Sebastopol lies on the southern coast of the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea, to the west of Yalta. In the autumn of 1854 British, French and Turkish forces attacked the Russian-held town, though they made little progress until April 1855 when they were able to bring in reinforcements. By summer 1855 the Russians were suffering losses of up to 3,000 a day under the Allied bombardment. Towards the end of August, the French General de Mac-Mahon captured a vital redoubt, leaving the Russians unable to defend themselves. They were forced to withdraw from Sebastopol, paving the way for an Allied victory. More than 200,000 men died during the siege. A young Leo Tolstoy fought there, publishing his Sebastopol Sketches to record his experiences.
The strategic importance of Sebastopol was reinforced during the Second World War, when the port was besieged again, from 1941 to 1942. This time the Germans besieged the city, and the Russians eventually lost it again, moving the conflict on towards Stalingrad.