- Name: Gronow DAVIS
- D.O.B: 16th May, 1828
- D.O.A: 8th Sep, 1855
- D.O.D: 18th Oct, 1891
- Award: Victoria Cross
- Occupation at time of action: Captain, No 2 Company, 5th Battalion, Royal Regiment of Artillery, Light Division
- Book: The Complete History - Volume 1
The Crimean War
1854 - 56
The decline of the empire established by the Ottoman Turks in the late Middle Ages, stretching from south-east Europe through Asia Minor and Arabia and along the southern coast of the Mediterranean, gave rise to many of the most intractable disputes between the European powers throughout the nineteenth century, only reaching its final resolution in the First World War and its aftermath. Since the late eighteenth century the Russians had dreamed of seizing the Turkish capital Constantinople (modern Istanbul). Standing as it did on the Bosphorus, this would have given the Russian Black Sea Fleet free passage into the Mediterranean. The British, already deeply suspicious of Russia’s intentions in Afghanistan and Central Asia, saw this as a threat to the land route to India. To prevent this, the British government was prepared to support the Sultan of Turkey, whatever its misgivings over his mistreatment of his Christian subjects. For its part, France had long maintained interests in the Levant and Egypt, and by the 1850s had acquired North African territories. Its new Emperor, Napoleon III, was also eager to restore France’s international prestige.
In 1850 a trivial dispute arose between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monks over their various rights in the holy places of Jerusalem. Both appealed to their respective champions, the rulers of France and Russia, to plead their cause with the Sultan. The French threatened the Turks with military action, while the Russians prepared to occupy the principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia (part of modern Romania). Judging that his real enemy was Russia, in December 1852 the Sultan found in favour of the Catholics. In February 1853 Tsar Nicholas I of Russia mobilized his army, demanding that the Sultan restore the Orthodox monks’ privileges and declare a Russian protectorate over all Christians in the Ottoman Empire. The Sultan was happy to placate the monks but refused any such protectorate. A French squadron was already present in the Dardanelles and the British Prime Minister, Lord Aberdeen, now agreed to dispatch warships there as a gesture of support. However, on 3 July 1853 Russian troops entered Moldavia and Wallachia. A Turkish ultimatum requiring them to withdraw was ignored and Turkey declared war on Russia on 5 October 1853. Both Britain and France now began to transport armies to Gallipoli to defend Constantinople. The situation was further inflamed when on 30 November 1853 the Russians destroyed a good part of the Turkish navy off Cape Sinope on the southern coast of the Black Sea. When an Allied ultimatum demanding Russian evacuation of the Danube principalities went unanswered, Britain and France declared war on 27 and 28 March 1854 respectively.
There were to be minor actions in the Baltic around the coast of Finland, then part of the Russian Empire, and also in eastern Turkey, as well as an abortive Anglo-French naval attack on Petropavlovsk on Russia’s Pacific coast. Most of the fighting however centred on the Crimean Peninsula, where the Allies hoped the reduction of the naval base at Sevastopol would destroy Russian power in the Black Sea for a generation. They thought this could be accomplished in a couple of months before the Russian winter set in. On 14 September 1854, 27,000 British, 30,000 French and 7,000 Turkish troops landed unopposed at Kalamita Bay in the Crimea, 20 miles north of Sevastopol, and on 19 September marched south along the coast towards the city. The following day they reached the River Alma, a natural obstacle at which the Russian commander, Prince Menshikov, sought to halt their progress. The Allies prevailed but allowed the defeated Russian Army to withdraw. Meanwhile, in Sevastopol Lieutenant Colonel Todleben began to prepare the city defences. In failing to mount an immediate attack on the port, the Allies lost the opportunity to conclude the war before the onset of winter.
The Allied armies moved south from the Alma, skirting the city of Sevastopol which lay to their west and established bases on the coast of the Peninsula, the French in the west at Kamish and Kazatch, the British in the south at Balaklava. This left the British open to attack on their right flank from the Russian army in the Crimea, which on 25 October 1854 advanced against the British base. The Heavy Brigade repulsed the Russian cavalry but, though the British camp was saved, the Light Brigade was effectively destroyed when, unsupported and under circumstances which have never been satisfactorily explained, it undertook its famous charge against the Russian guns.
By the end of September Sevastopol, which lay on the southern side of an inlet on the west coast of the Crimea, had been invested from the south, but the siege was not complete and Russian forces were able to come and go at will on the northern side. On 17 October 1854 the first Allied bombardment of Sevastopol took place. There were to be five further bombardments over the next year. On 26 October the Russians probed the Allied positions in the eastern heights overlooking the port. Known as Little Inkerman, this action proved to be a forerunner of the main Battle of Inkerman when, on 5 November, Russian forces from within Sevastopol itself and from the Tchernaya valley to the east, again attacked the heights but, though taking the Allies by surprise, failed to dislodge them.
The British and French armies now prepared for what proved to be an exceptionally harsh winter. In the British case the situation was made worse by the shortcomings of their supply system, exacerbated by a tempest in mid November, which badly damaged the shipping inside and outside Balaklava harbour. Military operations were largely restricted to trench warfare until 7 June 1855 when the British attacked the Quarries and the French the Mamelon outside Sevastopol. However, on 18 June an Allied attack on two strongpoints in the Russian defences of the port, the Malakov and the Redan, was beaten back. On 8 September the Allies made a second attempt and on this occasion a British assault on the Redan again failed but the French took the Malakov. That night the Russians withdrew from Sevastopol. Tsar Nicholas I had died on 2 March 1855 and his son Alexander II was predisposed to peace. In February 1856 a peace conference met at Paris and a treaty was signed on 30 March 1856. This guaranteed the integrity of the Ottoman Porte, the freedom of Moldavia and Wallachia, freedom of navigation on the River Danube, neutralization of the Black Sea and the protection of the rights of Christians in the Ottoman Empire.
For great coolness and gallantry in the attack on the Redan, 8th September, 1855, on which occasion he commanded the spiking party, and after which he saved the life of Lieutenant Sanders, 30th Regiment, by jumping over the parapet of a sap, and proceeding twice some distance across the open, under a “murderous” fire, to assist in conveying that officer, whose leg was broken, and who was otherwise severely wounded, under cover; and repeated this act in the conveyance of other wounded soldiers from the same exposed position.