A tableau depicting the Charge of the Light Brigade.

British Empire in the 19th century

In this gallery visitors can see objects on display which provide comprehensive coverage of the weapons used from the Napoleonic to the Crimean Wars, a display devoted to the development of the military sword in the 19th century and a display on the armour of the 19th century.

There is also a tableau showing the Charge of the Light Brigade from the Battle of Balaclava in 1854, it is of two horsemen, part of Lord Cardigan’s force that charged down the valley toward Russian gun emplacements and certain death. This is accompanied by a film about the whole Crimean conflict.

The Crimean War came about because a dispute over the rights of Orthodox Christians in the Turkish Empire gave Russia an opportunity to invade Turkey in 1853. Britain and France declared war, but by the time they had gathered their forces, the Russian attack had already been repulsed. With no clear strategic aim for the campaign, the allies decided to attack Sebastopol in the Crimea, the base of the Russian fleet.

The Crimean War was the first war to be covered by journalists, and from the outset The Times correspondent, William Russell, revealed the embarrassing truths of the campaign. Soon after landing the allies lost vital stores and equipment in a storm which wrecked their supply ships, and the hoped for quick campaign turned into a long siege, for which they were ill prepared.

Battle casualties were heavy, and thousands more died of sickness until Florence Nightingale arrived to reorganise the hospitals. Sebastopol finally fell in 1855.