Crimean War navy

This guide was last updated in 2011

The Baltic Fleet leaving Spithead, 1854 © Bridgeman

Fascinated by John Bishop's episode? Janet Dempsey from The National Archives tells you how to uncover the stories of your seafaring forebears caught up in the Crimean War.

Fought between 1853 and 1856, the Crimean War is so called because most of the fighting took place on the Crimean Peninsula, now an autonomous republic within Ukraine.

The war was part of a long running conflict between an alliance formed of the British, French and Ottoman Empires against the Russian Empire, who were trying to exert influence over the Ottoman Empire's territories.

Unfortunately, the Crimean War is often remembered for the mistakes made during the campaigns on land, notably the Charge of the Light Brigade, and it is therefore often overlooked that one of the most successful campaigns of the war was fought at sea when the Allied navies almost wiped out the Russian navy at Sevastopol.

For those researching ancestors embroiled in the conflict there is a distinct advantage: this was one of the first wars to be extensively documented by the press and in photographs. Thanks to the invention of the electric telegraph some years earlier, the British public were kept up to date on a daily basis.

If you want to begin your research by simply getting an idea of how the battles were reported, you can search through a selection of 19th century newspapers via the British Newspaper Archive, which has also recently been made available to subscribers. At the time it was known as the Russian War in Britain, so you should try searching using that term.

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