It is wished to place on record Sgt Heron’s story of the “glorious charge” from his own words and as nearly as possible this is his narrative.

“Yes: I well remember the night of the 24th of October 1854. I was on line guard that night and recollect when going round with the relief I found one of the posts vacant, the sentry was nowhere to be seen. I shouted ‘sentry go’ several times, and, receiving no reply, I took the relief to the other lines, thinking the man Anderson1 would turn up by the time I got back.

“On my return, however, I found the post still unoccupied, and was compelled of course to report his absence to the senior sergeant. I did this, and the sergeant wished to know the next on the roll for sentry. I told him Bradshaw2. ‘Well go warn him’ said the sergeant. I went straight to Bradshaw’s tent, in which there were fourteen of them, and sang out Bradshaw, turn out!’ A reply came ‘ all right’ and within a few minutes a trooper walked out, well muffled up in his cloak. I did not scrutinise the man as we marched off; but after going some few yards I turned to look at my muffled up friend, and found that instead of Bradshaw I as marching back the missing Anderson! ‘Hullo’, I said ‘what the deuce did you do there?” he mumbled something. I said ‘this won’t do, come back to the tent.’ when there I again shouted ‘Bradshaw’. Eventually Bradshaw came to the front, was duly posted, and the absentee Anderson handed over to the guard for deserting his post.

“After posting Bradshaw matters went much as usual in the guard tent until the morning of the 25th. The Brigade parade, as it had been accustomed to for many a long day, at daylight. At 6am, I, as the junior sergeant, was to go off guard and that the sick to the hospital. Having little spare time before this, I sat on the grass in the doorway of my tent, and, with the paper on my knees, commenced to write a letter to my parents. While busily engaged I was considerably startled at a round shot crashing into the ground very near my toes. Hullo! thought I, there was something more exciting than letter writing to be done this morning.

“As I jumped up I heard the trumpets sound ‘mount’. My senior sergeant3 called me and said ‘Here, you must take charge of the guard,’I replied, ‘What’s up, Ned?’ ‘Never you mind that, take charge of the guard,’ was his reply. ‘Very well,’ aid I, and I immediately went over to the guard tent. The enemy’s fire was by this time greatly quickened, and seeing there was a prospect of a fight, I ordered the tent to be struck and the guard to roll their cloaks and saddle their horses at once. During our little preparation Sergt-Major Reilly4 rode into the camp and asked every available man to come out, remarking to me that Lord George Paget5 had to get another mount, as his horse had been wounded already. I asked the Sergt-Major to allow me to join my regiment. ‘Who will take charge of the guard,’ he replied. I said ‘there is Sergeant O—–6 who is on the sick list will manage that for me.’ The Sergt-Major called him over, and finding him, after some demur willing to do this, gave me the requisite permission to fall in. I very soon handed over the guard reports to O ——, and with the gladness of a schoolboy out for a holiday proceeded to get together my accoutrements.

“Several of the supernumeraries in the lines applied to me for instructions as to what was best to be done. I told them all to do as I was doing, saddle their horse and be off to the front. Then poor old O—– although so sick he could scarcely stand, came up and said, “Denny, you’re ready saddle my horse for me.’ I could not do this for him, poor fellow, and made an excuse that I was in too much hurry. I jumped into my saddle and rode off.

“On my way I met the Heavy Brigade under the command of Lord William Poulett7; I was going at a gallop and Lord William, probably thinking me an orderly anxiously inquired as I came up if I had any orders for him. I replied ‘No, General, I have no orders, I am going to join my regiment. All this time the enemy’s cavalry could be seen advancing cross the plain and our Heavy Brigade was moving down with a view to intercepting them. Clearing away from the Heavies I quickly found my regiment, and on riding up, the Major8 wished particularly to know what I did there, seeing that I mounted guard the night before. I explained that I had volunteered to come and had obtained leave from the Sergt-Major to hand over the guard to Sergt O —–. His reply was ‘Very well fall in here on the right flank, cover Sergeant Kelly9.

“By this our Heavies had engaged the enemy’s cavalry. After a short and sharp encounter the Russians retreated in disorder having suffered severely from the fire of the 93rd Highlanders10, under sir Colin Campbell11 as well as from the sabres of our Heavy Brigade. During the happening of all this the Light Brigade simply acted as spectators and had to content themselves with waving their swords and cheering the victors who had sent that vast Russian body galloping back to where the came from.

“But our turn was to come. Very soon after I saw poor Captain Nolan12 ride down in front of the line of officers he had a piece of paper between his forefinger and thumb, and shewing it up as he sent, called out ‘Boys, we will soon have something to do!’ He rode straight to where Lord Raglan13 and the Earl of Cardigan14 were. Very soon after his arrival we were ordered to advance. We did advance, in three lines, and then the enemy’s gunners began in earnest to give us all they possibly could, and a terrific fire it was; but the guns had to be silenced. The order was given to ‘charge’ and with a wild yell we dashed up the alley. I can describe nothing more of the charge than this. The next thing I recollect is, that I with two comrades, Gilchrist15 and Thomas16, were in possession of one of the enemy’s guns. There it stood, with six chestnut horses attached, all ready to make off. We cut the gunners down and meant taking the gun back. I posted Gilchrist at the leaders, Thomas at the centre pair, and myself at the wheelers, and shouted to Gilchrist to turn the leading horses’ heads round. Gilchrist tugged, swore and shouted all he knew in English horse language to the leaders but it was a failure. Not one inch did they move. The Russian horses failed to understand a word he said and exasperated by their obstinacy, Gilchrist ran the near horse through the neck with his sword. We then rode off, endeavoring to find our comrades in the dense smoke.

“In a few seconds I had lost sight of Gilchrist and Thomas and found myself alone. I then commenced riding carefully towards where I thought to find my comrades. At that moment I noticed a Russian cavalry man with 27 H, in yellow characters on his head piece coming directly at right angles across my path. I felt at the time most awfully wicked, and grasping my sword, I prepared to meet my opponent with a murderous thrust, the Russian did not seem to see me, and for some reason or the other I gave a look behind to discover a Russian lancer with his lance in rest riding hard to me. I put spurs to my horse and we sprang forward just in time, for I felt the thrust of the lance penetrate my sheep-skin. After going some little distance and finding the lancer still in hot pursuit, I turned round and argued the matter out with him, somewhat to his discomfiture, but then, that individual with the big fellow 27 H., put in another appearance, and from his manner of approaching, evidently noticed I was there this time. Here I met a foeman worthy of my steel, and it was only after many a pass I managed to drive him from his saddle.

“Once more I tried to discover the whereabouts of my comrades, and at last fell in with a number of the brigade rushing up from the Tchernaya17 after driving the enemy into the river. They were under Lord George, and I immediately formed up with them. From their conversation the impression was that we, the handful, were again to charge the Russians. Then the cry arose that there was a line of lancers in our way. Our commanding officer finding this to be correct ordered us to at once form and charge them. We rushed headlong at them and got through, but how, goodness known! We were still under heavy fire but I found a chum at least, and that was Sergt. Kelly, who was belaboring his old mare with the flat of his sword to get her along. I said. ‘Jim how arc ye?’ ‘All right’ said he ‘barring my old mare, and she has a pain in her stomach, how are you?’ ‘All right’ I shouted, and scarcely had the word fallen from my lips when a bullet mashed through my left arm. Within a few minutes we were clear and formed up the remains of the regiment, which including myself numbered off, 39.

“I was now weakening from loss of blood and went to the hospital, where they had to lift me out of the saddle. They put me on board, the same night for Constantinople, where I was to receive proper surgical attention. By the time I arrived there I needed it, after lying on decks during a five days voyage.

“I arrived in a condition that could be better imagined then described. However I was there properly treated by the doctors, and ministered to, by that guardian of the Crimean soldier, Miss Florence Nightingale18 God bless her! (One of the most precious souvenirs of my service is a bandage she applied to my arm). Recovery was now rapid and I was very soon invalided to Malta, from whence I returned to Chatham19.


1. Private Anderson – This could be either John Anderson, who enlisted in 1850, or Robert Anderson, who enlisted in 1846 and was awarded the Crimea Medal with 4 clasps (Alma. Balaclava, Inkerman, Sebastopol). This was certainly Robert Anderson, born in Middlesex in 1842 (he was 14 when he enlisted) and discharged from Edinburgh in September 1866. He later lived in London. [The other Anderson John, was born in 1848 in Co. Roscommon and did not join the Regiment until June 1855. During his 23 years’ service, he was twice reduced from Sergeant to Private by Regimental Court Martial, but was promoted to Sergeant for the third time in May 1867, and discharged in that rank from Canterbury in July 1873. He as entitled to the Crimea Medal with clasp for Sebastopol. He later lived in Sudbury, Suffolk].

2. Private Bradshaw – There is no record of a Private BRADSHAW in the 4th Light Dragoons. It is almost certainly Private James BACKSHAW aka BAGSHAW (1835-72), who was taken prisoner in the Charge and was awarded the Crimea Medal with 3 clasps (Alma, Balaclava, Sebastopol). He is buried in Ardingly, West Sussex. His trade on enlistment (January 1854) was Labourer. His horse was shot from under him during the Charge and he did not region the Regiment from captivity in Russia until October 1855. He was “Discharged by Purchase” (£10) from Dundalk in August 1864, his character and conduct described as “good”.

3. Possibly Sergeant Edward Campbell, who enlisted in June 18477 and was killed in the Charge. He was awarded the Crimea Medal with three clasp (Alma Balaclava, Sebastopol).

4. Probably Sergt.-Major Reilly (1822-5 ) – Son of Captain Joseph Reilly 8th Hussars, who was Regimental Sergeant Major, 41b Light Dragoons at Balaclava.

5. Lord George Paget (1818- 1880) – Commanding Officer, 4th Light Dragoons 1846-57; Colonel of the Regiment 1874-80.

6. Sergt O —– – Probably Sergeant Samuel Ockford who enlisted in 1843 and was awarded the Crimea Medal with 4 clasps.

7. Lord William Poulett – Nobody of this name is known. It was probably a mishearing for Brigadier General the Hon. James Scarlett, who commanded the Heavy Brigade.

8. The Major – Major John Thomas Douglas Halkett (1816-54), who was killed in the Charge.

9. Sergt. Kelly – Troop Sergeant-Major James William Kelly (enlisted in 1844, died in January 1887) was awarded the Crimea Medal with 4 clasps.

10. 93rd Highlanders – Later the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders, whose victory over the Russian Cavalry gave rise to the term “The Thin Red Line”.

11. Sir Colin Campbell (1792 – 1863) Baron Clyde – Commander the Highland Brigade.

12. Captain Nolan – Captain Lewis Edward Nolan, 15th Hussars, ADC to General Richard Airey, Quartermaster-General. The “piece of paper” which was signed by General Airey, contained the order which resulted in the Charge: Lord Raglan wished the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front, follow the enemy & try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate. R Airey

13. Lord Raglan – Commander-in-Chief in the Crimea. It was Lord Lucan, commanding the Cavalry Division and brother-in-law of Lord Cardigan, who received the order issued by Lord Raglan.

14. Earl of Cardigan (1797 – 1868) – Commanded the Light Brigade.

15. Gilchrist – Private John Gilchrist enlisted in 1847 and was awarded the Crimea Medal with 4 clasps. He was born in Dublin in 1829; his trade on enlistment was Cabinet-maker. He was twice tried by Regimental Court Martial, the second time for “Desertion and losing his necessaries”, for which the sentence was 60 lashes and 84 days’ imprisonment with hard labour. He was “Discharged with Ignominy” from Manchester in February 1860, his conduct and character being described as “very bad”.

16. Thomas – Private David Thomas enlisted in 1843 and was awarded the Crimea Medal with 4 clasps and the Distinguished Conduct Medal. He was born at Carmarthen in 1825 and his trade on enlistment was Labourer. During the Charge, despite being wounded in the leg, he saved the life of an officer, whose horse had been shot from under him, by pulling him onto his own horse. It was probably this action which resulted in his being awarded the DCM (and gratuity of £5). During his 24 years’ service he was entered forty six times in the Regimental Defaulters’ Book and seven times tried by Court Martial. He was discharged “at this own request” from Canterbury in Movement 1868 and died in the Carmarthen Workhouse in 1890. He was buried with full military honours in Cannarthen Cemetery (Grave B935).

17. Tchernaya – The River Tchernaya is to the north of Balaclava and flows north-east into the Black Sea at Sebastopol. It was later (16 August 1855) the scene of a victory by French and Sardinian troops over a Russian force advancing towards Balaclava.

18. Florence Nightingale (1820-1910) – In 1854, Florence Nightingale took 38 women to Turkey to nurse wounded and sick soldiers in the Crimean War.

19. Chatham – Chatham Invalid Depot.


  • Miss Mary Ling
  • Keith Smith, Crimean War Research Society
  • Somerset Record Office
  • Somerset Studies Library

Related topics

  1. A short history of The 4th Hussars
  2. The Crimean War 1854-56
  3. Object: Heron’s Bandages