XXth Regiment,
later the
Lancashire Fusiliers
Crimean War
The Battle of Inkerman

By kind permission of Ken Marsh.

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

Aylett House Tidehead

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"

Crimea Medal Roll

Indian Mutiny Medal Roll

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.

[1] - doubt a drummer boy was sent to England for his education.
[2] Said Drummer-boy's father wouldn't/couldn't have bought him a Commission.
[3] "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?
[4] 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
Hi Joe,
I am pleased that you were able to contact me, given my history of email address changes.
both work just fine.
I certainly can share some information on James Aylett (which I understand to be pronounce “Eye Lett”) and his wife Sarah Tarrant. It looks like you have gathered some research – giving the military record and recommendation for QM. and the picture of his medals. I too have seen the Caledonian Society report and the error in the spelling of Tarrant.

Marriage: WO76 vol.141 – shows his service record with reference to his marriage. (LDS 0917114) attached

- 1855: War Office Feb 9: 20th foot -To be Lieutenants, without purchase - Quartermaster-Sergeant James Aylett to be Quartermaster, vice Bilham, who retires upon Half-Pay, Feb. 9. (United Service Magazine, 1855 page 500)
- 1859: 29th foot: Quartermaster James Aylett, from the 20th Foot, to be Quartermaster, vice Smith, who exchanges. Dated 23rd March, 1859. (Bulletins and other state intelligence compiled and arranged from the ...
1860, p 1274-5)
- 1863: 29th Foot, Curragh, depot - Preston. Q Master James Aylett, appointment 9 Feb '55 (served 9 years). Footnote: Qr. Master Aylett served with the 20th Regiment throughout the Eastern Campaign of 1854-5 including the Battles of A__ & Inkerman, siege & fall of Sebastopol, and affair of the 18th June (medal, clasps, and Turkish Medal). Also the Indian Campaign of 1857-58 including actions at Churda, Umeerpore, & Sutanpore, in Oude, & affairs of Chudra, & fort of Musjeedia. (New Army List, 1863, p 184)
- 1865-7-3: Army Promotions - Quartermaster J Aylett h.p. late 29th foot, to have Hon. rank of Captain. (Gazette June 30, War Office, Manchester Guardian)
- As of Jan 30 1866 was on half-pay as Captain, late 29th, quartermaster. (1867, 1868 and 1869 Army Lists).

Arrived in Canada 1873. [my additions or comments in parenthesis]
1873 - 9 June: arrived aboard "Prussian" at Quebec, embarkation at Londonderry, from Liverpool.
Jas Aylett 56, md, male
Sarah, 48, md, wife
, 19, spinster, female [Sarah Louisa]
Aug, 7, male [Augustus]
C-4528 National Archives found at Canadian Passenger Lists, 1865-1935, at Ancestry.ca
Ship Name: Prussian
Years in service: 1869-1898
Funnels: 1 Masts: 3
Shipping Line: Allan (British)

1861 census: Foot Regiment 29 North Camp Farnborough, Surrey, England. Note that birth locations for children were double checked on the census; other sources suggest alternate location as noted in [ ]
Aylett, James, head, md, 44, Quarter Master, born Ireland
Aylett, Sarah Louise, w, md, 34, born Ireland
Aylett, Catherine, daughter, unm, 14, scholar, born Ireland*
Aylett, Alice Mary, daughter, unm, 9, scholar, born Bermuda*
Aylett, Sarah Louisa, daughter, unm, 7, scholar, born Montreal
Aylett, George, son, unm, 3, born Aldershot Hants
Shair, Mary, servant, unm, 19, Sevant, born __? Surrey.
[*Catherine was born 16 Mar 1847 & baptised at St John's Church, Hamilton, Bermuda 11 April 1847.
[* Alice Mary was born 2 July and baptized 1 Sept 1851 at the Garrison Church, Montreal.]

1871 census: at 20 Grange Park, Croydon, Surrey England
James Aylett, head, 54, Captain, retired from Infantry, born Ireland, Leitrim
Sarah L., wife, 46, born Ireland, Mallow
Alice M. dau, 19, born Canada, Montreal
Sarah L., dau, 17, unm., scholar, born Canada, Montreal
George T., son, born 13, born Aldershot, South Camp, scholar
Richard AW, son 5, scholar, born Ireland, Lucan.

1881 Census (Parish of Addington, Restigouche, New Brunswick, Canada)
James AYLETT M Male English 64 Ireland Farmer Church of England
Sarah Louisa AYLETT Female Irish 56 Ireland Church of England
Sarah Louisa AYLETT Female English 22 England* Church of England
Richard A. W. EYLETT Male English 15 Ireland Church of England
George Tarrant EYLETT Male English 23 England Farmer Church of England
[*Sarah, born 7 May 1853, was baptised in the Garrison Church, Montreal 2 June 1853]

Land Grants in New Brunswick:
- Captain James Aylett, granted lots 12 & 13 in the 1st Range, South Madepedia (Township of Madapedia, Bonaventure County) 204 acres, 16 April 1875.
- Legal Rep of James Aylett, granted southwest part of lot 10 in the 1st Range, South Madepedia (Township of Madapedia, Bonaventure County) 54 acres, 17 Jan 1883
(Sessional Papers (Province of Quebec), no 6, 1888, page 322.)

House in Tide Head, New Brunswick– built circa 1872 by James Aylett – referred to as the Glebe by his wife. I have a recent picture of the house.

- At the Glebe, Tide Head, Restigouche, N.B. on the 21st May 1882 of congestion of the lungs, and at age of 66 years. Captain James Aylett formerly of HM 20th, late of the 29th Regiment and who served in the Crimean War and the Indian Mutiny. (St John Daily Sun, Mon May 22, 1882. Same entry in St John Daily Eve News, May 25.)

- DIED: "My dear Husband - James Aylett died at his residence "the Glebe", Tide Head, on Sunday, the 21st May, 1882, half past two P.M. of an inflammation of the lungs after two days illness." (Family bible)

Last Will – James Aylett, No 806, Quarter master Serjeant of the 20th Regiment of Foot, was written 5 July 1854, within days of Aylett’s embarking for Crimea. He directed that his wife, then School Mistress of the Depot 20th Regiment, was to receive his whole estate, after paying his debts and funeral expenses. Witnesses were William Robertson __ Major, 20th __ (Esq?) and Patrick Geraght (?) Cr Serjt 20th Regt. Edward Howard declared “I was present at eh execution of the Will, and that James Aylett No. 806 Quarter master Serjeant 20th Regiment the Testator, was at the time in a fit state of mind to execute the same” [signature] Edward Howard, Surgeon 20th Regt.

The Will had not been located when letters of administration were granted to his Sarah Louisa Aylett, 21st of August 1882. The estate was valued at $3000, and included five “Up River” lots valued on average at $230 each and 3 Butler’s lots valued at $200 each. His Glebe lot and House were valued at $1100. He then had a horse, one two-year old heifer, one calf, one sheep, and two pigs plus a cart, plough, wagon and sled.

Family Bible: maintained by wife Sarah Tarrant states that James Aylett was the son of James Aylett born Chelmsford, Essex England and Catherine Shine, [married 26 July 1814] at Mallow, Cork. [No siblings known.]
[Sarah (1824-1898), was the daughter of George Tarrant (of Mallow, Cork) and Bridget Maria Reardon].
I hope these will documents will be of some use as you tidy up your biographical statement on the web. I also hope that you will be able to tell me amore of Aylett’s Militia appointment in New Brunswick, I have not heard of this before. And, can you put me in touch with the person who is/was “the owner of the medals” – presuming that the picture shown is for Aylett’s medals. Feel free to share my email address and interest in this person to those who inquire.

Mike Stewart, Vancouver, Mar 18 2012


The lead up to the Battle of Inkerman
(The Soldiers Battle)

(Painting by David Rowlands, Military Artist)

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.
( A place their grandsons would later become only too familier with )

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.

( Varna is now a beach resort, the summer capital of Bulgaria, )

On the 6th September 1854, the XX were on board the "Columbo", heading for the flotilla rendezvous which was in the Bay of Baljik.

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.
A blanket.
Spare boots.
Forage cap.
Wooden canteen.
A share of the mess cooking utensils.

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 in diameter!)

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.
I do not know what happened to her passengers, she plied between Great Britain and India ,often carrying troops and their families.

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 rain.
No tents had been sent ashore yet and their coverings of greatcoat and blanket were quickly saturated with the rain.

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.

As I said yesterday, the XX took no part in the fighting at the battle of the Alma, they were rear left reserve.

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.
They made good their escape to fight another day.

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.)


The valley of the Belbek river is a beautiful place.

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.
The Division followed on the tail of the Army until the 29th September 1854, when the XX were ordered to bivouac in a quarry on the South side of Sevastapol, immediately in front of "The Great Redan".

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.

The Great Redan South of Savastapol.

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

The siege of Sevastapol

We last saw the XXth on trench duty outside the great defence works of Sevastapol.

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.

The Russian Cavalry and 32 Guns came at this time unexpectedly close to our Heavy Cavalry Brigade,who at once charged and sent them off in great confusion.

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.
As it was, they were allowed to escape down the valley where they took up a position a mile and a half away.

There then followed the charge of the "Immortal Six Hundred"

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air,
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honor the charge they made,
Honor the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred.

In early November 1854, the Russians greatly outnumbered the allied armies.
By the 5th November they had 120,000 combatants in the field.

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.
He ordered those men who had the modern minnie rifle and were known good shots to quit firing to their front and to adopt sniping positions to take out the gunners on the heights.
His marksmen only fired one volley at the gunners which was so effective that they immediately limbered up and made off.

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 !)
"Drums to the front"

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.

Soimonoff’s 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 Second Division had its positions and camp on a hill called Home Ridge. The post road from the south of the Crimea climbed over Home Ridge and descended into the valley to its north past an outcrop known as Fore Ridge, before crossing the Tchernaya River at Inkerman Bridge. The village of Inkerman itself was on the far side of the Tchernaya River. The area around Home Ridge came to be known as Mount Inkerman.

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 Pauloff’s columns.
Soimonoff’s force of 20,000 men and 100 guns set off from the city before dawn. It was a foggy day, the clouds hanging around the gullies and ravines. Soimonoff’s guns, many of them of the heaviest calibres, 20 pounders and more, established themselves on a hill called Shell Hill directly to the North of Home Ridge.

As dawn broke all the church bells of Sevastopol began a frenzied peel. It was Sunday, but the ringing was to encourage the Russian soldiery rather than to call the faithful to worship. Soimonoff’s columns advanced on Home Hill, 300 riflemen preceding his first line, 6,000 men moving in dense columns. Behind Shell Hill waited the Russian reserve of a further 9,000 men.

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.

The firing in the valley gave warning to Brigadier Pennefather, the acting divisional commander, of the beginning of a general action.
Pennefather, a highly aggressive officer always inclined to the attack, sent all the units of the Second Division forward to engage the Russians. His actions were exactly appropriate for the day, even though he was committing a small number of troops to battle against overwhelming odds. The Russian heavy artillery on Shell Hill opened a bombardment of the Second Division’s position and camp on Home Ridge. The camp was destroyed but there were no troops on the crest, the division having moved off the ridge into the valley.

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 Division’s left, was in substantially greater numbers and led by General Soimonoff himself. As the Russians approached the ridge, troops of General Buller’s 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 Buller’s men and driven back.

The remainder of Soimonoff’s 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.

Soimonoff’s 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 Pauloff’s force from across the Tchernaya River.

Pauloff’s 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.

Pauloff’s 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 Tchernaya River.
General Dannenberg now took command of the two Russian forces, Pauloff’s troops from the field army and the 9,000 men in Soimonoff’s reserve, and began a sustained and ferocious attack on the Second Division’s positions on Home Ridge.
At this time support was coming up for Brigadier Pennefather, the Guards Brigade arriving from its camp to the South and General Cathcart approaching with his Fourth Division.

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 Cathcart’s Fourth Division. Cathcart’s 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.
Cathcart’s initiative had the unfortunate effect of encouraging other British units to break from the line and attempt charges down the hill, giving a Russian regiment the opportunity to gain the crest of the ridge. The situation was retrieved by the timely arrival of a French regiment which attacked the Russians in flank and drove them off the ridge.

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 Division’s 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.

British regimental casualties:
Staff: 17 officers (General Cathcart killed: General Buller wounded)
17th Lancers: 2 men.
Royal Artillery: 6 officers and 89 men.
Grenadier Guards: 9 officers and 225 men.
Coldstream Guards: 13 officers and 181 men.
Scots Fusilier Guards: 9 officers and 168 men.
1st Regiment: 1 man.
7th Royal Fusiliers: 5 officers and 62 men.
19th Regiment: 1 officer and 4 men.
20th Regiment: 9 officers and 162 men.
21st Regiment: 7 officers and 114 men.
23rd Regiment: 2 officers and 38 men.
30th Regiment: 7 officers and 130 men.
33rd Regiment: 3 officers and 61 men.
41st Regiment: 11 officers and 156 men.
47th Regiment: 2 officers and 64 men.
50th Regiment: 2 officers and 29 men.
55th Regiment: 5 officers and 66 men.
57th Regiment: 5 officers and 88 men.
63rd Regiment: 10 officers and 105 men.
68th Regiment: 4 officers and 49 men.
77th Regiment: 1 officer and 57 men.
88th Regiment: 2 officers and 102 men.
95th Regiment: 4 officers and 131 men.
The Rifle Brigade: 6 officers and 144 men.
A Sergeant of the Royal Artillery

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 Soldier’s 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.
12 Victoria Crosses were awarded to British soldiers for actions in the battle.
"G" Battery of the Royal Artillery, 2nd Division, particularly distinguished itself during the battle. The Battery fired all its ammunition at the advancing Russian columns, repelling several attacks. When overwhelmed by the Russian infantry Sergeant Major Andrew Henry fought back with his small sword, attempting with a gunner to remove the guns. Sergeant Major Henry received 12 bayonet wounds in his chest, left arm, back, right leg and head and was left for dead. A counter attack by French infantry drove the Russians off the guns which were secured. Sergeant Major Henry was awarded the Victoria Cross and the Battery was given the title "Inkerman Battery'" which it still holds. This episode of the battle is a fine example of how the Victorian British soldier just would not give way.
Inkerman is an iconic battle for the Grenadier Guards. Higginson states that the Grenadiers were the only regiment to take their colours into the battle and describes their apprehension that the Russians might capture the colours of Queen Victoria’s premier Foot Guard regiment. The Grenadiers suffered more than 100 dead in total casualties of 9 officers and 225 men. One of the regiment’s companies, in memory of the battle, carries the title “The Inkerman Company”.
The Grenadier’s Captain Percy received the Victoria Cross for his conduct in the battle, in particular extracting 50 men of his regiment from the midst of the Russians.
The other two Foot Guards regiments suffered heavily. The Coldstream lost 8 officers killed and 5 wounded, with 181 men as casualties. The Scots Fusilier Guards suffered casualties of 9 officers and 168 men. Of the Guards Brigade’s 1,331 men 605 became casualties in the battle.
Lady Butler’s picture “The Roll Call” showing the Grenadiers after the battle caused a sensation at the Royal Academy in 1874. Her picture “The return from Inkerman” depicts soldiers of the Coldstream Guards and the 20th Regiment trudging back from the battle. (See below)
While emphasis tends to be given to the conduct of the Foot Guards at Inkerman, the battle showed every regiment involved, both British and French, to have behaved in the best traditions of their respective services.



Painting by
Lady Butler
The return from Inkerman: exhausted men of the 20th Regiment and the Foot Guards marching back to camp after the battle

Map of the Inkerman Battle