Richard YOUNG – Charge of the Light Brigade Hero from Leigh

The following story about Richard Young comes from a descendant, Jenny Ham

Leigh (and St Julian’s) produced one of the bravest men in the Charge of the Light Brigade – that disastrous but glorified incident in the Crimean War.

Richard Young was born at St Julian’s in 1829 where he grew up, becoming a farm boy there. Aged 21 he enlisted in a cavalry regiment, the 11 th Hussars, receiving a bounty of £5-15-6d for signing up for 12 years. He was described at the time in his Army papers as “Complexion fresh; eyes dark grey; hair dark brown; height 5’9” and with a scar in the middle of his forehead”. He was sent to Dublin where his Regiment was based to receive his basic training.

In March 1854 the Regiment, comprising of 250 men and horses, embarked for the Crimea. Richard Young fought with the Lancers at the Battle of Alva, and through the siege of Sebastopol. Then came the day of the Charge of The Light Brigade, 25 October 1854 at the Battle of Balaclava.

Most people will remember something about the catalogue of mistakes and idiocies that led to the amazing bravery of The Charge. Six hundred and seven men including Richard Young started riding across the plain right under the Russian guns. We have two verbatim reports – first from Richard Young and then from his Sergeant Major. Young himself said that his sabre flew over his head with a whiz. Having only one hand to guide his horse he rode on and after they had destroyed the Russian battery he returned with the remainder of The Six Hundred. His Sergeant Major said about the incident: “The first man to be hit was Private Young – a cannon ball taking off his right arm. I being close to his right rear, fancied I felt the wind from the cannon ball as it passed me. I afterwards found I was bespattered with his flesh. When Private Young lost his arm, he coolly fell back and asked me what he was to do. I replied ‘Turn your horse about and get to the rear of the troop as fast as you can’.” (Sergeant Major Smith later had his horse shot from under him but also survived).

A few months later Richard Young was invalided home to England from Scutari Hospital to Plymouth (where he was presented with a bible!). He later had two operations and ended up with his right arm taken off at the socket. He was discharged from the Army in December 1856 moving back to live with his parents in Leigh.

Later in life he married and became a hall porter at Somerset House where he was employed for twenty years. He initially had a pension of one shilling a week, later raised to 18d a day. He received the Crimean Medal with clasps for Sebastopol, Alma and Balaclava and the Turkish Medal: but the medal he prized most was the Distinguished Conduct On The Field.

He attended the 21 st Anniversary Light Brigade reunion in 1875 and a further reunion in 1890, both of which received national newspaper coverage.

He retired to Hildenborough (Kemps Cottages) with his wife, Mary. After his wife died, he moved in with a niece and nephew, John and Fanny Humphries at Foxbush Flat Cottages where he died aged 72 on 13 February 1901.

At his own wish, he was buried in Hildenborough Church with full military honours – a Union Jack over his coffin and preceded by an army escort with reversed arms.

Parish Magazine Article: Aug 2008: by Jenny Ham