Heroes of Inkerman 1854
A Lancashire Infantry Museum Narrative History
The 30th and 47th Regiments at Balaklava and Inkerman, October / November 1854
By John Downham
The Battle of Inkerman, fought in the Crimea on 5 November 1854, is justly famous as ‘The Soldiers’ Battle’. It – and the series of engagements which led to it – was one of the very finest feats of arms in the long and eventful annals of the British Army, and one in which two of our predecessor corps, the 30th and 47th Regiments, earned particular distinction.
After their victory at the Alma on 20 September the Allied armies advanced south to besiege the fortified Russian naval base at Sevastopol. It was in truth a risky venture, for the Allies were outnumbered by nearly two to one  and in a weak position. Faced by a well-defended fortress, they also had to contend with a strong Russian field army which hovered on their right flank and threatened communications to the British supply base and port at Balaklava, seven miles to the rear of the Allied lines.
The British siege lines were on the open right (eastern) flank of the Allied siege lines, open because there were insufficient troops to complete the investment of Sebastopol by blocking access to the fortress over the Tchernaya River and causeway to the east. On 4 October the 2nd British Division, which included both the 30th and 47th Regiments, occupied the Inkerman Ridge on this vulnerable flank, and on the 17th the Allied siege batteries opened their bombardment of Sevastopol.
Balaklava, 25 October 1854
Predictably, on the morning of 25 October the Russian field army, some 25,000 men under General Liprandi, moved against Balaklava. The battle that ensued is best known for the heroically incompetent ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’, which has overshadowed two considerably more successful actions. One of these was the very effective charge of the British Heavy Cavalry Brigade, but the other has some regimental involvement.
The main line of defence for Balaclava was on the Causeway Heights, where a body of Turks were entrenched in six redoubts. Four of these were soon overrun by the advancing Russians, whose cavalry then made a thrust for the British supply port.
Only one British battalion, the 93rd Highlanders, stood between Balaklava and the Russians, but in this desperate emergency sick and wounded soldiers and fatigue parties of various units, some hundred and fifty in all, came up from the port and fell in on the flanks of the Scots. These included a sergeant, two corporals and 36 privates of the 30th Foot, who probably formed up with other detachments of the 2nd Division on the right flank. Sir Colin Campbell commanded this slender force and, riding out to their front, called out:
‘Remember, there is no retreat. You must die where you stand!’
William Howard Russell, the famous war correspondent of The Times, watched as the Russian cavalry prepared to charge:
‘The silence was oppressive; between the cannon bursts one could hear the champing of bits and the clink of sabres in the valley below. The Russians on their left drew breath for a moment, and then in one grand line charged in towards Balaklava. The ground flew beneath their horses’ feet; gathering speed at every stride, they dashed on towards that thin red streak tipped with a line of steel.’
The Russian charge was soon halted by the rolling volleys of the British infantry, formed two-deep in this, the original ‘thin red line’, and the ruin of the Russian cavalry was completed by the well-timed charge of Sir James Scarlett’s Heavy Cavalry Brigade.
Little Inkerman, 26 October 1854
On the afternoon after the Battle of Balaklava the Russians mounted a sortie from Sevastopol against the exposed right flank of the Allies on the Heights of Inkerman, held by some three thousand infantrymen of the British 2nd Division .
At this point we need to describe the ground. The harbour of Sevastopol is surrounded by a plateau known as the Chersonese, which is bounded on the east by the marshy Tchernaya Valley, to the south-east by the Sapoune Ridge and to the north and west by the sea. The Chersonese consists of steep-sided ridges, on a generally south-east to north-west orientation, divided by deep ravines and covered with dense brushwood and scrubby oaks. The largest of these ravines, the Careenage, runs south-east from Sevastopol and separates the Victoria and Inkerman Ridges.
The battlefield of Inkerman was small, and most of the fighting took place within little more than one square mile on and around the Inkerman Ridge. The camp of the 2nd Division was pitched at the narrow southern end of this feature, behind a rise known as Home Ridge (614 ft.). This rise looked north-west across a shallow saddle to a hill of almost equal height some 1,300 yards away, Shell Hill (600 ft.), while to both sides steep spurs jutted out and deep ravines offered covered approaches from the Russian lines. The relatively flat top of the ridge varied from less than half a mile at its widest to as little as 140 yards where ravines bit into the plateau. From the Home Ridge a Post Road fell away to the north, down the Quarry Ravine to the Tchernaya crossing.
Despite the importance of the Inkerman Ridge little attempt had been made to fortify the position. In front of the 2nd Division camp a low breastwork astride the Post Road crowned the Home Ridge. Four hundred yards forward of the Home Ridge, where the road entered the Quarry Ravine, there was another wall of loose stones, some 4-5 feet high and extending on both sides into the scrub oaks which grew thickly there. This was ‘the Barrier’. Less than three hundred yards to its right, on top of a spur, was the disused Sandbag Battery. On Shell Hill another low stone bank provided some protection for the divisional picquet line stationed there.
At noon on 26 October six thousand Russian infantry and four guns under Colonel Federoff left Sebastopol and attacked the British outposts on Shell Hill. The divisional picquet line that day was found by three companies each of the 30th and 49th, and one company each of the 41st and 95th, all commanded by Major Champion of the 95th. Captain Francis Atcherley commanded the 30th detachment, to the right of Shell Hill, with Lieutenants Alured Gibson and John Ross-Lewin. From the latter we have an account of this action:
‘Captain Atcherly’s and my picquets met the Russians as we advanced in skirmishing order, and remained at about 60 yards from them,keeping up a smart fire. This lasted for half an hour, when the Russian columns and artillery appeared, and we had to retire, having only about 70 men.
‘We made a stand on a slight knoll; the Russians advanced, cheering, which was rather uncalled for, considering that their 10,000 drove in for a time 70 of ours. Again we had to retire another 100 yards, and then some of our artillery opened fire close over our heads. Their practice was very good, but still the Russian columns came on slowly through the brushwood.
‘The picquets now got reinforced by the rest of the 30th, and we advanced with a cheer in skirmishing order; this made the enemy waver. Their fire was very heavy, but not well-directed. Our Minie balls told tremendously on them, as the regiments that arrived on the hills in our rear commenced firing on their flanks with sights fixed at 400 yards.
‘We now advanced in all kinds of parties, different batches of men following different officers. As we kept cheering and firing the Russians commenced retiring in a most unmistakable way. They were pressed very closely by us, and several hundred driven into a gorge or valley [the Careenage Ravine], where they got blocked up, and an officer of the 41st and myself came up, with some sergeants and twenty men, and fired right into them – every shot told – and if men could have been got up in time the pass would have been filled with dead.
‘The General [Sir John Pennefather] met our party returning, and shook hands with me, saying that we gave them “a great slating”. He said the 30th behaved like gentlemen . They certainly had the honour of bearing the brunt of the day.’
This accords very well with other accounts, including that of Lieutenant Mark Walker, Adjutant of the 30th, who wrote:
‘We collected all the men not on picquet and formed them into two scratch companies. One was sent under Bailey [Captain Bayley] to the Barrier in the road and did good work under him. He behaved gallantly and, although shot through the right cheek, followed up. The other was moved down a little after and came in for the finish..
‘Though the enemy were estimated at seven or eight thousand, the piquets alone drove them back and followed them up as far as they could go. I got up to the front and a beautiful and exciting sight it was to see large masses of Russians retreating before small bodies of English.’
The 47th Regiment does not appear to have been involved in the main fight on Inkerman Ridge, but a picquet of their Light Company, posted in or near the Lancaster Battery on Victoria Ridge, were in action there against a flanking column of the enemy. The Russian skirmishers advanced to within three hundred yards of the battery, but the 47th men pulled down the parapet of the battery and slewed a gun around to bear on an advancing column, on which a most destructive fire was then opened.
Back on the Inkerman Ridge, at about 14.45 Sir George de Lacy Evans, Commanding the 2nd Division, unleashed the 30th, 41st and 95th, who advanced from the Barrier. Colonel Federoff fell and the Russians broke in disorder, literally chased by the 30th and 95th Regiments, back over Shell Hill and down towards the head of the bay. So eager was the pursuit that Pennefather had difficulty in recalling them.
The Russians acknowledged a loss of 250 men, but it was almost certainly closer to six or eight hundred. They left 130 dead within the Allied lines and a hundred prisoners in British hands. British losses totalled twelve killed and 63 wounded, the gallant 30th having by far the longest list of casualties, 32 in all. The 47th lost two men killed and seven wounded.
In his report to Lord Raglan, De Lacy Evans praised the ‘very remarkable determination and firmness’ of the picquets, and in divisional orders he thanked them for their ‘exemplary and most spirited conduct’:
‘The severest part of the fighting fell on the picquets of the 30th and 49th Regiments. Impartial witnesses not belonging to the division have declared that heroic acts were performed on this occasion.’
For their distinguished conduct Captains Francis Atcherley and Paget Bayley were mentioned in despatches by Lord Raglan, as was Colour-Sergeant Daniel Sullivan, who subsequently was given a commission in the 82nd Foot.
Among the many heroes that day was Private John Andrews of the 30th, whose story has been preserved. He was one of those who pursued the Russians into the broken ground of the Careenage Ravine. Together with two men of the 41st he first took five prisoners in a quarry, then went in pursuit of a mounted Russian officer, forced him to surrender his sword and delivered him to the Adjutant. ‘Next morning’, he recalled, ‘General Pennefather sent for me and in the presence of Colonel Mauleverer asked me how I had taken the officer, so I told him, and he said, “Well done, my lad, you can keep the horse and accoutrements, and I will see what can be done for you for so gallant a deed.”’
This action, known as ‘Little Inkerman’, was in many ways a dress rehearsal for the greater battle fought over the same ground nine days later. It confirmed in the minds of the elated British troops their individual and collective superiority over the enemy, but it also revealed to the Russians the weakness of the British position. They would be back.
The Battle of Inkerman, 5 November 1854
The Russian plan was fairly simple. Lieutenant-General Soimonoff with nineteen thousand infantry and 38 guns was to march out of Sevastopol before first light on 5 November and, following the same route as Fedoroff, assault Shell Hill, where he would be joined from across the Tchernaya by Lieutenant-General Pauloff with a further sixteen thousand infantry and 97 guns. Then, united under the ‘paramount command’ of General Dannenberg, they were to unhinge the British position. To support this attack and prevent reinforcement from being sent to the 2nd Division, three thousand of the garrison of Sevastopol were to mount a series of sorties against the French while Prince Gortchakoff with over twenty-two thousand men and 88 guns was to make a strong demonstration against the Sapoune Ridge. Once the main attack was succeeding, Gortchakoff’s feint was to become a real advance up the heights to link up with Dannenberg and drive the Allies into the sea.
The immediate objective of this mighty force was the Inkerman Ridge which, in the absence of De Lacy Evans, was held by Pennefather with twelve field guns and 2,956 men of the depleted 2nd Division, including fourteen officers and 394 men of the 30th, and twenty officers and 550 men of the 47th. They were about to be attacked by over forty thousand Russians supported by 135 guns.
The night of the 4th/5th November was cold and wet. In the early hours of the morning the listening picquets on Shell Hill had discerned a continuous low rumbling sound, but did not recognise it as the noise of scores of cannon on the move. A thick mist clung to the ground when, a little before daylight, the relieving picquets of the 2nd Division marched down from Home Ridge to their posts. The new picquets astride Shell Hill consisted of two companies each of the 41st and 47th Regiments, commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel O’Grady Haly of the 47th. The relieved picquets returned to camp, where the Division was, as usual, under arms an hour before daybreak. As there was no sign of an impending attack, the men were soon after dismissed and fatigue parties were sent out to collect firewood and water.
By 5 a.m. on Sunday 5 November over twenty thousand Russians were silently ascending the rugged slopes. As dawn broke, at about 6 a.m. the picquets on Shell Hill saw two battalion columns looming out of the mist and at once engaged them. Further masses of grey-coated infantry pressed on and, despite an obstinate defence by the picquets, at the end of half an hour the defenders had been forced back by overwhelming numbers and the Russians had 22 guns on the summit of Shell Hill.
The firing at once alerted the camp of the 2nd Division, where the tired, wet and hungry picquets who had just come in were still drawing the soaked charges from their weapons and struggling to light breakfast fires in the drizzle. The fatigue and working parties hurried in to join their regiments, and all fell in at their alarm posts on the Home Ridge. They left the camp just in time, for the Russian artillery soon brought accurate fire down on that area to destroy any British reserves. This plan failed for the simple but rather alarming reason that there were no reserves.
It soon became obvious to Pennefather that this was not just another sortie but the opening of a general engagement. Conscious that there was no defensible ground in rear of Home Ridge on which he could fall back, he decided to fight the battle as far forward as possible, pushing out almost the whole division in small bodies, one or two hundred at a time, to buy time for reinforcements to arrive. His plan was risky, relying on low-level leadership, individual courage, and initiative to maintain a tenacious resistance to the advancing hordes, but he had every confidence in his men. He also trusted to the fog and brushwood to conceal his lack of numbers. Accordingly, all available men were sent forward to ‘feed the picquets’, and all twelve guns came into action on Home Ridge.
One wing of the 30th, about two hundred men under Lieutenant-Colonel Mauleverer, he sent forward down the Post Road towards the Barrier. The other, of about equal strength under Major Patullo, was sent to reinforce the picquets, who were retiring slowly from Shell Hill and who could be heard maintaining a stout fight in the mist below. As we have seen, these picquets were O’Grady Haly’s four companies of the 41st and 47th, which had fallen back to a position about half-way between Shell Hill and Home Ridge, contesting every inch of the way.
On the arrival of reinforcements, Colonel Haly mounted a vigorous counter-attack. Calling on the Light Company 47thto follow
him, the Colonel gave the order to charge. He himself rode into the midst of the enemy and cut down three with his extra-large (and razor-sharp) Wilkinson’s sword before he was unhorsed and bayonetted in the leg. He was rescued by Captain Rowlands of the 41st, Privates Kelly and McDermond of the Light Company 47th, and an unknown bugler of the 30th. Private Kelly was killed later in the battle, but Rowlands and McDermond were awarded the Victoria Cross for their gallantry on this occasion.
Ensign Palmer, of ‘H’ Company 47th Regiment, was with the picquets that day and described his experiences:
‘The morning was as black and dark as possible, and the ground very wet. We soon reached the ground, and I was sent to the officer commanding the picket on the spur of the hill overlooking the Careenage Ravine . . . and he reported all quiet to me, and I had just returned to my Captain (Rooke) from another picket to which I had been sent, when our advanced pickets opened a very brisk fire. We immediately stood to arms, and when moving up met Colonel Haly, who told us to push on as the Russians were advancing in force.
‘In a few minutes we were up to the advance in skirmishing order, and engaged, but as the morning had been so wet many of the rifles would not go off. I pricked a few of them with a pin I had, and put some fresh powder on the nipples, which proved effectual, but the applications became too numerous as the pressure from the enemy became greater, and I could no longer help the men in that way.
‘We stood our ground for some time until the Russians opened on us with grape shot, when Colonel Haly gave the order to retire gradually, which we did for some way. We then halted, and seeing the Russians had got too far from their main body, charged them, and drove them back, many of them being bayonetted by our men, but we were forced to retire again on their being reinforced.’
As the picquets withdrew, Soimanoff ordered an advance of three columns against Pennefather’s left. One of these, an eight hundred strong battalion of the Katherinburg Regiment, crossed a re-entrant known as the Mikriakoff Glen and was met on the spur to its south by Major Fordyce with the Grenadier and ‘G’ Companies of the 47th, about one hundred men. The Lancashire soldiers were drawn up in line, and as the Russian column emerged from the oak scrub and mist, shooting wildly, they opened an accurate fire on its massed ranks from a range of 80-100 yards. There was a heavy exchange of musketry with this column at ranges down to twenty yards, which according to an officer who was present, caused nearly all the loss sustained by the 47th at Inkerman, but at length the column broke in confusion. The 47th advanced firing, driving eight times their number back across the glen. Then, being far in advance, unsupported and short of ammunition, Fordyce halted his men and ordered them to lie down under the far crest, holding that position until relieved. Nearly half his detachment had been killed or wounded. Lieutenant Ellison, commanding ‘G’ Company, greatly distinguished himself when attacked by five Russians; he accounted for them all, mostly with his revolver, receiving in return only a bullet through his cap.
The first few reinforcements had now arrived and these at once entered the fray. Four companies of the 88th advanced on the left, but there met the main body of the Katherinburg Regiment, which pushed them back and captured three British guns at the head of the Mikriakoff Glen. The balance of the 47th, four companies under Major Richard Farren, had been moved over the Home Ridge and deployed to the left. They were almost the last reserve of the 2nd Division. Now they came forward in line, joined by the rallied 88th, cheered, and charged two battalions of the Katherinburg Regiment. The guns were recaptured, but the Katherinburg battalions made off before the 47th could close with them.
To Farren’s right the 77th Regiment also charged, routing two battalions of the Tomsk Regiment. They were joined by some of the 30th and others of the 2nd Division who had been away from camp when the firing began. These men, such as Corporal William Colcutt, who had been out with a water party and hurried back to find the regiment already gone, formed up on the right of the 77th and acted with them. So dense and low-lying was the fog that they could only tell that it was a British regiment by the officers on horseback, who were partly visible. The fight between British line and Russian column was very sharp but brief, ending in the complete rout of the Tomsk Regiment and its pursuit to Shell Hill. When Colonel Egerton of the 77th at length called a halt he sent the strays back to their own regiments. ‘But you stay, Corporal,’ he said to Colcutt, ‘you’ve done well.’
Further right again, an even more dangerous Russian attack had developed. Along the centre of the Inkerman Ridge six thousand men of the Tomsk and Kolivansk Regiments had advanced south-east, pushing the picquets and Patullo’s wing of the 30th slowly back towards Home Ridge. Although regiments and companies were now mixed together and outnumbered by more than ten to one, they fought on with obstinacy and courage in an irregular line, using their rifles with great effect on the Russian columns. To their rear, as they approached Home Ridge, were three guns of Turner’s battery, loaded with case-shot and waiting for an opportunity to fire. The battery commander sent forward a sergeant, who cried out to the retiring infantry in front of the guns to throw themselves down. This they did, and the guns opened fire over their heads with devastating effect on the leading Russian column, which broke and carried the others with it. At this, the survivors of Haly’s picquets and Patullo’s wing of the 30th, together with an uncommitted wing of the 49th, sprang forward, cheering loudly, and pursued the Russian masses back to Shell Hill and clean through their batteries there; six hundred men at most chasing six thousand. Soimonoff was killed and half his division beaten out of sight.
It was impossible, however, to maintain such a forward position, if only because of a critical shortage of ammunition. The men had hurried into action that morning without extra ammunition, and as yet they had not been resupplied. They were reluctantly obliged to fall back again on Home Ridge, where Major Patullo with his wing took up a position to the right of the Post Road. Bannatyne, the historian of the 30th, records that: ‘The men were wild with passion at having to retire, but they had done their work; not a single Russian followed them.’
Ammunition re-supply to the widely dispersed groups of soldiers remained difficult throughout the battle. After sharing in the great charge of the 77th, Corporal Colcutt and his party had returned to Home Ridge, where preparations were being made to send ammunition mules to the men fighting in front. A string of mules which had just been loaded with ammunition boxes for the 30th was hit by a Russian shell, killing some animals, stampeding the rest, scattering the Turkish drivers, and setting alight the pack saddles. Colcutt rushed to the spot and, at great personal risk, beat out the flames. He then volunteered to carry the ammunition forward himself, and did so many times under heavy fire. Colonel Mauleverer recommended him for the Victoria Cross, but was not successful.
On the other side of the field at about this time, scarcely visible in the thick fog, Pauloff’s leading regiments, the Borodino and Taroutine, joined by a stray battalion of the Katherinburg Regiment, were emerging from the Quarry Ravine, 6,600 infantry in all. The Taroutine Regiment headed for the Sandbag Battery, where they were opposed and in due course routed by the 41st Regiment, but the four battalions of the Borodino Regiment headed up the Post Road towards the Barrier.
Mauleverer’s wing of the 30th, some two hundred men, was at that time astride the Post Road in front of the right of Home Ridge, covering the divisional artillery. There was no other force to meet the Borodino Regiment, which advanced with two battalions in front and two in second line, 2,509 men in all. The Barrier lay unoccupied between the opposing forces. As the Russians advanced, Mauleverer ordered his men to open fire, but the 30th had not had time to reload their damp weapons and many of the rifles misfired. Kinglake, the historian of the Crimea, describes what happened next:
‘Colonel Mauleverer, a cool, skilful and resolute officer . . . proved quite equal to the emergency. If no spark could be rung from the firelock, he knew there was still the bayonet. He caused his men to advance to the Barrier . . . and there for a moment lie down behind it. The enemy’s masses approached, and the head of his foremost column was already within a few yards, when Colonel Mauleverer himself, the Adjutant of the Regiment, Lieutenant Walker, and indeed, as it seems, all the officers who were acting with this wing of the 30th, rose and mounted to the top of the wall. Yet there they stood hardly a moment. With scarce a glance back to their people, they frankly leapt down to the enemy’s side of the Barrier. In an instant, the men were up, and following over the wall. Without further recourse to their wetted firelocks, but welcoming with a joyful hurrah the sudden time for the bayonet, they sprang at the nearest battalion whilst still in its company columns, and were presently tearing their way through the loose, shapeless swarm.
‘Mauleverer himself was gravely wounded, and numbers of his officers and men fell killed or disabled; but the encounter, if bloody, was short. The shreds of the enemy’s company columns, thrown back in a heap of confusion upon the solid mass coming up in support, seemed to bring it to instant ruin, for that last body also, though it can scarce have felt English steel, began to fall back in disorder; and . . . the slender line of the 30th, with a remaining strength of perhaps seven or eight score soldiers, was driving a broken throng from the head of the Quarry Ravine and up the slopes of Shell Hill.’
The impact of this gallant charge was very considerable, for although only two of the Borodino battalions had been directly attacked by the 30th, the other two battalions were so unnerved by the defeat of their comrades that they too retreated and played no further part in the battle. Incredibly, Mauleverer’s men had routed over twelve times their own numbers. The Adjutant, Mark Walker, was prominent in the charge and Mauleverer, modestly ignoring his own part in the action, recommended him for the Victoria Cross, which he received.
It was now about 7.30 a.m. and three and a half thousand British infantry had already soundly defeated twenty-five thousand Russians backed by an enormously superior artillery; but the day was far from over. General Danneburg had, as planned, now assumed command of the Russian force on the Inkerman Ridge, and with 28 fresh battalions still in hand he resumed the offensive. Again the Russian masses swarmed forward from Shell Hill; among them, four battalions of the Iakoutsk Regiment, 3,223 men, headed for the Barrier. Kinglake takes up the story, and we give his account in full as an independent tribute to the indomitable fighting qualities of our regimental forebears:
‘The first body of troops thus employed against Dannenburg’s fresh battalions was that wing of the 30th which we saw under Colonel Mauleverer, defeating and driving before them the two Borodino columns. Indeed the men were still panting with the efforts attending their victory and the consequent pursuit when they had to form up anew and meet the fresh Iakoutsk battalions already descending Shell Hill. These Thirtieths had come into action with a strength of only 200, and now, as may well be supposed, their numbers were grievously lessened, but there remained to them valour and zeal. In the strife which ensued the officers gave themselves to their work with absolute devotion, whilst the men on their part stood carefully shoulder to shoulder, always eager to obey every word they could catch from the lips of their chiefs; and even when the communication of orders was baffled by the mist and smoke, by the roar and tumult of the fight, there did not then follow any collapse of the fighting power, for what happened in such case was that ‘every man worked for himself, and did the best he could’. The fire of these few resolute English in line was more deadly than any that the enemy could deliver from the heads of his bleeding columns; but the Russians burnt abundance of cartridges, and our people could not help wondering how it was that they were more or less able to live and to thrive under a pattering hail of lead, ever thudding into the earth and cutting the oak twigs all around them.
‘The fight was characterised by a recurrence of effects curiously uniform. In every one of the many charges they made, these men of the Thirtieth were for the moment victorious, always driving before them the front ranks of their antagonists, and, of course, more or less gaining ground; but the moment they ceased to be the assailants, they lost their ascendancy, finding always that when they stopped, and lapsed into an attitude of sheer defence, they could no longer bear up against the weight of the hostile throng; and substantially it came to this, that they must be always either gaining or losing ground, either charging or falling back. Now, the same men of course cannot always be charging; so our people, having no supports with which to hold fast an advantage once gained, and the Russians, on their part, not proving irresolute, there resulted, for some time, that swaying to and fro which is the characteristic of hard and close infantry fighting in modern battles. In such a conflict, if long continued, weight of numbers could not but tell, and after a while the alternations of the swaying movement began to disclose on the whole a slow progress southward; for in general, after charging and defeating the foremost of its antagonists, the little band of the Thirtieth was sooner or later forced back by the other encompassing soldiery amongst whom it had penetrated.
‘In this way, at length, after a foot to foot resistance long maintained against heavy columns by only a few score of soldiery, the men of Mauleverer’s force were pressed back till they found themselves at last behind the crestwork on the top of Home Ridge, and aligning with other fractions of their Regiment under Major Patullo.’
The gallant remnants of the 30th were worn out from their protracted resistance, but they had once more outfought their opponents, and when Pennefather launched a counter-attack with a small body fresh troops these sufficed to drive the main body of the Iakoutsk Regiment back into the Quarry Ravine. However, one Russian battalion was missed in the fog, and advanced with great determination up the northern slope of Home Ridge. The only troops able to deal with this serious threat were the already exhausted 30th, many of whom, despite the din of battle, had fallen asleep behind the breastwork. At first it was taken for granted that the silently approaching troops were British, and the Russians were within a few yards of the crest when a cry of ‘Up, 30th, up!’ roused the weary Regiment. The men sprang to their feet, bounded over the breastwork and laid into their new enemies with the bayonet, driving the unfortunate Iakoutsk before them.
At the same time as the 30th Regiment’s heroic action between the Barrier and Home Ridge another epic struggle was taking place a few hundred yards to their right, around the Sandbag Battery. This lasted for several hours and soaked up thousands of troops on both sides, including most of the British reinforcements, contesting ground of little tactical importance.
Russian action on the left of the 2nd Division line, by contrast, was now confined to artillery bombardment. After recapturing the guns, Farren’s wing of the 47th, some two hundred men, was ordered to cover the left approaches to Home Ridge. Their position for the remainder of the battle was to the north of the Wellway, quite near their camp, and facing west. The Regiment was ordered to lie down; nevertheless, a Russian battery on Shell Hill caused some casualties.
The Russians had taken fearful losses, but they still had a considerable numerical superiority, and their final attempt to take Home Ridge almost succeeded. Six thousand men, including the rallied Iakoutsk Regiment were launched straight up the Post Road. To meet them, Pennefather sent forward the remnants of several regiments, including some two hundred of the 30th, and a sharp skirmish followed in the thick scrub; but the Russians pushed on with great determination, by-passing this thin screen, overrunning three guns and appearing on the almost undefended crest of Home Ridge. Small groups of defiant British soldiers worried the flanks of the Russian columns, and even charged them, but lacked the critical mass to throw them back. The French 6thLégere came up in support, nine hundred strong, but then hesitated, halted, and retired. Mark Walker wrote of this in his diary:
‘I thought it was all up with our position. Fortunately they rallied and fresh bodies of troops coming up, we on the right drove them [the Russians] back with great slaughter.’
This was the last attack upon the position held by the 2nd Division, and on its repulse the tide of battle rolled away from the 30th and 47th. Both sides were exhausted, but the arrival of British and French reserves, supported by heavy artillery, tipped the balance in favour of the Allies, and at 10 a.m. General Dannenberg gave the order to retreat.
The character of the battle throughout the day had been most curious, with low-level leadership, individual initiative and sheer bloody-minded courage making up on the British side for lack of numbers, ammunition and generalship. In truth, due to the limited visibility, little control could be exercised by senior commanders on either side, and Major James Patullo, who succeeded Mauleverer to the command of the 30th Foot, summed up the British tactics, such as they were, as follows:
‘It seemed to resemble one of our grand football matches at Harrow, the artillery on both sides being the goals. No orders were given from first to last but advance; no attempts to reform shattered battalions; no plan of operations. Where the enemy was thickest, there each English soldier forced his way without regard to regiment, and there he fought or fell, drove the enemy before him or was repulsed, as fate or fortune ordained. I feel grateful to the courageous British soldier, who fought all day, replenishing his ammunition from his wounded comrade’s pouch, without a direction or hint from superior authority, only the example of his officer, who was left equally without guidance.’
All over the Inkerman Ridge, and in the surrounding ravines, little knots of British soldiers fought desperate close quarter engagements in the fog-shrouded brushwood, completely unaware of what was happening elsewhere on the field or even, mercifully, what odds they faced. Ensign John Pennock Campbell of the 30th described the fighting as follows:
‘It was like this – You might find yourself with a party belonging to several regiments pursuing the Russians with joyous shouts, “They’re on the run, keep them going, etc.” Presently you ran against a stronger party, perhaps a formed body; it was now your turn to fall back. The Russians did not pursue very far or hotly, being afraid of being trapped in the mist, but your party diminished: some found their own regiments, some dispersed to collect ammunition from the pouches of the killed and wounded, some wandered and a few might go to the rear – not many, for the men were full of resolution. Presently you might come across another fellow with a party, or groups of men, sometimes under non-commissioned officers, sometimes not: then you would all join and advance to have another go at the Russians, and so it went on.’
Campbell came through the day unscathed, but had a tail of his coatee shot off, containing both his own money and the company account. He was one of only two combatant officers of the 30th unharmed at the end of the battle. The nature of the fighting at Inkerman resulted in very heavy casualties, particularly among the infantry of the 2nd Division. British losses totalled 130 officers and 2,227 non-commissioned officers and men killed and wounded. The casualties of the 30th amounted to 132 out of a strength of 408: two officers and 28 privates killed; two officers, two non-commissioned officers and six privates died of their wounds; five officers, three sergeants and 85 rank and file wounded. The 47th had twenty rank and file killed, two officers, three sergeants and 43 rank and file wounded, and two missing, a total of eighty out of 570. Russian losses are less certain, but included nearly five thousand dead and can hardly have been much less than twenty thousand.
Lieutenant John Ross-Lewin of the 30th, whose diary we have quoted, was one of those mortally wounded. He and his company had their full share in the severe fighting that morning, and a contemporary writer observed that ‘this young Irish officer held his men before the enemy with an enthusiasm racy of the soil’. On one occasion, surrounded and cut off from all help, he was saved by his activity and skill as a swordsman. Having killed three Russians in single combat, he regained his company unhurt. During the last great charge of the day, however, when somewhat in advance of his men and close to the retiring masses of the enemy, a fatal shot wounded his side. He survived two days, suffering agonies with great composure and fortitude, and his last words to his brother-officers were: ‘I am quite resigned – It was a glorious victory.’
If Inkerman was indeed ‘the soldiers’ battle’, it was also the regimental officers’ battle. We will give the last word to Sir John Fortescue, the great historian of the British Army, who wrote:
‘The moral ascendancy of the British was astonishing. They met every attack virtually with a counter-offensive, and hesitated not to encounter any numbers whether with bullet, bayonet or butt. There never was a fight in which small parties of scores, tens, or even individuals, showed greater audacity or achieved more surprising results. They never lost heart nor, by all accounts, cheerfulness. The enemy might be in front, flanks or rear, or all three points together: it mattered not. They flew at them quite undismayed and bored their way out . . . Never have the fighting qualities of the British been seen to greater advantage than at Inkerman.’
So, remember, remember the 5th of November, the Heroes of Inkerman and the regiments that bred them. Ours is a great heritage.
30th – 1st Bn The East Lancashire Regiment, then The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, now The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
55th – 2nd Bn The Border Regiment, then the Kings Own Royal Border Regiment, now The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
95th – 2nd Bn The Sherwood Foresters, then the Worcester and Sherwood Foresters, now The Mercian Regiment
41st – 1st Bn The Welch Regiment, now The Royal Regiment of Wales.
47th – 1st Bn The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, then The Queen’s Lancashire Regiment, now The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment
49th – 1st Bn The Royal Berkshire Regiment, then the Royal Gloucestershire and Berkshire Regiment, now The Light Regiment.