Thursday, November 9, 2017

6th Dragoons (Inniskilling) Part 1: Battle History

Charge of the Heavy Brigade at the Battle of Balaclava by Orlando Norie
What follows is my internet based research on the regimental history of the 6th Dragoons from embarkation to the battle of Balaclava. It does not include reference to Major ES Jackson's The Inniskilling Dragoons: The Records of an Old Cavalry Regiment (1909) which appears the only historical publication of the Regiment covering the period - it is only available to purchase or physically accessible in libraries not available to me from Tonga. Nevertheless, I have unearthed a number of details not found in the brief on-line unit histories more readily accessed. I hope you find it interesting or even of use.


The 6th Inniskilling Dragoons motto was “Honi soit qui mal y pense” or “evil be to him who evil thinks”. Their nick-names across history were ‘the skins’, the ‘black dragoons’ from 1715 because of their black horses, the ‘old inniskillings’ and the ‘skilingers’. Regimental marches were “The Inniskilling Dragoons” (anonymous) and “Fare thee well Inniskilling’.

The Colonel of the Regiment at this time was career officer Sir George Pownall Adams who purchased colonelcy of the 6th in 1840. He was born 1779 and was 75 years old at the outbreak of war, dyeing in 1856 aged 77. In keeping with British military tradition and perhaps obviously, he was not present during the campaign – the regiment being under the direct command of the Lieutenant Colonel.

The Regiment shipped out from Plymouth for the Crimea in five transports when the first calamity beset them on 21 May 1854. Just 200 miles out a fire broke out on the Regimental Headquarters transport Europa. The fire killed Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Willoughby Moore, veterinary surgeon Kelly (probationary) Mrs Parsons (one of the accompanying wives), 16 other ranks, all the horses (13 officer and 44 trooper mounts) and the baggage on board. A memorial plaque can be found at Chelsea Hospital commemorating the victims.
Europa - London Illustrated News 1854

The Europa was a small sail rigged vessel and some accused the extent of the tragedy on the sailors who were alleged to have abandoned ship prematurely, taking to the life boats and abandoning the above victims to their fate. This Europa is not to be confused with another Crimea campaign transport, the RMS Europa which continued in service until 1866.

The transportation of horses more generally in the Crimean campaign was subject to criticism. The mounts were cramped into tighter stalls that in the days of Napoleon’s wars with no room for the horses to move or lie down and rest. This unduly fatigued the animals in prolonged journeys. The British army had not transported cavalry mounts or the heavy cavalry regiments since 1838. It had been more usual for light cavalry regiments to serve overseas and for transportation to India, the troopers shipped alone and adopted the mounts of the regiments they relieved.

In separate incidents, a further 75 horses were lost at sea, and when the 6th finally landed in the Crimea, cholera ravished the men. We are told that the Regiment lost approximately half their horses by the time they departed Turkey. On the journey from Varna on 27th September a storm forced the transports return until, re-embarking, the Regiment eventually reached Balaclava 7 October. Losses during the storm were extreme with one squadron (two troops) disembarking only 6 from 75 mounts which left England.

Along with the rest of the heavy brigade, the Inniskillings joined the army at Balaclava. The Regiment had particularly suffered losses of men and horses through sickness and mishap. The particular mortality experienced outside of combat was subject to review by the House of Lords in 1856 as was the state of the army on campaign. Just prior to the battle, on 17 October Colonel Paulet (Assistant Adjutant General) ordered the transfer of 100 horses from the Light to the Heavy Brigade, 35 of which were assigned to the Inniskillings.

Henry Dalrymple White (born 1820, aged 34) assumed command of the Regiment. White was a career officer of the Regiment having purchased his Lieutenancy with the 6th in 1839, his Captaincy in the 6th gazetted 17 May 1844 and made Major 22 December 1848.

Second in command was Major Charles Cameron Shute (aged 38 at Balaclava) who had transferred to the 6th in 1840 as lieutenant and was promoted Major in June 1854 – presumably a field promotion along with Dalrymple White after the demise of the Lt Col Willoughby Moore on the Europa. Shute was to become Colonel of the regiment and the image (right) is of Colonel Shute from 1858.

Major Robert George Manley had purchased his captaincy in February 1853. We know he commanded the second squadron at Balaclava, presumably being field promoted similar to his colleagues following the tragedy of the Europa. He had his Brevet Majority listed in December that year (1854). As above, the photograph of Manly is from 1858 whilst he remained with the regiment.

During the Balaclava Charge of the Heavy Brigade, the Inniskillings composed the right flank of the front line (second squadron with Dalrymple White and under the command of Major Manley) and the right flank second line (first squadron to the rear and right with Major Shute). 

Charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaclava by Godfrey Douglas Giles (1897) depicting the Inniskilings in the centre rear-ground..

Dalrymple White controlled the pace of the charge for the Inniskillings to hold line with the Greys to their immediate left whose advance was impeded by the encampment (see my Grey’s account) in spite of Brigadier Scarlet outdistancing himself and impacting with the Russian cavalry in isolation along with his immediate entourage. As the brigade closed on the enemy the two lines were converging according to Kinslake. Dalrymple White was the next person to make contact with the enemy along with his regiment who we are told went in with a ‘cheer’. The heavy cavalry drove into the Russian light cavalry who were backed up from a rolling slope and unfortunately for the Russians were caught at the halt.
Charge of the Heavy Brigade by Harry Payne depicting the Iniskilling but incorrectly with their gauntlets.

The precise speed of the impact is unclear. The Brigade is said to have achieved the momentum of anything from a trot to a gallop. In any event, the size of the riders and mounts gave the heavies a distinct advantage in height and momentum. It is acknowledged at this period that British cavalry preferred larger breeds than even their European contemporaries for light cavalry - let alone the heavy regiments. Even once the force of the engagement broke down to clusters of skirmishers, it's not difficult to appreciate the large mounts shifting and knocking the lighter Russian hussar horses about as the big men slashed and struck down blows on their disadvantaged adversaries. 

The first wave comprising the second squadron penetrated to the rear of the Russian column but remained within the immediate mass to continue the melee. During the fighting Dalrymple White took a blow to his helmet which folded it to the scull and can be seen on exhibit today at the York Army Museum. The enemy cavalry to their immediate front were the Ingermanland Hussars, under the command of Major General Khaletsky. Shortly after first impact, the second line of the Brigade collided into melee which included the 1st Squadron Inniskilling under Shute. The entire fight lasted not much more than ten minutes with the Russians retreating under the cannon fire of Captain Brandling’s C Battery RHA.

The casualty returns for the Regiment included in Adjutant General Bucknall Escourt’s report for 26th-28th October 1854 put the losses at 2 rank and file troopers dead (with two horses) with 3 sergeants and ten other ranks wounded. In fact, the casualties sustained across the entire heavy brigade for the battle including the abortive support for the Light Brigade charge are extraordinarily light. 
Surgeon General Sir James Mouat VC by Hussaly - thanks to Cranston Fine Arts

Perhaps the most noteworthy incident of the day was the action undertaken by Regimental Surgeon James Mouat. He took to the field under enemy fire into the infamous Valley and with the assistance of Corporal Charles Wooden (17th Lancers) he tended to Captain Morris who was critically wounded (of the 17th Lancers). Morris was hemorrhaging and Mouat with Wooden are credited with saving Morris' life.

For this action Mouat became the first medical man to receive the Victoria Cross. Wooden was also awarded the VC and whilst of the 17th Lancers during the campaign, he rose to the rank of Sergeant Major by 1858 with the 6th Dragoons and is depicted right.

I found an interesting postscript within the divisional orders of Lord Lucan of 28th October addressing the disposal of plunder by the men of the cavalry division to wit, the personal sale of horses seized which should belong to the crown. There was clearly a bit of it going on. By the order of 1st November these seizures were incorporated as remounts within their respective regiments.

Anyone interested in following up further research on the 6th at Balaclava should get themselves to the National Army Museum in Chelsea. They have there several artifacts including Dalrymple White’s sword and within their archives the letters of Cornet Henry Timson of the Regiment who gives an account. Being on the other side of the world I’m not able to.


A History of the British Cavalry 1816-1919: Volume 2: 1851-1871 By Lord Anglese

Mrs Duberly's War: Journal and Letters from the Crimea by Frances Isabella Locke Duberly

Letters from the Light Brigade: The British Cavalry in the Crimean War by Anthony Dawson

From Waterloo to Balaclava: Tactics, Technology, and the British Army 1815-1854 by Hew Strachan

THE INVASION OF THE CRIMEA: Its Origin, and an Account of its Progress down to the Death of Lord Raglan by Alexander Kinslake.

The London Gazette – issues from 1854

General Orders and Dispatches of Lord Lucan

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