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British Battles

British Battles

Crimea, 1854

The Battle of Balaklava

The Battle of Balaklava is remembered primarily for the Charge of the Light Brigade. However, there were other events in the battle that, militarily, were equally important.

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An important factor in the Battle of Balaklava was the terrain over which it was fought. Two valleys, separated by a ridge, were the scenes of three distinct phases of the battle: two cavalry charges and a standing defence by the 93rd Highlanders. The ridge was significant in that it obscured the action in the north valley from the view of the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Raglan. His inability to see what was happening may have been one reason for the confusing order sent to the Light Brigade during the battle.

25 October 1854 saw the British and French forces dispersed to the south of Sevastopol. The French forces were based on the harbour at Kamiesch to the south-west of the city and the British at Balaklava to the south-east. British and French forces were also manning defensive positions due south of Sevastopol. Between the British positions on the edge of Sevastopol and their base at Balaklava were a number of Turkish and French troops.

'The Thin Red Line'

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The first move by Russian forces towards Balaklava was repulsed by the stand of the 93rd Highlanders, led by Major-General Sir Colin Campbell. Campbell formed his men into a line (rather than into a square, which was the accepted way for infantry to face a cavalry charge) and the probing Russian advance was driven off with volleys of musket fire. This action became known as 'The Thin Red Line'.

For more on 'The Thin Red Line', link to the website of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders (which was formed by the amalgamation of the 91st and 93rd Highlanders in 1881).

The Charge of the Heavy Brigade

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Repelled by the 93rd Highlanders, the Russians regrouped and moved more of their cavalry into the south valley. Brigadier-General Scarlett, commander of the Heavy Brigade of cavalry, saw this and anticipated another Russian attack. He moved quickly and led the Heavy Brigade on an uphill charge into some 2,000 Russian horsemen before the enemy could complete its preparations. The Russians were duly forced back into the north valley.

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