Fellow Feeling — The Bombardment of Odessa. John Leech. Wood engraving from Punch 28 (1855): 4. [Click on image to enlarge it.] This Punch cartoon satirically depicts how Tzar Nicholas and Lord Aberdeen supposedly responded to the British fleet's siege of Odessa in the autumn of 1854:

Aberdeen: "Bombardment of Odessa! Dear me, this will be very disagreeable to my imperial friend." [Czar Nicholas I of Russia]

Nicholas: "Bombardment of Odessa! Confound it! This will be very annoying to dear old Aberdeen."

The split screen dialogue suggests that, although the Russians will be discomfited by the loss of trade and damage to their major salt-water port, the British too will find the military action costly, putting Aberdeen's administration in danger of losing the confidence of the House. In other words, both sides think they are winning, but the contest is proving a draw.

The bombardment of the port by a combined Baltic task force of British and French ships-of-the-line and steamers began on April 22 and continued for about a month, but was by no means a decisive victory for the allies. Subsequently, an allied fleet embarked for Varna. On 22 April 1854, just after the arrival of the French fleet, the English vessel Furious was fired on after leaving Odessa harbor under a flag of truce. Given this pretext, the allied task force retaliated. About 24 Russian ships in the military port were set on fire, and several British and French merchantmen confined there took advantage of the confusion to escape. Meanwhile, the rocket-boats set fire to the dockyard storehouses. Casualties were light for the British.

Scanned image and text by Philip V. Allingham. Formatting by George P. Landow. Image courtesy of the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver. [You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the person who scanned the image and the University of British Columbia and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.]

Last modified 16 May 2014