Home Search Index of men A-Z

The E.J. Boys Archive

Amended 16.5.2011. Minor edits 16.2.14, 13.4.14.

1477, Private Edward John FIRKIN — 13th Light Dragoons

Also recorded as "Firkins" and "Farkins".

Birth & early life

Born in the parish of St. John's, Worcester, c.1834.


Enlisted at London on the 22nd of June 1852.

Age: 18.

Height: 5' 7".

Trade: Clerk.


Sent to Scutari on the 11th of November and returned to the regiment on the 20th of December 1854.

From Private to Corporal, 10th of October 1855.

He was "Acting Hospital Sergeant" for 63 days from the 23rd of July 1855.

Early in 1985 an original letter sent by him to a friend was donated to the National Army Museum by a Mr. L.S. Allen. In this letter he told of his part in the battle of Balaclava.

Two pages of the manuscript letter, now in the National Army Museum, as reproduced in Alastair Massiet, A Most Desperate Undertaking, p.111.

(Click on image to enlarge)

He first described how he had been sent to Scutari with an attack of cholera but only spent four days there and was back with the regiment on the evening of the 24th of October 1854.

EJB: The muster roll shows him as being sent to Scutari as "sick" on the 11th of October 1854, and is on the muster roll there from the 16th and being returned to the regiment on the 20th, but not when he rejoined, although he is shown as being "struck off" the ration strength for "5 days on board ship and 3 days in the hospital." No other proof of his having participated can be found, but Canon Lummis is of the opinion that, based on this letter, "he can now be considered as having taken part in the Charge"

"I cleared myself of the saddle and my poor dying horse and succeeded — through a field of blod, and scrambling over dead and dying men and horses — in getting out of gunshot."

"I had only got a few yards when I saw two Russian lancers coming towards me with clenched teeth and staring like savages. The first one made a thrust at me with his lance. It is a heavy weapon and easily struck down, which I did with my sword, thrusting at the same time through the fellow's neck. He fell from his horse with a groan. The other fellow wheeled round his dying comrade and made a thrust at me. I had not the strength to strike down the blow for my sword fell from my grasp, but one of our lancers came to my assistance, thrusting his lance through the fellow's body" [p.177].

(There is a copy of the letter in the "Memoirs" file, to be transcribed.)

Discharge & pension

Discharged, "by purchase", from Ballincollig, Ireland, on the 21st of August 1856. Payment of £30.

Served 4 years 61 days. In Turkey and the Crimea 2 years,

Conduct and character: "good". In possession of one Good Conduct badge.


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

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.

Further medal information archived.


Life after service

1861 Census

10, 4 Court House, Bull Street, St Philip's Parish, Birmingham.

He appears on the 1861 Census as "Edward Farkins", aged 28, married, a "Manufactory Clerk" born at Worcester. His wife's given name Mary also born at Worcester aged 24. Two children are shown as William E. aged 4, born Worcester and Mary L. aged 2, born in Birmingham. [RM]

1871 Census

Address? Aston parish of Birmingham.

By 1871 they were living in the Aston parish of Birmingham, Edward shown as an "Engineers Clerk". [RM]

1881 Census

35, Summer Road, Edgbaston, Warwickshire.

The 1881 Census shows a man named as Edward Firkins, a Clerk, aged 47, born in Worcester, with his wife, Mary A., 42, born in Worcester, and 5 children: 2 boys and 3 girls, aged from 24 to 11 years.

1891 Census

35, Summer Road, Edgbaston, Warwickshire.

In 1891 John Firkins was still living at Summers Road, but his occupation was now that of "Beer retailer", suggesting he was keeping a Public House. Two of his sons Arthur, 34, a Chemist, and William, Engine Fitter, 32, were still in the household. [RM]

Death & burial

Deaths registered

John Firkins, 64, June Quarter 1893, Aston.

Mary Ann Firkins, 61, March Quarter 1896, Kings Norton.

References & acknowledgements

Registration of deaths kindly provided by Chris Poole.

To follow up...

Transcribe his letter, now in the NAM (copy in EJBA).

Dr. Douglas Austin, "Yet Another Charger: 1477 Private John Firkins, 13th Light Dragoons", War Correspondent, Volume 27, No.1 — April 2009. A text version can be viewed here.

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