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Auction: 18002 - Orders, Decorations and Medals
Lot: 57

'Time has not served to dim my respect and admiration for the bravery and devotion of this little group of Grenadiers in the defence of their Colours on the day of Inkermann. The tattered fragments of those Colours have found their final resting place on the walls of the Guards' Chapel. I feel confident that none of my readers is so cynical as to smile if I admit that I never enter that treasure house of memorials, so dear to every member of the Brigade of Guards, and feel able to gaze without emotion on the Colours which served as our rallying point on the dark upland of lnkermann.'

General Sir George Higginson, who served as Adjutant of the 3rd Grenadiers at Inkermann.

An emotive Inkermann casualty's Crimea Medal awarded to Private H. Woolven, Grenadier Guards, a member of the 3rd Battalion who was killed in action in the Right Flank Company's celebrated defence of the Colours following the epic struggle to capture - and hold - the Sandbag Battery: three members of his Battalion won the V.C. on the same occasion

Crimea 1854-56, 4 clasps, Alma, Balaklava, Inkermann, Sebastopol (H. Woolven, Grenadier Gds.), officially impressed naming, original riband, nearly extremely fine

Henry Wollven was born in Billingshurst, Sussex, about 1832, and was serving as a Private in the Grenadiers at Windsor by the time of the 1851 census. He was subsequently embarked for the Crimea as a member of the 3rd Company, 3rd Battalion, in which capacity he was present at Alma, in addition to the operations before Sebastopol.

Woolven was also engaged at the battle of Inkermann on 5 November 1854, when his Company, under Captain Edwyn Burnaby, suffered severe casualties in the epic struggle to secure the Sandbag feature and defend the Colours. Of the total of 76 Grenadiers who were killed in the battle, 22 were from Wollven's 3rd - Right Flank - Company; nearly 150 Grenadiers were severely wounded in the battle.

Three soldiers of the 3rd Battalion were awarded the Victoria Cross for their gallantry at Inkermann, Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Charles Russell, Bt., V.C. (1826-83); General Lord Henry Percy, V.C., K.C.B. (1817-77) and Captain Anthony Palmer, V.C. (1819-92).

By way of summary of those memorable events, the following extract has been taken from the Weapons and Warfare website:

'On the heights of Inkerman on the morning of 5 November 1854, a huge Russian column emerged from Sevastopol to break into and outflank the British right, and to break up the organised siege. The battle which ensued was fought in a mist, which made cohesion and control difficult for both sides. It was a day of regimental officers and for soldiers rather than for manoeuvres of High Command; and it was one of the hardest and most gruelling battles the Regiment has ever fought.

Desperate fighting dominated by the bayonets of the Grenadiers centred round the taking and retaking of the Sandbag Battery, from which the Russians had driven a British picquet at the start of the engagement.

The only Colours in the Army carried that day were those of the 3rd Battalion. Passed from hand to hand, regardless of rank, they were the rallying point for a part of the battalion cut off in the Sandbag Battery and isolated from the rest of their Division. The detachment, about a hundred Grenadiers, fought their way back through a mass of Russians, all bent on the capture of the precious symbols of a British Regiment's life. The Adjutant, Captain Higginson, later General Sir George Higginson, described the scene:

'Clustered round the Colours, with scarcely a round of ammunition left, the men pressed slowly backwards, keeping their front full towards the enemy, their bayonets ready at the "charge". As a comrade fell, wounded or dead, his fellow took his place and maintained the compactness of the gradually diminishing group that held on with unflinching stubbornness in protecting the flags. More than once from the lips of this devoted band of non-commissioned officers and rank-and-file came the shout, "Hold up the Colours!" fearing, no doubt, that in the mist and smoke they might lose sight or touch of those honoured emblems, which they were determined to preserve, or in their defence to die. The two young officers, Verschoyle and Turner, raised them well above their heads, half unfurled, and in this order we moved slowly back, exposed to fire, fortunately desultory and ill-aimed, from front, rear, and left flank. Happily the ground on our right was so precipitous as to deter the enemy from attempting to outflank us on that side. As from time to time some Russian soldiers, more adventurous than their fellows, sprang forward towards our compact group, two or three of our Grenadiers would dash out with the bayonet and compel speedy retreat. Nevertheless, our position was critical. By the time, however, we had traversed half the distance to the breastworks of the Second Division (which I proved by subsequent measurement to be 700 yards distant from the Sandbag Battery), the pressure on our rear and left was relaxed, the Russian column having been sternly repulsed by the force occupying the ridge; while our men welcomed with a cheer a company of Zouaves bringing up at last on our right the timely aid which General Bosquet had, no doubt for sufficient reasons, been prevented from sending earlier. The enemy on our immediate front soon realised the danger of a further advance and fell back. Free at length to rejoin our main body, we hastened our pace, and soon descried the Duke of Cambridge and the rest of our Brigade on the crest of the ridge. I shall never forget the cheer with which the returning Colours were welcomed by all ranks; H.R.H. being almost moved to tears for, as they all said, "We had given you up for lost." Many a time have my thoughts flown back over the waste of years to this stirring episode; many a time 1 have told the story among friends; never until now have I ventured to commit it to writing; for, indeed, my pen would have failed at any time in an attempt to impress a reader with the varying emotion which filled my mind while the safety of our Colours was in jeopardy. The mere possibility of the Colours of the First Regiment of our Sovereign's Guards being laid as a trophy at the feet of the Czar had to be faced, and 1 believe that a prayer went up from all of us that such dishonour might be averted at all costs.'

Woolven - who was killed - appears in Captain Burnaby's nominal roll of the 3rd Company, 3rd Battalion, Grenadier Guards 'actually present at the battle of Inkermann' on 5 November 1854; a copied extract is included, together with further research.

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