- A.N. Other and NHSA Webmaster
- History - general
- RAN Ships
- None noted.
- September 1983 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
THE CRIMEAN WAR was not distinguished by its naval encounters but the amphibious assault on Kinburn, at the mouth of the Dnieper River, was a forerunner of similar operations in World War II. This account, written by one of the first war correspondents, appeared in The London Illustrated News dated 10th November 1855.
At eight a.m. on Monday, the 15th, the forts opened a heavy fire on gunboats and steamers. Five or six round shot fell close to the Spitfire – some shells burst in the air, which caused her to move further out.
8.30. The troops landing, and the English Union Jack planted on the soil of Russia.
9. The Highlanders taking ground and sending out skirmishers. There stood the General and his dog; the latter soon found congenial pastime, and was soon pointing at a quail. The weather was fine, with a pleasant breeze blowing from the southward. No surf on the beach, which is hard sand; a few yards from the water’s edge it rises into low irregular hillocks, covered with coarse wiry grass and fishers’ huts. The liners still lying quietly at anchor four or five miles from the fort. We were all in earnest expectation of a move, as the Admiral declared his intention of going in to win at nine o’clock; but he did not.
9.30. The first French gunboat approached full of les Indigenes, with their rich blue uniforms, Zouaves, and infantry; several others soon followed, and the tricolor waved over a fisher’s hut. Four French sailors were chasing a large pig. They plied him vigorously with their boathhooks, but piggy blew them and dodged them for a long time on land; at length, hard pressed, he dashed into the water and was captured by the boats. Then came the Triton, radiant with Marines and the merry visage of ‘Our Own Correspondent,’ and towing Terrible’s paddle-box boats full of troops. Banshee brought up her string of boats in tow. The Lynx came also, with the Royal Albert’s boats and more Marines; while the Minna and Brenda, the Danube, the Arrow, the Beagle, and Wrangler were pouring forth their red-coated burdens. The Supply, the Charity, the Industry, and others, were landing the horses and carts of the Land Transport Corps, together with the tents and baggage required by the troops. The forts fired briskly on the steamers.
At 11.15 the Russians signalled to Otchakoff, hoisting a red pendant, a blue with yellow cross, and a white flag with a red border. They ceased firing.
At 2.15 the fort opened a brisk fire on the mortar-boats, which had been towed into their position by the Snake gunboat. They were ready to reply in a few minutes. Having got their range they poured shells upon the fort, which fired away till dark. The Russians had set fire to the parts of the village and haystacks which lay nearest to them; but a good portion was preserved by the French, who landed on the Spit between the spot where the English troops were and the fort. During the night they pushed their advances within 1,200 yards of the walls.
On Tuesday 16th, a strong breeze from south-west brought up a heavy sea; the surf was high upon the beach. The steamers’ paddle-box boats and flats were trying to land provisions from the transports, but most of them were spoiled; the baggage was wet, the boats were swamped, and things looked rather uncomfortable. Some prisoners were taken: they reported the garrison to be 1,200, and that 20,000 Russians were advancing to their relief from Perekop and Kherson.
Wednesday 17th. The anniversary of the grand naval attack on Sebastopol was fine enough to permit the combined fleets to attack. The wind was blowing from off shore, and the swell had subsided. This was indispensable, because many of the line-of-battle-ships were drawing 26 feet water, and they were to anchor and attack with only two or three feet water under their keels. This was a ticklish job, in a narrow difficult channel, hitherto almost unknown to us. Well, at eight a.m. the sand-batteries opened at a steamer and gunboat which forced their way inside the spit. The French floating batteries were smoking up, preparing to go in, and at 9.30 they opened a tremendous fire at 500 yards, from twelve large guns on each broadside. At ten the mortar-boats opened fire, three French gunboats were working along from the southward, by the shore, where the troops had been landed. The boats of the Firebrand, Furious, and Leopard had been digging out their own paddle-box boats and flats which had been swamped in the surf, and were half buried in the sand. At 10.15 these steamers weighed, and proceeded to the flagship. At this moment fifteen gunboats were blazing away over the mortar-boats and batteries. Some heavily-armed French steamers and the Odin were firing. Shells were bursting over the fort, which was firing very rapidly. The Russian gunners could be seen, standing up boldly on the rampart, sponge and rammer in hand, loading and firing away as if they were at exercise. When one was knocked over, another jumped up. Three of them were enough to work each gun; one to work the elevating-screw and let the gun slip down the incline to run it out; one to lay and fire (the recoil sent it in again); one man to sponge, &c. This accounts for their killed being so few.