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The Crimean War by R. L. V. Ffrench Blake
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Billed as "a straight-forward" account of the war, this actually comes over as a very dry military history, with a lot of numeration of battalions and regiments, and very little about the key personalities - and after all, the Crimean War is the story of the personalities and their conflicts with others supposedly on the same side as them. Chapter 9, on the Battle of Inkerman, is particularly difficult to follow; the author has set out the events of the battle as a table, supposedly to make the events clearer. In fact, this seems to me to make it impossible to read without re-enacting the battle as a wargame at the same time.

There is a good annotated bibliography, and anoraky lists of regiments and the Orders of Battle of the three main combatant armies.

Having said that, there are occasional flashes of insight that make this book nonetheless worthwhile. It details, for instance, the campaigns of the Crimean War that took place outside the Crimea - for instance, in the lower Danube basin (where the war started), in the Caucasus, and the naval blockade of Russia in the Baltic. And Chapter 10, "Administrative difficulties", is actually a very good exposition of the concept of military support services and the problems inherent in keeping an increasingly modern army supplied. Our current-day politicians, who regard it as a scandal that it takes two people behind the lines to supply one soldier in the line, would do well to read this and learn something about real life.

The Crimean War, especially from Britain's point of view, was a prime example of incompetence at many levels, unprofessionalism at the highest level, and generally it reflects on typical British arrogance when dealing with foreigners that blinds us to all else and makes us look foolish to everyone except ourselves.

The 1971 paperback edition has lost the maps inside the front and rear endpapers that would give a useful overview of the whole campaign, though they are referenced in the contents list. ( )
  RobertDay | Dec 9, 2011 |
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