On 17 August, 704 allied guns opened the Fifth Bombardment on Sevastopol. Lasting four days, it was not, however, followed by the expected renewed assault on the Malakov and Great Redan. That occurred on 8 September after three days of further bombardment (the Sixth) by 775 British and French guns, 57 of them from the Royal Navy, 126 from the Royal Artillery. In the Little Redan, 200 of the 600 defenders la Motterouge the Curtain Battery. Each of these divisions would be supported by engineers, artillerymen to spike captured guns or turn them on the enemy and, critically, men with scaling ladders. Troops of the British Light and 2nd divisions, commanded by Lieutenant-General Sir William Codrington and Major-General J. Markham respectively, attacking the Great Redan were to be similarly supported and preceded by skirmishers briefed to pick off enemy gunners, making a grand total of 1,900 men. Fears of another debacle like that of 18 June prevailed, especially as the exposed area short of the objective remained substantially the same. Brigadier-General C. A. Windham, who would distinguish himself on the day, wrote pessimistically to his wife: 'This may possibly, ay and probably will be, the last letter you will ever receive from me.'
Gorchakov believed that the French were waiting for heavy mortars and would not yet attempt an assault. Noon, when the enemy pickets changed, was designated zero hour, but the British and French left were not to attack until a flag signalled capture of the Malakov. Having taken their trenches to within 30yds (27m) of the Malakov, the sudden surge of MacMahon's division caught the Russians by surprise and they were quickly overrun. Cannon in the Curtain Battery, which could have ranged on the Malakov once captured, were spiked, but French troops were driven back from the Little Redan. P?lissier therefore decided to concentrate on holding the Malakov in strength against inevitable counter-attacks. MacMahon told a British officer: 'I'm here, and I shall stay here,' proceeding to beat off the Russians five times.
French troops on the allied left attacked at 2 pm and suffered heavy loss without taking either the Central or Flagstaff bastions. Due to the rocky terrain, the British had been unable to advance their trenches much closer than 400yds (365m) from their objective, and as on 18 June were enfiladed by withering fire from the Gervais, Barrack and Garden batteries. Although a few brave men (including some from the Naval Brigade) managed to get into the defence- work, they quickly became casualties or were driven out. For the second time an attack on the Great Redan had failed. It cost 2,610 British casualties, 550 of them dead, including 29 officers.
However, as Burgoyne had predicted, the Malakov proved the pivotal fortification. In the final assault on it, the French suffered 7,567 casualties (1,634 killed); Russian casualties were put at 12,000 (3,000 killed). With loss of the Malakov, Gorchakov decided that the southern part of Sevastopol was untenable. During the night of 8/9 September, leaving their wounded behind, the Russians blew up fortifications and important buildings in the port and crossed the prepared pontoon of boats, which they burnt behind them, to the northern suburb.
Next day the allies triumphantly took charge of the dockyard and its environs, claiming that Sevastopol had fallen. But Captain the Hon. Henry Clifford did not rejoice; '1 stood in the Redan more humble, more dejected and with a heavier heart than I have yet felt since I left home ... I looked towards the Malakov, there was the French flag, the Tricolour, planted on its parapet ... no flag floated on the parapet on which I stood.' He might have reflected, though, that if enemy fire had not been directed at the Great Redan, the French in the Malakov would have been bombarded from batteries not required to engage the British. Thus, on 9 September, the tricolour might not have been flying over the Malakov either. Capture of the main, southern part of Sevastopol with its dockyard and arsenals was truly an allied effort, especially as Turks and Sardinians were in the siege lines.
Windham's fate provides an interesting postscript. Despite his forebodings, he survived the Redan debacle, became Chief of Staff to the British C-in-C in the Crimea, was later knighted and advanced to the rank of lieutenant-general.