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Random Campaign

160 years of defense of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky

Random Campaign

Exactly 160 years ago, at noon 17 August 1854 year, advanced posts on the beacons of Avacha Bay found a squadron of six ships. The next morning, a united Anglo-French squadron entered the bay. After two unsuccessful attempts to storm, having lost about 400 killed and 150 wounded, a foreign squadron left the Kamchatka waters.

In traditional descriptions of the Kamchatka campaign, the defense of Petropavlovsk is seen as a logical and prepared event. English ships often went with reconnaissance purposes to the port, and the Russians, preparing for war, began to strengthen Petropavlovsk. Then, after the declaration of the Crimean War, historians say, the united French-English Pacific squadron received an order to attack Petropavlovsk. The attack, which ended in the victory of the Russian troops, became one of the three victorious episodes of the Eastern campaign, along with the famous Sinop battle and the capture of the Turkish fortress of Kars in the Caucasus.

However, as an attentive study of sources shows, an attack on Petropavlovsk can hardly be considered a prepared and planned action. Judging from the available documents, the attack of Petropavlovsk in August 1854 was almost accidental. Moreover, there are a number of good reasons not to consider the ten-day campaign in Avacha Bay as an episode of the Crimean War, the main events of which took place thousands of kilometers from Kamchatka.

Let us turn to the chronicle. 27 March 1854, France and England declared war on Russia, thereby turning the local Russian-Turkish war into a campaign of European level. The dispatch of the dispatch to Admiral Price, the commander of the Pacific squadron, transferred this conflict to the world level.

Prior to Admiral Price dispatch with the declaration of war only 7 May reached and caught him in Peru, in the port of Callao. There were no specific instructions on the Petropavlovsk attack in the document, and Price had to decide for himself how to conduct the war in the Pacific.

The opponents, in fact, were very close. The fact is that a few days before the courier ship arrived in Callao, here, in front of Price, the Russian frigate Aurora was stocking up on food. The British ship "Verigo", carrying a dispatch on the declaration of war, met with the "Aurora" in the ocean. However, the captain decided not to attack him, but only to deliver the news of the war to Price. The crew of "Aurora", in turn, did not know about the declaration of war and continued to sail in accordance with its route around the world.

In fact, the arrival of the squadron in Avacha Bay is a long pursuit of the Aurora. The chase is intermittent and inconsistent. On May 9, 1854, Price sends dispatches to the captains of the other two ships in the squadron, ordering them to join up with the main forces in Hawaii. However, he then cancels his order, changes the meeting place, waits for a long time for replenishment and gets to Honolulu only by July 17th. Here he learns that the "Aurora" went to Petropavlovsk, but does not rush after her, and stands on the island for eight days. Price's reports are amazing. In them - only a description of the techniques of the local king. Price writes about plans for the upcoming campaign with tremendous uncertainty.

"If it turns out that there is nothing to be done [in Sitka], we will undoubtedly go to Petropavlovsk ... we are, however, very unsure; One day can change all our assumptions ... "- says the admiral.

Only 27 July fleet sails from Honololu to attack the Aurora in the Russian port of Petropavlovsk. Thus, the obvious decision to attack Russian ships on the high seas (where they would not have any chance) is replaced by an attack from a distant northern port.

Drawing an analogy, you can see that in the same developments are developing in the Crimea. And by analogy, this also has the will of fate, since originally allied forces planned to conduct military operations only in the Balkans - in the territory of modern Bulgaria. The reason for the sharp expansion of the theater of military operations in July 1854 was the epidemic of cholera, which erupted right at the front. The Allies did not have enough ships to transport troops and supplies from Varna to the Crimea, so it was decided to send to the Crimea only a part of the soldiers with a minimum of baggage, and leave most of the grouping and equipment in the Balkans. The French captain Erbe described that on the July night, when this decision was made, sixty people of his subordinates came to him, who begged to send them to the landing, and not to leave at the post a huge storage room, which was organized near Varna.

Thus, according to a strange irony of fate, both heroic episodes of the Crimean War - the defenses of Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol - became the consequences of a chain of random events. And, let's note, both decisions were taken mainly from ideological, propagandistic considerations.

The Crimean War (both in Kamchatka and Crimea) was an information campaign. It was originally conceived as a "quick victorious war", which was to raise the prestige of the current governments of England and France. That is why during the Crimean War, military correspondents appeared for the first time. This was the first war, captured in photographs. In the end, detailed atlases of military operations were issued specifically for the coverage of the Crimean campaign in European countries, and an underwater telegraph cable was thrown to the Crimea itself.

This information war is the common component of the two campaigns. Avachinskaya and Balaklava battle London newspapers were presented as links of one chain. It was important for the allies not to achieve real results, but to create the appearance of a global battle and victories. Both Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol at the time seemed to be ideal targets for those. If not for the courage of Russian soldiers and the outstanding engineering talent of Zavoiko and Totleben, who prepared the cities for defense.

These campaigns are united by something else. 25 October 1854 year during the Battle of Balaklava, the commander-in-chief Lord Raglan sent the English cavalry, consisting of the color of the British aristocracy, into a suicidal attack that led to the almost complete destruction of the Englishmen's cavalry. Three months before that, Avacha Bay also became a place of suicide: on the day when the storming of Petropavlovsk began, Commander in Chief Price shot himself in his cabin. Dying, he gathered around himself officers and admitted that he had shot himself because of fear of responsibility.

Both cases are the clearest examples of the rotten British system of appointing army posts. In those days, they were simply bought or received, as we would say now, “according to the pull”. Note that his best years - from 25 to 44 years - Admiral Price spent in reserve, and his career began to go uphill only after his marriage to the niece of Admiral Taylor.

26 August 1854, the Anglo-French Brigade left Kamchatka. A few days later, the landing of the Allied assault force in the Crimea began. We note once again, both operations were mostly ideological in nature. British and French troops had to look like winners in the eyes of readers. It was the messages of victories that would justify the war in which their governments got involved. For ideological reasons, Sevastopol was stormed. How else to explain the fact that during the conclusion of the Peace of Paris in 1856, the British meekly returned the captured city to the Russians? The same applies to Petropavlovsk. The purpose of the British was not the seizure of the city or Avacha Bay. They needed to take ideological revenge. That is why in March 1855 of the year, when the English squadron again approached Petropavlovsk and found neither ships nor settlements, it did not take on a strategically important port, but simply went back. Having completed, perhaps, the most incredible episode of this strange war, which allowed Russian soldiers and officers to show the whole world heroic examples of courage and bravery.

Published in the newspaper "Fisherman of Kamchatka" - information partner of the "Rybak Kamchatka" newspaper

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