The Regiment, 1719 to Now.


Episode 7: 41st in The Crimea

On 28 March 1854 war was declared by Britain and France on Russia. The 41st, stationed at Malta, numbered 30 officers and 863 rank & file. They had just received issue of the new Minie rifle - still a muzzle-loader, but much more accurate because of its rifling, while the ingenious design of the bullet enabled it to be loaded as easily as a smoothbore musket.

The 41st were brigaded with the 47th and their old companions of the War of 1812, the 49th, and formed one of two brigades of the 2nd Division. In June, the army was concentrated around the Bulgarian port of Varna on the Black Sea. But by then, the Turks had fought the Russians to a standstill on the Danube front - there appeared to be nothing for the Allies to do! A quick decision was made to capture the Russian naval base at Sevastopol on the Crimean Peninsula, so as to teach the Russian Bear a lesson.

On 14 September, the Allied army landed at Kalamita Bay - some fifty miles north of Sevastopol and separated from same by a totally unknown stretch of terrain. The size of Russian forces in the Crimea was also unknown, estimates varying from 45,000 to as high as 140,000. The allied army numbered 64,000. Marching south along the coast, the Allies blundered into a Russian position based on rugged heights on the far side of the Alma River. A frontal assault followed. The result for the 41st was 4 killed and 23 wounded and a BATTLE HONOUR.

The next action for the 41st occurred on 26 October - the day after the Battle of Balaclava (Charge of the Light Brigade, The Thin Red Line incident, etc.). 26 October saw a large skirmish with the Russians known as the Battle of Little Inkerman. This was basically a probe by the Russians of the extreme right of the Allied siege lines around Sevastopol, and turned out to be a precursor for the main Battle of Inkerman a few days later. Little Inkerman's main claim to fame for the 41st is that it was the occasion for the first award to a member of the Regiment of a small piece of bronze which has since become the most coveted of awards for gallantry - the Victoria Cross. After 6 battalions of Russians had been driven back by artillery fire, 4 companies of the 41st & 4 of the 47th were launched in pursuit. Sergeant Ambrose Madden led a party that captured one Russian officer and 14 men, Madden personally taking three of them. Within 10 days of Little Inkerman, the Regiment was to gain its 2nd V.C. and the first of numerous DCM's (Distinguished Conduct Medal: #2 in the Commonwealth).

The dawn of the Battle of Inkerman (5 November 1854) found the 41st in the most advanced defences of the extreme right flank of the British position before Sevastopol, as 40,000 Russians prepared to attack through thick morning mist which restricted visibility to a few yards, in a terrain composed of a maze of ravines, gullies, and rocky outcrops. In the initial assault, Captain Hugh Rowlands won the V.C. by rescuing the Colonel of the 47th from capture. By 7.30 a.m., the 41st, joined by 4 companies of the 49th (about 700 men in total) found themselves attempting to defend the Sandbag Battery position from an assault by 4,000+ Russians. Brigadier Adams (49th) ordered his force to charge. In the ensuing melee, all organized formation was lost, to the company level and below. The 41st spent the rest of that long day fighting a series of desperate "small group" actions, the nature of which is the reason Inkerman is known in the history of the British army as "the soldier's battle".

In one such encounter, a group came upon the Russian 41st Regiment, and captured 3 Russian drums, which are now in the Regimental Museum. In another, Private Patrick Hurley won a DCM by saving the desperately-wounded commander of the 41st (who died later of wounds, however) while in yet a third, Sergeant Daniel Ford won a DCM by saving the Regimental Colours. Casualties for the day totaled 5 officers & 34 other ranks killed (out of 43 and 589 in the total Allied force), while 6 officers & 91 men were wounded (out of 100 and 1,178). Russian casualties were considerably heavier. The Battle Honour "INKERMAN" was awarded to the 41st. The 41st then got to struggle through the Crimean winter, under conditions which actually caused nearly as many casualties as their engagements. Siege duty was both hazardous and boring and consumed many months of effort.

On 8 September 1855, the 41st took part in the 2nd assault on the Redan (the Redan was a major feature of the fortifications of Sevastopol). The assault failed and the 41st lost more men than they did during Inkerman - officers: 3 & 6; men: 35 & 125 (killed & wounded, respectively). The French succeeded in capturing a key feature known as the Malakoff, and the Russians abandoned the city that night.

The war then dragged on to a desultory conclusion, with peace signed March 30, 1856.

In total, the 41st lost 10 officers and 145 other ranks killed, 15 officers and 436 men wounded, and 3 officers and 391 died of disease. 16 men were reported missing, presumed dead. Total losses: 1,016. In addition to the 2 V.C.'s, a total of 16 DCM's were awarded, and three battle honours: Alma, Inkerman, and Sevastopol.

The 41st arrived in Britain in July of 1856, complete with captured Russian drums and a goat mascot, which caught Queen Victoria's eye when she reviewed the Regiment at Aldershot on July 29. Casualties in the Crimean War were comparable to what the 41st suffered in the War of 1812, but... the sacrifices of the 41st in the Crimea were made better known to the British public, and the Regiment's Welsh connection, goat mascot, etc., certainly started to catch the public's imagination.

 

 

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