The French Army and British Army Crimean War Reforms

Anthony Dawson



French army logistics of the Crimean War are generally considered to have been better organized than their British counterpart. This sometimes-erroneous belief was fueled by letters home (from officers and men) as well as by the reporting of various ‘special correspondents’ in the Crimea, and created an emotional response favorable to the ordinary soldier and, in particular, towards the French. This then became the basis for arguments for reform of the British army in the military and domestic press and in Parliament. Clamour for reform on French lines led to official studies being made of the French army, especially of logistics, officer education, and even uniforms. The French army, however, was little understood and the resulting ephemeral corps-style units (such as Land Transport Corps, Army Work Corps, and Mounted Staff Corps) were quickly found faulty. In fact, official study of the French army often had little or no effect on the major reforms of the war. Emulation of the French was ultimately short-lived and of little effect; the favorable perception of the French was based on short-term emotional response and, indeed, the desire for army reform had its sting drawn with the establishment of the Roebuck Committee. Post-war retrenchment and success in the Indian Mutiny would stifle what was left of the reform debate.

Keywords:French Army,British Army,Commissariat,Intendance,War Department,Reforms,Rations,Perception,Logistics,Wagon Train,Ambulances,skewed perception

Traditional English-language historiography of the Crimean War suggests that the French army, particularly in its logistics, was superior to that of the British army, especially during the winter of 1854 and 1855. This article will analyses the perception of French army logistics during the Crimean War and the effect they had on British army reforms during the same period.

This favorable perception of French Crimean logistics is primarily drawn from press reports by W. H. Russell, Thomas Chenery, or Lawrence Godkin (and other ‘Special Correspondents’) and from letters home, which combined to give the common soldier a voice on a hitherto unprecedented scale, revealing his daily life, treatment, and living conditions. A ‘media war’ ensued, and the perception of French army logistics became important not only for its (implicit) criticisms of British logistics, but also because the French soldier appeared to be better fed, clothed, and cared for. The perceived failure of the British army and success of the French resulted in a public outcry, demanding army reform. The apparent success of the French was more galling as they were the traditional enemy.1

The French army had long been viewed by the reform-minded elements of the British army as the measure of the supposed inefficiency of the latter; the French being generally considered professional compared with the ‘amateurishness’ of the British.2The admiration of the French military system derived from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, but there had not been direct emulation of the French at that time, other than a short dalliance with French-inspired uniforms for some units. Many reformers believed the French army to be better organized than the British, especially regarding logistics, officer training, and medical services; while the Austrians were considered to have the ‘best cavalry in Europe’ and the Prussians, the best infantry.3French writers, such as Paul Thiébault, were considered ‘authorities’ on staff duties, and Baron Dominique Larrey, and later, his son Félix, were considered pre-eminent in battlefield medicine.4While theDispatches of the Duke of Wellingtonwere considered to contain much of what British officers were expected to learn (and to provide guidance on how to behave), the thoughts of Napoleon I were arguably more influential, especially in the theory and management of war.5

Supply and demand: theintendance militaire

Theintendance militairewas a highly centralized, bureaucratic organization created by maréchal Saint-Cyr as part of his far-reaching French army reforms of 1817 and 1818. It was a prime example of the earlier nineteenth-century trend towards increasing centralization. Theintendancewas responsible for the entire support infrastructure of the French army, providing the medical service (Service de santé militaire), veterinary services (Corps de vétérinaires), military justice (Justice militaire), and for moving the army’s baggage and sick (via thetrain des équipages).6

Napoleon III reorganized and enlarged theintendanceand associated administrative troops between 1852 and 1856, effectively doubling their size.7In 1855 theintendance militaireconsisted of 32intendants(who held the equivalent rank ofgénéral de brigade), 165sous-intendants(with the equivalent rank ofcolonel(1èreclasse) orlieutenant-colonel(2èmeclasse)), and 103adjoints(1èreclasse adjointsranking aschef d’escadron, 2ème classesascapitaines).8The Imperial Guard had its own parallel organization: it had anintendant, asous-intendant 1èreclasseand two (later six)sous-intendants 2èmeclasseand a veterinary.9

Wagons roll: thetrain des equipages

The Frenchtrain des équip-ages(equipment train) became important in Britain during the Crimean War because of the criticism of the British army’s own lack of transport. So superior was the French system believed to be that the Frenchtrainwas considered the ideal working model upon which to base British army reforms of its own land transport. Furthermore, the French loaned mules and drivers to help transport British wounded and supplies. Thetrainwas created in 1807 by Napoleon I as part of his ongoing militarization of the French army; prior to that date civilian contractors had moved the baggage and rations. Although thetrainwas initially part of the artillery, it was transferred to theintendancein 1842 at the suggestion of maréchal Soult so that supply and transport for the army could be centralized under a single organization (Ortholan, pp. 153, 204). Siege artillery pieces, vehicles, and ammunition (artillery and infantry) were moved by a separate organization, thetrain d’artillerie. The drivers and horses that pulled the field artillery (horse and mounted) guns and vehicles were an integral part of the battery they served, an arrangement that was considered ‘admirable’ and superior to the British system, especially as the drivers were also trained gunners who could serve the guns in an emergency.43The engineers (génie) also had a separatetrainto move their vehicles and stores (train du parc du génie), which Sir John Burgoyne described as being ‘most efficient’ and that the French Engineers ‘would as soon be without them, probably, as without artillery’.44He so admired thetrain du géniethat he suggested its emulation by the British Royal Engineers, which at the time was reliant upon the commissariat for transport, following the disbanding of the Field Train Department of the Board of Ordnance in 1852 (Wrottesley, II, 194). Lord Raglan agreed with Sir John, ordering the creation of ‘an establishment for the custody of the Engineer stores’.45

From 29 February 1852, thetrain des équipageswas five squadrons strong, each squadron being composed of four companies of which three were ‘war’ companies and the fourth was the depot. A sixth squadron was raised for service in the Crimea in 1855 and 1856.46. The first company was responsible for wheeled vehicles while the other two were responsible for packhorses and ambulance mules.47One squadron was to be attached to each division and in war thetraincould be rapidly and easily increased in strength: each of the twenty companies was to be ‘doubled’; each company providing the cadre for the basis of a ‘compagnie bis’ (Vauchelle, III, 54–56; Ortholan, pp. 204–05). Where even these ‘bis’ companies proved insufficient, regulations allowed for the formation of atrain auxilliaireformed from civilian drivers and vehicles, fed and paid by the army and commanded by regular army officers and NCOs or by hiring in contractors put under military discipline (Étude sur l’administration militaire, pp. 36–50). Thetrainwas backed up by four companies ofouvriers-constructeurs, which were responsible for building and maintaining the wheeled vehicles. In war these companies were to be ‘doubled’ as well (Vauchelle, III, 54–56; Ortholan, pp. 204–05).

The Imperial Guard had its own parallel organization, thetrain des équipages de la garde impériale(Imperial Guard equipment train). The single squadron included two mounted companies (compagnies montées) for wheeled transport and the third, termedcompagnie légère(light company), for packhorses and ambulance mules. As in the line, the Guardtraincompanies were to be ‘doubled’ in war.48

To army reformers in Britain, the Frenchtrainwas described as ‘the most perfect baggage train’, which carried ‘off all their stores and baggage to their camps’.49Military transport was ‘absolutely essential’ for an army on campaign, and, in the opinion of Lord Raglan and Generals Estcourt, Airey, and Brown, was the only area in which the British commissariat failed.50It was this lack of transport that crippled the British army and, by comparison with the French, the British army was ‘perfectly helpless’ because it was ‘incapable of moving’.51Many British officers believed the lack of a British supply train was due to frugality on the part of the House of Commons, a situation made worse by the government refusing to buy replacement horses (or similar draught animals) to serve the army in the Crimea and help alleviate the transport crisis.52One British officer seconded to the French staff contrasted the French and British transport by describing the British system as a ‘farce’; the French had transport not only for the baggage but also for the sick, the wounded, and the reserve ammunition while the British did not.53Similarly, General Estcourt described the Frenchtrainas ‘working like clockwork’.54

Some British observers, including Commissary General Filder, exculpated themselves by claiming the French had requisitioned all the usable horses and wagons in Turkey and Bulgaria, ‘selfishly’ leaving none for the British.55It had also been expected by the British that the Turks would have helped them with their transport needs, rather like the Portuguese during the Peninsular War.56Sidney Herbert suggested that the lack of transport animals was due to the commissariat officers not having the common sense or the forethought to stable them properly or send them somewhere warmer when winter set in, as the French did. He also criticized the commissariat for not purchasing any remounts (Panmure, p. 311). General Estcourt bitterly remarked that the lack of transport was due to Commissary General Filder being incapable of organizing a military train, and refusing to buy remounts or fodder because of the cost.57

Enter Colonel McMurdo and the LTC

In late 1854 the Duke of Newcastle announced the formation of a ‘land transport system quite new to the English service’, the Land Transport Corps receiving its Royal Warrant on 24 January 1855 (Sweetman,War and Administration, p. 55). Lord Palmerston stated that the LTC was to ‘undertake the whole of the transport for the Army, and will be carried out on a much greater scale than the Royal Waggon [sic] train was under the Duke of Wellington’.58

In February 1855 Lord Panmure wrote that what was needed was ‘a proper system for the conveyance of material and baggage [and] the means of easy and immediate transport for sick and wounded’, citing the French example (Panmure Papers, ed. by Douglas and Ramsey, I, 48). Commander-in-Chief Lord Hardinge wrote that ‘I cannot say I anticipate any improvements by the proposed changes unless Departments such as the Land Transport and Ambulances imitation [sic] the French’.59General Estcourt agreed: the British commissariat and transport should be modelled exactly on the French system. What was needed was a military system with ‘mules and waggons [sic] organized into companies with captains, subs and sous-officers’.60

The LTC, commanded by the ‘energetic & Intelligent’ Colonel William McMurdo, was thought to be a step in the right direction, but it ‘savoured too strongly of Cavalry’, its officers were thought to be ‘moneyed men’ who were ignorant of their duties, and the other ranks inexperienced and untrained.61General Simpson, in a confidential report to Lord Panmure in April 1855, described the Frenchtrainas ‘marvellous’, whereas in contrast, while the LTC had ‘every praise and encouragement […] given to it’, he doubted ‘its ever working’ because of its organization and heterogeneous personnel who were the ‘worst race of men, and of all nations’ (Panmure Papers, ed. by Douglas and Ramsey, I, 152).

The whole organization was described as ‘chaotic’, and there was a chronic shortage of trained personnel such as wheelwrights or carpenters, which accounted for a large number of the vehicles belonging to the LTC being out of commission.62This contrasted with the French, who had four companies ofouvriers de construction, which maintained their wheeled vehicles (Ortholan, pp. 204–05). There was also friction between the members of the LTC and the regiments of the line due to the high pay of the LTC (Wetherall, TNA, WO33/2B). The LTC was also believed to ‘give itself the airs of a combatant corps’ which further widened the gap between them, the line, and the civilian commissariat.63Reactionary commentators considered the LTC a ‘prominent and costly evil’ that ‘without detriment might be thrown on the heap’, and probably better replaced by hiring Pickfords to move the armies’ supplies.64It is unlikely, however, that the LTC could have lived up to the hyperbole lavished upon the Frenchtrain.

Tending to the wounded: field ambulances

In French military terminology,ambulancerefers not to a wheeled vehicle for the evacuation of the wounded but rather to a field hospital or dressing station. A vehicle, or mule, for the transportation of the sick and wounded is referred to as anambulance volante(a mobile or fast field hospital) orambulance roulante(literally, a wheeled field hospital). The use of the same word in French and in English but with different definitions has caused much confusion ever since. In this section, the English definition of ambulance — a means to transport the sick and wounded — will be used.

Générals Larrey and Percy had first introduced ambulances in the French army in 1793 and it was the latter that created companies of military stretcher-bearers to evacuate the wounded from the battlefield in 1809.65Therefore, the French were considered far in advance of the British in terms of evacuation and treatment of the wounded on the battlefield: ambulances had only been ‘known theoretically to the British army, but practically to the French since 1792 [sic] […]. But notwithstanding the French have used so long what we are only beginning to employ.’66

The French system of ambulance mules was systematically and ‘universally admired’ by the British in the Crimea owing to their rapidity of deployment and the comfort they offered the wounded.67The French ambulance mules could carry two patients in an ‘iron chair, or litter […] hooked to the packsaddle […] hinged […] to support the head, which could be fixed at any angle desired […] and a foot-board’.68In addition to the patients, each mule carried medical supplies to treat the wounded, as well as the personal kit of theinfirmierwho attended each mule and its patients.69Unlike wheeled ambulances, these mules could cross a wide variety of terrain and also presented a smaller target than a wheeled ambulance.70British observers believed them to be able to clear a battlefield rapidly (‘in an afternoon’) of wounded, and such was the ‘humanity’ of the French that they evacuated French, British, and later Russian wounded, for treatment.71The French also displayed ‘great kindness and gentleness’ to the wounded, in contrast to the British orderlies and bandsmen.72British officers thought of the French that ‘if they had been women they could not have behaved more tenderly’.73

British ambulances were manned not by specialist personnel as in the French system, but by a mix of the Hospital Conveyance Corps and men detailed from their regiments, usually the pioneers, bandsmen, and drummers. Each battalion also had a tented field hospital, which was carried on pack mules.74Many British medical officers could not understand why Britain could not organize an ambulance corps similar to that in France; Dr William Milligan had proposed one in 1819 but the proposal came to naught.75The lack of an effective British ambulance corps resulted in the French carrying British wounded down to Balaklava or to their hospitals.76

Under the French system, wounded were organized into three classes (triage): ‘lightly’ wounded (i.e., walking wounded); ‘badly’ wounded, who required evacuation on mules carrying thecacolets; and the ‘gravely’ wounded who were carried on litters. Stretchers were used to carry the wounded over short distances, or to move the very badly wounded.77Unlike the British stretcher-bearers who were bandsmen and boys, French stretcher-bearers were trained.78A further advantage of the French stretcher over the British design was that it was collapsible, and had feet so it could be placed on the ground (Gordon, p. 149).

The high praise of the French ambulance mules was due to long-standing admiration of Baron Larrey but, more importantly, because the British army lacked any similar organization. Dr Andrew Smith had designed wheeled ambulances immediately before the outbreak of the war, and a Hospital Conveyance Corps had been raised by the British for service in the Crimea, commanded by Colonel Tulloch. Sadly, it was recruited from ‘superannuated Chelsea Pensioners’ who ‘killed themselves by drinking’ and thus proved an abject failure.79One British officer wrote after the Battle of Alma that the ambulance corps was ‘much talked of’ but had proved a complete failure for want of arrangement and forethought.80

The Inspector General of Hospitals, Dr John Hall, argued for the establishment of an ambulance corps organized and equipped on French lines, and Dr John Wood, surgeon to the 42nd Highlanders, recommended its ‘immediate’ adoption in January 1855.81Indeed, the British army attempted to have one thousand iron French-stylecacoletsmade for ambulance purposes but could not find sufficiently strong mules or ponies to carry them (Panmure, pp. 290–91). Opinion was divided as to the efficacy of the ambulance mules: they were deemed either comfortable and ‘excellent’ or ‘very distressing’.82The French certainly agreed that the mules were uncomfortable but they were the most expedient way of evacuating the wounded (Minart, p. 3).

The French experience

Thetrain des équipages, while well organized and efficient in peacetime, was very quickly found to be inadequate to supply the army on campaign in Turkey and Bulgaria, with a supplementary battalion recruited from local drivers being rapidly formed (Boppe, p. 17). There was, however, a lack of horses for thetrain d’équipagesandtrain d’artillerie, due to a dearth of sufficient forage and also a shortage of horses of the required size and strength.83The principal concern of the remount expedition headed by général d’Allonville had been for riding rather than draught horses, and the remounts procured were far too small for draught purposes.84Another source of remount animals was the cast-offs purchased by the British cavalry but deemed too small and which were ‘quietly purchased’ by the French.85The situation was solved by using the cattle intended to feed the army as draught animals, with many soldiers complaining of getting ‘pauvre mouton’ instead of the regulation beef (Minart, p. 813). The bullocks were malnourished and did not like their new role, taking three hours to travel one French league (four kilometres). The slow speed of the bullocks meant that the already parlous roads in Bulgaria and the Crimea were clogged with vehicles, making the transport situation twice as bad. Furthermore, the hired Turkish drivers charged an extortionate rate and wanted a guard posting in case of bandits or Russians.86The lack of draught horses would dog theintendancein its ability to move supplies throughout the Siege of Sebastopol (Thoumas, p. 260). The LTC, too, was forced to use cattle instead of draught horses as it lacked sufficient animals.87Moreover, thetrainsuffered from a lack of vehicles, the French army requisitioning any wheeled vehicle it found in Turkey and Bulgaria; it eventually had to send to Algeria and France for them.88Many British officers were unaware that thetrain des équipageswas struggling from overwork and a lack of remounts.89

The significance of the French army in British army reform

The admiration of the French military system derived from the Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars; there had not been direct emulation of the French. Army reformers also commented on the education and staff work of the French and Prussians, and contrasted it negatively with the perceived lack thereof in Britain (Strachan,Wellington’s Legacy, pp. 134–35). Furthermore, it was French writers who were considered ‘authorities’ on army management, logistics, and battlefield medicine.90

This positive perception of the French army was generated through the thousands of letters home, which were often printed verbatim in local and national newspapers: they ‘confirmed and personalised to a high degree’ the despatches of Russell, Godkin, and others and thus formed the basis of parliamentary and press debates and among the intelligentsia.91The interest in the human drama of the siege rose to an emotional climax in January 1855 leading to the collapse of the Aberdeen government and the appointment of the Roebuck Committee. Thereafter, with improved conditions at the front and the monotony of a static siege, interest in the war waned in the domestic press, especially after repeated British failures compared with French successes.92Mary Seacole even suggested that media interest in, and control of, the war was such that ‘nothing of consequence was done in the front for a few weeks, possibly because Mr Russell was taking holiday’ during July 1855 (Markovits, p. 14).

Quite simply, Lord Raglan lost the ‘media war’: the despatches of the various ‘Special Correspondents’ were openly hostile to him, and because they often arrived before the official version of events, the press was able to control the flow of information to the public. The newspapers, because of their focus on the winter of 1854 and 1855 and on the reporting of the various committees of inquiry (which also focused on this winter), created the erroneous impression — later to become the central theme or myth of the war — that the British army was in rags and disease-ridden for the duration of the two-year campaign, and certainly worse off than the French, which was not the case (Sweetman,Raglan, pp. 270–302).

The official British despatches and the lengthy articles by Russell were also printed in French newspapers, as were letters sent home by French soldiers. Despite French press censorship, Russell’s despatches were printed because of their unstinting praise of the French army and condemnation of the British army. Letters sent home by French troops were more closely scrutinized so as to portray the French army in a positive light, something noted by several British commentators.93As in Britain, these letters home, combined with the despatches of the various ‘Special Correspondents’, created an emotional response favourable to the plight of the ordinary soldier, with many major towns and cities in France establishing philanthropic committees to provide succour for the allied troops.94Acceptance of the truth of Russell’s despatches and letters home that often contrasted the French and British armies during the winter of 1854 and 1855, was a major contributing factor to the naive belief in the superiority of the French army. This belief was held by both the French public and the French army, and stifled any desire for reform; despite its failings theintendance militaireobviously worked better than the British commissariat, because it was acclaimed in the British and French press.

Unlike Napoleon III, who banned newspaper correspondents from the front line and only fed them the official despatches and communiqués, the British press went uncensored, with Russell and Godkin having unprecedented access to officers, men, and military statistics (Brown, p. 158). French officers were amazed that the British domestic press was not censured in its discussion of the operations in the Crimea and thoughtThe Timeswas a bigger enemy than the whole of the Russian army (Boppe, p. 93). The British army had originally welcomed Russell, much to the chagrin of Godkin, who felt that other journalists were a ‘sort of parias [sic], friendless individuals who might be pitched into with perfect impunity’ (Brown, pp. 234–35). The welcome afforded to Russell, however, was short-lived owing to his reporting of the shortcomings of the army in the Crimea and because he revealed supposedly sensitive military information (Spiers,Army and Society, pp. 100–07). Colonel Anthony Sterling believed that the press had been grossly mismanaged. He suggested that the French were better off because they were not under intense domestic scrutiny. Sterling considered also that Russell should have been ‘made use of’ so Raglan could regain the initiative from the press. If Russell had been brought into the confidence of Raglan and other senior officers (as later happened in India), this would have enabled a more favourable representation of the army to be manipulated.95Florence Nightingale was another who, unlike Raglan, recognized the importance of the media in generating public opinion, and in providing support for any military reforms in the battle against official inertia. In order to sustain public and therefore the government’s interest in army reform, she reasoned that the issue had to be taken up by the media through the use of her own ‘celebrity’ status, the press, and pamphleteering, such as during her sustained campaign for an Army Sanitary Commission. Without such support Nightingale believed ‘all the sufferings’ of the Crimean War would be forgotten and reform flounder due to post-war apathy.96

The more media-savvy French did not air their washing in public and carefully controlled information revealed in official despatches. British officers simply did not trust the ‘official’ French casualty lists and found it almost ‘impossible’ to ascertain accurate figures.97Censorship by the French was described as being ‘common sense’, because the army was not left to the ‘mercy of the domestic press’. Furthermore, while the French army and press were more likely to ‘proclaim’ British failings and reverses than any French shortcomings, the British press was more likely to highlight ‘any little Peccadilloes of our men’ in order to criticize.98Even British soldiers believed in the ‘gullibility of John Bull’, in accepting as fact the newspaper reports and the opinions of ‘experts’.99In contrast to their allies, French soldiers were considered not to grumble and complain as much as the British.100This was either because they did not complain or perhaps were unable to complain, as a result of the high level of press censorship in the French army. Such rigorous censorship led to many British officers mistrusting French casualty returns, thinking them falsified.101Lieutenant Arthur Griffiths (63rd Regiment) witnessed the ‘great scarcity in the French camp’, but crucially noted that it was not ‘mentioned in any contemporary memoirs’.102Overall, this affected the morale of the two armies; the press repeatedly informed the British army that it was a shambles in comparison with the French, while French morale was boosted owing to the praise it received in the British and French press.

The influence of this often naive positive perception of the French army in the Crimea and the contrast it presented with the British system gave added impetus to the pre-existing British army reform debate. Perception of the competency of the French and the emotional fervour created in favour of the ordinary soldier reinforced the existing notion of the relative inferiority of the British. However, as John Sweetman has indicated, the most significant reforms, including the militarization of the commissariat and break-up of the Board of Ordnance were pre-Crimean War in origin and thus ultimately little affected by the perception or official study of the French army in the war (War and Administration, pp. 128–32). While producing very little in the way of long-term reform of the British army other than a variety of French-style ephemeral ‘Corps’ units (the LTC, for example), these units were the first reflection of direct emulation of the French army in Britain. General Simpson was appointed as ‘Chief of Staff’, a position created in emulation of the French. Further emulation was manifest in new dress regulations of 1856, which introduced a single-breasted tunic, a French-inspired shako (a version of theképi), and even an elaborateZouave-style uniform for the Royal West Indian Regiment in 1858, at the behest of Queen Victoria.

Contrasted by the reform-minded press with the apparently successful Frenchintendance, the British commissariat and transport establishments were perceived to be a failure. This favourable perception of French methods encouraged the study of the French and other continental armies’ commissariat arrangements: Commissary General George Maclean examined the Austrian system, while a commission, under Major General Knollys, was sent to Paris to learn from theintendance. This report, however, had little effect on British reforms, such as the LTC. Similarly, the report of Captain Thomas Thackeray (published 1856) came too late and was considered too Francophile to influence the post-Crimean reform debate.103

Improved conditions, or at least fewer complaints, during the winter of 1855 and 1856, the apparent reversal in fortunes of the British and French armies, combined with the signing of the Treaty of Paris and the ensuing reduction of the army, were enough to curb the enthusiasm and potential for reform.104Despite the emotional outburst following the reports of the ‘Special Correspondents’, the clamour for reform did not last, as evidenced by the ephemeral nature of the ARA.105In truth, the ARA and other reformers failed to identify any serious defects in army management other than the amorphous notion of ‘the system’ (Anderson, p. 278). Much of the emotional outrage was dissipated by the work of the Roebuck Committee and various Parliamentary Select Committees in the summer of 1855, by which time public interest in the war had waned (Spiers,Army and Society, pp. 111–17; Sweetman,War and Administration, pp. 128–32). Despite the apparent success of the railway built by Peto, Brassey, and Betts and the endeavours of Sir Joseph Paxton’s Army Work Corps, the reports of bursting mortars, unfulfilled contracts, and leaking boots revealed the folly of relying solely on businessmen and commercial methods for managing the army; business, it transpired, was just as prone to ‘jobbing’, cost-cutting, and failure as the army (Anderson, pp. 116–18, 122–23, 278). The onset of the Indian Mutiny (1857–59) distracted from the misery of the Crimea and any ensuing reform, and the domestic press heaped unstinting and lavish praise upon the army, focusing on the ‘exaggerated comparisons between the army’s exploits in India and the Crimea’.106


In conclusion, admiration for and, more importantly, emulation of the French army support services during and after the Crimean War were short-lived, and based upon a skewed perception of its relative effectiveness compared with the British army. Furthermore, naive praise of the French, and the condemnation of supposed British mishandling of reforms inspired by the French, such as the LTC, were misplaced; the British could not get their version of the Frenchtrainto work because neither could the French, especially under such conditions as the Siege of Sebastopol. Comparison of the French and British armies came to centre on the period from autumn 1854 to spring 1855 rather than producing a sustained and critical examination of the performance of the French army during the entire war. Moreover, the warped perception fed into an emotional response towards the apparently differing fates of the ordinary British and French soldier, eliciting unwarranted praise for a French army which proved able to deflect claims that its performance in the Crimea was less than satisfactory. The outrage at the conditions suffered by the British army and the apparent success of the old enemy, the French, descended into vituperative and personal attacks which were easily refuted. Ultimately, the sense of outrage and resulting demands for reform were defused by the establishment of the Roebuck Committee, losing all momentum in the process and ensuring that they would have little long-term effect on British army reform.


1.Miles Hudson and John Stainer,War and the Media(Stroud: Sutton Publishing, 1999), pp. 1–21; Heather Streets,Martial Races: The Military, Race and Masculinity in British Imperial Culture(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), pp. 23–24.

2.Richard Glover,Peninsular Preparation(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1963), p. 27.

3.‘The French and German Armies at the Commencement of the Revolution War and at the Present Moment’,United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine, part 3 (1832), 435–41; ‘Sketch of the Military and Statistical Position of Prussia’,United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine for 1832, part 3 (1832), 442–48; ‘Sketches of the Austrian Cavalry Service by a çi-devant Huszar Officer’,United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, part 1 (1842), 495–508.

4.‘An Explanation of the Duties of the Several Etats-Majors in the French Army’,Monthly Review, May 1802, pp. 104–05 (p. 104); ‘Sales by Auction’,Morning Chronicle, 25 February 1820, [p. 4]; ‘Baron Larrey’,Morning Post, 9 August 1842, p. 4; ‘The Introduction of the Battle-Field Ambulance’,Manchester Examiner and Times, 10 March 1855, p. 12; ‘Baron Larrey’,Colburn’s United Service Magazine, and Naval and Military Journal, part 3 (1861), 559–66.

5.Hew Strachan,Wellington’s Legacy: Reform of the British Army 1830–1854(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1984), pp. 16, 269–70; Hew Strachan,From Waterloo to Balaklava: Tactics, Technology and the British Army 1815–1854(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), pp. 1–8.

6.Henri Ortholan,L’Armée du Second Empire(Saint Cloud: Editions du Napoleon III, 2010), p. 181; Paddy Griffith,Military Thought in the French Army 1815–1851(Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1989), p. 153.

7.Ortholan, pp. 183–88; Lieutenant-Colonel Belhomme,Histoire de l’infanterie en France, 5 vols (Paris: Lavauzelle, 1892), V, 324;Lettres de maréchal de Saint-Arnaud(Paris: Michel Lévy Frères, 1855), pp. 547–49.

8.‘The French Commissariat or Intendance Militaire and the Choice Corps or Companies’,Colburn’s United Service Magazine, and Naval and Military Journal, part 2 (1855), 385–87.

9.Capitaine A. J. C. Richard,La Garde (1854–1870)(Paris: Furne, 1898), pp. 7, 84.

10.John Sweetman,War and Administration: The Significance of the Crimean War for the British Army(Edinburgh: Scottish Academic Press, 1984), pp. 13, 35–36.

11.Abuses in the Government of the Army’,Spectator, 28 January 1837, p. 80.

12.Olive Anderson,A Liberal State at War: English Politics and Economy during the Crimean War(New York: Macmillan, 1967), pp. 102–10; Edward Spiers,The Army and Society 1815–1914(London: Longman, 1980), pp. 110–11.

13.Griffith, pp. 153–54; Richard Holmes,The Road to Sedan(London: Royal Historical Society, 1984), pp. 73–75; Pierre Chalmin,L’Officier français de 1815 à 1870(Paris: Rivières, 1956), pp. 44–45.

14.Army Intendance’,Saturday Review, 9 February 1867, pp. 167–69; ‘The Administration of the Army’,Quarterly Review, July 1870, pp. 146–49.

15.Military Organisation’,Saturday Review, 29 January 1859, pp. 130–31; ‘Our Military Reforms of Late Years and What They Have Done for Us’,Colburn’s United Service Magazine, and Naval and Military Journal, part 3 (1860), 475–87 (pp. 476–77).

16.Captain Thomas James Thackeray,The Military Organization and Administration of France(London: Newby, 1856); Sweetman,War and Administration, pp. 52–53; ‘The Military Organisation and Administration of France by Captain Thomas Thackeray’,Spectator, 22 March 1856, p. 322.

17.Griffith, pp. 163–64; ‘The French Army As It Is’,Colburn’s United Service Magazine, part 3 (1850), 99–101; ‘The French Commissariat’, pp. 385–87.

18.Quoted in Lord Panmure,Sidney Herbert, Lord of Lea: A Memoire(London: Murray, 1906), p. 287 (8 December 1854), emphasis added.