Volume 31

Crimean Cavalry Letters

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Britain went to war with Imperial Russia at the beginning of 1854 and sent an army to the east to aid the Ottoman Empire. The effort involved finding the men, horses, and guns, organising the transport and supplying the necessities for conducting a campaign exposed systemic inefficiencies. Administrative chaos, disease and bad luck combined to inflict suffering upon the British Army before battle with the Russian foe commenced.

The letters in this volume were written by four young cavalry officers for whom the expedition to the east, and eventually the Crimea, was a great adventure. The three Light Cavalry Officers were present at the battle of Balaklava and participated in the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. Fisher-Rowe of the Heavy Cavalry may have participated in the Charge of the Heavy Brigade. As the campaign progresses their confidence in the Army leadership falters. Their letters show the waning of youthful enthusiasm as muddle and disorder take their toll and the army is decimated by disease and cold in the winter of 1854-5. Collectively the letters cover the whole of the campaign in the Crimea and reveal ingenuity, stoicism, humour and sangfroid in the face of dreadful circumstances. Despite being 'storm'd at with shot and shell', they all returned home.