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 Invasion

 

 

After embarkation had been completed, the armada aimed to concentrate in Balchik Bay, 15 miles (24km) north of Varna, but 'a strong breeze for several days' disrupted the programme. When Raglan arrived at Balchik on 5 September, St Arnaud had already left. Not until three days later did the two vessels carrying the French and British commanders meet at sea. By then the invasion fleet was strung out over an alarming distance.

That afternoon, an allied conference on board Ville de France, St Arnaud's ship, learnt that the French now favoured landing on the south coast of the Crimea at Kaffa, 100 miles (160km) east of Sevastopol and separated from it by mountainous terrain. Reconvened the following day on Caradoc, Raglan's steamer, the conference rejected Kaffa, but expressed unease about the proximity of the Katcha to Sevastopol, from which the enemy could quickly bring up troops and artillery.

 

Skirmish at the Bulganek. 19 September 1854. After allied troops began marching southwards towards Sevastopol, the light cavalry encountered enemy cavalry across the shallow Bulganek river Massed Russian infantry were then detected in dead ground ahead, and the vanguard extricated from the planned ambush under cover of artillery fire.

 

 

 

So on 9 September, protected by three warships. Raglan and 11 British and French officers sailed in Caradoc to re-examine the west coast of the Crimea. They returned to the allied ships, which had gathered at the rendezvous 40 miles (64km) west of Cape Tarakan, and announced that the landing area would now be in Calamita Bay, just south of the small port of Eupatoria and 30 miles (48km) north of Sevastopol. Raglan estimated that 20,000-25,000 enemy troops had been seen in camps during the reconnaissance, in addition to the garrison of Sevastopol and others hidden inland at Simpheropol, Batchi Serai and elsewhere.

The armada resumed its passage eastwards, and on the evening of 12 September Eupatoria came into sight.

Next day it was occupied and the allied force sailed on south to the landing beaches, characterised by the ruins of an old fort. Menshikov received intelligence that the allied armada was at sea while attending the Borodin regiment's ball on 11 September, and confirmation of the impending landings arrived two days later during an evening performance of Gogol's play The Government Inspector in Sevastopol. When the news circulated among the audience, the theatre rapidly emptied.

Photograph of French Zouves

The unopposed invasion commenced on 14 September, but stormy weather interrupted the landings, which were not completed for four days. Then a total of approximately 63,000 men and 128 guns were ashore. St Arnaud wrote confidently: 'The troops are superb ... we shall beat the Russians.' On the morning of 19 September, the march south started: four rivers had to be crossed before reaching the Bay of Sevastopol, which divided the northern suburbs of the naval port from its southern dockyard. The British protected the exposed left flank as the French and Turks advanced adjacent to the coast on the allied right. Two regiments of light cavalry rode ahead of the British force, two covered the flank and a fifth the rear. Cardigan, as brigade commander, went with the two leading regiments, but Lucan had insisted on accompanying the invading force despite absence of the Heavy Brigade and Raglan's reluctance, because the two brothers-in-law had already clashed in Bulgaria.

Reaching the small Bulganek river, which was the first of the water obstacles, during the afternoon of 19 September, Raglan spotted Cossacks beyond. He sent the
cavalry advance guard over the stream to investigate. As they did so, the sun fla on the bayonets of massed infantry dr up in ambush. Covered by 6pdr and 9pdr field guns, the cavalry skilfully withdrew; and the first skirmish on C territory had taken place.

 

 

 

 

 

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