History of the Foot Guards

Crimean War 1854-1856

Image: Scots Fusilier Guards Colour party during their Victoria Cross action at Alma

Crimean War 1854-1856

Turkey was threatened by Russia, the government assembled an expeditionary force to support the Turks, France was also involved and it was the first time in 800 years that the British fought alongside the French.


After landing on the 14th September 1854 the Army marched south. They came across the Russians entrenched above the river Alma. The Light Division crossed the river and pushed the Russians back but were themselves pushed back. The 1st Division was called on to help. All three regiments of the Guards Brigade crossed the river. The Grenadier and Coldstream Guard paused to reorganise. The Scots Fusilier Guards were the last to cross and did not stop but carried on. The Colour Party found itself in the front and attacked by the Russians, they stood firm until the battalion came up to relive it. It was later found that the Queen’s Colour had 23 bullet holes in it. For their actions the two officers were later awarded the Victoria Cross. In the end the British won the day.


The Guards took no action at Balaclava on 25th October. Two weeks later the Russians attacked the British around Inkerman, which was held by the 1st Guards Brigade. Because of the fog around 30,000 Russians managed to get around the flanks of the British. The Grenadier and Scots Fusilier Guards were holding the forward positions at Kit Spur and the Sandbag Battery. They managed to beat off numerous attacks even though being heavily outnumbered. Sandbag battery changed hands seven times. In the end the British prevailed. The Guards lost 600 all ranks out of 1,300. This action was the last time any Guards Colours were taken into action.

Cholera, scurvy and the cold killed more men than those that fell in action. Queen Victoria decreed that the soldiers could grow beards to help combat the cold. The siege of Sevastopol dragged on through 1855 and on the 9thSeptember the fortress was finally taken, but it was not until March 1856 that the peace treaty was signed. The campaign was finally over. This was the only war in which the Guards wore the bearskin cap. The Guards lost 425 killed and four times that number from sickness and when reviewed by Queen Victoria at Aldershot she was shocked at the state of them and commented ‘they were quite broken down’.