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Making History
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Listen to this editionTuesday 3.00-3.30 p.m
Sue Cook presents the series that examines listeners' historical queries, exploring avenues of research and uncovering mysteries.
The Great Redan - the fortress defending Sebastopol in the Crimean War

Listener's query

"In Chilcompton in Somerset there is an inn called The Redan, with a colourful sign of Crimean soldiers. What I want to know is was there a special recorded incident in the Crimean War called the Redan?"

Brief summary
Making History consulted Michael Hargreave Mawson of the Crimean War Research Society who said:
The Redan was one of the large fortifications that ringed the city of Sebastopol. The word 'redan' comes from the French word for tooth, which was used because it was tooth-shaped. The Redan was the centre of the defences the British forces were attacking. It became a symbol of the attempt to capture the city and eventually a symbol of its fall.

It is likely that the inns named after the Redan commemorate the second assault on the fortress on 8 September 1855. The first attack was on 18 June when a massive assault was made on the Redan, but failed. The Allied troops were easily driven back to their fortification where they stayed for the next two and a half months. When the Great Redan actually fell, it was because the Russians had abandoned the stronghold overnight without a struggle on 8 September.

This was all well into the war and it has been suggested that the British forces could have approached Sebastopol from the south and got in long before any of these massive defences were put in place. Raglan would not countenance such an idea, suggested to him by General Cathcart, because he thought he might lose a thousand men. By taking that decision he lost many more.

Although the Redan became so important to the Victorians it was probably not vital to the taking of Sebastopol. The fort at Malakhov was much more important and it was in the French sphere of influence. It was when the French stormed it after an eleven-month siege that the final, somewhat unnecessary attack on the Redan was made.

Further information

Crimean War Research Society
Secretary: David I. Cliff, 4 Castle Estate, Ripponden, West Yorkshire HX6 4JY

Further reading
Ian Fletcher and Natalia Ishchenko, The Crimean War: A Clash of Empires (Spellmount Publishers, 2004)
Clive Ponting, The Crimean War: The Story Behind the Myth (Chatto and Windus, 2004)
Paul Kerr, The Crimean War (Channel 4 Books, 2000)
Michael Hargreave Mawson, editor, Eyewitness in the Crimea: The Crimean War Letters of Lieutenant Colonel George Frederick Dallas (Greenhill Books, 2001)
Alan Palmer, The Crimean War (Dorset Press, 1992)
Philip Warner, The Crimean War: A Reappraisal (Wordsworth Editions, 2000)
Garry Douglas Kilworth, Attack on the Redan (Constable and Robinson, 2004) (novel)


The Crimean War: 1853-1856

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Making History

Vanessa Collingridge
Vanessa CollingridgeVanessa has presented science and current affairs programmes for BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and Discovery and has presented for BBC Radio 4 & Five Live and a regular contributor to the Daily Telegraph and the Mail on Sunday, Scotsman and Sunday Herald. 

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Making History is a Pier Production for BBC Radio 4 and is produced by Nick Patrick.

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