Crimea Medal with clasps 'Alma', 'Balaklava', 'Inkermann', 'Sebastopol'
John was born in Teynham, Kent, in around May 1821. We don't know anything about his family or his early life. By the time he was 18 years old he was working as a bricklayer, but John must not have been happy with this because on the 21st February 1840 he enlisted into the 63rd Regiment of Foot at their Depot in nearby Rochester. He was given the service number 1502.
The Regiment itself was serving in Madras, India, and John would have joined them after his training. After 3 years of service John was promoted to Corporal on the 27th February 1843, although he was reduced to Private on the 3rd November 1844. We believe this was the verdict of a court martial, although we don't know the charge.
The 63rd Regiment returned to the UK in August 1847. John was stationed in Newcastle, Limerick and Dublin before the outbreak of the Crimean War in October 1853. Britain and France declared war on Russia in March 1854. At first the 63rd Regiment was not intended to take part in this fighting, but in June it was ordered to prepare to go to war. John arrived in the Crimea, then in Russia but today part of the Ukraine, in September 1854.
John and the 63rd Regiment played a minor role in the Battle of the Alma on the 20th September. They then moved to Cathcart's Hill, where they joined the siege of Sevastopol. The Russians attacked these forces at the Battle of Balaklava on the 25th October. John took part in this battle, which ended in a Russian victory and led to a much larger battle on the 5th November, at Inkerman.
The Russians were again the attackers, but the 63rd Regiment were ordered to counterattack. After vicious hand to hand fighting the Russian attack was defeated and they were forced to withdraw.
John was either wounded or fell sick at some point during his time in the Crimea, because he was invalided out of the theatre on the 2nd June 1855. It is likely he was sent to Scutari Hospital in Istanbul, Turkey; because his service record tells us he spent 2 months in that country at some point during his service.
It appears that John was one of the first soldiers to be awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for bravery in action. John's conduct in the Crimea must have been highly regarded by his comrades, because his name was one of those selected by his fellow soldiers and approved by their Commanding Officer to receive the award. As well as the medal he was awarded a gratuity of £5. John and the other soldiers selected to receive the medal were presented with them on the 28th April 1855.
The 63rd Regiment went straight from the Crimea to Halifax, in Canada, although there is nothing in his service record to show whether John went with them or not. He was promoted to Corporal again on the 19th September 1855.
John was in Belfast with the 63rd Regiment's Depot in 1861 when after 21 years and 11 days he requested to leave the Army. He had obtained 4 Good Conduct Badges with pay; on the 3rd November 1846 (although he had forfeited this one on the 30th September 1847 and regained it on the 23rd December 1852); the 23rd December 1854; the 23rd December 1856 and the 25th February 1860.
His Regimental Board was held on the 8th March 1861. John's name had appeared in the Regimental Defaulter's Book 8 times over his career, although we don't know what he had done wrong to earn this. Nevertheless, his conduct was assessed as 'Good' and he was discharged from the Army on the 2nd April.
The 1861 Census was taken 5 days later, and John is recorded as being married to Mary. She had been born in Ireland, so it is likely they had met during John's time with the 63rd Depot in Belfast. They were guests of what appears to be John's sister Elizabeth and her family, the Wisdoms, in Crayford near Dartford. Then this was in Kent, today it is on the edge of Greater London.
In 1871 John and Mary were living in nearby Bexley, but by 1881 they had moved to 59 Union Street in Carlisle in the north of England, where John appears to have found work as a labourer. They had no children.
We don't know when John died, although we believe it was before 1891. His medal was obtained by the Museum of the Manchester Regiment during the Second World War. As well as his Crimea Medal, John was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal and the Turkish Crimea Medal for his Army service.