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  1. #1
    parentheses parentheses is offline

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    The Crimean War

    At the moment I have begun reading this book. Amazon.com: Crimea: The Last Crusade (Allen Lane History) (9780713997040): Orlando Figes: Books

    The backdrop to the war was the military pressure on the Ottoman empire by Russia in the 19th century. This caused grave worry to the British and French. The British worried the Russians might advance all the way to the Indian Ocean while the French worried about Russia dominating the Mediteranean.

    Religious prejudices played a part also. Militant Catholics in France were outraged at Russian opression of Polish Catholics. Also a dispute between Catholics and Orthodox developed over control of Holy sites in Jerusalem. In England Protestants regarded the Orthodox as even more backward and superstitious than Catholicism. This led some low church Protestants in particular to regard Muslims as superior to the Othodox Christians. One speaker at a meeting in England insisted that Muslims were really a type of Unitarian.

    Particularly interesting is the parellels with modern events. One British diplomat in the 19th century advocated the British taking over Mesopotamia to prevent Russian advance to the Indian Ocean. He said the country could be ruled easily enough by playing off the Shias and Sunnis against each other. In the decades before the war the British had also run guns to Muslim warriors in the Caucasus to try to stop the Russian advance, which is an interesting parallel to events in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1839/1842 the British invaded Afghanistan to control the country and prevent Russian penetration. The invasion turned into a disaster with nearly all the troops killed.

    The most strong advocate of war was Lord Palmerston the former foreign secretary of Britain. He hoped for nothing less than a major war which would permanently reduce the power of Russia.
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    Barabus Barabus is offline

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    "This led some low church Protestants in particular to regard Muslims as superior to the Othodox Christians. One speaker at a meeting in England insisted that Muslims were really a type of Unitarian."

    Not just low church Protestants many high Anglicans shared the belief informed somewhat by British policy in India where Muslims were seen as a better class of native than Hindus. These attitudes persisted until the formulation of the ignorant fanatics trope applied to facilitate the oil wars.
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  3. #3
    parentheses parentheses is offline

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    Interesting quote re the recruitment to the british army in the 1850s. Irish famine survivors were a prime source of recruits

    During the 1840s the pool of able bodied men had been severely drained by great industrial building projects and by emigration to the US and Canada, leaving the army to draw upon the unemployed and poorest sections of society, like the victims of the Irish famine, who took the bounty in a desperate attempt to clear their debts and save their families from the poorhouse. The main recruiting grounds for the army were pubs and fairs and races, where the poor got drunk and fell into debt.

    If the British trooper came from the poorest sections of society, the officer corps was drawn from the aristocracy.
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    sgtharper sgtharper is offline
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    I don't know the source of that quote but it's only interesting if you know nothing about the subject in the first place. Right from the foundation of the British Army following the Restoration of Charles II the prime source for its private soldiers was, for want of a better description, the peasantry and urban unemployed. It was still the case prior to the period referred to above, so to say that:

    During the 1840s the pool of able bodied men had been severely drained by great industrial building projects and by emigration to the US and Canada, leaving the army to draw upon the unemployed and poorest sections of society,
    is misleading, the "poorest sections of society" had ALWAYS been the main source of recruits to the ranks and with good reason, it was a feckin' awful job! Badly paid and quartered, poor food, harsh discipline and with the very real prospect of death, injury (often one and the same!) and disease. It was one step up from the workhouse FFS!

    like the victims of the Irish famine, who took the bounty in a desperate attempt to clear their debts and save their families from the poorhouse.
    The fact is that for many years prior to the Famine Ireland had been the Army's prime source of recruits, regiments would be sent to Ireland to boost their numbers prior to being posted abroad, mainly to India. The Irish recruits were prized because they were mainly from rural areas, physically bigger, stronger and healthier than the unemployed urban poor from the industrial cities of England and Scotland, inured to hardship and recklessly brave. Once trained they were the backbone of the finest Infantry in Europe. In fact it was the Famine which started the gradual decline in Irish recruitment as the pool of recruits became smaller due to de-population and emigration to America and Canada. I think Irish recruitment peaked in the 1840s or 50's IIRC, though Ireland was still greatly over-represented in the ranks for some time after that and many ostensibly "English" regiments were almost completely Irish. The 33rd Foot (Duke of Wellingtons Regiment) being one. I'm not saying that Famine survivors weren't recruited, they obviously were, but that's not the whole story.
    Finally, to baldly state that "the officer corps were drawn from the aristocracy" is simplistic in the extreme. True, many of the aristocracy were drawn to the Army and the Officer's messes of the Guards and Cavalry, as well as certain Regiments of the Line, had many titled personages, but that's far from the whole story. Most officers were of relatively humble means and backgrounds, the "squirearchy" at best and a surprising number from the ranks (Google Sir Luke O'Connor. The idea that most British Officers of the period were titled grandees is simply nonsense.
    Have a read of the excellent "Redcoat" by Richard Holmes for a fascinating and informed insight into the reality of the matter, "Sahib" by the same author is also well worth a read.
    Last edited by sgtharper; 29th December 2011 at 12:07 PM.
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  5. #5
    parentheses parentheses is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by sgtharper View Post
    I don't know the source of that quote but it's only interesting if you know nothing about the subject in the first place. Right from the foundation of the British Army following the Restoration of Charles II the prime source for its private soldiers was, for want of a better description, the peasantry and urban unemployed. It was still the case prior to the period referred to above, so to say that:



    is misleading, the "poorest sections of society" had ALWAYS been the main source of recruits to the ranks and with good reason, it was a feckin' awful job! Badly paid and quartered, poor food, harsh discipline and with the very real prospect of death, injury (often one and the same!) and disease. It was one step up from the workhouse FFS!
    I was quoting from the book I referenced in my OP.
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    PO'Neill PO'Neill is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by parentheses View Post
    At the moment I have begun reading this book. Amazon.com: Crimea: The Last Crusade (Allen Lane History) (9780713997040): Orlando Figes: Books

    Particularly interesting is the parellels with modern events. One British diplomat in the 19th century advocated the British taking over Mesopotamia to prevent Russian advance to the Indian Ocean.
    Yes like going to war under the excuse of weapons of mass destruction.

    He said the country could be ruled easily enough by playing off the Shias and Sunnis against each other. In the decades before the war the British had also run guns to Muslim warriors in the Caucasus to try to stop the Russian advance, which is an interesting parallel to events in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1839/1842 the British invaded Afghanistan to control the country and prevent Russian penetration. The invasion turned into a disaster with nearly all the troops killed.

    The most strong advocate of war was Lord Palmerston the former foreign secretary of Britain. He hoped for nothing less than a major war which would permanently reduce the power of Russia.
    But wasn't the British effort in the Crimean War another disaster ? The Charge of the Light Brigade been a fine example (which of course was protrayed by the Brits as the great heoric failure like Dunkirk, Gallipoli, Singapore ).

    There was a documentary on Discovery channel I think and basically it stated that the British in Crimea were a disaster with the French holding up the side for the war to end in stalemate and then the Brits and French limping home ??
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    Idont Believit Idont Believit is offline

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    Quote Originally Posted by PO'Neill View Post
    Yes like going to war under the excuse of weapons of mass destruction.


    But wasn't the British effort in the Crimean War another disaster ? The Charge of the Light Brigade been a fine example (which of course was protrayed by the Brits as the great heoric failure like Dunkirk, Gallipoli, Singapore ).

    There was a documentary on Discovery channel I think and basically it stated that the British in Crimea were a disaster with the French holding up the side for the war to end in stalemate and then the Brits and French limping home ??
    We're pretty good at celebrating heroic failure ourselves.
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    PO'Neill PO'Neill is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by sgtharper View Post
    The fact is that for many years prior to the Famine Ireland had been the Army's prime source of recruits, regiments would be sent to Ireland to boost their numbers prior to being posted abroad, mainly to India. The Irish recruits were prized because they were mainly from rural areas, physically bigger, stronger and healthier than the unemployed urban poor from the industrial cities of England and Scotland, inured to hardship and recklessly brave. Once trained they were the backbone of the finest Infantry in Europe.
    Irish recruits were after their training, quickly sent to other places on the far side of the world with English and Scottish regiments been sent into the country as they didn't trust the Irish soldiers holding guns in their own country in case the natives might use them against the same British army. And it's hard to see how the rural Irish could have been physically bigger, stronger and healthier than the unemployed urban poor from the industrial cities of England and Scotland, when the same rural Irish were dying of starvation and emigrating to the industrial cities of Britain to try and find a means of survival. The unemployed urban poor from the industrial cities of England and Scotland lived in poverty compared to other nations on the continent at the time, but were nonethelss better off than the rural or urban Irish.

    In fact it was the Famine which started the gradual decline in Irish recruitment as the pool of recruits became smaller due to de-population and emigration to America and Canada. I think Irish recruitment peaked in the 1840s or 50's IIRC, though Ireland was still greatly over-represented in the ranks for some time after that and many ostensibly "English" regiments were almost completely Irish. The 33rd Foot (Duke of Wellingtons Regiment) being one. I'm not saying that Famine survivors weren't recruited, they obviously were, but that's not the whole story.
    The Famine was in 1847, sorry mate but your contradiciting yourself.
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    PO'Neill PO'Neill is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by Idont Believit View Post
    We're pretty good at celebrating heroic failure ourselves.
    True enough, I suppose most nations are guilty of it For example in Spain the Spanish Armada's attempted invasion of England is presented as a great victory only to be stolen by freak weather conditions ( true to a point) with the Spanish navy returning home and no surrender been offered to the British for the Spanish ready to fight another day !!!!
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    sgtharper sgtharper is offline
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    Quote Originally Posted by PO'Neill View Post
    Irish recruits were after their training, quickly sent to other places on the far side of the world with English and Scottish regiments been sent into the country as they didn't trust the Irish soldiers holding guns in their own country in case the natives might use them against the same British army.
    Factually wrong, for a start you're assuming that Irish recruits went only to Irish regiments (of which incidentally, there were relatively few (18th, 27th, 83rd, 86th, 87th and 88th Foot and the 4th and 6th Dragoon Guards and 8th Hussars) until the late 1880's) which they didn't, they were predominantly recruited into British regiments stationed in Ireland and then moved about with them as they were posted abroad. Sir Luke O'Connor for example, from Elphin in Roscomon, joined the 23rd Foot (Royal Welch Fusiliers) and was a sergeant in their ranks when he won his VC in the Crimea at the Alma, the first VC awarded. There were Irishmen in Scottish regiments(the Highland Light Infantry (HLI) for example, were always known as the "Hairy Legged Irish" and also in the Artillery, Engineers and other corps. Incidentally, as for trusting them, they don't appear to have had any problems in arming the Irish Constabulary during this period, do they?

    And it's hard to see how the rural Irish could have been physically bigger, stronger and healthier than the unemployed urban poor from the industrial cities of England and Scotland, when the same rural Irish were dying of starvation and emigrating to the industrial cities of Britain to try and find a means of survival.
    I wasn't referrring specifically to the period of the Crimean War, which in any case was 1854/55, some 6 years after the Famine ended. There are numerous references to the high physical quality of recruits from Ireland however, I've come across them repeatedly in my reading. In fact the diet (pre-Famine) of the Irish rural peasantry, Potatoes (up to 14lbs per day apparently) and milk, with some vegetables and occasionally some meat, seemed to produce large strong men and their backgrounds made them hardy and tough. Ideal soldier-material in fact. A particular quote I recall, though not the source, is:

    "We are fortunate that we have in Ireland an almost inexhaustible source of the very best manpower"
    [QUOTE]

    The unemployed urban poor from the industrial cities of England and Scotland lived in poverty compared to other nations on the continent at the time, but were nonethless better off than the rural or urban Irish.
    Are we seriously going to attempt to quantify degrees of misery? Starvation and poverty is pretty much the same whether it's in a slum in Manchester or one in the Libertiesor Limerick. Pointless exercise.

    The Famine was in 1847, sorry mate but your contradiciting yourself.
    Yes I did, I lost my thread somewhat, I do know that Irish recruitment declined after the famine, for the reasons I mentioned in my first post, de-population and emigration to the US and Canada, and for that matter, England, as there was a great demand for labourers for the new railways and canals. In fact I'm sure I've read something somewhere about how impressive in stature the Irish "navvies" were and that as the passed through a district the women flocked to them. Not all starving wraiths apparently
    Last edited by sgtharper; 29th December 2011 at 02:01 PM.
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