Crimean War

The Crimean War, 1854-56, interrupted a half-century of peace between the European great powers. What began as a diplomatic tussle for influence between Britain, France and Russia over the weakening Ottoman Empire soon turned into a bitter and drawn-out war in the Near East focused on the Crimean peninsula. Canada played no direct role in the Crimean War, but even this distant eruption of battle had some notable results in the country. Canada was stripped of its garrison of British troops to supply the needs of the Crimean Expeditionary Force. This led in turn to the establishment of a permanent Canadian militia in 1855, including provisions for volunteer troops.

So popular was the militia idea in the wake of Canadian enthusiasm for the spectacle of the Crimean war that recruiting far outstripped demand and helped convince the government that universal military service (or conscription) was unnecessary to sustain the defence of Canada. While no Canadian units fought in the Crimean War, individuals did enlist and reach the battlefront. In fact, the first Canadian to win the Victoria Cross, Lieutenant Alexander Dunn of the 11th Hussars, gained this coveted honour for his participation in the ill-fated charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava on 25 October 1854, certainly the most famous single action of the war.