Plans to renew the siege in earnest quickened in February 1855, especially after the Russians sank six more ships across the entrance to Sevastopol harbour, destroying any hope that they might give up the fight. During the winter's lull in operations, they had strengthened the dominant Malakov defence work and the Mamelon in front of it, now faced by the French on the allied right.
Sickness and casualties, incurred in occasional sorties and exchanges of artillery fire, had reduced the effective British fighting strength to scarcely more than
12,000. Despite this deficiency in men, however, Raglan faced an elaborate French plan to complete the siege of Sevastopol by taking the Star Fort in the north and using 50,000 troops to storm the field army on Mackenzie Heights. Fortunately, the British commander was ignorant of further French proposals to concentrate their reserves at Constantinople. Nor did he know that the Cabinet had needed to reject the idea that British forces should be brought under French control, something attempted by St Arnaud when the allies were in Turkey. In the Crimea, the French now had eight infantry divisions divided into two corps, commanded by Plissier and Bosquet.
The French plan for the investment Sevastopol rested to some extent on aggressive action by Omar Pasha from Eupatoria, where on 11 February he commanded 26,000 infantry, two bat horse artillery with a third battery ab land. Six days later, the Russians launched a determined assault on Eupatoria, which the Turkish C-in-C drove off. This action did underline the importance of the small port and raise the question of whether the Turks should move against the Russian supply lines from the Perekop peninsula into Sevastopol rather than seek to attack the naval port's northern suburb. An allied strategy was not easy to agree, with all three national commanders now in the Crimea. The French undoubtedly had the largest contingent of troops, but the relationship forged between Raglan and Omar Pasha in Bulgaria endured.
A change of government in London in February 1855, with replacement of Aberdeen and Newcastle as Prime Minister and Secretary of State for War respectively by Palmerston and Panmure, brought an intensification of criticism. Panmure swiftly informed Raglan: 'I see no reason ... to alter the opinion which is universally entertained here of the inefficiency of your general staff.' The Commander-in-Chief at the Horse Guards in London, Lord Hardinge, referred to complaints from 'officers of rank' and The Times thundered: 'Their [the troops'] aristocratic generals, and their equally aristocratic staff view this scene of wreck and destruction with a gentleman-like tranquillity ... [they would] return with their horses, their plate and their china, their German cook and several tons' weight of official returns, all in excellent order, and the announcement that the last British soldier was dead.'
Raglan vigorously defended his staff, but Burgoyne had been sent out by the government to be his adviser and was recalled as the ritual scapegoat, leaving the Crimea on 20 March.
In February, too, a Commission of Inquiry- went to the front under Dr A. Cumming to investigate the medical services, 'found the patients in the field hospitals generally in a filthy condition' and contrasted the British arrangements unfavourably with those of the French. Palmerston immediately dispatched a more powerful Sanitary Commission of Mr R. Rawlinson, Dr J. Sutherland and Dr H. Gavin, charged with putting not only the field hospitals in the Crimea, but also those at Scutari 'into less unhealthy condition'. This Commission was rapidly followed by Sir John McNeill and Colonel Alexander Tulloch 'to inquire into the whole management of the Commissariat Department'. Although the departments subject to investigation by these various bodies were not under Raglan's command, the impression of incompetence affected perceptions of his inefficiency by those unfamiliar with the tortuous administrative system. On 24 February, Lucan finally left the Crimea in high dudgeon at being recalled, but in truth his continual sniping at Raglan about Balaclava had become intolerable.
As the weather improved in March, the siege lines edged closer to the Sevastopol defences, raising hopes of an early assault. An allied conference on 25 March set 2 April as the date for renewal of the bombardment.