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Military Resources: Crimean War

This State Library of South Australia guide to military related information includes medals, militia and Australian involvement in conflicts. The emphasis is on South Australian resources.

Onsite resources

These resources are only available for use onsite. However, if you are unable to come into the Library you can use our Ask Us service. The Ask Us service enables you to submit questions to our librarians who will attempt to provide you with helpful information. The basic research service is free although there are charges for copying.

Crimean War Medal with South Australian connection

Records Archives, the official Newsletter of State Records of South Australia published a fascinating detective story about the discovery of a Crimean War medal here in South Australia, in its April 2002 edition.  

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale (1820 - 1910)

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There is more material available at the Library than is listed here. You can search for additional items on the catalogue using the search box on this page, in the top right hand corner underneath the orange tabs.

Suggested subject headings are

Crimean War 1854 - 1856

For centuries, one central goal of Russian foreign policy was to obtain a warm water port in the south--namely, at the Bosporus Straits and the Strait of the Dardanelles, the small waterways connecting the Black Sea to the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas. In 1854, the decaying Ottoman Empire controlled that essential waterway and Russia sought increased power in this region.

In 1853, St. Petersburg demanded that the Ottoman Empire recognise Russia's right to protect Eastern Orthodox believers in Turkey. When Turkey refused, Russia sent troops into Ottoman territory. Fearing increased Russian power and an upset to the balance of power on the Continent, Great Britain and France declared war on Russia on March 28, 1854. Russia fared well against its weaker neighbour to the south, destroying the Turkish fleet off the coast of Sinope, a port city in north-central Asia Minor. However, in September 1854, the British and French laid siege to Sevastopol, Russia's heavily fortified chief naval base in the Black Sea, lying on the Crimean peninsula. After just under one year of constant battle, the Russian abandoned the fortress, blowing up their fortifications and sinking their own ships.


Meanwhile, at nearby Balaklava, British troops charged down a narrow valley that was flanked by Russian guns on both sides. The British suffered heavy casualties in what came to be called the Valley of Death. The name of the British group was the Light Brigade, giving rise to the famous Alfred, Lord Tennyson poem, "The Charge of the Light Brigade."

Russia's new tsar, Alexander II, sued for peace in 1856. In the resulting Peace of Paris, Russia relinquished its claim as Christian protector in Turkey, the Black Sea was neutralised, and the balance of power was maintained.

Crimean Landscape 1856

Florence Nightingale

Florence Nightingale became a living legend as the 'Lady with the Lamp'. She led the nurses caring for thousands of soldiers during the Crimean War and helped save the British army from medical disaster.

Born in Italy in 1820 and dying at the age of 90, in 1910, she devoted her life to nursing and the push for better health care and sanitation for all.

After the Crimean War she demanded a Royal Commission into the Military Hospitals and the health of the Army.  She began investigating the health and sanitation in the British Army in India, and the local population. Money which had been sent by the general public to thank her for her work in the Crimea was used to establish the first organised, training school for nurses, the Nightingale Training School at St Thomas’ Hospital.

Her greatest achievement was to make nursing a respectable profession for women. Florence's writings on hospital planning and organisation had a profound effect in England and across the world, publishing over 200 books, reports and pamphlets.

The Florence Nightingale Museum has extensive information on this amazing woman and her achievements.


South Australians in the Crimean War

As far as we know, there were no South Australian born participants in the Crimean War. However, there were Australians who participated. The Library holds some relevant resources.

4th Dragoon Guards

From Vulliamy, C.E., Crimea the campaign of 1854-56, pg.278

Online newspaper articles

You can read historic newspaper articles from across Australia published at the time of the Crimean War.

Crimean War guns presented to Adelaide

In early 1859 two Russian guns taken during the Crimean War as trophies arrived in Adelaide.  The Register newspaper of 17 February 1859, p.2h stated that they where 24-pounders and had seen actual service.  At the expense of the Colony they where suitably mounted on carriages and taken into the care of the Adelaide artillery corps.  These cannons where used to herald the arrival of the Duke of Edinburgh in 1867 and one of them was used daily as a time signal at noon each day for many years.  The guns spend time in the Botanic Gardens, the south park lands, near the Art Gallery on North Terrace and in 1901 after many years of disuse moved to the Adelaide Parade Grounds.

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