History of the 46th Regiment
1854 - 1858


As war with Russia became more and more likely, the majority of regiments destined to make up the Army of the East were shipped out. Not so the 46th; the Courts Martial continued, and officers were required in England to give evidence. The 46th left for the Crimea, not as a regiment, but in three separate units; the first two companies under Captains O'Toole and Hardy left at the end of July; a second, much smaller unit, under the command of Lieutenant Dallas left on the 9th August, to act as a guard of honour to the commander of the 4th Division, Lieutenant General the Honourable Sir George Cathcart, KCB, recently returned from duties at the Cape. The remainder of the regiment did not leave until 14th October.

The Allied armies, including the two advance companies of the 46th Regiment, and Lieutenant-General Sir George Cathcart's Honour Guard, landed at Calamita Bay, about fifty miles north of Sevastopol on the 14th September, 1854.

The 46th Regiment formed part of the 2nd Brigade of the Fourth Division, initially coming under the command of Brigadier-General Arthur Wellesley Torrens. When the allied armies marched south on the 19th September, not all of the regiments of the Fourth Division had arrived in the Crimea, and Torrens was left with only the 63rd Regiment, two companies of the 46th, and a troop of 4th Light Dragoons on detachment, after several of his regiments had been attached to the 1st Brigade of the Fourth Division to make up numbers. Torrens' men remained on the beaches near the Old Fort to clear up after the landing. He was instructed "to follow in the army's tracks" once this job had been completed. Robins tells us that this body of men bivouacked on the night of 19th September 1854 at the village of Tuzla; noticed the next day that they were on the wrong road, and "after much fatigue... regained the right route", probably following the Simpheropol road for a period.

In fact, it would appear that Torrens' Brigade, including the two advance companies of the 46th Regiment, had marched the three miles north to Tuzla (perhaps even under the mistaken impression that they were heading for Tagailii), on the evening of the 19th September and there bivouacked for the night. The following morning they must have then marched three miles east along the watercourse until they hit the Simpheropol road, followed this for two miles until they were able to turn south for a three-and-a-half mile march to Kentugan, another mile to Tagailii, and then eleven-and-a-half miles south-south-west to the Alma, a total of twenty-four miles, all but three on the day of the battle. As one of the officers of the 46th Regiment recorded in a letter to his mother, it was "a tremendous day's march," and all for no purpose.

On 20th September 1854 the main body of the Allies, under the joint commands of General Lord Raglan, Marshal St. Arnaud and General Omar Pasha, reached the Alma and met the Russians in battle. A somewhat simplistic battle-plan was adopted, with the French being responsible for turning the left (or seaward) flank of the defenders, at which point the British were to make a frontal assault (through a burning village, across a stream and then uphill in the face of withering fire from Russian infantry and artillery). Due to the first of the catalogue of misunderstandings and misapprehensions which characterised this war, the British were forced to assault before the French had fulfilled their objective, with consequent slaughter. Lord Raglan (who was fighting his first battle since Waterloo, when he had been on the Staff of the Duke of Wellington, and had lost an arm) moved so far in advance of his troops that he was actually directing the battle from behind the Russian front line. In approximately three hours, the Russians were completely routed, and fled from the field in indisciplined retreat.

It is extraordinary to note that officers and men of Torrens' Brigade were awarded Alma clasps to their Crimea Medals, despite arriving on the battlefield three hours and twenty minutes after the last shot had been fired, and that most histories record their presence at the battle.

The desire of the British leaders to follow up their victory at the Alma by harrying the retreating Russians was clear, but their French allies refused to agree to the plan, saying that their men were tired, and must in any case retrieve their knapsacks which they had shed prior to the battle. A great chance was wasted, and the allies remained on the hill above the river Alma for three days before proceeding south towards Sevastopol. The Russian Army had been allowed to regain Sebastopol, and a young genius of a military engineer, Lieutenant Colonel Todleben, began to prepare Sebastopol's defences.

The Allied armies, deciding not to attack Sebastopol from the North, marched South East, skirting the city, towards Balaklava harbour which was captured without bloodshed. The British took Balaklava as their supply base, the French taking the undefended harbour of Kamiesch to the West. Siege weapons and ammunition began to be landed.

The French took the left of the siege lines; the English the right. The Allies opened up their bombardment of Sebastopol on the 17th October 1854, and continued it for the next two days without noticeable success.

On the 25th October 1854, Menschikoff made a major assault on the right of the besieging armies, whose forward defence works were a few half- hearted gun emplacements along the line of the road from Sebastopol to Prince Worontzoff's hunting lodge, manned by Turkish militia. Although the Turks fought bravely for over two hours, they were driven back as Lord Raglan arrived at his vantage point on the Sapoune Ridge.

The fleeing Turks reformed on either side of the four companies of the 93rd Highlanders under Sir Colin Campbell, which were the only troops between the oncoming Russians and the British base at Balaklava. Shortly afterwards a further two companies of the Highlanders, and a rag-tag of men from the port (including invalids from the hospital) joined this last line of defence, and these men came under Russian artillery fire. Campbell withdrew them a few yards to the comparative safety of the dead ground behind a low bank. A strong force of Russian cavalry moved in their direction. Campbell formed his men into line (not square, which was the accepted way for infantry to face a cavalry charge), and the probing Russian advance was driven off with volleys of musket fire. This action became known as "the thin red line," from the report of W. H. Russell to his readers wherein he described "a thin red streak, tipped with a line of steel."

Another strong force of Russian cavalry was moving towards British forces, this time the Heavy Cavalry Brigade was the focus of its attention. General Sir James Yorke Scarlett led the men of the Heavy Brigade in a gallant uphill charge, and drove the Cossacks off.

Whilst these actions were taking place, the Russians were calmly removing the British guns from the redoubts along the Causeway Heights which had been abandoned by the Turks, and Lord Raglan was desperately sending orders to his Light Cavalry Brigade and to his infantry, more particularly the First and Fourth Divisions (the latter including the advance companies of the 46th Regiment) to take action to prevent this. Finally, one of his orders was acted upon, and the Charge of the Light Brigade (in completely the wrong direction) began.

From Raglan's viewpoint on the Sapoune Ridge it was possible to watch the vainglorious disaster unfold. Over 650 men charged; well over a hundred of them died within the next few minutes.

As the Light Brigade went in, Raglan's infantry finally arrived on the battlefield, but their only success was the recapture of the westernmost redoubts on the Causeway Heights by elements of the Fourth Division; officers and men of the 46th Regiment were in an ideal position to view the famous Charge, and its dreadful aftermath. The British had lost possession of a considerable amount of ground, including the majority of their forward defences, as well as the only metalled road in the area.

The Balaklava clasp was awarded to those soldiers who had taken part in any of the actions described above, and to a number of those also present but not engaged. The Balaklava clasp is unique in being the only clasp ever awarded by the British Government for what was technically a defeat.

Ten days later the Russians attacked again, in what came to be known as the Battle of Inkermann, or "the Soldier's Battle". The battle raged for almost the whole day, and was prosecuted in thick fog, heavy undergrowth, and with little if any generalship being shown on either side. The advance companies of the 46th Regiment were heavily engaged at Inkermann, taking 37 casualties out of 204 men present. The regiment accompanied Sir George Cathcart in his mad charge down the side of the Kitspur - an officer of the regiment recorded his experiences in a letter home shortly afterwards:

"I do not think "Guy Fawkes' day" was ever celebrated by more Gunpowder and fire. I can only tell you my part of the affair, as it was a very general engagement & lasted from 7. A.M. till nearly 5. P.M. We were all alarmed about 6 A.M., by a good deal of Musketry on our right, where there has been an Army hovering about for some time. The "Assembly" sounded, and we all fell in, our two Companies forming with the two Companies of the 68th. We marched as fast as we could to where the fighting evidently was, our Brigade under Gen. Torrens (old Sir George was with us too). We found the Guards on the extreme right engaged with a large force of Russians on the brow of a hill (on which the extreme right of our Camp rests). We immediately formed line, & set to work - here poor Torrens fell badly wounded - the fire was very heavy. At last the enemy began to waver, & we took advantage of it & made a most splendid headlong Charge on them, pushing them down the steep side of the mountain, in utter confusion. The slaughter of them was here immense, for we charged right at them, & every man had shot away his 60 rounds (or nearly so) before we could get them to pull up. We then came leisurely back up the hill again, (of course scattered all over the side of it). When a few of us got nearly to the top from whence we had started, to our astonishment a most astounding fire opened upon us, from the very place we had come from. The men came up gaily, & we formed as we could, & with a mere handful returned the enemy's fire, as long as our ammunition lasted. We were placed, I should say 50 of us, with most of the Staff of the Division, on a small sort of natural platform, about 10 yds from the Russian Infantry Regiment which had outflanked us & had come round to the summit of this fatal hill, to receive us on our return from the Charge. How many of us escaped I can form no idea (few indeed did). We were so close to the Enemy that they threw stones, & clods of earth in our faces. Poor Sir George Cathcart fell there, shot I believe through the brain. As I was coming up the hill he was just in front of me. As I passed him he recognised me & said "There is nothing for us but the bayonet, Dallas!". Noble hearted old Hero! I shall never forget him sitting quite calmly on his horse, certainly not 12 yards from the front rank of the Enemy. He was wounded in the head when he spoke to me. If ever a man lived who knew not what fear was, he was the one. By his side fell Colonel Seymour (on his Staff) who was much attached to him having been his Military Secretary at the Cape. Also Colonel Maitland badly wounded in the arm - Major Wynne 68th killed, Colonel Harry Smyth, 68th. badly shot thro' the body, another Officer of the 68th. killed, all of our little Party. We held our position till we had no more ammunition, & until few of us were left, & then retired a few paces down the Hill, just as a Cloud of Zouaves came dashing out of the right flank of the Russians. I was not touched myself except by a ball which hit my breastplate, & glanced off tearing my Coat & by the way was hit with a large stone of which the enemy for a second or two threw quantities. Our men behaved splendidly. We lost of course many. Nothing but their indomitable Pluck saved the whole of us being either killed or taken prisoner. I certainly do not think there were more than 60 men, holding their position against a whole Russian Regt, & having the lower ground. All that I had to do afterwards was to retire with what we could collect of our Division, & form again, get fresh ammunition & then lay ourselves down, as a sort of reserve or rather support to our Artillery - under the hottest cannonade for about 5 or 6. hours. We lost a good many men here for we were in very bad cover. I can give you no general account of this battle which took place on a mountain, & in a valley called "Inkermann". Our loss was decidedly severe."

As dusk fell, the British held the field (having received useful, if belated, help from the French). The numbers of the Russian dead left on the field exceeded the numbers of Allied troops that had been attacked.

The Inkermann clasp was awarded to all those who were present on the battlefield, including many who were never engaged. On hearing of the selection criteria for the various clasps, at least one infantry officer railed at the powers that be for granting him a Balaklava clasp, which he felt belonged to the cavalry alone, and granting the cavalry, who never came under fire at Inkermann, the clasp for the latter battle, in which over 17,500 men (mostly infantry, and mostly Russian) were killed or wounded.

Shortly after the arrival of the main body, including the Headquarters, of the 46th Regiment, under the command of Colonel Robert Garrett, KH, at Balaklava Harbour on board the "Prince" on the 8th November, 1854., the weather deteriorated to such an extent that further action in the field was precluded, and the activities of the Allies were restricted to siege operations. On the 14th November, a "hurricane" struck the Allied harbour and camps, and vast amounts of stores - and ships - were lost. One of the ships that foundered was the "Prince" which still contained much of the kit of the officers and men of the 46th.

During the winter of 1854/55 the shortcomings of the British military supply system were thrown into sharp focus, as thousands of men died from illness, exposure and malnutrition - four times as many died from disease as did from enemy action. One Regiment, nominally over a thousand men strong, was reduced to a total of seven men by January 1855. The 46th suffered less, but still was rarely able to field more than 100 men for duty during the winter of 1854/55.

With the arrival of Spring came the huts and winter clothing from England; too late to save the lives of the thousands who had died as a result of their absence. Military operations continued to be restricted to trench warfare until 7th June 1855 when the outer defences of Sebastopol were assaulted, with the British capturing the Quarries and the French the Mamelon. The 46th did not form part of this assaulting force, but continued to serve in the trenches.

A coup de grace was planned for the anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, 18th June, as a way of cementing the new friendship between the British and their French allies. The 46th regiment was in support on this occasion, and did not take part in the attacks. The assaults on the Malakoff and the Redan failed, partly due to incompetence on the part of the general officers commanding, and Lord Raglan sank into a decline, dying on the 28th June 1855.

On the 16th August 1855, the Russian army under Prince Gortchakoff attempted to break through the Allied lines at the Traktir Bridge over the River Tchernaya, but was driven off by a combined French/Sardinian force a third its size. The Sardinians had joined the Allies in January 1855.

On the 8th September 1855 the Allies again stormed Sebastopol, with the French successful this time at the Malakoff. The British attack on the Redan failed once more, with the 46th Regiment again remaining in support, and taking no part in the assault . The Malakoff, however, was the key to the town's defences, and at its loss the Russians evacuated Sebastopol, having made a spirited defence which had kept the best troops in the world at bay for over eleven months. Originally it was intended that the Sebastopol clasp should be awarded to those on active duty on the 8th/9th September, but reason prevailed, and it was awarded to all those who had been present before the town at any point prior to its fall. The vast majority of officers and men of the 46th were entitled to the clasp for Sebastopol, having served in the trenches from 8th November, 1854, and the regiment was awarded "Sebastopol" as its second battle-honour. Unfortunately, the fact that the headquarters of the regiment were not present at Alma or Inkermann meant that those battle-honours were denied the regiment. Only the 93rd Regiment and the cavalry were awarded the battle-honour "Balaklava."

After Sebastopol fell, the war in the Crimea was effectively at its end, although hostilities were not suspended until February 1856, and peace was not declared until the end of March.

The majority of the 46th Regiment left the Crimea on the 21st May, 1856, under the command of Colonel Alexander Maxwell - leaving behind Colonel (now Temporary Major-General) Garrett, commanding the 4th Division; Brevet-Major Dallas, his ADC; and their respective servants. The regiment had been awarded the plum posting of Corfu, where it remained until July, 1858. Garrett eventually assumed command at Balaklava, and handed the town back to the Russians in July, 1856. He and Dallas were the very last British soldiers to leave the Crimea, on 13th July, 1856, on board the "Argo" transport. The "Argo" called at Malta on its journey home, leaving Valetta Harbour on the 22nd July, and landing at Portsmouth on 6th August, 1856.


Other Sources of Information

Timeline covering the 32nd and 46th Regiments and the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, 1702-1997.



 Back to 46th History Menu      Back Home


Did you realise that there are Load images to see the counter people interested in the 46th Foot?

Last updated by the Adjutant on the 14th of February, 2002

Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 46thFoot.com