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Amended 14.5.11. Minor edits 5.7.15. New info added 24.7.16.

1177, Sergeant Henry James ALDERSON — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born at Dover, Kent c.1826.


Enlisted in London on the 26th of October 1843.

Age: 17 years 3 months.

Features: Grey eyes. Brown hair.


From Private to Corporal: 26th of July 1850.

1851 Census

Piershill Barracks, Leith, Midlothian.

Henry J Alderson, 25, Soldier, Corporal, born Dover.

Corporal to Sergeant: 10th of May 1854.

Taken prisoner of war by the Russians on the 13th of October 1854 and rejoined the regiment on the 26th of October 1855.

Extract from the Regimental History on Alderson's capture:

"The out-lying picket had been ordered to proceed to the river Tchernya, but not go beyond it. The officer-in charge, Captain Oldham (later to lose his life in the Charge), had instructions to discover all that he could about the Russians on the opposite bank. The party consisted of an officer, a sergeant, and 15 men.

The Sergeant and four men were told off to advance to the front, and extending 300 yards apart, to go forward to the river. The remaining men, together with their officer, followed along the plain. Following their orders, the smaller party closed in on the bridge.

The Captain now galloped to the advanced party, leaving the rest of the men halted. After giving more orders to the forward patrol the officer returned to them, but whilst doing so the latter saw the Sergeant cross the bridge and go up the hill on the opposite side. Out from the trees rode four Russian hussars in pursuit, and over the top three more came to meet him. The Sergeant turned to his left and rode alongside the hill towards the Russian camp, but his pursuers closing in on him was finally taken prisoner.

The men in the rear had moved towards the river hoping to create a diversion and allow the Sergeant to escape across the river lower down. En route, they met the officer, who reprimanded them for moving without orders. The situation being explained, and although in possession of an eyeglass, he said that he could see nothing of the pursuers and on the men averring that the Sergeant had been taken prisoner they received the remark, 'And serves him right too. Why did he not ride at them and bowl them over.'

It is believed that Captain Oldham was placed under 'open arrest' by Lord Cardigan, but as senior captain he later led the 13th L.D. at Balaclava."

Albert Mitchell:

"[J]ust before daybreak [date?] Lord Lucan came up to the picket, and as near as I can recollect, gave the following order to Captain Oldham, who was in charge of us: 'I want you to take half your picket and patrol over this ridge across the plain beyond, in the direction of the river. I feel confident there are Russian troops in the village behind the hill on the other side of the river. Now I should like it, if you can find out for me without taking your men across the river, but if you cannot, never mind. You can throw out three or four moving vedettes, and tell them to keep their eyes open, but on no account cross the river. But I think you understand my meaning, so I shall leave it to your own discretion.'

In a few moments fifteen of us, including a sergeant, were in our saddles, and had crossed the ridge. The captain then ordered the sergeant and four men to advance to the front, and extend their files to about three hundred yards apart from each other, and lead on in the direction of the river. The remainder of us then followed slowly across the plain, the captain being with us. After we had got a good distance down we saw the vedettes had arrived at the river side, when according to an order they had received at starting they all closed in towards the bridge.

The captain now halted us, and galloped to the party at the bridge, gave them some fresh orders, when we were surprised to see one man cross the bridge and begin to ascend the hill beyond. The other men separated, and took up posts on our side of the river. The captain then galloped back towards us. Before he reached us we were startled by an unusual noise, and on looking towards the hill on the other side, up which our sergeant was making his way, we saw four Russian Hussars at the bottom of the hill in the act of ascending after him. At the same moment three others appeared at the top, and I were coming down to meet him. He had nothing left but to turn to his left and gallop along the side of the hill as fast as possible. They, of course, rode along the hill parallel to him, and as every stride brought him nearer to the Russian camp and farther from us, the end of it was the sergeant was taken prisoner.

On our first hearing their shouting, and on looking up, saw their sabers gleaming in the sunshine (for the sun had just risen) we moved off of our own accord, thinking that if we showed a bold front close down to the river it might deter them from pursuit, and thus give him a chance of escape, back across the river lower down. We soon found our mistake, for at that moment the captain came up, and halting us, asked us how we had dared to move without his orders? We pointed to the chase, and explained the state of affairs to him as well and quick as we could, but yet he could not see them although he had a glass. We told him we were certain the sergeant must be taken prisoner. He answered: "And serve him right, too. Why did he not ride at them and bowl them over?" So we had to retire minus our sergeant, and I have no doubt it became quite evident to Lord Lucan when he heard of it, that there were Russian troops in the village beyond the hill.

Soon after we returned to our picket, our captain was relieved and placed under arrest, but released again very soon, for in a few days after this he was killed in action."

[Source: Albert Mitchell, Recollections, first edition pp.77ff, CWRS Special Publication 31, pp.51-2.]

Harry Powell:

"[O]n one occasion, the A Troop went out to reconnoitre, Capt. Oldham and Lieut. Montgomery in charge; we went a long distance on the Woronzoff Road: Captain Oldham ordered us into a secluded little place, where we had to jump our horses over a ditch; half the men were ordered to unbridle and feed their horses, the men partaking of food at the same time, the other half doing so after them. I unfortunately that morning left mine and my brother's ration behind, consequently we had nothing to eat, and even when we got back the mess tin was pork minus; all the pity I had was 'served you right, as you ought to have taken it with you.'

It was a wonder we were not all taken prisoners when feeding our horses that day, we were in a most helpless state of defence, and no possibility of getting away. We went the same road another day but we were not to be caught a second time; we saw the enemy on the look out for us.

Another day the same troop under the same officers, in the valley which was afterwards called the 'valley of death', Serjeant H. Alderson was sent out and made to go rather further than he would have chosen to, and the Cossacks being hid from view, pounced down upon him and took him prisoner. I think if he could have wheeled sharply round and galloped back to the troop he might have saved himself, but he was a long way off, too far for a single soldier. He never saw any more of the Crimean War so perhaps it was lucky for him. Lord Cardigan heard the matter talked over by the men; he wanted to get at the bottom of it, but could not."

[Source: Harry Powell, Recollections, pp.19-20.]

Lord Panmure's list of Prisoners of War, including Henry Young, as reproduced in <i>Reynolds's Newspaper</i>, 3rd of June 1855. Click to enlarge.

Nominal list of Prisoners of War, dated 4th May 1855, as reproduced in Reynolds's Newspaper, 3rd of June 1855. The list includes Henry Young.

(Click on image to enlarge)

He was shown on a nominal roll of men of the Regiment made out at the Cavalry Depot, Scutari, on the 9th of November 1855 as being a Prisoner of War there from the 4th of November.

Appointed to Troop Sergeant-Major on the 20th of October 1857.

Served in Turkey and the Crimea: 2 years.

In Canada: 1 year 7 months.

1861 Census

Piershill Barracks, Leith, Midlothian.

H.J. Alderson, 35, Troop Sergt Major, 13th Lt Dns, born England.

Marriage registered

Henry James Alderson married Sarah Ann Foster, June Quarter 1863, Lambeth.

Discharge & pension

Returned to the Depot at Canterbury from Canada on the 23rd of May 1868 and discharged "at his own request, free with pension after 24 years service", from Canterbury on the 23rd of June 1868.

Conduct: "very good". In possession of two Good Conduct badges and would now have had four if not promoted.

Never entered in the Regimental Defaulter's book. Never tried by Court-martial.

From the 6th of May 1884, his original pension of 24d. per day was increased to 31d. per day after 15 years service as Troop Sergeant-Major on the Permanent Staff of the Wiltshire Yeomanry at Warminster.


Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma and Sebastopol, and the Turkish medal.

Documents confirm the award of the Crimean medal with two clasps and the Turkish medal.

Awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 2nd of August 1865, with a gratuity of £5.


Life after service

He said he intended to live at 7, Dunstable Villas, Richmond, Surrey, after discharge.

1871 Census

Cottage, Walton, Wellesborough Hastings.

The 1871 Census shows him as a "Chelsea Pensioner", aged 45, living with his wife Sarah, 37, and children Henry, 5, Frederick, 4, Emily, 6, and Walter, 10 months.

1881 Census

Wellesbourne [sic?] Hastings, Warwick.

Henry J. Alderson, born Dover, Kent, a Chelsea Pensioner, aged 54, was at the same location, living with his wife Sarah and sons Frederick, 14, and Walter, 10.

1891 Census

Military Barracks, Bull Yard & Smithford Street, Coventry.

Henry J Alderson, 64, Canteen Steward, born Dover.

Sarah Ann Alderson, 59, No Occupation, born Middlesex.

1901 Census

Schoolhouse, Civil parish of Hardwick, near Wellingborough, Northants.

Henry Alderson, aged 74, "Army Pensioner", was living with his wife Sarah, 68, and his unmarried daughter Emily, 36, a Schoolteacher, born Aldershot. Three other persons are present as "boarders".

Death & burial

Death registered

HJA's death, aged 77, was registered in Wellingborough in the December Quarter of 1904.

Further information

1911 Census

Schoolhouse, Civil parish of Hardwick, near Wellingborough, Northants.

Henry Alderson's wife Sarah, aged 76, and daughter, 46, were still living at the 1901 address.

Death registered

The death of Sarah Ann Alderson, 79, was registered in Wellingborough in the December Quarter of 1913.

Death registered

Emily Alderson [daughter], aged 82 years, December Quarter 1946, Wellingbro.

References & acknowledgements

Registration of deaths, and Census information for 1851, 1861, 1891,1901, 1911, kindly provided by Chris Poole.

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