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The E.J. Boys Archive

Amended 16.5.2011. Minor edits 16.2.14, 13.4.14. Photograph added 25.3.15.

(Click on image to enlarge)

1468, Private William ECCLES — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born at North Driffield, near Selby, Yorkshire, c.1832.


Enlisted at York on the 10th of February 1852.

Age: 19 years 6 months.

Height: 5' 10".

Trade: Farmer.

Features: Fresh complexion. Hazel eyes. Brown hair.


From Private to Corporal 1st of July 1858.

1861 Census

Piershill Barracks, Midlothian

W. Eccles, 28, Corporal, 13th Light Dragoons, born England.

Corporal to Sergeant 28th of September 1862.

Appointed to Troop Sergeant Major on the 24th of June 1868.

1871 Census

Piershill Barracks

[W Eccles], 37, T.S. Major, 13th Regiment, born England.

Discharge & pension

Discharged from Colchester on the 30th of September 1873:

"By own request, after 21 years service."

Served 21 years 334 days. In Turkey and the Crimea, 2 years. Canada, 2 years 11 months.

Conduct: "very good". Had he not been promoted would now be in possession of five Good Conduct badges.

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

Awarded a pension of 2/- per day.

To live at Brinklow, near Worcester, but was living in Nottingham in 1875.

Aged 44 years 1 month on discharge.

Next of kin: Wife, Elizabeth Agnes Eccles, shown on the Regimental "married roll" from the 12th of April 1864.


Documents confirm the award of the Crimean medal with four clasps and the silver medal for long service and good conduct.

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

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 30th of November 1870, with a Private's gratuity of £5. (claimed £10.)


Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1879.

Signed the Loyal Address to the Queen in 1887.

Appointed a Yeoman of the Guard on the 5th of June 1882.


Photo of Butcher, The Last Survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, with six men of the 13th Hussars [Light Dragoons]. Click to enlarge.

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

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As "S.M. Eccles", 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.

Life after service

Marriage registered

William Eccles and Mary Ann Kelly, December Quarter 1879, Coventry.

Mary Ann Kelly was the widow of a Licensed Victualler, John Kelly, who had died in 1877.

There were at least five children from Mary Ann's first marriage: John, Walter, Agnes, Elizabeth, and James. They had all been living at 16, East Gate, Coventry.

By 1881 William Eccles had taken over the licence at that address.

Essex Weekly, 12 September 1873.

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1881 Census

16, East Street, parish of St. Michael's, Coventry.

The 1881 Census show him as a Licenced Victualler, aged 48, born at North Duffield, Yorkshire, with his wife, Mary, 43, born at Coventry, four children of school age, and a Domestic Servant.

Death & burial

Died in the Coventry Pension District on the 23rd of June 1887.

Death registered

William Eccles, aged 55 years, June Quarter 1887, Coventry.

Died at the "Cross Keys Inn", Earl Street, Coventry. In his will he left his personal estate of £543 to his widow, Mary Ann.

See copy of his obituary notice taken from the Coventry Times, 29th of June 1887.


The death occurred on Thursday night of Mr William Eccles, of the Cross Keys, Earl Street, Coventry, who was well known as one of tha few survivors of the Balaclava charge, portion his regiment (13th Light Dragoons, now called Hussars) having taken part in the memorable charge of the Light Brigade. He was discharged troop-sergeant-major, and for some time afterwards had charge of the canteen at Coventry Barracks. He was for several years prior to his death oue the yeomen the Queen's bodyguard.

[Source: Dundee Evening Telegraph, 27 June 1887.]

He was buried in the old part of the London Road Cemetery at Coventry. No headstone is said to exist. (There is a photograph of his grave-site, Grave No. 190. Square 14 [114?], in the 13th Hussar file.) He was aged 55 years at the time of his death and was buried on the 26th of June 1887.

There is evidence that a cross on a plinth was once there. The base of the plinth is now all that remains and once had lettering riveted to the stone, now all but disappeared. From the indentations however, a commemorative verse is apparent:

"Farewell, dear friends, my life is past. May you and I unite at last. Mourn not for me nor sorrow make. But love my farewell, for my sake."

The following comes from the Cemetery records:

"The plot was purchased by William Eccles, of the Coventry Barracks, for the sum of £2/14/1d., and dug to a depth of nine feet. The following burials are recorded, the date being the actual interment date; 18th of June 1878. Agnes Eccles, aged 33, "The Barracks" and 26th of June 1887, William Eccles, aged 55, 'Earl Street'.

Further information

1891 Census

16, East Street, parish of St. Michael's, Coventry.

Mary Ann, a Licensed Victualler, aged 53, was still at the same address, with three of her children.

Death registered

Mary Ann Eccles, 63, June Quarter 1900, Coventry.

References & acknowledgements

Registrations of marriage and deaths, Census information for 1861, 1871 and 1891, and newspaper clipping, 1873, kindly provided by Chris Poole.

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