Medals, Masks And Modern Nursing-The Non-Geopolitical Gifts Of The (Original) Crimean War.

Secretary of State John Kerry has complained that Russia’s invasion and subsequent annexation of Crimea is behavior more properly fit for the 19th century and not the 21st. Fittingly enough, the “original” Crimea War was a 19th century affair between the Russians on one side and the British, French and Turks on the other.

For most Americans I think the “original” Crimean War is one of those European wars that seems to litter the continent’s history and that few people in modern America know much or care about.

But this nasty little war, which lasted from October of 1853 to February of 1856, left a legacy far greater than you might realize.

The Charge of the Light Brigade:

Most people are familiar with  “The Charge of the Light Brigade” but did you know it refers to a suicidal charge by British cavalry troops against entrenched Russian artillery emplacements during…the Crimean War?

The brigade, was supposed to turn and take the high ground before confronting the Russians. Instead they charged straight down the valley floor for over a mile straight into the Russian guns.

Raglan’s staff watched horrified from the top of Sapouné Hill as the Light Brigade moved off down the valley and failed to turn up onto the Causeway Heights. They could see the Russians positioned on the Fedioukine Hills to the north side of the North Valley, with infantry, cavalry and guns, the original force of Russian cavalry attacked by the Heavy Brigade at the end of the North Valley behind the battery of 8 guns and on the Causeway Heights on the south side of the valley, Russian infantry, cavalry and guns in the redoubts abandoned by the Turks. All these troops were ready to fire into the Light Brigade as it attacked down the North Valley.

Amazingly, some of the men of the Light Brigade did make it to the Russian lines and attacked the gun crews before being driven off. The price they paid for carrying out their orders was devastating.

On its return the Light Brigade had a mounted strength of 195 officers and men from an original strength of 673. 247 men were killed and wounded. 475 horses were killed and 42 wounded. The 13th Light Dragoons mustered 10 mounted men.

Below is the 1936 film adaptation of the historic charge.

The charge was also memorialized in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson which includes this famous passage.

‘Forward, the Light Brigade!’

Was there a man dismay’d ?

Not tho’ the soldier knew

Some one had blunder’d:

Theirs not to reason why,

Theirs but to do & die,

Into the valley of Death Rode the six hundred.

The Birth of Modern Battlefield Nursing:

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale

We all know the name Florence Nightingale but how many people realize that her service as a nurse to the British Army during the Crimean War revolutionized the role of nurses in the British military?

At the time, there were no female nurses stationed at hospitals in the Crimea. The poor reputation of past female nurses had led the war office to avoid hiring more. But, after the Battle of Alma, England was in an uproar about the neglect of their ill and injured soldiers, who not only lacked sufficient medical attention due to hospitals being horribly understaffed, but also languished in appallingly unsanitary and inhumane conditions.

Pioneering Nurse

In late 1854, Nightingale received a letter from Secretary of War Sidney Herbert, asking her to organize a corps of nurses to tend to the sick and fallen soldiers in the Crimea. Nightingale rose to her calling. She quickly assembled a team of 34 nurses from a variety of religious orders, and sailed with them to the Crimea just a few days later.

Based on her observations in the Crimea, Nightingale wrote Notes on Matters Affecting the Health, Efficiency and Hospital Administration of the British Army, an 830-page report analyzing her experience and proposing reforms for other military hospitals operating under poor conditions. The book would spark a total restructuring of the War Office’s administrative department, including the establishment of a Royal Commission for the Health of the Army in 1857.

Staying Warm During a Ukrainian Winter Necessitated The Invention Of…Ski Masks:

You may recall before the Putin admitted the Russians were taking over Crimea armed men showed up all around Crimea. Many of them wore ski masks to hide their identity.

Masked Men Displaying Russian Flag In Simferopol

This type of face gear is known as a “balaclava“.

A balaclava covers all of your head (except for the eyes), but you can wear it also like a cap, a scarf or you can protect only part of your face with this practical item. Although balaclavas were originally knitted from wool, a modern balaclava can consist of all kinds of material. This type of mask is also known as a ski or snowboard mask.

Balaclavas were used for the first time during the Crimean War (1853-1856). This was a war between the Russians on one side and the French, British, Sardinians and Ottomans on the other. In 1854 the battle of Balaclava was fought and after that battle “balaclava” became the name for this type of headgear.

Staying Warm During a Ukrainian Winter Necessitated The Invention Of…Ski Masks:

But perhaps the most lasting and important connection between the original Crimean War and today The Victoria Cross, analogous to our Medal of Honor, is the highest military award in the UK and Commonwealth nations (the George Cross is of equal rank). It is still awarded today for actions in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Queen Victoria authorized creation of the award to recognize the heroism of Imperial troops during.

The medal is still being awarded to this day and according to the UK military there is an ongoing connection to the original Crimean War.

VCs are cast from the bronze cascabels of two cannons that were captured from the Russians at the siege of Sevastopol in 1854-1855


About Drew

I blog about politics and hockey because I sort of understand those things. I'd blog about women but I'll never understand them.

Posted on March 24, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Iron Maiden comes through again!

  2. Also interesting is that some of the keystones of the Christian West – Britain and France – were fighting on the same side as the Ottoman Empire. Crazy times.

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