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The Hero of Inkerman

My great grand-uncle (you can work out his relationship to you), William Molesworth Cole Acton, served in the Crimea, and gained fame in the Battle of Inkerman, November 5th 1854. He received a staff appointment a few years after the Crimean War, and ultimately retired from the army with the rank of Colonel.

This is, I believe, an extract from Kinglake's 8 volume history of the Crimean War (vol 6 p 431).

"Lieutenant-Colonel Egerton rode up to Brigadier-General Pennefather and said: "Sir George Brown and General Buller are wounded, and there is no one left to command the Light Division; I beg to place the remains of the 77th Regiment under your command and at your disposal." The General answered: "Occupy that height on your right; it has been thrice crowned by the enemy and thrice have they been driven back with the bayonet. I have not a single man of my division left to defend it, and the 77th, my old friends, my last hope is in you." We had not a cartridge left, but the regiment was immediately moved up, and lay down in line under the crest of the height." Ļ

"When Egerton arrived on the scene the Russian advanced guard were already in possession of a part of the Home Ridge, and the French had begun to fall back. But now the French rallied, and when their artillery came up through the lines of the 77th the infantry also advanced, and under their combined attack the Russians retreated.

" Thus for the first time in their history parts of our two regiments were united in defence of the same position, though the 77th were in reserve and only the 57th was directly concerned in the repulse of a renewed attack by the Russian force. Shortly afterwards, however, one company of the 77th, under Lieutenant Acton, was sent forward to help in the defence of the Barrier, an important advanced post which was held tenaciously throughout the day. There, within a few minutes of their arrival, Brigadier-General Goldie (the Lieutenant-Colonel of the 57th) was mortally wounded.

"At the Barrier Actonís company remained till about mid-day, when the crisis of the battle was already past. Then Acton was ordered to go forward to a point, where he would find two companies of another regiment, and with them attack the westernmost of the Russian batteries on Shell Hill. Acton proposed to the officers of these companies that if they would attack on either flank, he would do so in front. This they refused in plain terms to do, saying that their force was not strong enough. The Acton: "If you wonít join me, Iíll obey my orders and attack with the 77th." But his own men, seeing that the other companies did not move, hung back. Acton said: "Then Iíll go by myself," and moved forward some 30 yards. Whereon James Tyrell, a private of the 77th, ran out of the ranks, saying, "Sir, Iíll stand by you." His example was followed by a man from another company, and these dauntless three went on alone. Upon this the men of the 77th would hesitate no longer, but rushing forward, formed up behind their captain. Then they all advanced at a run, and the two dissident companies likewise in the end moved forward on the flanks, as Acton had desired. The officers of the battery, which was without support, began in haste to remove their guns, and when Acton and his men came up they captured only one gun-carriage and two tumbrils. It was a fine feat, from the daring gallantry of which the merciless hammering by two English 18-pounders detracted nothing.

"The withdrawal of the batteries from Shell Hill, to which Actonís exploit put the finishing touch, marked the end of the battle. The Russians seemed to melt hopeless from the lost field, whilst the English were too exhausted and the French, under Canrobert, too little confident, to take up the pursuit."

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