Fascinating Sites from the Crimean War

What are the Top Sites from the Crimean War to Visit?

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From Balaclava Battlefield and the eye-opening Siege of Sevastopol Museum to the absorbingFlorence Nightingale Museum the historical sites from the Crimean War are absolutely captivating places to discover. If you’re planning a trip to explore Crimean War sites and museums but are short on time, then these famous places are probably your best bet. But if you do have a more flexible itinerary then at the very least the Haidar Pasha Cemetery, the Edwin Fox and Suomenlinna Fortress should all be on your list. Here are the top things to see and do while exploring the landmarks and monuments from the Crimean War.

1. Balaclava Battlefield

The Balaclava Battlefield was the site of a major battle of the Crimean War and one of the most famous incidents in British military history.

In 1854, Britain, France and Turkey were attempting to capture the port of Sevastopol, a Russian naval base, and had established camps nearby.

On 25 October 1854, the Russians attacked Balaclava, which was being used as the British base south of Sevastopol. The ensuing clash, known as the Battle of Balaclava, ended when the British Light Brigade charged into the “Valley of Death”, the area between the Causeway Heights and the Fedyukhin Heights. This dramatic incident is now known as the “Charge of the Light Brigade” and ended in significant losses for the British. It was immortalised in a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Today, the Balaclava Battlefield is mostly made up of vineyards, however the town of Balaclava has many monuments to the battle. There are also the remains of a Genoese fortress in the town.

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2. Siege of Sevastopol Museum

The Siege of Sevastopol Museum, also known as the Sevastopol Panorama, is a museum which chronicles the siege of the port of Sevastopol by British, French and Turkish forces against the Russians during the Crimean War.

The Siege of Sevastopol began in September 1854, lasted eleven months and ended in the retreat of the Russians and their ultimate defeat in the Crimean War.

The Siege of Sevastopol Museum uses a diorama to portray the events of the siege and does have some signs in English.

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3. The Florence Nightingale Museum

The Florence Nightingale Museum in Üsküdar in Istanbul is located in the Selimiye Barracks, the Turkish army barracks which served as a British military base and hospital from 1854 to 1856, during the Crimean War.

It was at the Selimiye Barracks, then known as the Scutari Barracks, that the English nurse Florence Nightingale achieved fame as a pioneer of the medical profession and earned her nickname as the “Lady of the Lamp”.

At its peak, the Selimiye Barracks had 5,000 patients. Nightingale discerned that the dire conditions at the hospital were responsible for a great number of them dying needlessly and successfully petitioned for vast improvements.

Whilst small, the Florence Nightingale Museum does give an insight into the woman who transformed the living conditions and mortality rates of Crimean War soldiers. Visitors to the Florence Nightingale Museum can see her original desk in the place where she worked together with some letters and equipment. It is worth noting however that the lamp on the desk is not proven to be the one she famously used on her night rounds.

Selimiye Barracks still operates as a military base. As such, the tour is short and the Florence Nightingale section is restricted to one tower. Having said this, one can also see a small exhibit about the Turkish army and the tour is offered in English. The military backdrop also means that security is tight (see entry details) and can be difficult to arrange.

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4. Haidar Pasha Cemetery

The Haidar Pasha Cemetery near Istanbul, Turkey was the burial site of approximately 6,000 soldiers who died during the Crimean War at the Selimiye Barracks, a then British military base and hospital. It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Conditions at the Selimiye Barracks were terrible at the beginning of the war until the British nurse Florence Nightingale famously transformed them and dramatically improved soldiers’ mortality rates. As such, many soldiers died of preventable diseases such as cholera.

Most of the Haidar Pasha Cemetery Crimean graves are unmarked. There are also First and Second World War Turkish graves as well as those of civilians.

The Haidar Pasha Cemetery includes a memorial to Nightingale as well as to those who died at the Selimiye Barracks hospital during the Crimean War. There are also memorials to the First World War soldiers who died whilst in action in Georgia, South Russia and Azerbaijan as well as a cremation memorial to Indian Army soldiers killed in 1919 and 1920.

The usual route is to start by visiting the nearby Florence Nightingale Museum at the Selimiye Barracks and then Haidar Pasha Cemetery.

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5. The Edwin Fox

The Edwin Fox was a Victorian sailing ship which is today partially preserved and displayed in a dry dock in the town of Picton.

Owned by the Edwin Fox preservation society, whose motto is ‘preservation, not restoration’, it is proudly proclaimed as ‘the ninth oldest ship in the world’.

A museum has been built to explain and explore this ship’s long and varied history from its building in India in 1853 to the remaining hulk you can see and explore today. There is an informative video in the museum.

The Edwin Fox was first commissioned as a trader, but was soon being used as a troopship carrying soldiers and some civilians to the Crimean War. After the end of the war, she was again commissioned as a trader and made her first voyage to the antipodes in 1856, the journey to Melbourne taking four and a half months.

After this, the Edwin Fox worked on the route between the Far East and the West Indies until she was again commissioned by the British Government to transport prisoners to the prison colonies in Australia. Preserved in the museum is a list of convicts transported by the Edwin Fox, including their crimes, ranging from fraud to murder.

After a period of time, during which the Edwin Fox was generally used as a trader, she was chartered for use as an immigrant ship, taking emigrants mainly from the UK and Ireland, to New Zealand. By the 1880’s steam was making sailing ships obsolete, and freezers made it possible to transport New Zealand lamb further afield, so the Edwin Fox was fitted out as a freezer ship. Following this, this, she was towed to Picton, firstly as a freezing store, and finally as a coal bunker.

When the Edwin Fox had outlived her usefulness, she was left to rot ignominiously at Picton.

In 1965, the preservation society was formed, with the aim of saving the ship and moving it to dry dock for preservation of the hulk and putting it on show as an example of ships of her time.

The hull of the Edwin Fox is evocative as she lies now in dry dock, well signed and giving a feel of its history. The museum is well laid out, and is informative, but the ship itself is a wonderful piece of history.

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6. Suomenlinna Fortress

Suomenlinna Fortress is an impressive 18th century maritime fortification complex spread over eight islands in Helsinki and which has been property of the Swedish, the Russians and the Finnish. Considered an excellent example of the military architecture of the period, Suomenlinna Fortress is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Swedish Period
Begun by the Swedish in 1748, when Finland was an eastern Swedish territory, Suomenlinna Fortress was considered vital in terms of defence, especially with Sweden’s declining power and in an atmosphere of increased Russian imperialism. Named Sveaborg in 1750, Suomenlinna Fortress was also known as Viapori - the Finnish translation - until 1918.

Having avoided military engagement in the 18th century, the next century saw Suomenlinna Fortress become the subject of an enduring Russian attack in the Russo-Finnish War, also known as the ‘War of Finland’ (1808-1809). After a three-month siege, Suomenlinna Fortress fell to the Russians.

Russian Period
The Russians would go on to expand and garrison Suomenlinna Fortress, but, over time, large parts of it fell into disrepair. Renovations were undertaken as the Crimean War (1853–1856) approached, but Suomenlinna Fortress would go on to suffer significant damage during a two-day Anglo-French bombardment in this conflict, but remained in Russian hands.

In 1906, Suomenlinna Fortress was the site of the Viapori rebellion, a short-lived military revolt. Then, in World War I, it defended St Petersburg as part of the Peter the Great Fortress, but, before the war ended, on 6 December 1917, Finland declared independence from Russia.

Suomenlinna Fortress has been under the control of the Finnish government since 1918 and outside military control since 1973.

Today, this is a fascinating place to visit and a popular one, with various things to see including a series of museums as well as sites such as the King’s Gate and the Great Courtyard. Military history enthusiasts will enjoy exploring its many bastions and there are guided tours. This site also features as one of our Top 10 Tourist Attractions in Finland.

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7. Bomarsund Fortress

Bomarsund Fortress (Bomarsunds fastningsruiner) is a ruined 19th century fortress in Aland which was destroyed during the Crimean War.

Constructed from 1832 to 1854, Bomarsund Fortress was built at a time when Aland was part of Russian territory. Intended to have fourteen towers, only three of them were erected before Bomarsund Fortress faced its destruction. This occurred in the 1854 Battle of Bomarsund as part of the Crimean War and saw joint British and French forces take Bomarsund Fortress from the Russians after a week, devastating it in the process and taking 300 Finnish grenadiers prisoner.

The whole of Aland was declared a demilitarised zone in 1856, a status which remains to this day. Visitors to Bomarsund Fortress can see its pretty ruins. There’s also a modest nearby museum about the site (next to Prasto Bridge). This site also features as one of our top Visitor Attractions in Finland.

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Our database of Crimean War sites and museums is growing all the time, but we may not cover them all. So, if you know of other such locations, you can add them to Trip Historic by contacting us now.