Captain James Aylett of the British 20th Regiment
Top 3 photos are the grave of Capt Aylett Bottom 3 are of his house and wifes (Sarah Louisa) grave
Below is from "The Caledonian society"
Grave of Captain James Aylett
Old Athol House Cemetery, Atholville Buried in the Old Athol House Cemetery behind the pulp mill is Captain James Aylett of the 20th Regiment (Lancashire Fusiliers), a decorated veteran of the Crimean War and Indian Mutiny. Aylett was born in India, the son of a British soldier. As was the custom of the time, young James was sent to England for his education and upon completion his father bought him a commission in the British army. During his long service he was stationed with his Regiment in India, England, Ireland, Bermuda, Crimea, Nova Scotia and central Canada. Aylett met his Irish born wife, a Miss Torrent, while in England and married her while stationed in Bermuda. As noted on his grave marker, he saw action in the Crimean battles of Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol, winning four clasps to his campaign medal and a Turkish decoration. In India, he saw action at the Battles of Chanda, Ameerpore, Sultanpore and Lucknow. Amazingly, throughout it all, he escaped unwounded. When it came time to retired, he opted to return to North America, where he bought 1,000 acres with valuable salmon fishing right on the Restigouche River, four miles from Matapedia. He also received a land grant at Tide Head where he took up farming. According to the 1881 census, Captain Aylett and his family were living in Campbellton. He died in 1882 at the age of 66.
"From the owner of the medals"
There can't of course be two James Aylett's in the 20th at this period. So we have to reconcile the differences. The Caledonian society's account differs in part with the UK's national archives and I know which I prefer!
The society's account does tally as regards "my" Aylett's military history.
 - doubt a drummer boy was sent to England for his education.
 Said Drummer-boy's father wouldn't/couldn't have bought him a Commission.
 "My" Aylett received his leg-up from Qr. Master Sgt to Commissioned Rank at the recommendation of Colonel Frederick Horn [Lt. Col. of the XX] in January 1855 - in the Crimea. Aylett was initially recom. for the rank of Ensign. Then changed his mind!
He preferred the rank of Quarter-Master.
Wonder what Colonel Horn made of that?
 James Aylett married a Sarah Louisa TARRANT not Torrent.
The London Gazette Jun. 30th 1865 records Q.M. Aylett's retirement., stating he was to have the honorary rank of Captain.
I have a theory which may explain the above differences. When James Aylett uprooted his family and moved to the Canadian wilds, he embroidered his humble upbringing to render himself into the archeyptical "Officer and a Gentleman." For he was now a Gentleman farmer and soon to be appointed Commander of the local Militia.
This rewriting of history has then been passed down the generations to become accepted "fact." In otherwords the usual curse of family history.
The naming on the medals is as follows. QUEENS CRIMEA 1854 [Qr. Master J. Aylett XX Regt.] INDIAN MUTINY 1857 [Qr. Mr. J. Aylett 1st. Bn. 20th. Regt.], LONG SERVICE & GC. [with unofficial bar] - J. Aylett 20th Regt. 11th May 1854 No. 806 Qr.Mr.. Serjt., TURKISH CRIMEA [BRITISH ISSUE] -unnamed
The lead up to the Battle of Inkerman
(The Soldiers Battle)
Before writing of the great battle at Inkerman on the 5th November, it may be worth setting the scene as it was on September 5th 1854.
The Crimean war had begun on March 28th of the same year and the British Army had assembled at Scutari.
Britain had signed an alliance with France and Turkey and by the
end of March French and British Troops occupied Gallipoli.
Many of the old fashioned and iron-bound rules and regulations were changed round about this time, for example shaving was discontinued and moustaches were permitted to be worn for the first time since 1830.
The British Army was defective in two important and crucial places, there was no land transport ( marching was the only means of getting the Army from A to B overland ) and there was an inefficient almost none existant medical service.
The XX had embarked at Plymouth on the P&O Company steamship "Columbo" on the 17th July.
They were precisely 999 men strong.
After a pleasant voyage they duly arrived at Malta on the 26th July, and sailed the next day for Constantinople, arriving there on August the 2nd.
They had suffered 2 cases of cholera on board which had resulted in the deaths of Privates Towley and Levermore which necessitated in the XX being landed on the Adriatic coast.
On August 7th the XX joined the flotilla and sailed for Varna, which is where they were on today's date in 1854.
The day was spent checking and packing kit.
It may be of interest for us to examine what a man had as equipment on that day:-
Four and a half pounds of cooked salt beef with biscuits.
Greatcoat rolled into a knapsack.
His firelock and bayonet.
A cartouche box with 50 rounds of ball for the Minie (The Regiment had only 35 of these modern weapons in total )
and 60 rounds for the small bore Brown Bess.
The majority of the men carried the old Brown Bess.
The Minié rifle had a percussion lock and weighed 10 lb 9 oz (4.8 kg). Having a reasonable accuracy up to 600 yards (550 metres), it was equipped with sights for effective aiming. It could penetrate 4 inches (10 cm) of soft pine at 1,000 yards (918 m). The hollow-based bullet had a .702 inch (17.8 mm) calibre, and weighed 500 grains (32.4 g ).
A test in Vincennes in 1849 demonstrated that at 15 yards the bullet was able to penetrate two boards of poplar wood, each two-thirds of an inch thick and separated by 20 inches. Soldiers of the time spread rumors that at 1,200 yards the bullet could penetrate a soldier and his knapsack and still kill anyone standing behind him, even killing every person in a line of 15.
The rifle saw limited distribution in the Crimean War and was the dominant infantry weapon in the American Civil War. The large caliber with high speed spin of these easily deformed bullets (13-18 mm) created terrible wounds.
(I should think so too, look at that calibre, 7/10ths of an inch
We shall see what effect this had on the outcome of soon to come battles later.At dawn on September the 7th 1854, the "Colombo" sailed with the Flotilla for the Crimea.
Cholera still lingered with the force, more men dying during the short voyage.
By the time they reached the Crimea on September the 14th, the 999 men of the XX had been reduced to 971, and not a shot had been fired yet!
They disembarked near Lake Saki, now a well known Health resort ( see the link below )
There was to be a sad end to the days of the SS Columbo, on November
17th 1862 she ran aground off the island of Minicoy in the Indian
Ocean and was lost.
More on the 14th September, just before the battle of the Alma and the famous "Thin Red Line" story.
On the evening of 14th September 1854, 971 all ranks of the XX disembarked at Lake Saki in the Crimea.
The soldiers lay all day and that night on the beach, in drenching
Tents were issued the following day the 15th September and there was no movement until the morning of the 19th September when they struck their tents. loaded them back onto the boats and at 0900 hrs, with Drums beating, bayonets fixed and Colours flying, they marched into the interior of the Crimea.
There was an appalling lack of transport in the British Army at that time and marching was the only way to get the Army to meet with the enemy.
The Division was further delayed by the weak state of some of the units, Cholera and other desease was rife, and many men fell from the ranks en route.
The XX appear to be amongst the fitter of the units, as the Brigade Doctor reported in his notes ,"The XX ,the 21st, and the 1st Irish Rifles were remarkably clean and fresh ".
The night of the 19th September was cold and wet again, with the men rolled up in their coats and blankets.
At noon on the 20th September the Army advanced on the Alma.
The battle of the Alma was about to start.
For once the XX were not at the front, they were held at the left rear in reserve under Lt Gen Sir George Cathcart.
The 4th Division commanded by Lt Gen Sir George Cathcart comprised at this time of the XX,21st,46th, 57th,63rd,68th and the 1st Bn The Rifle Brigade.
The XX were given the gruesome task of burying the dead where they lay on the battle field, and of carrying the wounded to the ships.
It was then that it was brought home to our soldiers just how ill prepared the British army was to fight a war against a similarly armed and skilled enemy.
A huge battle had been fought and won by the British by 1700 hrs on the 20th September ,and there was not a single ambulance to ferry the wounded to the ships, they all had to be carried on stretchers.
The French wounded were taken swiftly away for treatment in some comfort, but not the British lads.
It took a precious 2 days to get all the wounded onto the ships,
during which time the Russians were not pursued.
This would cost us dearly when on the 23rd September the XX left the heights of Alma and marched into the valley of Katcha,and on the 24th into Belbek.
The approach to Sebastapol had begun ( Then named Sevastapol.)
Delicious grapes, pears and apples were abundant and the XX endulged them selves freely, sometimes a little too freely and sickness again spread in the ranks.
5 men of our regiment were to die here from Cholera.
The 4th Division was still in the rear of the British Army, carrying
out the vital job of trying to care for the sick who had been left
behind,and also tasked with keeping the lines of communication open.
A Redan was a V shaped fortification, with the point of the "V" pointed in the direction of an expected attack.
This breaks up a frontal attack and forces the attackers to stream along both the sides of the "V", where the defenders can then shoot at them infilade, ie, from the sides
See the link to a pic of this Redan below.
On the 30th September 1854, The XX were to be found with the 4th Division to the South of Cathcart's hill.
To the great relief of the men, tents were finally issued on the 10th October which went some way in alleviating the absolute misery of being almost 4 weeks without shelter.
Lack of transport meant that rations were often short, or in some cases, did not arrive at all for several days.
Winter was fast approaching and to make matters worse, our soldiers could see the defences of Savastapol growing daily stronger before their eyes.
On the 10th October the siege proper began,and trenches were dug.
The gun batteries were dug in ,the work being carried out chiefly at night by all the Regiments in turn, and throughout this work they were under constant fire from the Russians.
The Armies casualties from Cholera was now in excess of 26% of their strength, a phenominal loss of fighting men from the ranks.
Trench Duty now became the routine, the XX spent 4 days in trench duty, followed by one day stood down,then back on for another 4 days, and so on.
Russian reinforcements were now pouring unchecked into Sevastapol and their armaments were increasing on a daily basis.
A force of 22,000 Infantry, 3,400 cavalry and 78 guns were coming to the aid of the Russians.
They took up positions a mile and a half away at the head of the valley.
The scene was set for the Charge of the Light Brigade on the
On the 22th October a heavy fire was directed upon the trenches of the XX, but due to some sound construction casualties were light.
The 25th October was to be a very different story.
A Russian force of 22,000 Infantry, 3,4000 Cavalry and 78 Guns attacked our base at Balaclava.
The force was led by General Liprandt and at first concentrated upon the 4 small redoudts on the Causeway Heights, these were mere earthworks and only manned by a few Battalions of Turks.
After defending these breastworks with great valour against overwhelming numbers and losing ,in killed alone, no less than 170 men out of one Battalion alone, the little body of Turks, which had been left there unsupported, was at length driven in, resulting in the whole Turkish Force retreating with haste into Balaclava.
Had Lord Cardigan fallen upon them with the Light Brigade (he
had plenty of opportunity to do so ) their destruction would surely
have been complete.
There then followed the charge of the "Immortal Six Hundred"
Half a league, half a league,
In early November 1854, the Russians greatly outnumbered the allied
The allies had a mere 58,000 and they were spread over a thin line some 20 miles in length.
the night of the 4th passed without any alarm, but early on the morning of the 5th November,the battle began.
It had rained during the night and the morning was damp and cold, a heavy mist covered the British position which had the advantage of hiding us from enemy view.
The Russians could never have guessed that there was nothing behind the advancing XX, who came on as boldly as if they had much close support.
The left wing of the XX, under Command of Colonel Horn advanced by fours until they came under fire and then they deployed into line.
The mist began to clear, and the masses of Russians were clearly visible pressing up the slopes of a feature known as Home Ridge.
As the XX advanced they came under fire from a large gun positioned on top of Shell Hill.
The XX responded by immediately taking up skirmishing order and charging through thick brush and rugged ground to reach the enemy formation.
These 200 or so men of the XX,with the Russian hordes on both flanks, forced the dense mass to their front down the hill.
Their ammunition by this time was all gone, but they still advanced, taking ammo from the pouches of dead men who lay "as thick as sheaves in a corn field."
Their action was described by an eye witness as follows :-
The men of the XX seemed to have but one will, at the point of the bayonet.
The air was rent by a sound which people who heard it described as "unearthly", after almost a century when their cry became famous, and almost 40 years since it had last resounded in battle,these men of the XX once more delivered their old "Minden Yell"
Disregarding the enemy on their right and on their left, they sprang at the masses to their front and drove them down the hill and pursued them some 300 yards further down the feature to a place known as the Quarry Ravine.
Meanwhile, the rest of the XX were fighting a hard battle to hold on to their ground , having no support and having to defend using musketry fire alone.
Colonel Horn was wounded and had to withdraw briefly from the fight.
At 1400 hrs the XX again advanced.
Due to the nature of the ground and the hand to hand fighting, formation proved to be impossible to keep, and men formed into small fighting groups, not caring which Regiment or Corps they came from.
True to the character of the British soldier, they only neeeded orders and a leader.
Lt Vaughen found himself leading a group of 40 men,some were Guards, some were regiments from another Division and the remainder were from the XX.
Assisted by Lt Johnson of the Indian Irregular Horse,( this Officer was on leave from the Indian army, Lord Raglan gave him permission to join the XX for the fight ) Vaughen formed his small party across the main access road and advanced against the mass of Russians.
The enemy steadily fell back until ,approaching Quarry Ravine, he saw a Russian Light Battery of guns being brought to bear from the heights above him.
The enemy battery began a plunging fire down upon his men and
Vaughen did not hesitate.
Unfortunately, at that very moment, a huge influx of fresh enemy infantry took it's toll of our rapidly weakening force, exhausted and desperately short of ammo and supplies, they had to reluctantly give ground.
It was with great joy that the XX suddenly saw a large number of red capped French allies, drawn up in good order and steadily awaiting the advancing Russian horde.
The XX went through the nFrench line and regrouped behind them.
As soon as they were clear, the French ( it was Vaissier's 7th Leger) poured a devastating volley into the Russians, but then having been ordered to charge, they lost their nerve and fell back behind Vaughen's men of the XX.
At that moment, a new allied force came to the rescue, Colonel Daubeney of the 55th Regiment arrived from a flank and fired into the Russians.
This gave the wavering French some heart and someone called out(
from the British lines but in French !)
The Drummers and the Buglers ran boldly out to the front and sounded the "Double Quick Charge" call.
The whole line, British and French charged forwards, and after a moment's hesitation, the Russians fell back , hotly pursued by the exultant XX.
The British, French and Turkish Armies landed on the western coast of the Crimea in the Ukraine on 14th September 1854 intending to capture and destroy the Russian naval port of Sevastopol. The Allied army marched south towards the city, crossing a series of rivers and winning the battle of the Alma
Following the Alma the allied armies could have forced their way into the city, taking advantage of the confusion of defeat and the Russian failure to put Sevastopol in a proper state of defence. The French General St Arnaud and the British commander, Lord Raglan, were unable to agree on a plan of attack. The allies marched around the city, establishing themselves to the East and South and began a formal siege, digging entrenchments and batteries and bombarding the Russian defences.
Before the siege began Prince Menshikov
took his field army out of Sevastopol, leaving a garrison, and crossed the Tchernaya
River to the North East of the city. During October 1854 Menshikov received substantial
re-inforcements and was urged by the Tsar, Nicholas II, to take the offensive
On 5th November 1854 the Russians launched a heavy attack on the right of the allied positions to the east of the city. The attacking force was made up of infantry and guns from the garrison of Sevastopol, commanded by General Soimonoff, and a second column from the field army, commanded by General Pauloff. The two forces, numbering 42,000 men and 134 guns, would come under the overall command of General Dannenberg once they had combined. The attack fell on the British Second Division, comprising 2,700 men and 12 guns.
Soimonoffs advance on the British positions was to be along the southern side of a deep ravine known as the Careenage, moving east. With Pauloff advancing from the north eastern side of the Tchernaya River to join him, the combined force would be in a position to overwhelm the Second Division on the end of the British line, before support could arrive.
In the event Soimonoff followed an earlier directive
from Menshikov and took his whole force along the northern side of the Careenage
Ravine, with the result that there was insufficient space for his substantial
force to deploy.
The British troops built
a wall across the post road on its descent, which they called The Barrier.
On the eastern face of Fore Ridge overlooking the Tchernaya River was an empty
battery position called the Sandbag Battery. The Barrier and the Sandbag
Battery were to be of great significance in the battle, both bitterly contested,
particularly in the second series of attacks by Pauloffs columns.
A number of factors had alerted the Second Division to the imminence of an attack, one being the reconnaissance battle known as Little Inkerman the day after Balaclava. Strong British pickets were in place along the valley to the North West, many at company strength. In the fog these pickets engaged the advancing Russian columns.
firing in the valley gave warning to Brigadier Pennefather, the acting divisional
commander, of the beginning of a general action.
The Russian infantry, advancing through the drifting fog in dense columns, were met by the British regiments in open skirmishing order or line. The British minié rifled muskets gave quicker, longer ranged and more accurate fire than the Russian flint lock muskets of the Napoleonic period, the cap firing mechanism of the minié infinitely more reliable in the wet conditions.
The bottleneck formation of the ground prevented the Russians from making their final approach to Home Ridge on a broad front. The first Russian column to attack emerged from the constricted ground and advanced on the Second Divisions left. A wing of the British 49th Regiment fired a volley into the column and charged with the bayonet, driving the Russian column down the slope and across the valley to Shell Hill.
The next assault, also on the Second Divisions left, was in substantially greater numbers and led by General Soimonoff himself. As the Russians approached the ridge, troops of General Bullers brigade from the Light Division and a battery of guns came up. The 88th Regiment passed the crest followed by the battery, but were driven back, three guns falling into Russian hands. Buller with the 77th Regiment and the 88th charged the column. The 47th Regiment attacked the Russians in flank and the column retreated, giving up the captured guns. General Soimonoff was killed in the struggle and General Buller wounded. A column of Russian sailors attempting an approach from the Careenage Ravine was also attacked by Bullers men and driven back.
The remainder of Soimonoffs first line advanced down the post road to the Barrier. They were bombarded by a British battery and finally driven back by the assembled British pickets and the remaining companies of the 49th Regiment. The initial Russian assaults had all failed.
Soimonoffs attack took up the first part of the battle. Some of his regiments were so severely handled, losing a high propoertion of officers, that they took no further part in the war. While the struggle had been intense it could not compare with the severity of the fighting that began with the arrival of Pauloffs force from across the Tchernaya River.
Pauloffs 15,000 men advanced down the axis of the post road towards the northern and north eastern sides of Home Ridge and Fore Ridge. The main focal points of the battle became the Barrier, the Sandbag Battery and the crest of the ridge above them.
attacking line stretched from the post road to the Sandbag Battery. As the Russians
advanced, the wing of the British 30th Regiment holding the Barrier, 300 men,
leaped the wall and attacked with the bayonet. After a savage fight the leading
Russian battalions were driven back down the slope. A further five Russian battalions
were assailed by the British 41st Regiment under Brigadier Adams, advancing in
extended order. Their intense fire drove this column back to the banks of the
The British troops
holding the Barrier abandoned the position to the Russians for a time, but Pennefather
sent forward men from the 21st Royal North British Fusiliers, the 63rd and the
Rifles to retake it and the Barrier remained in British hands for the rest of
the battle, in spite of repeated and determined assaults by the Russians.
Brigadier Adams held the Sandbag Battery with 700 men, supported by the 1,300 men of the Guards Brigade. The Russians launched an attack on his position with 7,000 men, beginning a series of charges and countercharges which saw the ground changing hands several times as the fighting raged up and down the hillside.
The British were only finally enabled to go on
the offensive with the arrival of Cathcarts Fourth Division. Cathcarts
men were rushed into the line wherever there appeared to be a gap, other than
400 men that Cathcart led himself in a flank attack on the Russians. While initially
successful Cathcart was taken in the rear by an unexpected assault from the crest
of the ridge. Cathcart was killed and his force broken up.
The arrival of further French reinforcements helped to reduce the preponderance of Russian strength and drive them down the hillside. The 21st Regiment still held the Barrier on the post road, although the position had been enveloped by each Russian advance.
At this crisis in the battle the Russians launched a further assault on the left of the Second Divisions position at the exit from the Careenage Ravine, with a second attack on the Home Ridge, bypassing the Barrier. Along the line the Russians reached the crest of the ridge, where a savage struggle developed. But the presence of the French and other British reinforcements was decisive and the Russian attacks were all driven back.
During the day the 100 Russian guns on Shell Hill provided a substantial support for their infantry. Towards the end of the battle two large British guns, 18 pounders of modern construction called up by Lord Raglan from the siege park, were manhandled onto Home Ridge by teams of gunners and brought into action. These two guns with the assistance of the field batteries along the line overwhelmed the Russian guns, whose unprotected crews had been subjected to long range rifle fire.
Hamley described the end of the fighting saying: This extraordinary battle closed with no final charge nor victorious advance on the one side, no desperate stand nor tumultuous flight on the other. The Russians, when hopeless of success, seemed to melt from the lost field.
The exhausted English regiments with their French colleagues were left on a field strewn with casualties; the main points of the fighting, the Sandbag Battery and the Barrier, heaped with bodies. The regiments stood down and returned to the siege positions around Sevastopol or to their encampments.
Casualties: The British suffered 2,357 casualties. The French suffered 929 casualties. The Russians suffered 12,000 casualties.
Follow-up: The Russian attack, although unsuccessful, helped to divert the allies from the siege of Sevastopol, reducing further the prospects of the city being captured before winter and condemning the British and French armies to two winters on the heights.
On 14th November 1854 a fierce storm struck the Crimea, wrecking the camps and sinking British and French ships. Much of the limited supply of winter equipment was destroyed and many men drowned.
Regimental anecdotes and traditions:
Inkerman is described as The
Soldiers Battle, a reference to the ferocity of the fighting, the
importance of the role of battalions, companies and even small parties of men
and the foggy isolation of the soldiers who were thrown on their own initiative.
Map of the Inkerman Battle