Private Samuel Parkes (4th Queen’s Own Light Dragoons) Date of Act of Bravery,  25th October 1854.

Described as a labourer, he enlisted in the 4th Queens Own Light Dragoons on 30 July 1831 and was discharged on 1 December 1857 with four good conduct badges, as an out-pensioner of Chelsea Hospital. He served 11 years with the 4th Light Dragoons in India, including the First Afghan War (Ghuznee Medal), and in the Crimean War. Peacetime service with the 4th saw Parkes in Wales and Ireland as well as in England.

At Balaklava, he was serving as an orderly to the regimental commanding officer, Colonel Lord George Paget.

It was in this famous charge that Private Samuel Parkes of the regiment won his Victoria Cross. It was the twenty-second Victoria Cross awarded.

The citation published in the London Gazette of 24th February 1857, gives Crawford the rank of Trumpet-Major, the rank he then held. At the time of the charge, Crawford was the Colonel’s trumpeter.

While not detracting from Samuel Parkes’ valour in the charge, it should be remembered that the early awards of the V.C. were often made, not for the specific valour of the soldier, but because he was selected by his comrades. Parkes’ Victoria Cross may be considered as a representative award.

The Colonel’s “Rollicking Orderly,” Samuel Parkes, was among the missing.

After the charge on the Russian Lancers, Crawford’s horse collapsed from exhaustion and soon afterwards Parkes’ horse was shot. Parkes began to make his way back on foot when he saw Crawford, who had lost his sword in his fall, about to be attacked by two mounted Cossacks. Parkes at once ran to Crawford, stood in front of him, fought back against the two Cossacks and drove them off.

The two men then started to run up the valley and were joined by Private John Edden, also of the 4th, whose horse had been shot. Soon they came across Major Halkett, lying seriously wounded. They were preparing to pick Halkett up when some Cossacks began to ride towards them. Halkett told the men to put him down and save themselves, but to put his sword into his hand before they went. Parkes turned and faced the Cossacks, whilst the other two tried again to lift Halkett.

A Russian officer rode up and said to Parkes in English, “Give yourself up, and you won’t be hurt.” Parkes refused and one of the Russians fired his pistol and wounded Parkes in the right hand. The three of them began to run off. Edden got away but Parkes and Crawford were caught. As they were being taken back they saw that Halkett had died.

Both men returned to the regiment exactly twelve months later, by exchange of prisoners.

On 24th February 1857, he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions, and he proudly received the medal from Queen Victoria at Hyde Park on 26th June 1857.

London Gazette citation: In the charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade at Balaklava, Trumpet-Major Crawford’s horse fell and dismounted him, and he lost his sword; he was attacked by two Cossacks, when Private Samuel Parkes (whose horse had been shot) saved his life, by placing himself between them and the Trumpet-Major and drove them away by his sword.

Pte Samuel Parks VC, Balaklava 25 Oct 1854

In attempting to follow the Light Cavalry Brigade in the retreat, they were attacked by six Russians, whom Parkes kept at bay, and retired slowly, fighting, and defending the Trumpet-Major for some time, until deprived of his sword by a shot.

Parkes and Crawford were held as Russian prisoners until 26 October 1855 – which makes Parkes the very first prisoner of war VC

Private Samuel Parkes Medal Group

Related topics

  1. The Crimean War 1854-56
  2. A short history of The 4th Hussars