Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Book Review: The Destruction of Lord Raglan

Like so many unlucky generals, Fitzroy Somerset, First Lord Raglan continues to inspire criticism, even antipathy but more often pity and plenty of blame amongst historians, both professional and amateur. Certainly the target of the press in his own time, the good general remains a figure often to be looked down on and judged even today. Whilst somewhat sympathetically portrayed by Sir John Gielgud in Tony Richardson's 1968 motion picture The Charge of the Light Brigade, he remains remembered for being inept; his mind wandering, dithering in imprecision and indecisiveness.

Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan, first published by Longmans in 1961 purports to be the first biography of the man central to the folly of the Light Brigade action at Balaclava and the demise of the army of the Crimea. It is a seemingly balanced and empathetic analysis of the man in his times and in his own particular situation.

Necessarily, much of this account is a chronological walk through the Crimean campaign which was historically his defining moment. Dedicating himself to a lifetime of military service, he very much operated in the shadow of his mentor and sponsor, Arthur Wellesley, first Duke of Wellington whose influence over operations of the army extended even beyond that great man's demise. Following in his footsteps, Raglan succeeded as the Commander-in-Chief of the Army. When the call to arms came in 1854, Raglan also was appointed Commander of the Allied Army.

Some time is spent rightly in studying the British army command for the campaign and the inexperience coupled with age and inflexibility of the characters who comprised it. Hibbert is clear on one point particularly when highlighting the limitations and character of Raglan for command, concluding that, "On reflection it seemed that there could only be one choice."

An experienced diplomat and fluent in French, in spite of his lack of field command experience, no one existed at the time who was more suitable to the task in hand. In his negotiations with the strong-willed, bombastic and sometimes dissembling French Marshal St. Arnaud Raglan is assessed as perhaps being too diplomatic. Whilst as CinC Raglan was ultimately responsible for the direction of the campaign, Hibbert is clear that significant tactical failures such as the poorly co-ordinated attack on the Alma or the subsequent strategic failure in following up the Russian forces and storming Sevastopol were down to the insistence of an "incompetent and feckless" St. Arnaud and Raglan's compliance stemming from his interpretation of how best to preserve the alliance in the field. We must also bear in mind that St. Arnaud was in the slow process of dying from cholera but he was in turn succeeded by the brave and popular Canrobert; personal choice of Emperor Napoleon but theatrical and unsuited to high command.

But it is Raglan's direction at Balaclava with which I am primarily  concerned. Unfortunately, Hibbert slips into a shallow recount of the battle narrative with very little analysis of Raglan's direction of the battle beyond the fateful Light Brigade order. It is clear he was severely hampered by Sir George Cathcart's refusal to chivy his infantry division into action and the Duke of Cambridge's similar sluggishness in coming to action. The mishandling of the cavalry division as a whole is largely if not entirely laid at Lucan's feet with his repeated failure to patrol and gain any situational awareness.

Nothing much is made of Raglan's appreciation of the movement of his infantry which is curious given his reference to them in his orders to the cavalry. As they were in effect unable to give support to the cavalry advance, it is surprising that so little is made of this oversight more generally. This is perhaps best dealt with in another posting; however, as Hibbert does not spent more than 21 pages on the battle.

Whilst the work is dedicated to Raglan more generally, I was disappointed with the Balaclava treatment and think much more might have be made of assessing the orders of the day and correspondence after the fact to gain a more comprehensive insight into how the CinC attempted to salvage his position in response to the Russian initiatives. For me, from a purely Balaclava perspective this work remains like the battle results for the allies, and cannot be considered a victory.

Having said that, it remains a valuable addition to my library and I have enjoyed reading it for what it is and was intended to be - the first dedicated treatment of the downfall of Lord Raglan. For what followed after Balaclava; Inkerman, Sabastapol, Raglan's relationship with the press, the government, the army and posterity ... you'll have to read it for yourself.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Don Cossack (cavalry): Figures Ranges

There a plenty of Cossack ranges out there but many of them are for the renaissance period and wars up to the end of the nineteenth century. So, who makes Don Cossacks that I can use for the Crimean War?

Before continuing, there are a significant array of Cossack ranges which come close. Eureka Miniatures (for example) do a nice range of Don Cossacks for the French Revolutionary Wars. I am sticking closely to the Crimea War period; however, in order to limit conversion requirements. The Eureka figures would require the addition of putty to lengthen the frock coats and the removal of papakha cords for starters and so it is with most sculpts depicting Cossacks before and after our specific period.

Wargames Foundry
Sculpted by Michael and Alan Perry long ago, they offer an unfortunately limited series of poses for generic Cossack cavalrymen all of whom wear a fatigue cap. Superbly sculpted, they conform to the older 25mm size which might not actually translate too badly to the table top along side modern ranges if one identifies their mounts as Steppe ponies.
With only two trooper poses, attempting to furnish an entire regiment with neat, uniformed and uniformly posed figures would not enable me to convey the irregular visual impression I am after for my Cossacks.
The Command set is useful both with and without converting the headdress. Aside from them, the entire and limited range does not readily identify or differentiate between the Cossack Hosts present at Balaclava. I won't mention the stirrups.

The only specifically identified Don Cossacks from Wargames Foundry are an artillery crew and limber set. After them, their offering for Cossacks for this period is exhausted.

Warlord Games

I understand that the evolving range of 28mm figures from Warlord Games is to include the addition of Cossacks. This statement of intent is to be found on their own discussion forum but dates back to February 2012. In the intervening period they have only committed to a gorgeous but slow growing range of British troop types only (Hussars, Lancers and Foot). I will continue to monitor their progress but they appear to be more focused on Napoleonics and WWII for the time being.

Essex Miniatures
An extensive range across many periods: old company with an old series of sculpts. Whilst they don't cover the Crimean War they do have suitable figures from their Russian Napoleonic range. They are simplistic sculpts in comparison to modern styles and in my opinion the poor paint-jobs for their on-line shop doesn't help sell these figures at all. I have experience with Essex Miniatures and find them a solid product which paint up well.


Two lancer variations are offered with a sword wielding third amongst the range. They give a fair representation of the papakha (headdress) minus the pom-pom or plume. The trouser may require extending to the heel for our period but the tunic is about the right length. Reposing these figures is easy given the malleability of their particular white metal alloy. Some modest filing and a bit of putty should take care of most requirements including absenting those misplaced stirrups! Certainly these chaps would make a worthy addition to the irregular ranks of a Don Cossack sotnya.

Perry Miniatures
Always a sought after addition to any 28mm army, we are fortunate that they offer a range of Napoleonic Wars Cossacks, some of which fit the bill nicely.
RN43 Ataman Cossack with Command
Their Ataman Cossack figures are pretty well spot on for the Don Cossacks wearing an oilskin cover cap in lieu of their papakha. Their coats are perhaps a tad long and yet another depiction with stirrups makes me question have I misread something?
RN44 Ataman Cossack winter dress

I believe these figures will fit well for any Don Cossack cavalry of the 54th regiment or above (see my previous research posting on the Don Cossack cavalry). Of course, Perry's do a good variety of wonderfully animated poses.
RN40 Don Cossack Command
Their Don Cossack Command also fits nicely with the unadorned papakha in evidence. I doubt very much if specifically sculpted Cossacks for the Crimean War could be much more fit for purpose.
RN47 Cossacks Skirmishing

Whilst the centre figure is close within their skirmishing pack, they do not provide us with the Caucases fur cap for the Cossack regiments up to and including the 54th regiment. At this time, no one does that I've found.

Great War Miniatures
My favourite range for my Balaclava Build has yet to add to their Russians and include Cossacks. The only option is to brand their light cavalry in caps as Cossacks. Sometimes portrayed as wearing such in illustrations of the Crimean War, this may have been opted for but there is little evidence to confirm this mode of dress. It is certainly the approach adopted by Wargames Foundry (above). If confirmed, the Great War Miniatures sculpts would require removal of the sabre guard and the replacement of at least some sabres with a lance. Of course, some headdresses might be replaced with putty oilskin caps, modelling of uncovered  papakha or the Caucasian fur caps if you're up to the challenge. All in all, it would take some effort to turn these line cavalry figures into Cossacks.

So, as far as I am aware, this is our lot. I am near to deciding on my approach for the 53rd Cossacks. Whilst yet to commit, it will most probably be a mixture of the above. Either way, I will have a lot of hat building to do.

Don Cossacks (cavalry)

What is or was a Cossack by 1854? In ethnic terms, they were generally by this time dominated by Greater Russian peoples. Socially, they were based on nomadic structures but this had been changing for many generations as had their cultural independence.They spoke Russian, observed in their own way Christian Orthodoxy but retained the strong influence of their Tartar origins in custom, law and in the way they waged war.

What is certain is that not all Cossacks were the same and there were most probably significant differences between regiments, Cossack hosts and the specific army they served in. The Don Cossacks were the most significant of the Cossack hosts from the time of the Napoleonic wars. Born to the saddle, a conspicuously high proportion of the male Cossack population (60% plus) was under arms in constant service to the Tzar in return for communal lands. From 1835, service was set at 35 years from the age of nineteen years.

In  real terms, the Cossack people of the Don were a war machine for Russia who were organised and collectively equipped their men for a lifetime of service under arms. What they were not by this period were disparate bands of brigand-like, barely civilized marauder skirmishers - the romantic and outdated concept of the irregular, unreliable maverick scouts in the style of Hollywood's Taras Bulba. Some of these classical traits and customs, identity and behaviours were surely a feature but we need to be careful not to allow mythology to lead us to cliche.
Russian Cossacks taken 1854 by Szathmary (the Royal Collection UK)
If we take a longer look as Szathmary's photo (above) we see a group of quite uniformed and smartly turned out soldiers. Their mounts are not so different from other cavalry as we might have imagined. Though black & white, the photo shows they appear to be attired in the dark blue proffered by the Tsarist government in this period and with little adornment. To be sure, it appears to be a set of officers and staff: there's not a wild fur coat, bandolier or pig-tail in sight. For more detailed discussion further on, their papakha headdress is uncovered and shows the formal red bag and what I make to be signs of several pom-poms or white plumes on the left of the crown rim.


Generations of uprisings and successful Tsarist suppression had affected increasing dominance from Moscow in local political power structures and a closer alignment of the Cossack military machine with Imperial Russian military organisation. Nevertheless, they continued to cloth an accoutre themselves for service, albeit more uniformly than in previous periods. Mount and saddlery was an expense born by the Cossack trooper. Whilst furnishing artillery and infantry regiments on campaign, the Don and other Cossack hosts continued to fulfill the irregular cavalry role for which they had long been renown.

The principle organisational unit remained the Sotnya (or sotnie): either a cavalry squadron or infantry company of 100 men. Six sotnya formed a cavalry regiment, most of whom would have mounted their own steppe ponies drawn from their vast herds about the Don. They rode them without stirrups, exerting control through the nagaika (whip).

They had their own rank titles up to Lieutenant-Colonel which mirrored the Imperial army ranks. For my wargaming purposes, it is perhaps only the Lieutenant-Colonel or starshina and major (esaul) whom I need to identify at a 1:20 representative troop scale.

Uniform (or perhaps more accurately: Dress)

Seaton & Youens (The Cossacks, Osprey Men-At-Arms 1972) emphasize the inaccuracy or rather falsehood in artistic depictions of uniformly attired Cossacks at war when compared to the written records and later photographic evidence. Considerable variation in basic clothing within and certainly between sotnyas of a regiment would appear highly likely. Having said that, the above photo of Szathmary's clearly show some smartly turned out and clearly 'uniformed' Cossacks and it appears that some level of uniformity was achieved at this particular time. This was certainly the desire, intent and practice of the Tsarist government in its employment of Cossacks for the first part of the nineteenth century.

Guard Cossack papakha 1790
That item of dress which identifies the Don in the Crimean War from any other type of Cossack is perhaps his headgear: the papakha. A tall cylindrical busby of pressed, rough lambswool, the papakha is Turkish in origin. It is similar to the common Astrakhan cap which is essentially of the same design and material, but the Don papakha is conspicuously taller. The crown was red and sometimes formed a bag which extended some way down the right side. Particular Don Cossack regiments might even include a white pom-pom or plume fixed to the left of the top rim but this may have been mostly for guard regiments and a governmental inclusion in the European style. Thomas & Scollins (The Russian Army of the Crimean War 1854-56, Osprey Men-At-Army no:241) highlights the practice of forming the papakha oilskin cover into a cap of its own for use in the field - see below illustration of 60th Don Cossacks.

Vansen's sketches of 42nd Don Cossacks
The black fur and cloth cap worn in the Caucasus was retained by those regiments who fought in that army which included the first 54 regiments. Vansen's sketch (illustrated right) shows the crown of the cap which would have been red with white piping for the Don regiments.
Mid-ninetheenth century Cossacks (note red crown and piping)

60th Don Cossacks (note the oilskin cap)

The tunic (coat) or tchekman worn by the Cossacks of the Crimean War reflects this particular period of attempts by Moscow to bring greater conformity to Cossack appearance in the field. In the European style, this tunic may have been common beyond the 60th Don Cossacks (illustrated left). Pants were predominately blue with a single and relatively wide red stripe (see Vansen's sketch above). Collar and shoulder straps are blue and red piped generally.


Don Cossack cavalry had by this period long favoured the lance (without pennon) as their principle weapon. They were armed with a rifle (no bayonet) and a curved sabre (the shashka). Both the Caucasian and Cossack shashka originated in design from the 12th century and was an ornately decorated single edged, curved and hilt-less sword with a counter-curved grip. Wider than the European sabre, the shashka blade is seen often with more than one fuller. Cossacks also took whatever additional arms the individual chose to carry - mostly pistols and knives.

Other References

Vezio Melegari: "The World's Great Regiments" 1968.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Szathmary - Crimean Combat Photographer

Carol Pop de Szathmari
Not just in the interests of balance, this site needs to include mention of a man who may be regarded as the world first known combat photographer – Carol Pop de Szathmari (also Szathmáry Pap Károly). Born 11 January 1818 in Cluj, Kolozsvar (modern day Romania) this painter and traveler began working with portrait photography before the war, having developed several ranking contacts through his portraiture. At age 36, he took a specially fitted wagon for developing his photographs, arriving in the Crimea in 1853 to capture the first photographic records of the war – later exhibited at the World Exhibition in 1855.

Unlike Fenton, Szathmari photographed both sides of the early war - recording images of the Russian and Turkish combatants. His works were exhibited, gaining several awards and he was widely reproduced in magazines and print. It is regrettable that most of his works and none of his albums have survived into the 21st century. What few images remain can be found in the British Royal Family’s Royal Collection available for viewing on-line.

The first image shown (left) is from the Royal Collection and depicts Don Cossacks taken in 1854.

The three soldiers depicted next (right) are Ottoman officers - a  Captain, Colonel and Major taken also in 1854.

We are told of the hazards Szathmary encountered as he crossed the lines to expand his portfolio. Near Oltenitza Szathmary had a close encounter with Turkish artillery who it is understood thought him a Russian spy and took some thankfully poorly ranged shots.

Turkish artillery limber and crew (left) taken 1854.

 Turkish artillery officers (right) 1854.

Three pictures can also be found at the International Museum of Photography and Film, George Eastman House (Rochester, New York): "The Russian lancer's encampment in Craiova", "The Bombardment of Silistra" and the portrait of Lieutenant General Soimonoff.

Szathmary was the first certified photographer in Romania and one of the first ten photographers in Europe. He became the official photographer of the Romanian ruler Alexandru Ioan Cuza and of the first king of Romania, Carol I of Romania. Most of his life he worked and lived in Bucharest, where he died in 1887 aged 69.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

My 13th Light Dragoons

Here is my 13th Light Dragoons for Balaclava, or to be precise, A and B squadrons (Troops A, B, D and E). This was almost my last unit painted for 2013 but turned out to be the first completed (to painted stage) for 2014.
I have to confess to knowing the least about this fine regiment of all the Light Brigade regiments that charged at Balaclava. For my army list I have included character references and modelling tips but for this regiment I have nothing special to note. I don't even know who took command of it on the day. The Troops were commanded (in order) by Captains Oldham, Jenyns, Goad and Tremayne.
Whilst described as light buff, the regimental facing are often referred to and depicted as effectively white in the field and on campaign - so white they are.
These are all Great War Miniatures which I have painted as they come with no conversions. I intend replacing future sabres with flattened steel wire but as these were done in my Tongan bungalow, I had to settle for filing the sabres as flat as I dared being without the required tools and anvil.
Unlike my 4th Light Dragoons, I used Humbrol enamel gold (No:16) for all lace. I am happy enough with the results but will return to my Citadel Colour for the three other regiments. Definition of the double breeches stripes and rank chevrons using the toothpick technique works better with the acrylics.
I will post an accompanying historical reference posting for the 13th as I have with the 4th. For completeness, once based I'll amend this post with the final photographs. Next on my list will be the 8th Light Dragoons (uniformed as hussars) for whom I require sculpting a wire haired terrier - should be quite the challenge.
When referring back to my army list (a work in progress) I imagined my regiments to be 16 figures strong with eight figure squadrons. Whilst more appealing visually, it just wasn't practicable when converting that representative troop scale to the Russian infantry.
As I deliberately left my SLR at home for my last two weeks in Tonga, these shots are taken with my trusty Canon PowerShot S70 in the daytime, under lamp lights with no flash, using portrait and macro settings.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

My 4th Light Dragoons

This has been a long time coming but I have finally finished painting my first unit of figures for my Balaclava Build: my depiction of the 4th Light Dragoons. I can safely say that I have never taken so much time or care in painting twelve figures before and I am satisfied with the result. The only detail I left out were the markings on their canteens - a detail which proved to be simply beyond me.
I utilised a couple of painting techniques this time which I don't recall employing previously. One was the use of a toothpick (or cocktail stick) to draw a line down the middle of the leg stripe to achieve a double line. I was particularly happy with this result and used it on the corporal and sergeant chevrons also.

For all of my gold lace effects, I first painted the details in a darkened yellow and then heavily dry-brushed gold across the top. When gold painting the leg stripes, I diluted the gold significantly. The result (I hope) is a metallic sheen better representing gold braid or fabric rather than a solid metallic effect. The shakos are in a mix of gloss and matt black which strives for a satin, leather like finish with a high gloss peak.
My trumpeter (well he's blowing a bugle but carrying his trumpet) has his instruments painted with one application of Humbrol Brass (I almost exclusively use Humbrol enamels) and a gloss Black wash over the top to dull it down. I'm no metallic king and generally keep things fairly simple. The sabres are typically chunkier than I like with the casting. I had meant to replace them with flattened steel wire blades - perhaps later. In the meantime I pinched them as flat as I could with a pair of pliers, then filed them back. They are just painted steel with a dry brush of silver.

The officer commanding, Lord George Paget famously made the charge with a cheroot cigar clenched between his teeth all the way to the guns and back. This is perhaps the only modelling detail required for the 4th Light Dragoons and was easily depicted with a small hole drilled and filled with a piece of carefully filed wire. These figures are all from the Great War Minatures range available through Northstar Military Figures and they are a one piece casting. This suits me perfectly as I always create my cavalry models as a single construction prior to priming and painting anyway - this saves me some time. There are some casting simplifications and it's always curious how I only notice certain aspects of a model after I start painting them. The most obvious is the fill between the riders' legs and the belly of the mount which would be fully detailed in a separately casted rider but otherwise unnoticeable on the finished figure. They are designed with simple uniforms and very few buttons for which by the end I was rather grateful.

I'm a big fan of these figures and my entire Light Brigade is from the Great War Miniatures range. They have lovely animation with essentially two horse poses and all trooper figures have a free sword arm which comes in two attitudes. You will have noticed under certain lighting conditions my 4th Light Dragoons have a faded blue uniform and not as dark as many illustrations you will find. Under flash photography they look almost light blue but are darker to the naked eye.
All of these shots were taken with my Canon digital SLR with a macro lens on auto or macro settings. I used Photoshop to trim and save for the web only. I cannot base these figures from where I am currently posted but will do so in the new year according to a basing convention which I have attempted to simulate in these photos. Based three to a 5mm mdf base in accordance with Black Powder 25mm frontage and 50mm depth per figure, my rear ranks will be on single depths but my two front ranks will be on double depth bases with the trumpeter half a length ahead and Paget half a length ahead of him.
As Paget was also the commander for the second line of the Brigade during it's infamous charge, I had thought of an independent command base but at a 1/20 representative troop scale I will integrate him with his regiment. My whole light brigade will be 60 figures (5 regiments x 12) plus command.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

4eme Chasseurs d'Afrique: The Travellers - 4 from 6

Constantin Guys 1854 sketch of the Chasseurs d'Afrique made in the Crimea

Whilst I await a range of figures to include the Chasseurs d’Afrique in 28mm, I've put in a concerted effort to fill a glaring gap in my developing army list or order of battle for Balaclava. The normal wargaming reference world such as the cornerstone Osprey Publishing are conspicuously silent on the subject of the French army of the East in general, let alone the Chasseurs. In fact, from what I can ascertain, the English speaking world continues a long standing myopia when it comes to who fought at Balaclava.

I have; however, after countless hours of intense Internet searching and translation managed to glean the following details on the principle regiment involved at Balaclava – the 4eme ‘Traveller’ Chasseurs d’Afrique. The ‘Travellers’ were so called from the frequency with which they were posted and deployed in their short regimental history.

Firstly, let me note that of the two French cavalry regiments brigaded and present under General Morris at Balaclava (1st and the 4th), only the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique were recorded as being committed - famously silencing the Russian battery on the Fedioukine Hills. This is confirmed by that regiment retaining the ‘Balaklava’ battle honour as opposed to the 1st Chasseurs d’Afrique who merely include the mutual Crimea campaign honour.

So, how many  of the 4eme were there and how were they organised? Colonel Coste de Champeron was the regimental Commander who personally commanded two squadrons in the field. On that note, it was a long practice of the French to organise and deploy in demi-squadrons both organisationally as well as operationally. Many references mention the detachment of demi-squadrons of Chasseurs d’Afrique in specific campaigns in Algeria and they are often paired off by odds-and-even numbered squadrons. Thus the 1st and 3rd squadrons would form one demi-squadron, as would the 2nd and 4th squadrons and so forth. Each demi-squadron is commanded by a Major. At Balaclava, the Major of the first demi-squadron may be presumed to have acted as 2iC to Colonel de Champeron and the second demi-squadron (first in the attack) was commanded by Major Abdelal.

So we know that the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique is at least four squadrons strong. A look through some often oblique references suggest that by the Crimea campaign, the Chasseurs in fact only fielded four of their six squadrons for the campaign. A look at the history and evolution of what I can find on the regiment is revealing.

According to Lieutenant Colonel (H) Henri Azema of the 1st and 9th Regiment Chasseurs d'Afrique (RCA), the regiment was formed by 3rd December 1839 from authority by a Royal decree on 31stAugust of the same year. The regiment came into being with a foundation compliment of four squadrons – made up from the sixth squadrons from the 2nd and 3rd regiments and volunteers. Thus we can already see that the standard structure of a Chasseurs d'Afrique regiment is six escadron.

In his Les Regiments de Chasseurs d’Afrique Azema also states that the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique had by 1841 five squadrons and one squadron of Spahis (native irregular cavalry). It is a tantalising notion from a modeller and wargamer perspective that one squadron might be of Spahis - but if so, they most likely were not present at Crimea amongst the French 'Army of the East'.

Thanks to the efforts on the French website Chasseursdafrique (see References Link on my Blog) we have access to two secondary historical sources (in French), one of which is by the military historian M Sapin Ligniares. We find that the Chasseurs departed Algeria with only four of their squadrons, the administration raising a further two to bring the total strength of the 4eme to eight squadrons. The first four, together with their Colonel and the Eagle (standard) left for the Crimea. The remaining four squadrons were under the command of the Lieutenant-Colonel to continue controlling the frontier.

In a wider discussion, the same sources refer to the strength of the Spahis regiments at that time, which by our period had attained six squadrons with a numerical total strength of 950. This is consistent with cavalry organisation in the French military by the Crimea campaign, at least as it pertains to the army d'Afrique.

Thanks to Google Books we have access to the weekly journal, All Year Round 1861 (Volume 4) as edited by Charles Dickens. In this volume, the contributor (I'm guessing the Journalist George Augustus Sala) observes the activities of an unidentified regiment of Chasseurs d’Afrique in Lebanon during the summer of the previous year (1860). As an investigative journalist, being of an enquiring mind, he sought out and published the following details.

Paraphrased: Consisting of principally French citizens, this regiment had six (6) squadrons of 160 ‘horses’ each. Each squadron had one 1st Captain, a 2nd Captain, two (2) lieutenants and two (2) sub-lieutenants. Each two squadrons (demi-squadrons) had a Major (Chef d’escadron) and the Regiment’s Commanding officer was a Colonel with a Lieutenant Colonel as his 2IC. In total, a regiment (paper-strength) has 960 all ranks.

He remarked that the Chasseurs had three regiments at that time and that they all had such a structure. He clearly discussed this at the time with members of the regiment and made notes at the time. The idea of the Chasseurs d’Afrique having six squadrons by Balaclava is consistent with the abovementioned 1841 estimate, retained it would appear by 1860 – just five years after Balaclava. As is also clear, this is entirely consistent with the above reference to the Spahis regimental strength of 950.

Henri Philippoteaux's Chasseurs d'Afrique charging the Hills, Balaclava. 
So, we have a structure; although what or who made up the sixth squadron by the Crimean campaign is less clear. Whilst a squadron of Spahis may very well have constituted the regiment sixth squadron, it seems unlikely that they formed part of the expedition. Certainly, they are not represented in Henri Philippoteaux's famous painting they are not depicted  save for the dress of the unit standard bearer. Further, also referred to as Bachibouzouks, the Spahis were raised in large numbers (six regiments) and placed under the Command of the famously heroic and dashing General Yousouff (Yusuf). It seems that they were to operate independently from the 'line'. I think, therefor that we can dismiss the idea that Spahis were present amongst those troops of the Regiment.

What about a return for Balaclava and breakdown of the numbers? Again, thanks to Google Books we have access to Fraser’s Magazine for Town & Country, Volume LII Number CCCVII published in 1855. In this journal, we have a transcribed letter written by the colonel of the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique (Colonel de Champeron) on 20th November 1854 before Sebastapol. He remarks that in spite of hardships and combat, his regiment fields 133 horses per squadron- mainly Arabs and Barbs (also Berber Horse) both of whom are famously hardy breeds. So, we have the numbers per squadron only 26 days after the battle. I really don’t think you can ask for better evidence than that.

Let us assume that horses means horses and not an interchangeable term for horse and/or troopers. Let us also assume that with the impact of disease common on campaigns (cholera being prevalent) and other illnesses, the loss in men will match that of the losses in mounts at least for the French regiments and by November – before the winter that was to come. With such reasonable assumptions in mind, if the 4eme has only four squadrons let us calculate that the 4eme can field 532 fighting 'effectives'.

Alexander Kingslake, in his ‘The Invasion of the Crimea: Battle of Balaclava’ Vol 6 (2d ed. 1868) cites specifically that the 4eme Chasseurs d’Afrique had but four squadrons which charged in two demi-squadron lines – Major Abdelal led the first, supported by the Colonel’s. This account carries weight as it was Kingslake's crowning work in a comprehensive series of eight volumes. The first volume was published in 1863; however, and Kinglsake is noted for his partizan views on the participants and the campaign. This does not necessarily challenge the detail and he does pay some notable attention to the French part in the battle. Having said that, we need to remember that this is an historical account written by a legal man perhaps better described as a travel writer and historian. Kingslake was not a military man, not a military historian and certainly no Frenchman but he was actually there during the campaign. Kingslake tells us they charged with their four squadrons which amounted to ‘only a few hundred horsemen’ suffering ten killed in the action (two officers/eight other ranks) and 28 wounded. If I am any judge, his account is too detailed concerning the squadrons actually involved in the charge to be wrong. I’ll come back to this.


Yet, General d’Allonville (commanding the 1st and 4th Chasseurs) is often attributed (probably simplistically) with having 1500 cavalry under his command (see Wikipedia Balaclava Order of Battle). Evenly divided, this accords each regiment with 750 horses and men which does not balance well with the November return of 532 for the 4eme Chassuers d’Afrique. If we take the aforementioned reference (Dickens) of 160 per full squadron, then even a four squadron regiment can only field 640. With the 1st Chasseurs d’Afrique, the Brigade must have fallen far short of the claimed 1500 – being 1280.

If; however, they fielded six squadrons each, they would have fielded at least at the commencement of the campaign a field strength of 1920. Whilst this is excessive of the 1500 estimate we must observe that the referred order of battle is for Balaclava and not the campaign. If we apply the November returns figure for the 4eme squadrons consistently to both regiments and extend that back 26 days then the brigade would number 1596 – the nearest figure to the stated 1500 sabres. If accurately 'estimated', the 1500 figure was always just too rounded to be specific and I suspect 'calculated' without proper reference to the facts.


The evidence is clear for both the Regiment and Brigade. At best they could have started their campaign with 1280 fighting effectives plus Brigade command and supports - not 1500. By Balaclava, at least the 4eme fielded 532 across four squadrons and this is the regiment I need to depict. At my 1:10 representative troop scale this means my 4eme Chasseurs d'Afrique will be around the 53 figure mark - just shy of the strength of the entire British Light Brigade.