Fording the Alma, September 1854 by Louis A. Johns. 2nd Battalion The Rifle Brigade lead the Light Division across the River Alma during the Crimean War.

“Now, Salter, we'll drink to the `Victory of the Alma' and `Success to the Rifles!'
I held the cup to his lips and, as he drank, he muttered, "And many more of 'em ... And many like 'em!"

Conversation between Colonel Willoughby Verner and a dying Crimean veteran, Rifleman Salter, in the Infirmary of the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, July 1908.



R.D.C. notes, The Origins below are taken from FOCUS ON COURAGE, The 59 Victoria Crosses of The Royal Green Jackets by Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Wallace and Major Ron Cassidy, as are all the 29 citations of the Victoria Crosses awarded to individuals of The Rifle Brigade contained on this web-site.

Origins

For at least 200 years prior to the Crimean War, Russia sought to expand its empire southwards and gain access to the Mediterranean. In 1783 Catherine the Great annexed the Crimea including the Black Sea port of Sebastopol (Sevastopol).Turkey, however, with its capital at Constantinople, continued to control passage through the Bosphorous and Dardanelles straits. By 1852 Turkey, dubbed `the sick man of Europe', seemed ripe for invasion. In July 1853, Russia took advantage of a dispute over the custody of holy places in Jerusalem to occupy Moldavia and Wallachia, two provinces in modern Romania, which were then under Turkish suzerainty.

After Russia ignored ultimatums to withdraw, Turkey declared war on Russia on 23 October 1853. Just over a month later, on 30 November, a strong Russian flotilla surprised and destroyed a weak Turkish squadron in Sinope harbour. Throughout 1853 Britain and France became increasingly concerned about Turkey's survival and the threat to trade, including with India, which the presence of Russian vessels in the Eastern Mediterranean would pose. Warships were ordered to the Dardanelles and, on 3 January 1854, British and French fleets entered the Black Sea. Concurrently, preparations were initiated for the despatch of troops should further diplomatic efforts fail to avert conflict.

On 22 February the first members of a British Expeditionary Force (BEF) to be commanded by Lord Raglan left England for Malta. Still Russia refused to withdraw from Moldavia and Wallachia. On 28 March 1854 Britain declared war on Russia, France having done so the day before. Britain, France and Turkey then signed treaties of alliance committing each to act in concert with the other against Russia, but with their forces remaining under independent, national command.

After staging at Malta, the BEF proceeded to Gallipoli, where, by the end of May, 18,000 British and 22,000 French troops had arrived. In June the force was transported to Varna to bolster the Turkish presence in Bulgaria. In July the Russians withdrew from Moldavia and Wallachia, but by then the die was cast. On 16 July Lord Raglan received a despatch from the Duke of Newcastle, the Secretary of State for War in London, dated 29 June, directing him to capture Sebastopol and to take or destroy the Russian fleet.

This caused some consternation among British commanders as no invasion plan existed, logistic shortcomings abounded, cholera was prevalent (affecting 8% of the force by early August), and there was little time to achieve success before the onset of winter. Nevertheless, and contrary to his better judgement, Lord Raglan felt bound to comply.

On 24 August the BEF, consisting of five infantry divisions and one cavalry division, began embarkation at Varna and, on 2 September, set sail for the Crimea. On 13 September the Turks surrendered Eupatoria. On 14 September, some 63,000 French, British and Turkish troops (26,000 British) started to disembark in Calamita (Kalamita) Bay at a spot 30 miles north of Sebastopol. On 19 September, after four days of unloading, the Allies began advancing south towards Sebastopol.

However: 'The plan for a swift coup de main went badly wrong and the invaders were condemned to besieging their quarry from exposed upland to the south during biting winter conditions, as the ranks of men and horses were decimated. A long campaign under such privation not having been anticipated, the supply, transport and medical arrangements woefully broke down. Before peace settled over the hills, valleys and shattered remains of Sevastopol [in March 1856], approximately 22,000 British, a minimum 80,000 French, possibly 10,000 Turks, 2,000 Sardinians and more than 100,000 Russians had perished.'

Regimental Involvement
Among the troops in the Crimea were the 1st and 2nd Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (1 and 2 RB). 2 RB had been in England since returning from Canada in June 1852. The Battalion was one of the first to be warned for service in the Crimea, embarking at Portsmouth on 24 February 1854 and remaining with the BEF until landing in Calamita Bay with The Light Division under Lieutenant-General Sir George Brown on 14 September.

1 RB, having returned to England from South Africa in January 1854, left for the Crimea on 14 July, reinforced by 100 men from the 60th, KRRC. Sailing via Malta and Constantinople, the Battalion reached Varna on 6 September. Departing soon afterwards, 1 RB landed in Calamita Bay with the 4th Division under command of Major-General Sir George Cathcart on the same day as 2RB.

Each battalion, on departure from England, numbered nearly 1,000 officers and men, organised in eight Service companies and equipped with the new Minie rifle. During the campaign the establishment of each battalion was increased, first, to twelve companies and, then, to sixteen, and the Minie rifle exchanged for the long Enfield. No other battalions from the antecedent regiments of The Royal Green Jackets took part in the Crimean War.

R.D.C. writes: On the 26th of June 1857 those named as shown of The Rifle Brigade were present at the first distribution of the Victoria Cross by Her Majesty Queen Victoria and received from her their Victoria Crosses.

Brevet-Major the Hon. H. Clifford.
Brevet-Major C.T. Bourchier.
Captain William J. Cuningham.
Lieutenant John Knox.
Private Francis Wheatley.
Private Joseph Bradshaw.
Private Roderic McGregor.
Private John Humpston.



Citations taken from: FOCUS ON COURAGE, The 59 Victoria Crosses of The Royal Green Jackets by Lieutenant-General Sir Christopher Wallace and Major Ron Cassidy:

RIFLEMAN F WHEATLEY VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1854 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 12 October 1854 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea.

Citation: "F Wheatley, Private, 2nd Battn. The (Prince Consort's Own) Rifle Brigade. For throwing a live shell over the parapet of the trenches before Sebastopol." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)

LIEUTENANT THE HON HH CLIFFORD VC
(Later Major General Sir Henry Clifford VC KCMG CB) THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1854 INKERMAN
Date of Act of Gallantry: 5 November 1854 Place: Inkerman, Crimea

Citation: "Captain Hon H Clifford was ADC to Major-General Sir G Buller at the Battle of Inkerman. He accompanied the 77th Regiment in their charge and, observing some of the enemy coming up a ravine amongst bushes on the flank of the 77th and being on horseback, he charged the nearest of them with his sword, nearly cutting off the head of one. He then charged another and almost severed his left arm from the body." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)

LIEUTENANT WJM CUNINGHAME VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1854 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 20 November 1854 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea

Citation: "Highly distinguished at the capture of the Rifle pits, 20th November 1854. His gallant conduct was recorded in the French General Orders." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)





LIEUTENANT CT BOURCHIER VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1854 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 20 November 1854 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea

Citation: "Highly distinguished at the capture of the Rifle pits, 20th November 1854. His gallant conduct was recorded in the French General Orders." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)

RIFLEMAN J BRADSHAW VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1855 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 22 April 1855 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea

Citation: "A Russian rifle-pit, situated among the rocks overhanging the Woronzoff Road, between the third parallel, Right Attack, and the Quarries (at that time in the possession of the enemy), was occupied every night by the Russians, and their riflemen commanded a portion of the Left Attack, and impeded the work in a new battery then being erected on the extreme right front of the second parallel, Left Attack. It was carried in daylight on 22nd April, 1855, by two riflemen, one of whom was Private Bradshaw. He has since received the French War Medal. The rifle-pit was subsequently destroyed on further support being obtained." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)



RIFLEMAN R HUMPSTON VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1855 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 22 April 1855 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea

Citation: "A Russian rifle-pit, situated among the rocks overhanging the Woronzoff Road, between the third parallel, Right Attack, and the Quarries (at that time in the possession of the enemy), was occupied every night by the Russians, and their riflemen commanded a portion of the Left Attack, and impeded the work in a new battery then being erected on the extreme right front of the second parallel, Left Attack. It was carried in daylight on 22nd April, 1855, by two riflemen, one of whom was Private Humpston. The rifle-pit was subsequently destroyed on further support being obtained." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)





RIFLEMAN R McGREGOR VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1855 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 22 April 1855 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea

Citation: "For courageous conduct when employed as a sharpshooter in the advanced trenches in the month of July, 1855. A rifle-pit was occupied by two Russians, who annoyed our troops by their fire. Private McGregor crossed the open space under fire, and, taking cover under a rock, dislodged them, and occupied the pit." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)

LIEUTENANT J KNOX VC
THE RIFLE BRIGADE - 1855 SEBASTOPOL
Date of Act of Gallantry: 18 June 1855 Place: Sebastopol, Crimea

Citation: "When serving as a Sergeant in the Scots Fusilier Guards, Lieutenant Knox was conspicuous for his exertions in re-forming the ranks of the Guards at the Battle of Alma. Subsequently, when in the Rifle Brigade, he volunteered for a ladder-party in the attack on the Redan, on the 18th June, and (in the words of Captain Blackett, under whose command he was) behaved admirably, remaining on the field until twice wounded." (London Gazette, 24 February 1857)



R.D.C. advises that Rifle Green in The Crimea has a very detailed account of the campaign.

AN ACCOUNT OF THE RIFLE BRIGADE IN THE CRIMEAN WAR OF 1 8 5 4 - 5 6 . WITH A FULL MEDAL AND CASUALTY ROLL AND DETAILS OF WEAPONS, CLOTHES AND EQUIPMENT USED IN THE CAMPAIGN
Written by George Caldwell and Robert Cooper. Published by Bugle Horn Publications in 1994.

R.D.C. also advises that detailed stories about the activities of 1 and 2RB are contained in History of The Rifle Brigade (The 95th) by Sir William Cope published in 1877.



A watercolour entitled Rifleman by Major the Hon. H.H. Clifford V.C. in the Crimea.