26 September 1854
On 26 September 1854, the British army ransacked the small Crimean port of Balaclava. Professor Saul David comments that when they arrived they found ‘the port was largely deserted.: most of its 1500 inhabitants had already fled… leaving their homes to be ruthlessly pillaged.’1 At the time, the British weekly, the Examiner, explained it as if it was entirely natural, reporting that ‘of course at Balaklava plenty of plunder presented itself.’2 Nor was British looting confined merely to the port. The surrounding villages were also mercilessly ransacked in the search for loot. A letter from an officer recounted how:
‘as we approach the towns and villages the inhabitants desert them, and as soon as we come to a halt our men disperse through them in search of plunder, and such a scene you could not imagine as is to be seen here in a few minutes. Thousands of men loaded with tables, chairs, sofas, chests of drawers, pier glass, geese, ducks, cabbages, fowls – in fact, everything that can be imagined. Our men lay on beautiful feathered beds, and costly sofas in the open air; arm chairs and mahogany tables to grub off… Even houses are wantonly destroyed; and some beasts, destitute of manly feeling, will even rob poor wretches who, through age, poverty or infirmity, have not been able to escape.’3
- Saul David, Victoria’s Wars: The Rise of Empire, Penguin Books, London, 2007, p. 214.
- ‘Incidents of the War,’ The Examiner, 14 October 1854, p. 646.
- Cited in ‘A Letter from Balaklava,’ The Manchester Examiner and Times, 13 October 1854, p. 2 and also in ‘Free Quarters,’ The Aberdeen Press and Journal, 18 October 1854, p. 6.
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