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LIVES OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE
The E.J. Boys Archive


Amended 15.3.12, 27.4.14.

IN PROGRESS - NOT FOR PUBLICATION

1471, Private George GIBSON - 13th Light Dragoons

His real name was "George Gibson Pilmer".

Birth & early life

Born at Clackmannon, Scotland, c.1831.

Enlistment

Enlisted at Liverpool on the 16th of October 1852.

Age: 21.

Height: 5' 8".

Trade: Iron-moulder.

He had previously enlisted in the Royal Navy under his real name of George Gibson Pilmer and had deserted before joining the 13th Light Dragoons as George Gibson.

Service

Wounded in the leg and his horse killed under him in the Charge. He assisted both Lieutenant Sir William Gordon and also 1529 John Keen.

Discharge & pension

Discharged, on the "Reduction of the Regiment and not likely to become efficient", from Kilmainham on the 15th of December 1856.

Served 4 years 293 days.

Conduct: "good". Not in possession of any Good Conduct badges.

Medals

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

Commemorations

Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1879.

Attended the Annual Dinners in 1897, 1901, 1912, and 1913. [PB: 1901-1912?]

Present at the Fleet Street Offices of T.H. Roberts for the Jubilee celebrations in June 1897 and signed the testimonial given to Mr. Roberts on that occasion.

Present at the Coronation parade of King George V, where, with fourteen others, he stood in a place of honour in front of the troops. He was then 80 years of age. In his later years he received help from the Roberts Fund.

Likenesses

His portrait appeared alongside an article about him in the Answers magazine, 26th of October 1912. (There is a copy in the 13th Hussar file, to be uploaded.) [See extracts of the article below.]

Commemorations

Life after service

Gibson wrote from "The Gardens", Broxburn, Linlithglow, to Mr. T.H. Roberts when accepting his invitation for the Jubilee celebrations in June of 1897:

"Dear Sir,

I received your kind invitation to be present in London on the 21st of June. I accept it, with many thanks for your kindness, and I say, "Yes, I will come" if all keeps well with me.

Thanking you very much for your kind invitation,

I remain,

Your humble servant,

George Gibson, late 13th Light Dragoons."

His brief account of the Charge, from Answers magazine, 26th of October 1912:

"Mr. Gibson has lived 80 years and now enjoys a well-earned rest in his Scottish home. He also hopes to be with his comrades at this week's annual Balaclava Dinner in London, and sends us the following recollection of that fatal day.

'I got down the valley right enough until I came to the guns. When we were retiring, I came across Sir William Gordon of the 17th Lancers. He was bleeding from the face, and making straight for the Polish lancers. I joined him and together we got through them. Then the Russians opened up on us and some Poles with them. I somehow evaded them and picked up Trumpeter Keen, who was wounded through the leg.

We had not gone far when a grape-shot caught my horse on the shoulder and killed him instantly. I was stunned by the shock, and lay in the field for some time. I got up to where they were mustering about three or four o'clock. But I knew nothing about it, for I was blind and stupid.'"

His portrait appeared at the same time. (There is a copy in the 13th Hussar file, to be uploaded.)

Extract from the Military Mail, 31st of October 1902:

"An old warrior, and one of the Light Brigade, George Gibson, paid a visit to Aldershot on Monday to see his old regiment, the 13th Light Dragoons (now the 13th Hussars) in "B" Troop of which the old cavalry-man rode down the "Valley of Death." Needless to say he was made heartily welcome at the East Cavalry Barracks, the officers and N.C.O.'s making much of the old man, who although being 75 years of age is quite hale and hearty. Major Tremayne was the only one he remembered, his father, Major Tremayne, having commanded "E" Troop at the time Trooper Gibson was serving.

The old fellow has a very vivid memory of the events and life in the Crimea and had some interested audiences during the day. He returned to Edinburgh by the mid-night train from London."

Towards the end of his life, by which time there were very few survivors of the Charge, he was feted throughout the world, as shown in this item from Sydney, Australia (1913):



(Click on image to enlarge)

FIFTEEN BALACLAVA SURVIVORS

Reduced by one by the recent death of Lord Tredegar, the following are now the survivors of the Charge of the Light Brigade:

Sir George Wombwell, 17th Lancers.
Major Phillips [8th Hussars]
Alderman Kilvert, 8th Hussars [actually, 11th Hussars]
J Mustard, 17th Lancers
T. Boxall, 4th Hussars [formerly 4th Light Dragoons]
J. Whitehead, 4th Hussars [formerly 4th Light Dragoons]
H. Wilsden, 4th Hussars [formerly 4th Light Dragoons]
J. Olley, 4th Hussars [formerly 4th Light Dragoons]
W.S.J. Fulton, 8th Hussars
J. Parkinson, 11th Hussars
T. Warr, 11th Hussars
G. Gibson, 13th Hussars [formerly 13th Light Dragoons]
E. Hughes, 13th Hussars [formerly 13th Light Dragoons]
W. Ellis, 11th Hussars
W.H. Pennington, 8th Hussars [actually, 11th Hussars]

[Source: Sunday Times (Sydney, NSW), 20 April 1913 http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/article/126459695 (accessed 15.2.2014) [PB].]

Death & burial

Died on the 6th of June 1916 at Broxburn, West Lothian, Scotland.

He was buried on the 9th of June 1916 with military honours. (Said to be in Laird No.124.) No stone was erected. He was buried under his real name, George Gibson Pilmer, and his three sons attended the funeral.

The Yorkshire Evening Post reported his death (as "George Gibson Pilmer") on Thursday 08 June 1916:

ONE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE.

The death is announced of George Gibson Pilmer, late the 13th Light Dragoons. He was probably the last survivor in Scotland of those who took part the charge of the Light Brigade, and who went through the Crimean War unscathed.

(See copy of the funeral report taken from the West Lothian Courier for the 9th of June 1916 in the 13th Hussar file.)

Extract from the Lothian Express for the 16th of June 1916:

"On Friday afternoon the grave was closed over the mortal remains of Mr. George Gibson Pilmer. The deceased was a native of Clackmannan, but had been resident at Broxburn for many years and had been employed by the Broxburn Oil Company until failing strength had forced him to give up work.

At the outbreak of the Crimean War Pilmer was resident in England and there enlisted into the 13th Light Dragoons, going through the whole campaign - and escaping practically without a scratch. He held the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Inkerman and Sebastopol and had attained his 87th year.

The funeral, which was accorded full military honours, was headed by pipers, followed by the Broxburn R.C. Band, which alternately played a lament and the Dead March in "Saul" respectively, the members of the military guard of the Broxburn Oil Company and other works in the neighbourhood, under the command of Lieutenant Hughes, and forming a guard of honour with arms reversed; the Upshall V.A.D. in service uniforms immediately behind, while the general public brought up the rear.

The Revd. R. Erskine, of Broxburn West U.F. Church officiated, and when the coffin, which had been borne on a gun carriage, supplied from Bradford, was lowered into the grave the buglers sounded the "Last Post" and three volleys were fired by members of the military guard.

Despite the heavy rain which fell at intervals, large crowds lined the thoroughfares, whilst business premises were closed and the blinds of private dwellings drawn. At the cemetery an enormous gathering, many from long distances, came to witness the last rites to the departed hero."


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