In November 1854, in an early phase of the Crimean War (September 1854–February 1856), two meteorological events occurred that had important effects. The first was an intense fog on the 5th, and the second an unusually violent storm on the 14th.
It so happened that the Russians launched their first major assault on the Allies (British, French, and Turkish forces) in the early hours of the 5th, without foreseeing the formation of fog. Forty thousand Russian troops attacked the Mt. Inkerman area of the Crimea, which was defended by a small British force of 3000. The fog greatly helped the Russians conceal the start of the attack from the Allies until they were at close range to the British. But the fog “assisted” the British, too, insofar as it made the Allies fail to realize the multitude of the Russian force. This failure helped the British keep up their fighting morale until a few hours later when reinforcements, predominantly French, brought about a turn in the battle's tide. The great losses on both sides of the front led to a reduction in warlike operations for some time.
On the 14th an unusually intense storm crossed the Black Sea-Crimea area causing heavy losses and damage to the Allied navies and much suffering to the troops on land. According to British ship reports, the wind reached force 11 on the Beaufort scale (103–120 km/h). The British lost 21 ships or vessels and additional ones were dismasted; the French lost 16, including the battleship Henri IV, the “pride of the French Navy”; the Russians' losses were light. The great losses of the Allies (ammunition, warm clothing, food, fodder, etc., in the ships) and the suffering of their land forces resulted in a notable reduction in fighting activities for some weeks. The loss of the battleship Henri IV prompted the French Minister of War to ask Le Verrier, the great French astronomer, to institute an inquiry to determine if the approach of the storm could have been foreshadowed and the Navy warned in time. This inquiry led to a significant leap in the development of the synoptic weather reporting network.
The present authors have consulted unpublished logbooks of 10 British ships and republish the logbook of a Russian battleship, little-known in the West. Other original, unpublished material includes the British Commander-in- Chief's report on naval losses through the storm in the Balaklava area.
1 Part 1, “The Mongol Invasions of Japan,” was published in the November 1975 Bulletin (56, 1167–1171); Part 2, “The Year Leading to the Revolution of 1789 in France,” was published in the February 1977 Bulletin (58, 163–168); Part 3, “The Cold Winter 1657–58, the Swedish Army Crosses Denmark's Frozen Sea Areas,” was published in the November 1978 Bulletin (59, 1432–1437); Part 4, “The Great Famines in Finland and Estonia, 1695–97,” was published in the July 1979 Bulletin (60, 775–787).