Punch-A-Day

A daily excerpt from a a historical edition of Punch – the greatest satirical magazine in history

Category: Crimean War

The disastrous capture of Sevastopol (allegedly)

20-09-1855 Crimea Split

The blown up colonial squabble that is the Crimean War is still grinding on. Everyone knows that the British Army have been blundering from campaign to campaign, but regardless, there are a few victories here and there.

On the 9th of September, 1855, crucially, the Siege of Sevastopol went the allies’ way. This probably was the beginning of the end for the Russians, who never really recovered.

A victory is always a good chance to have a good old gloat about how great the British army is, and Sevastopol is no exception. But, give Punch an inch and he’ll take a mile. Punch sees it as a great opportunity to gloat about anything. And more than anything, he likes to gloat about press freedom, which is severely lacking in Russia.

 

ENGLAND’S HUMILIATION.
(For the Invalided Russe.)
SUCH of our countrymen as are acquainted through our columns with the real state of public opinion in England, as to the unholy war in which that island is engaged with us, will, we apprehend, be quite prepared to learn that the intelligence of our temporary evacuation of Sebastopol has plunged the entire kingdom into the deepest mourning and dejection. Accounts slightly at variance with this statement have, it is true, been published by the English press; and an obscure print, called the Times, whose circulation is about as limited as its ability, has had the effrontery to suggest that a medal should be struck to perpetuate the memory of our triumphant retreat. We need, however, scarcely remind our enlightened readers, that nowhere is the censorship of the press exercised with greater rigour than in England; and any editor who had dared in this case to reveal the real feeling of the nation would have been tried by a court-martial, and in all probability sent to Coventry, an equivalent, it is well known, to our own Siberia.
But, notwithstanding the dastardly attempts of the despotic British Government to prevent the transmission of letters to the Continent evinced [sic] especially of late by their reduction of the rates of postage we have received from one of our own Manchester correspondents, a description of the way in which the so-called victory was actually celebrated: for the veracity of which our known character of truthfulness will, we do not doubt, be a sufficient voucher. In part, for we epitomise his report he says :

” The news of the partial capture of Sebastopol has occasioned here the greatest sorrow and indignation. Throughout the Metropolis, on the night of its arrival, the people were so incensed at the Government that it was found necessary to call out the militia; and an attack being meditated upon St. James’s Palace (the usual autumnal residence of HER MAJESTY), the QUEEN and her Ministers fled with the greatest precipitation to the Highlands, where they are still hiding under the alleged plea of living in retirement.’ Knowing somewhat of the real reeling ot the populace, the LORD MAYOR very prudently declined the office of proclaiming the so-termed victory. There is little doubt that ‘he would have been torn to pieces if he had attempted it. General illumination there was none, of course. At the French Embassy some two or three lamps were lit up’on the sly, but on the approach of an indignant member of the Peace Society they were hurriedlv extinguished.

At Woolwich there was a tremendous bonfire in the Arsenal, the mob destroying several millions’ worth of Government stores. Effigies of GENERALS SIMPSON and PELISSIEE were burnt a la Guy Faux, and the boys exploded a vast number of 10-inch shells and Congreve rockets without the slightest injury to any of the bystanders. The one ship left in Portsmouth had her flag hung half-mast high, in mourning for the loss of the remainder of the Russian fleet. Her captain has in consequence been dismissed the service, and is now en
route for St. Petersburg, where he will doubtless be received with honour.

As may be supposed, the demonstration at Manchester was extremely gratifying. All the manufactories and shops were closed, and the principal inhabitants appeared in deepest mourning. The bells rang muffled peals throughout the day, and most of the churches were hung with black. At a meeting in the evening, a vote of condolence with the EMPEROR and PBINCE GORTSCHAKOFF was unanimously agreed to, and a subscription for the late inhabitants of Sebastopol was most liberally commenced. Three groans having been given for the murderers, SIMPSON and PELSSIER, three hearty cheers for Russia were led off
by MR. BRIGHT.

P.S. There is little doubt that on their return home, the British troops will be lynch-lawed and their officers beheaded.

(September 20th, 1855)

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Well put, Sir

06-10-1855 Ramrod

(October 6th, 1855)

A fine British tradition

06-10-1855 Fishing

It’s just what we do, OK? We’re very fond of war relics, and Sevastopol is no exception.

But, boy did we take our fill here; we took many, many, many cannons, and distributed them among our allies. Any military academy worth it’s salt has got one. In fact, many of the bits were melted down to make the metal for all the Victoria crosses that have been handed out since.

(06th October 1855)

The climax of the war

This cartoon is from September 1856, after the end of the Crimean War.

The crimean war is mostly known today for the efforts of Florence Nightingale in reforming the healthcare, but also for the rather tragic losses at Balaclava, and, of course, the Charge of the Light Brigade.

In many ways, the war was a lot like the more recent Iraqi war. It was initiated for all the wrong reasons; it was set about with the typically British conceit of assuming that it would be easy, was typified by lack of investment in the troops, and overall, was a big PR disaster for the government. There is, however, a big difference in that there were catastrophic losses on the side of the British; this was not so true for the Iraq war.

The war in many ways was a big turning point for Europe as a whole. The balance of power was shifted, and put on the road towards World War One.

I’m always pretty terrible at recognizing the faces in the cartoons, but I believe that the chap cheekily peering out is Palmerston, the British PM. The guy on the right with the preposterous moustache I would recognise anywhere; it’s Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte, the French leader. The rather pompous looking man on the throne I think is the man himself; Tsar Alexander, who inherited the war from his father.

 

To Lord Tennyson

TENNYSON, you are an eminent bard; there is none of more note;
You have sung some capital staves; for example, your Bugle Song,
Out of numerous noble lines which I wish 1 had room to quote.
But I think that some of your views propounded in Maud are wrong.

I shouldn’t object to War for “shaking a hundred thrones,”
Provided it left that one at Buckingham Palace firm.
But I hate and detest it, because of its breaking brave men’s bones,
And rendering many true hearts of heroes a meal for the worm.

I cannot agree with you, that War is better than Peace,
Because in Peace time men lie, and rob, and cozen and cheat.
They will bam and bite the more as the Tax-man shears their fleece;
For nothing makes people thieve like the want of enough to eat.

Your “smooth faced snubnosed rogue” has a large per-centage to pay
On the gains of his fraudulent trade ; that ‘s the worst of the War to him.
Were a shell to burst in his shop, do you think he would not run away
As fast as he possibly could, out of danger of life and limb?

But suppose such a snob could be, by the pressure of War’s distress,
Compell’d, or induced, to chouse in a somewhat minor degree,
And suppose he turn’d out with a stick if the Prussians were off Sheerness,
Would that be worth the blood that we shed by land and sea?

Imagine your stomach pierced with the lance or bayonet’s point;
Just fancy your own inside with the bombshell’s fragments torn,
Or a Minie bullet lodged in the middle of your knee-joint,
And a wooden leg, if you live, for the rest of your life to be worn.

Beyond some, albeit, of course, how many years no one knows,
The War cannot last; what then ? When the hurlyburly’s o’er
Will the knaves not continue to swindle, do you suppose,
And adulterate food and physic as much as they did before?

Better torment and death in the glorious field to brave,
Than to run the risk of both, submitting to certain shame,
Better the sabre-gash than the stripe that scores the slave.
That is all I can find to say for carnage, rapine, and flame.

A nation that suffers war might suffer a great deal worse,
It is worse to crouch, and crawl, and be tongue-tied, than to fight.
A choice of the smaller evil, to either side a curse,
War is murder upon the wrong, execution upon the right.

I do not compare the British Grenadier to a sordid wretch
For a suit of clothes and a guinea who chokes out another’s breath ;
I esteem that gallant hero as a quite sublime JACK KETCH,
Who risks his own precious life in putting villains to death.

But I grudge that brave man’s blood ; I think it a grievous thing
That in sweeping off vile Cossacks a drop of it should be lost ;
I wish they could be destroy’d, as the felons at Newgate swing,
Machinery and rope comprehending all the cost.

But the miscreants are too strong, and battle alone remains,
The means of ridding the world of the CZAR’S enormous gang,
And we are obliged to open our purses and our veins,
To put the criminals down, whom we cannot contrive to hang.

I abhor this War as much as I should a plague or a blight,
I wish the loss of life and enormous expense might cease,
Bat the more with dogged rage for that very cause would fight
In hatred of horrible War, and the hope to conquer Peace.

The full text of Maud can be found here.

(18th August, 1855)

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