19th Regiment Menu

History of the Regiment up to the Battle of Alma

ORIGINS

1688 raised by Colonel Luttrel. Known as ‘Luttrel’s Regiment, then by name of successive Cols.

1744 named the Green Howards by Field Marshal Wade on campaign in Flanders to distinguish Col. Charles Howard’s Regiment from Thomas Howard’s Regiment (the Buff Howards, later the 3rd Foot or 'The Buffs').

1751 named the 19th Regiment of Foot in King George II's reorganisation of the Army

1782 named the 19th (or 1st Yorkshire North Riding) Regiment of Foot and given that area as its main recruiting ground.

RECRUITING

Recruiting parties, usually an officer, 2 sergeants and a drummer covered the towns, villages and fairs in the area, but men also came from further afield. As many as half were Irishmen, forced to take the Queen's shilling by the Potato Famine of 1845-7 and its consequences, but many Englishmen had seen equal poverty. Over 60% of recruits were labourers, most semi-literate though many would have had a little schooling. Recruits were meant to be over 18 but were often taken younger and each Regiment was allowed to recruit a small number of boys as musicians.

Service was for 10 years with the Colours followed by 5 years as a Reservist, liable to be recalled to the Colours in an emergency. Men often signed up for a second term of service. The recruit was given a very basic medical then signed an Attestation Form before an official, usually a magistrate. The Articles of War were read to him and a Bounty of around £7 15s 6d paid. They were then marched to the Regimental Depot for equipping and training.

PAY

13 pence a day, most of which was deducted for stoppages leaving little more than a penny a day. Officers were paid much more and many had private incomes which purchased their commissions (Lieutenant's £550, Colonel's £3,500).

RATIONS

Breakfast: hard tack and coffee;
Dinner: 1 pound of bread, ¾ pound of meat on the bone with a small amount of potatoes and other vegetables, usually stewed (each barrack room usually had 2 large copper cauldrons and soldiers often took it in turns to cook);
Supper: bread and tea.

The old beer ration had been replaced by tea and coffee, though a tot of rum per day was issued on campaign. Men could vary the diet a little by private purchase, but on average it was far better than they had in civilian life.

When not in barracks the men would cook over camp fires, often in small messes or using their individual mess tins. During 1855 the Soyer stove (invented by Alexis Soyer, a French 'celebrity chef' who made major improvements in Army cooking during the war) came into use. This was much more efficient and could cook for whole units at a time.

REGIMENTAL ORGANISATION

In 1852 the Regiment had 38 Officers, 88 NCOs, a Drum Major and 15 Drummers and 810 men. They fell in in 10 Companies of around 80-90 men, the Grenadier Company (no.1 coy.) on the right, the Light Company (no.10 coy.) on the left and the Centre Companies (nos. 2-9) in order between.

It also had a Chaplain, a Schoolmaster who taught both Regimental children and soldiers who wished to improve themselves (literacy was vital for promotion to NCO) and a Bandmaster. The Band was paid for by the officers and acted as medical orderlies and stretcher bearers on campaign.

Officer's wives often accompanied their husbands and around one in 12 of the other ranks were officially allowed to marry, only with the CO's permission. The wives were allowed to live in barracks, sometimes at the end of the room screened off by curtains, sometimes all together in a single 'married quarters'. They were officially on the rolls and received ½ rations with ¼ rations for each child. The wives acted as laundresses, receiving 1 or 2 pence a week from each soldier, as well as acting as nurses in the Regimental hospital and as seamstresses (usually for officers).

The CO was Lieutenant Colonel Robert Saunders, who had served with the 19th since joining as an Ensign in 1837. He was 40 in 1854 and on leave when war broke out, reaching the Regiment in Turkey in May 1854. He was shot in the thigh at the Alma and sent back home, not returning to the 19th until 1857. He died in 1860.

Major Thomas Unett joined the 19th in 1841. He was a popular officer and took command after Colonel Saunders was wounded, aged 54. He was badly wounded in the final assault on the Redan on September 8 1855, dying a few days later. His son Alexander was a Lieutenant with the19th and sold his commission after his father's death.

Major John Rooke joined the 19th in 1840 and commanded No.3 Company at the Alma and Inkerman. He was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel aged 33 after the death of Major Unett and held command until his death of cholera during the Indian Mutiny in 1857.

Captain George Lidwell joined the 19th in 1848 and commanded No, 6 Company at the Alma, aged 26. He survived the war.

PEACETIME ROUTINE

Each week day's routine was similar. Occasionally Saturday afternoons were free. Church Parades were held on Sunday, the rest of the day generally being free.

Reveille at 6.00 followed by 1½ hours of drill.

9.00 The Guard posted. A sergeant, 12 men and a drummer fully dressed with arms and ammunition kit were on duty for 24 hours. They were inspected by the Orderly Officer of the day and would be 'turned out' by him at least once, in addition to any emergency which might cause this.

Colonel's Parade at 10.00, up to 2 hours of inspection and drill before dinner at 1.00.

Afternoon Parade at 2.00, up to 2 hours of training exercises (drill/musketry/bayonet etc.)

4.00 Return to Barracks to clean kit etc. and change into fatigue uniform before supper at 5.00.

The men were then free until Tattoo at 10.00.

PEACETIME SERVICE

Many of the men were old soldiers, but few had seen any active service. There had been no major war in Europe since the Battle of Waterloo and whilst there had been some actions in parts of the Empire-India and South Africa-the 19th had not been involved. Since 1840 the regiment had served in Malta, the West Indies and Canada (1848-52) before being posted to Mount Wise Barracks, Devonport. In May 1852 the 19th moved, by a combination of route march and train (probably the first time most of the men had been on one) to barracks at Winchester.

In November 1852 the 19th travelled by train to London to attend the State Funeral of the Duke of Wellington. Representative sections from all units of the Army took part, but the 19th, along with the 33rd (Duke of Wellington's Regiment) were the only infantry units to parade at full strength. Over 1½ million spectators crowded the route to St. Paul's Cathedral. The funeral carriage was massive, weighing 18 tons.

In May 1853, as a result of a 'disgraceful disagreement' (soldier's fights) between the 19th and the 38th, the 19th was moved from Winchester to Gosport. Some detachments were sent to guard convicts in Weymouth.

In August 1854 the 19th took part in Army manoeuvres at Chobham Common, Surrey, one of the largest military exercises for many years. Over 18,000 men took part and Queen Victoria reviewed the troops. Although it was an impressive spectacle, the Army's weaknesses (badly designed kit, inexperienced officers, poor staff work, and the difficulties of drilling troops above battalion strength) were recognised by many foreign observers who reported that the British were 'out dated and lacked flexibility'. None of this was picked up on by the Army.

In February 1854 the 19th moved to garrison the Tower of London, where one sentry was convinced he had seen ghosts 'looking like a magic lantern show'. Shots were fired and The Guard turned out, the erring sentry being punished by being made to stand at the same post several times.

Rumours of war with Russia grew and the 19th were issued with the Minie Rifle to replace the Pattern 1842 Smoothbore. The Regimental strength was raised to 1,500 and frantic recruiting took place. On 24 March war was declared and 2 companies paraded at the Royal Exchange, where the Queen's Herald read the official proclamation. Arms were presented and the National Anthem played.

In April 1854, some 1,200 strong and accompanied by 15 wives, the 19th marched by detachments from the Tower to sail to war.

EMBARKATION

The first stage was to Malta, a trip of around 10 days. The 19th were divided between the Tonning, a sailing ship, and 4 steamships: the Emperor, Euxin, Medway and Victoria. After a day or so of resupply, the second leg to Constantinople took another 6 days. The Channel was rough, but the journeys were uneventful, if cramped and uncomfortable. There was a coal fire on the Victoria, which carried 'a good lot of gunpowder on board', but it was rapidly extinguished.

By early May the 19th were encamped outside Constantinople at Scutari, alongside a large cemetery near the Barracks. This was dilapidated and full of giant fleas and the men were plagued by 'Turkish cannibals', mosquitoes which bred in the stagnant pools around and carried malaria. A few men came down with the disease. For a short time the 19th used it, but found sleeping under canvas preferable. The town was hilly and irregular with narrow streets, the Turks unwelcoming and their women veiled. Dogs ran wild in the cemetery, occasionally disinterring human remains.

May 26 was Queen Victoria's birthday. The British paraded to give 3 enthusiastic cheers for Her Majesty, watched by the French Generals, the local Turks and their harems, the white muslin veiled ladies accompanied by their eunuchs an interesting sight to the 19th!

THE LIGHT DIVISION

The19th formed part of the Light Division commanded by General Sir George Brown, a stickler for discipline.

1st Brigade, Brigadier General Airey: 7th Foot, 23rd Foot; 33rd Foot, Right Wing, 2nd Rifle Brigade.

2nd Brigade, Brigadier General Buller: 19th Foot, 77th Foot, 88th Foot, Left Wing 2nd Rifle Brigade.

Royal Artillery, Colonel Lake: C Troop RHA, E Field Battery RA.

Orders were given to consolidate the Infantry Regiments into 8 Companies, No 1 the Grenadiers and No.8 the light Company 'to prevent confusion in Field Evolutions'. This also helped to maintain company strength as men fell ill.

THE BALKANS

At its most basic, the aim of the Allies was to support the ailing Turkish Empire against Russian expansionism. The Russian Bear had defeated the Turkish fleet and was planning to invade the Balkans, then part of the Turkish Empire. British and French troops were sent from Scutari to assist the Turks to repel a Russian invasion across the Danube.

At the end of the month orders came to move up the coast to Varna, which were greeted with relief. The 19th sailed on the Medway steamer, forced to sleep on the leaky decks on the 3 day journey. Varna was a more pleasant camp ground than Scutari, but the exposure and difficulties of camp life combined with the increasingly warm weather. General Brown issued an order that stocks might not be worn, but must be kept and shown at kit inspection, a popular decision.

To the surprise of the British troops, who did not rate the Turks highly, the Russian invasion was halted before they could come into action. It was during the summer which followed that they began to suffer the ravages of disease. The 19th were marched to the village of Alledyn, where cholera broke out-the first to die Private John Sparrow.

General Brown kept up a series of gruelling drill and route marches, the tents being struck and moved every day. This wore down the men, in their unsuitable uniforms and heavy kit. Officers noticed the men becoming weaker and less disciplined, growing scruffier and talking in the ranks as frustration and disease set in. Morale was briefly raised by a visit from Omar Pasha, when an extra grog ration was issued, and a move to Devna, which appeared to be a suitable camp ground. However, it turned out to be a hotbed of cholera. By mid- July it was ordered that 'bowel complaints having become prevalent, 2 oz of scotch barley or rice and ¼ oz of tea extra is authorised to be issued per diem'.

CHOLERA IN CAMP

By the end of July, cholera had reappeared. Men died in great pain in a matter of hours-Mrs Kirwin reported how Sgt. Murphy died in the time it took his wife to come and borrow her frying pan; before she’d finished frying his beef , he’d gone. Nearly 100 men from the Light Division died in less than a week, together with many more seriously weakened, some too weak to eat the poor rations which were available. There were no tented hospitals; shelters were improvised from brushwood. Lice were rampant, despite the brushing of clothes and lining their seams with soap. Men were buried in their blankets due to the shortage of coffins and, to the horror of the survivors, the locals were known to dig up the corpses to steal the blankets.

The cholera abated as the weather grew cooler in late August. Permission was given to grow moustaches due to the difficulties of shaving. Orders were given to move back to the coast to embark for the Crimea, but the 19th was so weakened the men were unfit to march until Turkish wagons, ‘Arabas’ drawn by 4 black buffaloes, were sent to carry the soldiers’ knapsacks and the many sick.

On August 30th the 19th embarked on the old and overcrowded steamship the ‘Courier’. The women were left behind, Margaret Kirwin fainting after her husband ran out of the ranks to kiss her farewell. They did not sail until September 5th, landing at Old Fort near Eupatoria harbour on September 14th.

THE LANDING

The Light Division, were the first to land at 8.30am, wading ashore from the ships’ boats and forming on the beach behind a screen formed by the Rifle Brigade, part of a British force of 26,000 Infantry, 1,000 Cavalry and 60 guns. 30,000 Frenchmen and 7,000 Turks formed the rest of the Allied force. No enemy were in sight, but as they marched inland a light drizzle began which worsened during the night. Because of their physical weakness, the men were ordered to leave their knapsacks on board ship and land with minimal kit (spare boots, socks and shirt and towel wrapped in a blanket and rolled together with the greatcoat in the knapsack straps). These knapsacks were looted on board or when they were finally landed, most men losing their spare kit and being without for months.No tents were landed, so the men were left exposed. The French, fitter, better organised and equipped, carried full packs and 'tentes d'abri (shelter tents).

Piquets were posted and the beaches secured. Bell tents were landed as a temporary measure for a few days, then sent back on board, not to be reissued for another month. Whilst the French pillaged without payment, British rations were reduced due to supply difficulties. One night a false alarm saw the 19th form up in shirt sleeves and no trousers, but with their belts and 60 rounds which they kept in their tents, their rifles piled in front of them. Small scouting parties of Cossacks were seen, but little other opposition until the march to Sevastopol began on September 19th. The French, with the Turks to their rear, held the right wing skirting the sea. The 19th were still weakened by disease and the sea crossing, and many fell out or struggled to keep up.

The Russians finally appeared in force and it was clear their plan was to hold the next river crossing.

THE ALMA

September 20th dawned foggy, but as it cleared the Light Division was formed up with rest of the Allied army. The Russians, commanded by Prince Menshikof, commanded the heights, fielding some 37,000 men and 96 guns, many entrenched in positions such as the Great Redoubt. 10 French and 3 British warships sailed along the right flank of the Russian positions, supporting the advance of some 30,000 French Turkish troops, but the British force of 23,000 headed straight for the centre of the Russian positions. At 1.00pm the Light Division deployed into line to cross the vineyards lining the near bank of the Alma. As the men came under fire, they pulled off their stocks, as they would soon replace their shakos with forage caps. No one knew the depth of the river as they approached it, the men holding their weapons and ammunition high as they crossed. They paused at the bank, waiting orders to advance, until a Yorkshire private cried 'we shall all be slaughtered if we stay here, follow me men!'

Although disorganised, the 19th pressed forward up the hill, following Sir George Brown conspicuous on a grey horse, and found that their musketry was effective against the columns opposing them. Men from the 19th, 23rd and 33rd took the Great Redoubt at bayonet point, only to find themselves ordered to retire by bugle call. No-one ever determined who gave this order, but a counter attack by the Guards Division retook it. The 19th were enraged, Lt. Lidwell noting that 'The Light Division have to thank the Grenadier Guards only for extricating them from the mess that the incompetency of our commanders had run us into'. The Russians fled, but no pursuit was organised, giving them time to fortify Sebastopol which could otherwise have been taken straight away.

The Allies lost 3,300 men, most of them British-the French, encircling from the Right flank under cover of the naval bombardment only lost some 50 men- the Russians 4,600. The butcher's bill for the19th was 38 killed and 202 wounded, some of whom later died and many of whom never returned to the Regiment.

Above article provided by John D. Spencer

HistoryX hosts this site for future generations of military historians to enjoy. It is now just for reference.