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Last edited 23.1.14. Minor edits 12.4.14. Auction info added 28.7.21

1300, Sergeant Thomas George JOHNSON — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born at Maidstone, Kent, c.1824.


Enlisted into the 4th Light Dragoons at Maidstone Cavalry Depot on the 27th of March 1837, "By Special Authority". Regimental number No. 869.

Age: 13.

Height: 4' 11".

His trade was recorded as "None".


From Private to Trumpeter: 24th of May 1837.

Removed to Private (no reason given) on the 2nd of January 1838.

Attained the age of 15 years and on to "Man's pay" on the 18th of March 1839.

His pay as a Trumpeter was 1/7d. per day, reduced to 10d. as a "Boy" and to 1/ 3d as a Man.

From Private to Trumpeter: 12th of July 1839:

"Absent without leave", 5th-7th of March 1841, tried by a Regimental Court martial on the 9th, and sentenced to solitary confinement until the 18th, but did not forfeit his rank.

Joined the regiment at Canterbury on the 1st of April 1842, following its return from India.

Transferred (as a Private) to the 13th Light Dragoons at Manchester on the 1st of September 1846.

From Private to Corporal: 1st of February 1848.

Corporal to Sergeant: 25th of March 1853.

At Scutari General Hospital from the 16th of September 1854 and sent to rejoin the regiment on the 3rd of October.

Thomas Johnson's letter from the Crimea published in<i>The Morning Post</i>, 29th November 1854. Click to enlarge.

A detailed and evocative letter written by Thomas Johnson from the Crimea just after the Charge at Balaclava was published inThe Morning Post, 29th November 1854. Although its author is not named, it must be Thomas Johnson — a 13th Light Dragoon sergeant who had been injured on board ship before the Alma, but who had re-joined the regiment from Scutari in time to Charge at Balaclava. [RM]

(Click on image to enlarge)

Promoted to Regimental Sgt. Major on the 5th of November 1854.

Gazetted as Cornet on the 27th of November 1857.

To Lieutenant and Adjutant: 30th of May 1860.

Thomas Johnson corroborated Lord Cardigan's account of his role at the guns in an affidavit which he made on the 15th of April 1863 relating to the law-suit instigated by the latter against Somerset-Calthorpe. He said:

"3 / I passed however with some of the second line through the Guns and on approaching the Enemy's Cavalry which I believe was drawn up some little distance in rear of the battery I and a man named John Keeley found ourselves within a few yards of Lord Cardigan who was also in rear of the Battery and surrounded by and engaged in defending himself against four or five Cossack Lancers.

Both Keeley and myself rushed to his Lordship's assistance, but my horse on the moment received a severe wound which completely disabled him (and from which injuries he afterwards died) and I believe the man Keely had his horse shot under him.

4 / I then saw Lord Cardigan disengage himself from the Cossacks and ride away apparently unhurt, but one of the Cossacks then made a right rear point at him with his lance which I then believed had passed through his Lordship's body.

I then retreated towards the Hill as rapidly as I could and after a few moments I came up with some of Lord Lucan's staff who were saying that Lord Cardigan was killed. Someone present contradicted it, which contradiction I then confirmed by telling them that I had just seen his Lordship's narrow escape and safety.

Captain (and Instructor of Musketry) 9th of May 1866."

In Kingslake's History of the Crimean War, he is quoted as saying:

"As to the opinion that we should have reformed; why, Sir, there were none to re-form had it been possible. We turned out 112 of all ranks and lost 84 horses. In fact, only ten of us assembled on the spot from which we had charged. We had 26 men wounded, 13 taken prisoner and 12 killed, consequently all the Generals in the Crimea would have been puzzled how to re-form us".

In command of the Regimental Troop at the Canterbury Cavalry Depot while the regiment was in Canada from 1866 to 1869.

Retired by the sale of his commission, in the Honorary rank of Major, on the 18th of November 1869.

Appointed Lieutenant and Adjutant of the 2nd West Yorkshire Yeomanry at Wakefield on the 29th of November 1869.

Appointed Temporary Captain: 25th of February 1874.

Retired (with the Honorary rank of Major) and on to half-pay, 21st of February 1880.


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

Awarded the French Legion of Honour, 5th Class.

A Confidential Memo from the Horse Guards dated the 31st of December 1855 stated that:

"It is intended to distribute a certain number of Decorations of the French Legion of Honour to Non-Commissioned Officers and men of the Cavalry Regiments who have been proposed as the most deserving, of the Fifth Class. The Memo ended with the request that seven further names of N.C.O.s or Privates as considered most deserving be transmitted as soon as possible."

In answer, the Commanding Officer of the regiment sent the following:

"13th Light Dragoons Orderly Room, 29th December 1855.

Sir, — I have the honour to state for the information of the Brigadier Genl. Commg. that Regtl Sergt Major Thos. George Johnson 13th L. Drgs. embarked with his regiment 12th of May 1854, was present with it during the whole of the campaign in Bulgaria including the Reconnaissance under the Earl of Cardigan K.C.B, was present in the Crimea with his Regt from the beginning of Oct. '54 to the beginning of Decr 1855, was present at the Charge of Balaclava 25th Octr 1854, Horse severely wounded, Battle of Inkerman 5th November 1854, the Battle of the Tchernya (The Regiment was under fire) and the Expedition to Eupatoria, has never been on the sick report or absent from any duty except the battle of the Alma, caused by an accident on board ship.

I have the honour to be, Sir,

Yr Obt Humble Servant,

Henry Holden

Major, 13th Lt Dgns."

Lummis and Wynn do not credit him with this medal, but he is shown as such in "British War Medals" by Thomas Carter. The citation reads:

"Served during the Eastern campaign, including the reconnaissance on the Danube under the Earl of Cardigan, battles of Balaclava and Inkerman, Siege of Sebastopol and the Expedition to Eupatoria."

[PB: His medals were auctioned by DNW in 2018 and 2021 [see below].]


Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1879. [DNW write-up says 1877 as well — check woth Chris.]

Present at the Officer's Balaclava Dinner in 1897.

When he left the 2nd West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry by the operation of the age limit, the members and ex-members made him a presentation, and also one to Mrs. Johnson. This took place in 1881 at the Royal Hotel at Scarborough following a luncheon. The following address was read:

"The members and ex-members of the 2nd West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry have heard with regret that the time has now come when your connection with the regiment is to be severed. We feel sure that when you took the position of Adjutant you fully realised the high aims of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Henry Edwards, C.B., and his officers, namely, that no efforts be spared to maintain the regiment in a high position in her Majesty's Yeomanry forces.

That you have ably seconded our gallant chief is shown not only by the several reports of Her Majesty's Inspecting Officers, but also to the flattering "encomiums" paid to the regiment by officers of high rank. Whilst acknowledging your professional abilities we would also like to bring to mind the genial good-fellowship which has been a marked characteristic of your intercourse with us at all times.

We ask you to accept this tribute of our regard, also the accompanying gold watch and chain and that you will on our behalf present the diamond ring to your wife." The non-commissioned officers and men present at that gathering at the Hotel numbered between 30 and 40, being a special party mustered from Bradford, Halifax and Huddersfield.

[PB: Add info about the two photographs of the 13LD by Roger Fenton, both of which show Johnson.]

Life after service

1871 Census

2, Ovenden House, Ovenden, Halifax.

Thomas Johnson, 47, Captain & Adjutant of Yeomanry Cavalry, born Maidstone.

Ellen, 34, born Manchester.

Two Servants are also shown.

1881 Census

Cromwell Cottage, off Elland Road, Southowram, near Halifax, in the parish of St. Anne's.

Thomas Johnson, 57, born in Maidstone, Kent, a Major (and Adjutant) in the West Yorkshire Yeomanry.

Ellen Johnson, wife, 46, born in Manchester.

Two domestic servants were kept: a General Servant and a Cook.

1891 Census

Blenheim House. South Stoneham, Southampton.

Thomas G. Johnson, 65, Major (Retired Officer), born Maidstone.

Ada Louisa Johnson, 35, wife, born Whitby, Yorkshire.

One child shown: Jessie Ellen Johnson, 11, daughter, born Buxton.

Two Servants are also shown.

In February 1899 he wrote a letter from "Aberfoyle", Highfield Road, Portswood, Southampton, but it is not known when he left, or when he returned to Scarborough.

1901 Census

York Lodge, Westbourne Grove, Scarborough.

Thomas G. Johnson, 77, Living on own means, Maidstone.

Ada L. Johnson, 40, Whitby, Yorkshire.

Jessie Ellen Johnson, 22, Buxton.

1911 Census

14, Westbourne Grove, Scarborough.

Ada Louisa Johnson, 50, widow, Private means, Whitby.

Jessie E Johnson, 32, daughter, Buxton.

Death & burial

Reference to Thomas Johnson in Scarborough (unknown source):

"Major Johnson settled down at Scarborough as manager of the Royal Hotel, a position he held successfully for a number of years. He afterwards left Scarborough, but soon returned, and had altogether resided in the Borough a good number of years. He was of a very unassuming disposition, and although not one who took part in any local affairs, he had many friends and was held in the greatest respect."

Extract from the United Services Gazette, 31st of May 1908:

Major Thomas George Johnson died at York Lodge, South Cliff, Scarborough, Yorkshire, on the 24th of May, aged 84 years. On retiring from the Army he had succeeded his brother as Adjutant of the 2nd West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, the officers of that Corps making him a very handsome present on his own retirement. He served with his regiment (the 13th Light Dragoons) and held the Crimean medal with the clasps for Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol. He was also a Knight of the Legion of Honour.

Extract from the Scarborough Mercury, 29th of May 1908:

Death of Major Johnson

Local Balaclava Veteran — The death took place on Sunday at his residence, York Lodge, of Major Thomas George Johnson, late of the 13th Hussars and the 2nd West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry. Major Johnson had acquired the ripe old age of 84 years, saw much active service during his connection with the Army and underwent many of the hardships incidental to campaigning half-a-century ago, when transport, hospital and other organisations for the comfort of a soldier were much less highly developed than they are at the present time.

Major Johnson served during the whole of the Crimean War, as Hart's "Army List" for 1867 referring to the 13th Hussars testifies: He was in the reconnaissance of the Danube under Lord Cardigan and was through the historic battles of Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol. At Balaclava his horse was severely wounded under him. Major Johnson was also with the Expedition to Eupatoria under General d'Allonville. He was the holder of the Crimean medal with clasps for Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol, the Turkish War medal, the French War Medal with the inscription 'For valour and discipline', and a Knight of the Legion of Honour.

From the 13th Hussars he went as Adjutant to the 2nd West York's Yeomanry Cavalry, under which his regiment reached a high standard of merit, borne out by the testimony of Major-General Cameron, who said, "they were the best and fittest of any Yeomanry Cavalry he had ever seen".

Funeral at Scarborough: The funeral took place at Scarborough Cemetery on the 27th. The cortege left the home of the deceased shortly before two o'clock and proceeded to Holy Trinity Church, where a service was held, the officiating clergy being the Revd. C.W.A. Clark, vicar of Holy Trinity and the Revd. H. Merry weather, vicar of St. Matthew's. The hymns sung at the service were 'Now the labourer's task is o'er', and 'Peace, perfect peace', followed by the 39th Psalm.

At the conclusion of the service the Dead March in 'Saul' was played on the organ... [A list of mourners and wreath-senders follows.] The coffin was of plain un-polished oak with brass mountings, and bore the inscription: 'Thomas George Johnson, died May 24th 1908, aged 84 years'."

The records of the Dean Road Cemetery at Scarborough show that he was interred there in Grave-space No. 52 South Terrace Alcove, the plot being purchased (as a vault) on July 10th 1883 a cost of £5/5/0. There is a rustic stone cross erected over the double grave (an Ellen Johnson was interred there in 1883.) The inscription on the stone states that she was the wife of Thomas G. Johnson and reference is made to the fact that he had served in the 13th Hussars.

The inscription on his gravestone reads:

"In memoriam of Ellen, wife of Major Thomas G. Johnson, late Captain 13th Hussars, who died June 5th 1883, aged 48 years. Also of the above Thomas G. Johnson, who died May 24th 1908, aged 84 years".

EJB: His newspaper obituary report refers to a Mrs Johnson (widow) and a Miss Johnson (daughter) as being present at his funeral, so he had obviously been twice-married.

Links to:

DNW Auction news, August 2021

DNW, August 17, 2021

(Click on image to enlarge)

The unique 'Light Brigade' group of four awarded to Captain T. G. Johnson, 13th Hussars, later Major, West Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, who was twice decorated by the French Emperor for his Distinguished Services in the Crimea — the only Light Brigade participant so honoured — and whose letter to his brother describing his participation in the Charge was one of the earliest to be published in the British Press.

Crimea 1854-56, 3 clasps, Balaklava, Inkermann, Sebastopol, lugs removed from top clasp (Regt. Serjt. Major, Thomas George Johnson. 13th. Light Dragoons) Regimentally impressed naming in serif capitals; France, Second Empire, Legion of Honour, Chevalier's breast badge, silver, gold applique, and enamel, France, Second Empire, Medaille Militaire, eagle suspension, silver, silver-gilt, and enamel, blue enamel damage and traces of restoration to bands around central medallions; Turkish Crimea, Sardinian issue (T G Johnson 13th Light Dragoons) Regimentally impressed naming in serif capitals, with contemporary silver swivel suspension, all with plain top silver riband bars, and housed in a fitted gilt frame, lacking glazing, the gilt mount engraved 'Major T. G. Johnson, Late Captain, 13th Hussars', light contact marks, generally very fine or better (4) £8,000-£12,000

Provenance: Spink, November 2004.

Thomas George Johnson was born in Maidstone, Kent, in March 1824, the son of John Thomas Johnson, who at the time of his birth was serving as a Schoolmaster Sergeant with the Cavalry Depot of the 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars. On 27 March 1837, at the age of 13 years and by 'Special Authority', he enlisted in the 4th (Queen's Own) Regiment of Light Dragoons at the Maidstone Cavalry Depot. He was appointed a Trumpeter on 24 May 1837 and, save for a six month period in early 1839, he retained this rank until 1 September 1846 when he transferred to the 13th Regiment of (Light) Dragoons, then based in Dublin, in the rank of Private. He was promoted Corporal on 1 February 1848 and Sergeant on 25 May 1853. He embarked with the Regiment for the Crimea at Portsmouth in May 1854 and arrived at the Bulgarian city of Varna, on the coast of the Black Sea, on 2 June 1854. A few weeks later, on 25 June, Johnson was one of a patrol of 195 men under Lord Cardigan that was sent north to the River Danube to 'ascertain the movements of the enemy'. This became known as the Soreback Reconnaissance because of the extremes of heat, thirst, and hunger endured by the patrol over a seventeen day period. In September 1854 the 13th Light Dragoons sailed from Varna for the Crimea — unfortunately during the voyage Johnson fell down the main hatchway on board his ship and was invalided to Scutari Hospital between 16 September and 7 October, thus missing the Battle of the Alma.

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Johnson had returned to his regiment in time to participate in the famous Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava on 25 October 1854, and in a letter to his brother John, dated 7 November 1854, he includes a first-hand account of the Charge as follows:

Following Balaclava, Johnson and the remaining members of the regiment were present at the Battle of Inkermann, although only in a minor way, and on the same day, 5 November 1854, he was promoted to Regimental Sergeant-Major. Thereafter he took part in the lengthy siege of Sebastopol, the regiment being part of the 2nd Light Brigade, and in October 1855 he participated in the expedition to Eupatoria with the French Cavalry under General D'Allonville. A few months later Johnson learned that his brother Francis, a Trumpet Major with the 12th Lancers, and who had only arrived in the Crimea in May 1855, had died at Scutari Hospital on 22 December 1855.

For his services in the Crimea Johnson received both the French Legion of Honour and the French Medaille Militaire, the former being announced in the London Gazette on 4 August 1856 for 'distinguished services before the enemy during the late war'; and the latter appearing in the Supplemental List of 'non-commissioned Officers and soldiers selected for Recommendation to His Majesty the Emperor of the French to receive the decoration of the French Military War Medal', published by the War Office in February 1857 and published in The Times on 13 April 1857. The citation for the latter award notes that he 'served in the Eastern Campaign, including the reconnaissance on the Danube under Lord Cardigan, the Battles of Balaklava and Inkermann, the Siege of Sebastopol, and the expedition to Eupatoria.' Johnson was unique amongst Light Brigade participants in receiving this double French award, and was one of only six such recipients amongst all those who served during the Crimean campaign.

Johnson returned with the regiment to England in May 1856, following which the regiment was based in Ireland until August 1859 when it returned to the British mainland. During this time Johnson was commissioned Cornet, without purchase, on 27 November 1857, and in recommending him for this promotion Colonel Doherty, commanding the 13th Light Dragoons, emphasised Johnson's 'service in the field and general good conduct'. He was further promoted to Lieutenant, by purchase, on 30 March 1860, and thence to Captain, without purchase, on 19 May 1866. The regiment's name had been changed to the 13th Hussars in 1861, and although the regiment was sent to Canada between 1866 and 1869, when a Fenian raid from the United States threatened, Johnson remained in England and served out the remainder of his army career with the Regimental Depot at Canterbury and York. He retired from the army by the sale of his commission on 10 November 1869.

Shortly after his retirement, on 18 November 1869, Johnson was appointed Adjutant, with the rank of Captain, in the 2nd West Regiment of Yorkshire Yeomanry Cavalry, a position previously held by his brother John. He was granted the honorary rank of Major in the regiment on 21 February 1880, before retiring on 19 September 1881. It is recorded that under his leadership the regiment reached a high standard of merit as borne out by the testimony of Major-General Cameron who said 'They were the best and finest regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry I have ever seen.'

In later life Johnson was a member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society and appeared in both lists of 'Chargers' drawn up by the committee of the Society in 1877 and 1879. According to one of his obituaries Johnson also had on display at his home two items presented to him by Lord Cardigan's wife- an oil painting of Lord Cardigan's charger, Ronald; and a steel engraving of Lord Cardigan leading the Light Brigade. He died at home in Scarborough, Yorkshire, on 24 May 1908, and is buried in Scarborough Cemetery.

There are a number of photographs of Johnson. Two, taken by Roger Fenton in the Crimea in 1855, show him with other officers and men of the 13th Light Dragoons; and there is also another one taken c.1866 in the uniform of a Captain of the 13th Hussars which clearly shows his four medals with the distinctive plain silver top riband bars.

Sold together with a large quantity of research, including photographic images.

[DNW: Link.]

References & acknowledgements

The editors would like to thank Tony Margrave for bringing the 2021 DNW auction to our attention.

New on the site Search Index of men J
For further information, or to express an interest in the project, please email the editors, Philip Boys & Roy Mills, viainfo@chargeofthelightbrigade.com