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This is a facile and witty account of one of history's most disastrous and futile wars. The small event which precipitated the crisis in which 300,000 lives were lost involved a dispute between ""a handful of monks in Jerusalem about the keys to certain doors of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre"". But England, France and Turkey found themselves allied against Russia more out of fear that the Tsar, as the nominal protector of Christians in the Holy Land, would gain the foothold of an effective protectorate in Turkey and control of the waterways to the Mediterranean. England had not been to war for forty years and the invasion of the Crimea was looked upon both by the populace and by Parliament as a satisfying diversion. Actually before the French and British armies arrived the Russians had been defeated by the Turks but the western allies were determined to teach the Russians a lesson and they obstinately set out to invade Sebastopol, ill-equipped and with no campaign plans. And to heighten the bizarre tone of the invasion the British brought their wives, giving the expedition the appearance of a picnic. But by the time the Russians were finally driven from the Crimea more than a year later the invading armies had suffered incredible hardships, the French and British commanders had died and nothing at all had been settled by what had been achieved. And in the press of international problems at the Peace Conference the question of the Church keys had been forgotten. Peter Gibbs is especially good in his swift and telling recreation of the Charge of the Light Brigade but the whole of his book is clear, intelligent and highly readable. This for those who would know more of ""the reason why"".

Pub Date: May 26th, 1960
Publisher: Rinehart