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Old August 21st, 2013, 01:27 PM   #1

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A defence of Lord Raglan.


Fitzroy Somereset, 1st Baron Raglan often gets a bad rap for the tactical and strategic ability which he showed during the Crimean War. Can anyone on this forum who is knowledgeable about the Crimean war "defend" Lord Raglan, or is his reputation of a blithering idiot well deserved?
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Old August 21st, 2013, 02:22 PM   #2

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OK I'll take up the gauntlet (I am not a fan far from it) he was not an idiot or a fool that's too simplistic (we must also get away from the 1960's anti war anti establishment attitudes.)

He was an aristocratic who served bravely in the Napoleonic wars as a junior officer.
But then Britain did not fight a 'European style war' for forty years.

He was a junior officer whose next military command (after 40 tears of admin duty) was to command an army an experience he and nobody around him had done.

Can not see how that is going to come out well unless he was exceptionally talented--which he wasn't but few of us are.
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Old August 21st, 2013, 02:26 PM   #3

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I wonder if he faced some of the same issues as his near-contemporaries in the American Civil War. In the middle of the 19th Century, military technology seemed to be evolving faster than military thought. This wrecked many careers (not to mention lives).
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Old August 21st, 2013, 03:35 PM   #4

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Raglan, to me, seems to fit into a general pattern during that war of mediocre British performance relative to the Ottoman, French, and Russian armies. The best thing that could be said for him is that he's part of a trend.
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Old August 21st, 2013, 04:31 PM   #5
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the perception of Crimean war comes from the press reports about the conditions of the troops, however this was a logistical problem, rather than a strategic one, which was a product partly from the inexperience of the british army at that time, and the unpreparedness of the British state for major war after decades of relative peace. The Crimean war was the first time the army was accompanied by war correspondents, it was also the first time in about 30 years the British army had fought a major war, so it was inexperienced, and the mechnisms of the army had gone unreformed and untested(the East India company army was possibly more experienced). To be fair to Raglan he didn’t lose any battles, he wasn‘t responsible for the mishandling of the light brigade charge. There was a more successful cavalry charge during battle of Balaclava by the Heavy brigade that broke an entire battalion of Russian cavalry.
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Old August 21st, 2013, 04:52 PM   #6

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Originally Posted by Nemowork View Post
Raglan wasnt a complete incompetent and he was sent more for his social personality and ability to maintain a coalition than for his martial abilities...which is useful because he didn't have that many.

On the other hand militarily he didnt do that badly, we won more than we lost, it was the supply side that fell apart and that was as much about the commissary department as it was about Raglan.
Since i was feeling lazy about typing.

Edward Hamley. The War in the Crimea. 1900. Chapter 8.

For a British officers view of the supply deficiencies and a comparison of some of the allied forces flaws. He seems to be a bit over enamoured of Nightingale and completely missed the Turks but it shows some of the difficulty faced.

Of course if Raglan had been a more zealous commander he would have banged a few heads together in the commissary or got them moving back in London to fix the situation but he wasnt.
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Old August 21st, 2013, 09:13 PM   #7

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which was a product partly from the inexperience of the british army at that time, and the unpreparedness of the British state for major war after decades of relative peace.

it was also the first time in about 30 years the British army had fought a major war, so it was inexperienced

at that time the British army was divided into two, the British Army in India the 'Indians' and the Homre Army in Britian. The army in India was perpetually fighting, and an efficient veteran army at all levels from general down to individual soldiers. It also wasn't restricted to India, fighting all over Asia from China to Persia.

In the British Army wealthy officers usually didn't want to go to India, which was hot, disease ridden and in the middle of nowhere, it was where poor or middle class officers went. The rich bought commissions in regiments posted in England and if the regiment was sent to India they often paid poorer officers to go in their place. 'Indians' were seen as lower class but the despite this everyone was well aware they had all the fighting experience and were winning all the medals and glories. In England the 'Indians' were looked at with a mixture of snobbery and jealousy.

Now Britain had fought several major wars since Waterloo but they were all in Asia so fought by the Indian Army. When the Crimea came along it was in Europe and the question was whether to send the highly competent and efficient Indian army or to send the one in Britain or mix the two.

What happened was all the wealthy and powerful officers in Britain started to use their influence and contacts in Horse Guards and Parliament to totally shut out any Indian influence from the war and make sure it was an entirely Home based and commanded operation and they could get the laurels. So at every level experienced 'Indian' officers and troops were passed over and completely green soldiers used.

The Crimean War was not that Britain hadn't experience of fighting any major wars recently or hadn't any experienced soldiers, it was that it had everything in abundance and didn't use it.

Now as army chief Raglan oversaw this, no-matter how he comported himself on campaign he'd created a bebacle from the very outset.

Last edited by Toltec; August 21st, 2013 at 09:19 PM.
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Old August 22nd, 2013, 03:31 AM   #8
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Yes, but I meant that the Crimean war was the first against a European opponent since the Napoleonic wars. I know Britain fought major wars throughout the world. As you say the 'Indian' branch of the British army was more experienced; the 'european' branch was still occupied by old timers from the Napoleonic wars like Raglan who just allowed all the abuses of a peace time army to exasperate.
Divisions in the army existed in the 18th century as well, the British army was split into three 'establishments'; the Irish, Indian and British. The Irish and British establishments merged with the act of union in 1801, the Irish rebellion of 1797 partly stemmed from the conflict between 'Irish' soldiers and officers and those of the 'British' establishment. The Society of United Irishmen was formed partly from soldiers raised in the 'Irish Volunteer' establishment and ex officers of the British army of the Irish establishment like Lord Fitzgerald. The Indian mutiny of 1857 partly stemmed from similar circumstances, the semi independent status of the east india company army, and the friction arrising from that.
Also halfway through the 2nd Boer war, Frederick Roberts who was an experienced ‘Indian’ officer, tried to reorganise the whole British supply system to that of the Indian army, so it seems much of the supply problems experienced in the Crimean war continued well into the 19th century
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Old August 22nd, 2013, 05:48 AM   #9

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Originally Posted by redFusilier View Post
the perception of Crimean war comes from the press reports about the conditions of the troops, however this was a logistical problem, rather than a strategic one, which was a product partly from the inexperience of the british army at that time, and the unpreparedness of the British state for major war after decades of relative peace. The Crimean war was the first time the army was accompanied by war correspondents, it was also the first time in about 30 years the British army had fought a major war, so it was inexperienced, and the mechnisms of the army had gone unreformed and untested(the East India company army was possibly more experienced). To be fair to Raglan he didn’t lose any battles, he wasn‘t responsible for the mishandling of the light brigade charge. There was a more successful cavalry charge during battle of Balaclava by the Heavy brigade that broke an entire battalion of Russian cavalry.
It may have been a logistical problem, but it is one that Raglan failed at, while the French did not. Raglan failed operationally by not following the early victories with a swift movement in Sevastopol, leading to a prolonged siege. Raglan compounded this failure by ignoring orders to cut Russian supply lines to Sevastopol, further extending the siege. Raglan most certainly was responsible for the Charge debacle - even if the Light Brigade had been sent towards the correct guns, it still would have resulted in heavy casualties that gained the British nothing.

This also ignores the French. Without them Raglan would have lost every battle and the British casualties from Raglan's mishandling both battles and logistics soon reduced the British to a subordinate role under the French. Even after Raglan was gone, the British continued to perform poorly. While the French and Sardinians successfully took the Malakhov, the British were bloodily repulsed at the Redan.
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Old August 22nd, 2013, 06:55 AM   #10
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It may have been a logistical problem, but it is one that Raglan failed at, while the French did not. Raglan failed operationally by not following the early victories with a swift movement in Sevastopol, leading to a prolonged siege. Raglan compounded this failure by ignoring orders to cut Russian supply lines to Sevastopol, further extending the siege. Raglan most certainly was responsible for the Charge debacle - even if the Light Brigade had been sent towards the correct guns, it still would have resulted in heavy casualties that gained the British nothing.

This also ignores the French. Without them Raglan would have lost every battle and the British casualties from Raglan's mishandling both battles and logistics soon reduced the British to a subordinate role under the French. Even after Raglan was gone, the British continued to perform poorly. While the French and Sardinians successfully took the Malakhov, the British were bloodily repulsed at the Redan.
The British army was subordinate to the French from the beginning. The British force was dwarfed by the other contingents because the British army was traditionally very small. As I said much of the problems were symtoms of the parlous state of the british army, which had exasperated during years of peacetime underfunding, neglect and inativity. Raglan was a typical peacetime establishment officer promoted well above his station and given a leading role in a war above his depth.
However despite Raglan's limitations and mistakes, the thread is assessing what he did do right or was not his fault. He still did not technically lose a battle, the British and French were co-operating as allies. Also Raglan didn’t give orders for a full charge for the cavalry at Balaclava, but a pursuit, his orders were misinterpreted.

Quote:
This also ignores the French. Without them Raglan would have lost every battle and the British casualties from Raglan's mishandling both battles and logistics soon reduced the British to a subordinate role under the French. Even after Raglan was gone, the British continued to perform poorly. While the French and Sardinians successfully took the Malakhov, the British were bloodily repulsed at the Redan.
I’m not sure what your point is here, the British and French were co-operating as allies, both had failures and successes in the war, at times both needed the other, , would the French would have won battles of Inkerman and Alma on their own and vice versa? Indeed the French suffered seven times as many casualties from disease as the British, so they must have suffered the horrendous conditions the british soldiers did, however the focus of criticism was on the British army because the fact correspondents followed the British army
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