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William Simpson was sent to the Baltic by the dealer and publisher, Colnaghi, to record the naval battles that instigated the Crimean War, a conflict between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the Ottoman Empire, France, Britain and Sardinia. He arrived in the Crimea itself in 1854, only two weeks after the Battle of Inkerman. In May 1855, he accompanied Lord Raglan on the expedition to Kertch, and may have made the drawing on which the present watercolour is based at that time. Kertch was captured by the British on 24 May, and Simpson returned to Sebastapol in time to observe the first attack on it in June. The drawings that he made in the Crimea provided the basis for
The Seat of War in the East, which, published later the same year, was the first of his many books.