Hussars are a real decoration of the wars of the past. Of all the types of cavalry employed by the British in the Crimean campaign, the hussars were the most striking and spectacular – primarily due to the beautiful uniform. When Great Britain entered the war, two hussar regiments were included in the formed cavalry division. They suffered severe trials – the main battle of the British cavalry in the Crimea, as well as the difficult winter of 1854-1855. Later, another hussar regiment was transferred to the Crimea from India, thereby bringing their total number to three.
In the British army, hussars were one of the main types of light cavalry along with ulans and light dragoons. Thanks to their bright and elaborate uniforms (the most expensive in value in the entire British army), hussar units were considered a prestigious and elite form of cavalry.
After the outbreak of the war, which went down in history as the Crimean, a cavalry division was formed in England from two brigades – the Heavy and the Light. Each brigade had five regiments, two squadrons each. In the state, each squadron consisted of 140 horses, 155 people and was divided into two detachments (Troop) of 70 riders. Accordingly, the regiment is 280 cavalrymen, and the brigade is 1,400.
In addition to one ulan and two light dragoon regiments, two hussar regiments were included in the Light Brigade:
- 8th Hussar Regiment (8th King’s Royal Irish Hussars) Lt. Col. Frederick Shevell;
- 11th Hussars (11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own)) Lt. Col. John Douglas.
After Waterloo, the British Empire did not wage major wars for almost forty years, and the beginning of the Crimean War took its army by surprise. The troops were commanded by colonels and generals without the slightest combat experience, who bought their positions thanks to the system operating in the country. For example, since 1836, the 11th Hussar Regiment was commanded by James Bradnell, the 7th Earl of Cardigan, who had never sniffed gunpowder on the battlefield, but who actively financed the entire life of his regiment. After the war began, Cardigan was offered to lead the Light Brigade, to which he readily agreed, having surrendered the command of the regiment, while continuing to wear the usual regimental uniform.
During the long peace period, the troops were in a relaxed state, and their numbers were gradually declining. Therefore, the preparation of ready-made regiments for dispatch to war encountered serious difficulties – in particular, a lack of personnel for the assembly of units according to the staffing table. For example, in the 8th hussar regiment they took a serious step for Victorian England – they disbanded the regimental orchestra, and the orchestra members were enlisted in the linear squadrons as simple cavalrymen. However, even after that, the regiment remained understaffed.
Equally acute was the problem with the horse train. So, the inspection of the 8th hussar regiment revealed that 25 of the horses in the regiment are too young for military service – they had to be urgently exchanged in the 3rd light dragoon regiment, which remained in the metropolis.
At the cost of great effort, the British were able to equip their cavalry division – by the time the invasion army sailed from the UK, there were 3,100 people assigned to both cavalry brigades, as well as 3,000 horses.
Actions in Dobrogea
At the beginning of July 1854, allied British and French troops landed in the Dobrogea region (present-day Bulgaria) near the city of Varna with the aim of attacking the Russian army of Prince Gorchakov, which was operating in the region. At this point, the Russians had left Dobrudja, but the Allied command did not yet know about it.
One of the first on Bulgarian soil was the 8th Hussar and 17th Lancers. It should be noted that unloading the horses ashore turned out to be extremely difficult, but the British successfully coped with this. Soon after the landing, the hussars received their first combat mission: the commander of the British expeditionary force, Lord Raglan, ordered Cardigan to find out whether it was true that the Russian troops had already retreated.
Cardigan personally led this reconnaissance mission, serving as the head of the squadron of the 8th hussar regiment (121 men) and the squadron of the 13th light dragoon regiment (75 men). The Dobrudge cavalry raid was the first serious test of the British hussars in this war. It lasted seventeen days, passing in extremely difficult conditions – heat, lack of food, equipment, uniforms and tents. In addition, the hussars suffered from dysentery (including Cardigan himself). Some of the horses fell on the way, and many of those remaining after returning to the camp were no longer fit for anything. The British did not meet any enemy for the entire raid and returned to their main forces.
In Dobrogea, the Allied armies stood for almost two months. No military operations were conducted, but this does not mean at all that for the soldiers this stay turned into a rest. Instead of Russian troops, cholera, dysentery and other diseases fell upon them. The epidemic has acquired serious proportions – for example, during their stay in Varna, the fourth part of the 8th Hussars regiment ended up in hospitals. In just about a 3.5-month trip from England to Crimea, the 8th Hussar Regiment lost 95 people (34%) who were out of order (died from illnesses, died from accidents, fell ill and remained in hospitals for treatment, etc.) . Horses did not spare the disease either, many of which fell during their stay in Bulgaria.
The morale of the soldiers fell, the troops were seized by apathy. Major Clement Walker-Hange from the 8th Hussar Regiment wrote to his wife:
Realizing that further inaction threatens disastrous consequences, at the end of August 1854 the Allied command decided to beat the enemy in its den – to attack and capture Sevastopol, the main base of the Russian Black Sea Fleet. The loading of troops on ships began on August 24 and continued until September 6. On September 14, Anglo-French-Turkish troops landed in Crimea near Yevpatoriya.
The first actions of the hussars in the Crimea
Immediately after landing, the 11th hussar and 13th light dragoon regiments were put at the forefront of the advancing army, and the 8th hussar and 17th ulan regiments covered the open left flank. Also, a detachment of Captain Chetwood (about 70 horsemen) was allocated from the 8th Hussar Regiment as a personal escort for Raglan.
As noted by the British historian C. Hibbert, in the Crimea, Lord Raglan took care of his cavalry, preserving it “in case of unexpected complications of the situation or for the development of successful actions of his troops” . Under Alma, in the first battle of the Crimean campaign (September 20, 1854), the commander did not use the cavalry, dispensing with the infantry. After the victory in Alma and during the march to Sevastopol, the 8th hussar regiment, together with the mounted battery, acted in the forefront of the advancing army under the personal leadership of the commander of the cavalry division, Lord Lucan.
On September 25, Lucan with the hussars broke away from artillery and got lost in a wooded area. At the same time, not far from the location of the battery behind Lucan, a large convoy of retreating Russian troops passed. Lord Raglan with his headquarters rode forward and stumbled upon this column. Seeing the enemy, Raglan immediately decided to attack, but since there was only one horse-drawn battery, in annoyance he sent Captain Chetwood to look for the missing Lukan. The latter soon appeared, and Raglan greeted him coldly: “Lord Lucan, you are late!”
Even after this, Lucan acted extremely slowly, delaying the advance of the 8th hussar regiment, so that the gunners did not wait for the cavalry to arrive and began to independently advance to positions convenient for firing. The guns rolled out onto the road, and within a minute the first salvo was heard. Then the 8th Hussar Regiment appeared. Further events are described by K. Hibbert, quoting the words of their participant captain Shakespeare:
However, there was no particular benefit from the convoy – the hussars simply looted it on the spot, organizing an auction of trophies on the occasion. For example, the Russian hussar jacket embroidered with gold sold it to an English hussar sold to a lover of souvenirs for 2 pounds (for comparison, a similar English cost 40 pounds).
The capture of the Russian convoy was the only military action of the British cavalry at the initial stage of the Crimean campaign. After the transformation of Balaclava into the main British base, the cavalry division became a camp a few kilometers from the city with the task of protecting communications from possible raids by Russian Cossacks.
Light brigade attack and difficult winter
The main battle of the British cavalry in the Crimean War was the battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854. The main episode of this battle is the legendary attack of the Light Brigade, in which both hussar regiments took part. Due to the fact that Count Cardigan, who led the attack, was in the uniform of the 11th hussar regiment, this attack is often associated precisely with the hussars. By the beginning of the attack, the 8th Hussar Regiment had 115 troops, and the 11th – 142; only 257 hussars (37%) of the 673 people participating in the attack. At the same time, the 11th hussar regiment was first in the first line, then shifted to the second (supposedly by order of Lucan), and the 8th hussar regiment already formed the third (last) line during the attack.
The winter of 1854-1855 was a serious test for the British army in Crimea. The troops experienced enormous difficulties in supplying food, fodder, winter uniforms, clothes, and equipment. Luxurious hussar uniforms quickly worn out and turned out to be completely impractical in winter. In addition, the shoes were worn down, and it was difficult to find a replacement for them. The doctor of the 11th hussar regiment described his bewilderment when a horse rode up to him “with a boot on only one leg and only in a stripped stocking on the other . “
The lack of clothing and equipment led to the appearance of auctions where the personal belongings of dead officers were sold. Given the shortage of prices for various items, they were astronomical, but the hussars here were the losers: “Hussar uniforms, beautiful but impractical, on the contrary, fell in price. The new uniform cost £ 40; at the auction they gave him no more than 2 pounds 6 shillings. ”
Problems with forage led to the death of some horses and a significant weakening of the remaining ones. During the six months of his stay in Crimea (from October 1854 to March 1855), the Light Brigade lost 439 horses dead from illness, which amounted to 38% of those available at the beginning of the campaign (1161). To this amount should be added the horses who died in the attack of the Light Brigade (up to 500 goals). As a result, by the spring of 1855, each regiment was an extremely weak detachment of 35-40 horsemen, and the entire brigade barely gained one squadron.
10th hussar regiment: from India to Crimea
The heavy losses of the Light Brigade in the Battle of Balaklava provoked a decision to transfer several additional light cavalry regiments to the Crimea. The first of them was the 10th Hussar Regiment, located in India, Lt. Col. William Parlby. The regiment’s journey from India took 109 days, including a six-week delay in Alexandria. On April 15, 1855, the 10th Hussar Regiment arrived in Crimea.
Since the regiment was part of the British Indian Army, it was manned according to the expanded “Indian” staff. Therefore, even having lost 170 people and 168 horses on the way from illnesses, the 10th Hussar was a serious force – 670 people on magnificent Arabian horses. As the new Light Brigade commander, Lord Paget, noted, it was “about twice as many as our ten regiments combined . ” On May 10, the regiment was reduced to the English “home” state, distributing the excess personnel among two other hussar regiments.
Immediately upon arrival in Crimea, Parlby was appointed acting commander of the cavalry division during the absence of the current commander, Lord Scarlett (from April 17 to June 30). Parlby immediately allowed his regiment to grow beards and stop bleaching his white gloves and belts.
Hussars did not participate in battles at this stage of the war, mainly carrying out security services and carrying out reconnaissance raids. The latter only occasionally ended in minor skirmishes. Nevertheless, Parlby, promoted to colonel, was in good standing with Raglan, and he repeatedly praised him in his reports.