Baltic Medal 1854-55

Unnamed

Unnamed as issued

Issued for services in the Baltic between 1854 and 1855 at the time of the Crimean War.

Britain and France sent a joint expedition and in March 1854 attacked forts at Hango Head, with the French following with an attack on Cronstadt. On 16th August 1855 a joint force attacked and demolished forts on the Aland Islands. Further attacks followed later on at Kola, the port of Petrpaulovski, Sveaborg and Helsingfors (now Helsinki) which was practically burnt out.

A total of 61,109 Medals were issued for the combined forces.

The Baltic was a forgotten theatre of the Crimean War. The popularisation of events elsewhere had overshadowed the significance of this theatre, which was close to Saint Petersburg, the Russian capital. In April 1854 an Anglo-French fleet was sent into the Baltic to attack the Russian seaport of Kronstadt and the Russian fleet stationed there. In August 1854 the combined British and French fleet returned to Kronstadt for another attempt. The outnumbered Russian Baltic Fleet confined its movements to the areas around its fortifications. At the same time, British and French commanders Sir Charles Napier and Alexandre Ferdinand Parseval-Deschenes—although they led the largest fleet assembled since the Napoleonic Wars—considered the Sveaborg fortress too well-defended to engage. Thus, shelling of the Russian batteries was limited to two attempts in the summers of 1854 and 1855, and initially, the attacking fleets limited their actions to blockading the Russian trade in the Gulf of Finland.  Naval attacks on other ports, such as the ones at Hogland, were more successful. Additionally, they conducted raids on less fortified sections of the Finnish coast.

Russia was dependent on imports for both the domestic economy and the supply of her military forces, and the blockade seriously undermined the Russian economy. Raiding by allied British and French fleets destroyed forts on the Finnish coast including the newly constructed Bomarsund on the Åland Islands which was raided on 3 July through 16 July 1854, and Fort Slava. Other such attacks were not so successful, and the poorly planned attempts to take Hanko, Ekenäs, Kokkola, and Turku were repulsed.

The burning of tar warehouses and ships in Oulu and Raahe led to international criticism and, in Britain, MP Thomas Gibson demanded in the House of Commons that the First Lord of the Admiralty explain “a system which carried on a great war by plundering and destroying the property of defenceless villagers”.

In 1855 the Western Allied Baltic Fleet tried to destroy heavily defended Russian dockyards at Sveaborg outside Helsinki. More than 1,000 enemy guns tested the strength of the fortress for two days. Despite the shelling, the sailors of the 120-gun ship Rossiya, led by Captain Viktor Poplonsky, defended the entrance to the harbor. The Allies fired over twenty thousand shells but were unable to defeat the Russian batteries. A massive new fleet of more than 350 gunboats and mortar vessels was prepared, but before the attack was launched, the war ended.

Part of the Russian resistance was credited to the deployment of newly created blockade mines. Perhaps the most influential contributor to the development of naval mining was inventor and civil engineer Immanuel Nobel, the father of Alfred Nobel. Immanuel helped the war effort for Russia by applying his knowledge of industrial explosives such as nitroglycerin and gunpowder. Modern naval mining is said to date from the Crimean War: “Torpedo mines, if I may use this name given by Fulton to self-acting mines underwater, were among the novelties attempted by the Russians in their defences about Cronstadt and Sevastopol”, as one American officer put it in 1860.

Bombardment of Bomarsund

Bombardment of Bomarsund

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