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Some edits 1.1.2014. Minor edits 21.2.2014, 7.6.14. Photograph added 7.6.14. New info added 16.8.2018. Revision to birth info. 4.04-2024
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1406, Private James LAMB — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Said to have been born at Falmouth, Cornwall, c.1830.

Baptised Crondall, 17 June 1830.


Enlisted at Piershill, Midlothian, on the 9th of August 1850.

Age: 20.

Height: 5' 8".

Trade: Servant.

Features: Fresh complexion. Grey eyes. Lt. brown hair.


Wounded by a shell in "the right leg during the Charge at Balaclava, carrying away a good deal of the fleshy part of the leg", and his horse shot under him.

Private Lamb, 1440 Corporal Malone of the 13th Light Dragoons, and Sergeant Berryman of the 17th Lancers went to the assistance of Captain Webb of the 17th, who was mortally wounded. For this, Malone and Berryman were awarded the Victoria Cross. According to Lamb, he and Malone drew lots for the decoration and Malone won. Berryman's portrait and account of this happening appeared in the Strand Magazine for October of 1891.

Re-engaged at Aldershot for a further 11 years 324 days' service on the 19th of September 1862.

Discharge & pension

Discharged from Colchester on the 20th of December 1873, at "Own request, after 21 years' service."

Served 21 years 134 days. In Turkey and the Crimea, 2 years. In Canada, 2 years 11 months.

Conduct: "very good indeed". In possession of five Good Conduct badges.

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

Aged 43 years 4 months on discharge.

Awarded a pension of 1/2d per day.

On the 3rd of June 1902, a Medical Board sat at Chelsea Royal Hospital to re-assess Lamb's disability:

"Shell wound in the right leg during the Charge at Balaclava, carrying away a good deal of the fleshy part of the leg. — Some deformity to the calf of the leg by loss of muscle and loss of power in the limb."

His disability was adjudged to have increased since his discharge, lessening his earning power to three-quarters. He was in necessitous circumstances, earning only an average of three shillings a week on odd jobs.


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

Documents confirm the award of the Crimean, Turkish Medal, and the Long Service & Good Conduct medals.

A supplementary roll (undated) signed by Major Henry Holden shows him as being issued with the Crimean medal (with clasps for Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman) on the 7th of October 1855.

Awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 22nd of July 1870, with a gratuity of £5.

Further detailed medal information archived.


Attended the first Balaclava Banquet in 1875.

Member of Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1879.

Signed the Loyal Address to the Queen in 1887.

Attended all the Annual Dinners between 1892 and 1910.

Appeared with other Crimean War veterans as a "Battle of Balaklava Hero" in the Lord Mayor's Show, 1890. James Lamb is shown travelling in the 17th carriage in the procession.

Photographs & illustrations

The files contain a copy of a photograph of him which appeared in The Picture Magazine (in about the mid-1890s) and also one of a group of the 13th with "Butcher" (also called the "Balaclava Mare"), taken at Colchester in 1873.

Photo of

James Lamb pictured in 1873 with '"Butcher", The last survivor of the Balaklava Charge' and five other men of the 13th Hussars [Light Dragoons].

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He appears in a photograph taken at Colchester in 1873 along with several other men still serving in the 13th, and "Butcher", a veteran horse from the Crimea. Since several of the men pictured are known to have taken part in the Charge, and it is obviously a posed picture, quite probably all charged.

The men shown (left to right) are Sergeant-Major Edwin Hughes, Privates James Malanfy, Henry Hunt, John Douglas and James Lamb, and Sergeant-Major William Eccles.

This photograph can be found in Barrett's Regimental History.

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Portraits of James Lamb. The first appeared above his memoir of the Charge in in Strand Magazine in 1891, and the other in an extended interview in the US publication Harper's Magazine in 1911, when he would have been 81.

Given the similarities between the two images (though his medals are displayed in a different order), and his conspicuous failure to show his age latterly, it is possible that both are derived from photographs taken at the same sitting, i.e. in or before 1891. [MORE...]

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Life after service

To live in Colchester after discharge, but he was living in Dublin in 1875.

1901 Census

59a Ingelow Road, Battersea [parallel to Queens/Queenstown Road].

James Lamb, 58[?] "Messenger, Horse Guards", born Southampton, Hants [!], living with his wife Mary, born "Mountrath, Queen's County" [i.e. Laois].

1901 Census

135 Salcott Road, Battersea, SW.

James Lamb, Army Pensioner, aged 70, was living in Battersea, but his birthplace is shown as Crondall [near Farnham], Surrey - which the enumerator has amended to Hampshire.

Mary is not shown.Three male boarders in 20s and 30s.

[RM: Could "Crondall" have been misread as "Cornwall" upon his enlistment? This seems likely.]

From The Regiment, 30th of January 1904:

"James Lamb, one of the few survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade, has, at the age of 74, been appointed temporary court-usher at the South Western Magistrates Court, where the Hon. John De Grey is the Magistrate. Lamb, who carries his years well, is in the enjoyment of excellent health."

South Western Magistrates Court:

According to the London Post Office Directory of 1950, the South Western Magistrates Court was situated at Daventry House, 217 Balham High Road, SW17. Its jurisdiction covered "the space included within the following boundary ... from a point in the middle of the roadway on Vauxhall Bridge, at the middle of the river Thames, south-eastward along the middle of that roadway and of Vauxhall Bridge Rd., Harleyford rd., the roadway on the south side of Kennington Oval, Harleyford St., Camberwell New rd., Brixton rd., Brixton Hill, Streatham Hill, and of Streatham High rd. to the boundary of the County of London; thence southward and westward along the said County boundary, by Lambeth cemetery, Garratt Pk. and Beverley Brook, then northward and eastward along the said County boundary to the middle of the river Thames west of Fulham palace; thence eastward along the middle of the river Thames to the aforementioned point in the middle of the river Thames to the aforementioned point in the middle of the roadway of Vauxhall bridge".

Magistrates Courts deal with a wide range of business coming under the general heading of 'summary jurisdiction', i.e. trial without a jury. The cases heard were largely criminal and of the less serious kind. Over the years statutes created many offences that the courts could deal with in addition to Common Law offences. Examples include: drunk and disorderly conduct, assault, theft, begging, possessing stolen goods, cruelty to animals, desertion from the armed forces, betting, soliciting, loitering with intent, obstructing highways, and motoring offences. Non-criminal matters included small debts concerning income tax and local rates, landlord and tenant matters, matrimonial problems and bastardy.

LMA: South Western Magistrates Court, 1891-1981.]

1911 Census

135, Salcott Road, Battersea, S.W.

James Lamb, 85, Lodger, "Army pensioner (no occupation)", born Farnham.

Mary, 89, Old age pensioner, born Mountrath, Queens County [i.e. Laois], Ireland ["Resident"].

Note added: Married 53 years, 5 children born alive - of whom 2 have died.

Death & burial

He died at 135 Salcott Road, Battersea, London, on the 11th of June 1911, aged 82 years, and was buried in Grave No. 1576, Square 7, in Streatham Park Cemetery on the 16th of June 1911. No stone or memorial was placed over his grave.

Reports of his death, the inquest held on him, and the funeral, appeared in the South Western Star on the 16th and 21st of June 1911. Notice his wife, Mary, is still alive. [I have yet to find any record of her afer this date.]

Inquest on a Crimean Veteran

An inquest was held at the Battersea Coroner's Court on Wednesday on the body of James Lamb, aged 85, a pensioner of the 13th Light Dragoons, who was found dead in bed on Saturday. Deceased was in the Crimean War and had taken part in the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Mary Lamb, the widow, said that her husband had served two years in the Crimea, and she had his medals. He did not serve in the Mutiny. His pension was 1/- per day, and 4d. added for wounds. He enjoyed very good health, but now and again had a severe cough. He had a old-age pension of 2/- per week and on Friday morning, when he went out to draw it, he was singing.

He died early on Saturday morning. During Friday night he had two cups of tea very early in the morning and when she went to get up she found him dead.

In reply to the Coroner, witness said she got an old-age pension and something from the Patriotic Fund, making 8/6d in all. She had not a friend in the world. Jane Cooper, of 135 Salcott Road, said that the landlady called her to the room and she found the old man dead.

Dr. R. Trevor said that he had made a post-mortem examination and found the heart dilated. The aortic valve was incompetent through change due to old age and there was aneurisis on the aorta just above it. The cause of death was due to heart failure whilst the deceased was suffering from fibroid disease and old age.

The Coroner remarked that it would be satisfactory to know that the old lady would be well looked after. He only hoped that she could be taken care of in some institution. The jury returned a verdict of 'Death through natural causes'."

"Crimean Veteran's Funeral — Coffin carried on a gun-carriage.

The funeral of Mr. James Lamb of 135, Salcott Road, Battersea, one of the few remaining participants in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava, took place on Friday afternoon. The funeral started from the Battersea Coroner's Court about 2.30 p.m. By the courtesy of the General Officer Commanding the London District, General Codrington, a gun-carriage under the command of Cpl. Allen and Driver Brambly of the 10th Company of the A.S.C. attended from Wormwood Scrubs.

The coffin, covered with the Union Jack, was conveyed on this honourable funeral-car to the Roman Catholic Church of St. Vincent de Paul, Altenburg Gardens, where a large gathering had assembled. The first part of the service was conducted by Father Grey. The chief mourners were his widow, Mrs Mary Lamb, Mrs Massey (eldest daughter) and Mr and Mrs C. Neville.

Owing to the regiment to which the deceased had belonged being in Ireland, and no one connected with it being in England, it was unable to be represented, but there was a magnificent wreath inscribed: "A token of regard and esteem from the Officers, Non-Com's and Men of the 13th Hussars, formerly the 13th Light Dragoons."

The interment took place at Streatham Cemetery, where Father Grey also conducted the service. The cortege was met by Mr T.H. Roberts, the administrator of the Balaclava Fund, who had also brought a lovely wreath.

The Fund, we understand, subscribed £5 towards the funeral expenses, and Mr. Neville, of No. 23 Broomwood Road, is doing all he can to secure a competence for the widow."

[Why was Mr C. Neville of Broomwood Road involved?]

Further information

Rare medals taken from NZ to British Museum, 16 May 2008

A valuable collection of rare Crimean War medals has been taken to Britain from New Zealand.

Putararu dairy farmer John Lamb, 70, has donated four medals won in the fighting involving the doomed Charge of the Light Brigade to a UK regimental museum, the Yorkshire Post reported.

New Zealand is a long way from one of history's most notorious military disasters at Balaklava in the Crimea, but the four medals have been sitting in this country for nearly 80 years.

Private James Lamb of the 13th Light Dragoons won the Crimea Medal with clasps for Alma, Balaklava, Inkerman and Sebastopol, the Turkish Medal, and long service and good conduct medals — and drew straws for a Victoria Cross awarded for the rescue of a dying officer.

His descendant yesterday presented them to the Regimental Museum of the 13th/18th Royal Hussars and Light Dragoons at Cannon Hall, in Cawthorne, near Barnsley.

Mr Lamb had inherited the medals from his father, who emigrated to New Zealand in the 1930s, and said yesterday he thought the time was right for the medals to return to England.

Lamb was awarded the medals for his actions in the doomed charge on October 25, 1854, after he and other soldiers, rescued an officer from the battlefield under heavy fire.

After bungled orders led to the disastrous charge by the unsupported Light Brigade straight at a battery of Russian guns — killing or wounding nearly half the 600 men who took part — Lamb, Corporal Joseph Malone, and Troop Sergeant-Major John Berryman moved a severely wounded officer out of range of the guns.

Their actions were brought to the attention of Queen Victoria, who thought their bravery was worth the Victoria Cross.

Lamb told the Strand Magazine of October 1891 that the number of medals to be awarded for the action was limited: he and Malone drew lots for the decoration and Malone won.

The Yorkshire Post said military experts described Pte Lamb's medals as having a "very high value".

Mr Lamb said he felt that it was important that they were placed with people who would look after them and recognise their importance: "The medals were handed to James's only son James Henry, and then to my father James Godfrey, who was also an only son.

I was also the only son in my family and they came to me, but now I have no sons."

He chose the museum because it already holds Malone's medals and his VC on display.

"I will miss the medals, but I will also be relieved that they are in the right place."

The regimental secretary of the Light Dragoons and keeper of the military collection at Cannon Hall, Captain Gary Locker, described the donation as "extremely generous and extremely significant".

Capt Locker said: "When Mr Lamb first contacted me ... I thought it was my duty to tell him that the medals were of a very high value. But he wrote back and told me that he thought they should reside here."


"Disabled by loss of power of the left hand after fracture of fore-arm next to elbow, and caused by heavy stones being knocked up by a round-shot on July 17th 1855 in the trenches before Sebastopol. Was hit at the same time by stones on the back of the head. His wounds however, are slight. States also that "he suffers from giddiness".

Memoirs and recollections

"The Charge of the Light Brigade, by Private James Lamb, Late 13th Hussars (One of the Six Hundred)", Strand Magazine, October 1891 (4pp).

"The Charge of the Six Hundred: A Personal Narrative of the Battle of Balaclava, as told by a Survivor, at his Home in Battersea, and set down by Robert Shackleton", Harper's Magazine in 1909 (7pp) [?].

[PB: We have pdf copies and transcripts of both in hand.]

EJB: His account book is in a private collection. This shows details of his enlistment, service, clothing issues, etc., over the years, and the dates of birth of the three children.

Original Soldier's Account Book, the front page inscribed to No. 1406 James Lamb, Thirteenth Light Dragoons, with usual entries for monthly settlements and clothing allowances for the period January 1856 to December 1870, and additional details under 'Soldier's Name and Description' and 'Services Abroad', the latter confirming that Lamb was 'Present at Alma, Balaklava (wounded), Inkermann and Sebastopol'; also details of his marriage in April 1858 to Mary and a list of children's birth dates remnants of velvet tie, lacking back cover and pages torn in places or worn overall, written content generally good £250-350 [sold for £500].

Footnote: James Lamb was born near Falmouth, Cornwall and enlisted in the 13th Light Dragoons in Edinburgh in August 1850, aged 26 years.

Present at the charge of the Light Brigade on 25 October 1854, when he was wounded and had his horse killed, Lamb distinguished himself by assisting in the rescue of Captain Webb of the 17th Lancers, in company with Corporal Malone of his own regiment and Sergeant Berryman of the 17th. Both of these N.C.Os were subsequently awarded the Victoria Cross, while Lamb's bravery remained unrecognised — he afterwards stated that he drew lots for the decoration with Malone and lost.

Present at the first Balaklava Banquet in October 1875 and a member of the Balaklava Commemoration Society from 1879, Lamb regularly attended subsequent annual dinners, in addition to signing the Loyal Address in 1887. And in October 1891 The Strand magazine published his account of the charge, together with a portrait.

Lamb died from heart failure and senile decay in Wandsworth, London in June 1911, leaving his 88 year old widow Mary with 'not a friend in the world and a total income of 8s. 6d. per week'. It was the Coroner's hope that the 'poor old lady would be taken care of in some institution'.

Interestingly, Lummis and Wynn state that Mary had been with Lamb in the Crimea, prior to their marriage in April 1858, a fact supported by the birth of a daughter, Anne, at Newbridge back in November 1851 — the year 1856 has been crossed out in pencil in the list of children's birth dates in Lamb's Account Book. [PB: This could be followed up. Presumably DNW did not know about Mary's earlier marriage?]

[Source: DNW, Lot 776, 2 April 2003, www.dnw.co.uk/auction-archive/catalogue-archive/lot.php?department=Medals&lot_id=34464 (accessed 27.3.2015)].

Notes to add or follow up

National Army Museum Library reference:

Photograph showing a group of survivors of the cavalry charge at Balaklava, 25th Oct 1854, taken on the 33rd Anniversary Dinner in 1887; the group includes members of the 8th and 11th Hussars, 4th and 13th Light Dragoons and 17th Lancers; presented by Tpr J Lamb, 13th Light Dragoons, to A J Raven; also relating to Tpr W J Deusbury, 1st Life Guards. Photographs 1987-10-56

San Francisco Call, Volume 70, Number 161, 8 November 1891

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