On this day in 1854, Britain and France formed an alliance and declared war on Russia. War had been ongoing between Russia and the Ottoman Empire since October 1853 over Russia’s rights to protect Orthodox Christians, with the central issue revolving around the rights of Christians and their access to religious sites in the Holy Land, which was under the control of the Ottoman Empire. The French promoted the rights of Catholics while Russia promoted those of the Orthodox. Britain and France entered the war in alliance to stop Russia’s conquest.
The war is remembered for numerous reasons, one of the most famous being the suicidal Charge of the Light Brigade, which was immortalised in a poem by Alfred Tennyson. The event was a charge of British light cavalry against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava in October 1854, and saw one-third of British forces killed. It was carried out with the intention to pursue a retreating Russian artillery force, but due to miscommunication in the chain of command, it was instead sent on a frontal assault against a different artillery force, one that was well-prepared with excellent defensive fire.
Despite its failure, the Crimean War ended in allied victory and resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Paris in March 1856. Russia restored any Russian-owned Ottoman territories to the Ottoman Empire, while the allied forces restored to Russia any territories occupied by the allied troops, including Balaklava and Sevastopol. The allies and Russians pledged to respect the independence of the Ottoman Empire., which itself declined in 1923.