea and Sea of Azoff

Author: Peter Duckers
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 224
Publisher: Pen & Sword Maritime
Year: 2011

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