Saturday, March 10, 2012

4th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons: Part One

An officer of the 4th photographed by Fenton
I have determined to build my Light Brigade first in my Balaclava build project largely due to figure availability. I have further decided to build it from the rear, forward - the first regiment under construction being the 4th Light Dragoons. Less famous or flamboyantly uniformed than the 17th lancers or 11th Hussars, the 4th Light Dragoons are perhaps the least well depicted of the regiments who charged at Balaclava; I hope this posting and those which follow will to the smallest of degrees rectify this deficiency.

The 4th (Queen’s Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons as the regiment was named at the time, was first raised in 1685. It saw service for three centuries, before being amalgamated into the current Queen's Royal Irish Hussars in 1958.
4th Light Dragoons parade dress standard
Originally The Princess Anne of Denmark's Regiment of Dragoons in 1685, the Regiment was an amalgamation of previous independent troops from Warminster, Shaftesbury, Shepton-Mallet, Glastonbury, Frome, Wincanton, Ilchester, and Bradford and was ranked the 4th Dragoons. In 1751, it was formally titled as the 4th Regiment of Dragoons, and in 1788 named for Queen Charlotte as the 4th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Dragoons and was designated light dragoons in 1818, becoming the 4th (The Queen's Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons as it was to remain by the Crimean War.
Roger Fenton - Officers of the 4th Light Dragoons, 1855

In May 1854 the Regiment moved to Dorchester where it joined the army, thence to Exeter and on to Plymouth where it mobilized, embarking on the troopship Simla on 19th July. As with the other regiments of the brigade, the 4th formed 2 squadrons of two troops each having a total of 21 officers and 299 other ranks. The Colonel of the regiment was Lieutenant General Sir George Scovell (from 18th September 1847) who remained so until his replacement by Major General Sir James Hope Grant on 18th January 1861. As had been the British military tradition for generations, the Colonel was the owner ‘proprietor’ of the regiment but rarely if ever it’s commander in the field and Scovell was not present for the campaign. That honour fell to Lieutenant Colonel Lord George Paget who had succeeded to the post on 29th September 1846 until his replacement replaced by Alexander Low on 1st May 1857.
Lieutenant King photographed by Fenton
Surviving ‘intact’ as it were to remain an effective fighting force, the 4th went on after Balaclava to join battle at Inkerman on the 5th November 1854. Previous to Balaclava, the men and mounts of the Regiment had seen action at the Alma and had, through illness and casualties been reduced along the campaign trail to 127 all ranks (12 officers and 11 sergeants) for the famous charge. It should be noted; however, that the regiment only fielded three (3) of its four (4) troops with the brigade – one being detached with the 4th Division at the time of the battle of Balaclava. If we calculate wastage evenly across all troops (an assumption) then the regiment as a whole may have been reduced by this time to 169 all ranks, or thereabouts.
Two Sergeants of the 4th photographed by Fenton

During the mad charge to the guns, the 4th commenced at the west end of the Northern Valley on the left flank of the Brigade's second line. By the time it had reached within charging distance of the guns at the eastern end; however, the 11th Hussars had veered to the left and had fallen to the rear line whilst the 4th crossed over to the centre of what was now a three regiment second wave. By the time the guns were reached, the 4th was squarely behind the 13th and hit the ensuing melee front on. One might surmise, having been positioned in the centre rear that by the close, the 4th would have enjoyed some relief from flanking and forward fire being surrounded by the rest of the Brigade. Indeed, they appear to have been shielded in part by the front line which largely dissolved under the final salvo at 80 yards.
Quartermaster Hill photographed by Fenton
Arriving at the point of melee about thirty yards behind the front, the 4th remained the most effective fighting force to reach the battery other than the 8th which had fallen behind and to the right. They charged down the Russian gunners with pistols and sabres to prevent the removal of the cannon. With about 50 troopers, Paget supported the fight with Douglas’ 11th taking command of the Brigade during the action in the absence of Lord Cardigan who had dissappeared in the gun-smoke. It was the 4th and 11th which dominated the point of contact, silenced the guns and fought a running retreat by actions end against growing numbers of enemy cavalry.
Lord George Paget photographed by Fenton
LORD GEORGE Augustus Frederick PAGET

Member of Parliament  for Beaumaris and a respected officer within the army and particularly the Cavalry Division, Paget was with Lucan during the morning reconnaissance just prior to the opening of hostilities. He was in command of the Light Brigade during Lord Cardigan’s absence earlier that day (as the Brigade’s next most senior officer) and was in command of the second line of the Brigade during the Charge (4th and  8th regiments). Paget had been with the 4th Light Dragoons since 1840, attained his Lieutenant Colonelcy in 1846 and was 36 years old at Balclava (born 16th March 1818).

Lord George Paget is famously and fondly remembered as the commander who kept a lit cheroot (cigar) clenched between his teeth throughout the action (a modelling point of interest for my officer figure). Making good his promise to Lord Cardigan to provide 'his best support', Paget kept the regiment up behind the front rank of the Brigade as best he could, arriving on top of the guns in time to achieve the assumed objective. By the time the 4th had made it down the valley level with Redoubt No:3, the fire had become so murderous that Paget found himself surrounded on either side by four to five maddened and riderless horses. He was required to fight them off with his sabre to remain seated.
Paget is also noted for being the last senior officer to leave the battle for the Russian guns. Having commanded the last 70 troopers or so within the central melee (mainly 4th and 11th regiments) Paget commanded a desperate formation which briefly stood its ground as Russian lancers blocked their retreat. Determined to make their escape, Paget led a successful breakthrough thanks to ineffectual cavalry deployments aided by persistent Russian gunnery which hampered friend and foe alike. Paget was reputedly the last man in the ‘organised’ formations to reach safety.
Lord George Paget as depicted in Vanity Fair (1877)
(Note: Paget's revised Crimean Journals were published by his son in 1881.)
Captain Thomas Hutton

Typical of many combatants, Captain Thomas Everard Hutton of the 4th rode in the Charge and was shot through the right thigh during the advance. Surviving contact, on his return down the valley he was again severely wounded through the left thigh but made it back. His horse was less fortunate, being wounded in eleven places and had to be destroyed.

At the age of 19 he joined the 4th Light Dragoons and rode in the Charge at Balaclava (his only action). His sword hand was nearly severed with a sabre cut and he also received a bullet in the left shoulder. The bullet was extracted but the wound re-opened and a piece of his service tunic was extracted from it 29 year afterwards. He was awarded the Crimean medal with three clasps, the Turkish medal and the medal for distinguished conduct in the field. He was medically discharged after Balaclava.
Samuel Parkes VC by Louis William Desanges

An 11 year veteran with the 4th and aged 40 at the time, Private Parkes was a notable 6’ 2” tall and acting Orderly to Lord George Paget at Balaclava. His time with the regiment previous to the battle indicates he was a hard-playing rogue, earning good conduct medals as well as charges for drunkenness, remaining a private trooper by the Crimean campaign.

During the Charge, having made it to the guns, Parkes formed part of the fighting retreat with Lord George Paget. Whilst fighting their way through the Russian cavalry, Parkes was unhorsed when his mount was shot from under him. Upon recovering himself, he saw his comrade Trumpet Major Hugh Crawford (also of the 4th) similarly tumble from his falling mount and losing his sword. Set upon by two Cossacks, Parkes rushed to Crawford’s aid, placing himself in front of the Russian lances and fending them off. Taking Crawford under arm, they scrambled back down the lines until beset by six pursuers whom Parkes also fought off until losing his sword after a shot to his master hand. Both men were taken prisoner and later returned at war’s end. For this action Samuel Parkes was awarded the Victoria Cross, bestowed personally by the Queen on 26th June 1857. He was the first private soldier in the British army to receive the Victoria Cross.

At the roll call following the Charge, 62 men of the 4th mustered. They had two (2) officers and 25 other ranks killed along with 40 mounts. Another two (2) officers, 25 other ranks and 19 horses were wounded 912 later destroyed) and sixteen other ranks had been taken prisoner (five later dying of wounds).


Balaclava 1854: John Sweetman (Osprey Military Campaign Series No: 6)


The Reason Why: Cecil Woodham-Smith (1953)


  1. An excellent post Sir! I am fortunate to live relatively close to Eastbourne, where the military museum for the Queen's Royal Irish Hussars can be found; a veritable treasure trove of reference.

    1. Michael, as a man living several thousand kilometers away from Eastbourne you are to be envied. My next trip to the UK will definitely involve another regimental museum tour.

  2. cracking effort mate!!!


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