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Last amended 20.3.12. Minor edits 18.2.14, 5.4.14. New info added 16.5.17.


648, Sergeant Edwin LEANEY — 13th Light Dragoons

Birth & early life

Born at Maidstone, Kent c.1812.


Enlisted at Maidstone on the 13th of December 1832 by Sgt. Major Bishop of the Cavalry Depot Staff.

Age: 19 years 6 months.

Height: 5' 6". Trade, Gardener.

Features: Fresh complexion. Blue eyes. Light brown hair.


From Private to Corporal: 21st of November 1834.

Corporal to Sergeant: 9th of March 1839.

Resigned to Corporal, "on Reduction of the Regiment to Home Establishment", on the 21st of July 1840.

Corporal to Sergeant: 19th of February 1841.

Tried by a Regimental Court-martial at Canterbury on the 24th of April 1841, for "having suffered a prisoner to escape from the Guard-Room, he being the Sgt. of the Guard at the same time." Convicted, and sentenced to be reduced to the rank and pay of a private dragoon.

(For some reason this sentence was not carried out, as he remained in the rank of Sergeant, only losing a total of seven days' pay (from the 20th-26th of April, a total of 15/2d.) when he was confined "In cells".)

Promoted to Troop Sgt. Major at Glasgow on the 15th of May 1850.

Embarked for the Crimea aboard the "Culloden".

Reduced to Sergeant on the 27th of April 1853, no reason for this is shown.

Rode in "E" Troop on the right of the line and had his horse shot under him at Balaclava. He was assisted back to the English lines by 1429 William Dumayne, 13th Light Dragoons.

Dumayne spoke of this in his account of the Charge published in the Northampton Daily Reporter in October 1902. The event occurred when passing through the flank fire of the Russian guns when coming back up the valley:

"And I saw on the ground, struggling to rise, Sgt. Leany [sic]. He called to me and I passed my sword into my bridle hand, caught hold of his and dragging him from under his horse, assisted him back to our lines, which, when the muster was called, showed a poor count of the men".

Sent to Scutari on the 27th of October 1854 and invalided to England on the 20th of December 1854 aboard the "Sultana".

He was at the Invalid Depot at Chatham from the 27th of January 1855 to the 30th of June when he was sent on "furlo to Maidstone, pending discharge," the Depot Medical Officer's report being that "After examination of Sgt. Edwin Leaney I am of the opinion that he is unfit for further military service".

 Click to enlarge.

Edwin Leaney talking to the Royal family at Chatham, 3rd of March 1855. Painting by Jerry Barrett.

(Click on image to enlarge)

While at Chatham he was one of those seen by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert during their visit there on the 3rd of March 1855. In thepainting of the scene by Jerry Barrett. He is the figure wearing the blue coat and red hat sitting on his bed on the left of the picture, speaking to the young princes.

Discharge & pension

He was finally discharged from Dorchester Barracks on the 5th of September 1855 as:

"Unfit for further duty from chronic pains in the back, limbs and head, with impaired health and strength after fatigue and exposure in the Crimean campaign."

He is shown as having served 22 years 268 days at this date, but is also shown as having a further service from the 6th of September to the 16th of October 1855 and a total service of 22 years 390 days, to count.

Conduct: "Has been good." Once tried by Court-martial.

He was awarded a pension of 1/6d. per day.

Next of kin (in 1854): Wife, Sarah Leaney, living c/o. Mr. E. Jupp, Ebenezer Place, Maidstone, Kent.


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

In the Victoria Cross Register there is a copy of a letter written regarding a claim he made to be considered eligible for the award of the Victoria Cross. This is addressed to The Right Honourable the Earl of Eglington and Wilton and dated the 3rd of May 1868:

"My Lord, I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your Lordship's letter of the 2nd ult. transmitting a statement from Edwin Leaney, late of the 13th Light Dragoons in which he considers himself entitled to the Victoria Cross, which statement has been forwarded to you by the Lieutenant Colonel Commanding the Ayrshire Regiment of Yeomanry Cavalry and I have to request that your Lordship will be so good as to inform Colonel Fowler that the claim of conduct leading to this high distinction should be forwarded to H.R.H. the General Commanding-in-Chief.

(Signed.) R. Peel."

There is no further correspondence recorded on this.

He also made an (undated) application for the Meritorious Service Medal, but this too was refused.

Further detailed medal information archived.


Attended the first Balaclava Banquet in 1875.

Member of 1877 Balaclava Commemoration Society named as Sergeant B Leney

Member of 1879 Balaclava Society as Troop Sergeant Major E Leaney and committee member as Mr E. Leaney

In a letter dated 24th March 1879 sent to 1529 Pte. John Keen, 13th Hussars, written from 189, Upper Fant Street, Maidstone, Leaney wrote:

Attended 1890 Balaclava Dinner as TSM Leaney.

"Dear Sir,

At a meeting to be held on Saturday the 6th of April next, at 7 p.m. at the Clerkenwell Tavern, London, the following matter will be proposed for the Committee's discretion and decision.

Art. 1, Shall those men who were "In Camp", "in Hospital", or on "Letter Duty" on the 25th of October 1854 continue to be members as now allowed by Rule 3 and be permitted to attend the Annual Dinner — or — Art. 2, Shall Rule 3 be altered and only those who actually rode in the Charge be eligible.

I am, Yours truly,

E. Leaney, T.S.M.

Late 13th Light Dragoons.

P.S. Please reply without delay. The 13th has too much respect for our comrades whose bones are now bleaching in that fatal valley of Balaclava than to allow others to share our honours who has no rights to them."

EJB: It would appear that the change of rules was accomplished, which led to the 1879 revised list of members being restricted to those who had actually ridden in the Charge.

Life after service

Lummis and Wynn state that he was "some time Sgt. Major of the Ayrshire Yeomanry Cavalry, and later in the same rank of the West Kent Yeomanry", but no trace of this can be found on his documents.

1861 Census

Sharon Street, Dairy [sic], Ayreshire.

Edwin Leaney, 47, Chelsea Pesioner Sergeant Army, Army Drill Sergeant, Ayreshire Yeomanry.

Sarah Leaney, 40.

Sarah Leaney, 19.

Laurestina, 9.

1871 Census

Upper Fant Road, Rockland Place, Maidstone.

Edwin Leney [sic], 57, Sergeant Major Drill Instructor NKYC, born Maidstone.

Sarah Leney, 54, born Maidstone.

Laurestina, 18, Dressmaker, Newcastle.

He was living in the Chatham Pension District in 1875.

His wife, Sarah, died on the 4th of November 1878, aged 60 years. His address at the time was 180, Upper Fant Street, Maidstone.

Death registered

Sarah Leaney [first wife], aged 60 years, September Quarter 1878, Maidstone.

The Countess of Cardigan presents Edwin Leaney with an engraving of the Charge, 1877.

Sussex Agricultural Express, 30 October 1877

(Click on image to enlarge)

1881 Census

153, Upper Fant Road, Maidstone, Kent.

Edwin Leaney, 65, Army Pensioner and Drill Sgt., born Maidstone, with an unmarried daughter, Laurestine, aged 29, a Housekeeper.

Edwin Leaney remarried in 1881. His second wife, Clara Green, was about 27, he was 65.

Marriage registered

Edwin Leaney and Clara Green [second wife], December Quarter 1881, Maidstone.

In the Steven's Directory of Maidstone for 1882 he is shown as a "Drill Instructor" living at 155A, Upper Fant Road.

A daughter, Georgina, was born in Maidstone c.1882.

1891 Census

18, Camden Street, Maidstone.

Edwin Leaney, 75, Pensioner, born Maidstone.

Clara Leaney, 37, Earl Fastleigh.

Georgina Leaney, 9, born Maidstone.

Death registered

Clara Leaney, 47, June Quarter 1900, Maidstone.

1901 Census

Foots Cray, St John's, Bromley, Kent.

b. Maidstone.

Georgina Leaney, 17, Housemaid.

Death & burial

Death registered

Edwin Leaney, aged 79 years, March Quarter 1894, Maidstone.

He died aged 79 on the 22nd of January 1894 at 18, Camden Street, Maidstone, and was buried in Sutton Road Cemetery, Maidstone. The grave number is 166 GI. Being a common one, it has no headstone.

Extract from the Army and Navy Gazette, January 1894:

"Sgt. Major Edwin Leaney died at his place of birth, Maidstone, in January of 1894. He was unscathed during the Light Brigade Charge, but his horse was shot under him. Later being invalided home, he served as Sgt. Major to the Ayrshire Yeomanry and later in the West Kent Yeomanry."

Extract from the Kent Messenger, 27th of January 1894:

Death of a Maidstone Survivor of the Balaclava Charge

We regret to record the death of Sgt. Major Leaney, a Maidstone man who, as a non-commissioned officer in the 13th Light Dragoons, was one of the brave men who so distinguished themselves in the memorable charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. Mr. Leaney, when quite a youth, enlisted at the depot of the old country-town of his birth.

Proceeding to the Crimea, he took a gallant part in the various conflicts incidental to that war and formed one the plucky "Six Hundred" who made the historic charge at Balaclava. His horse was shot under him, but he himself came out of that terrible ordeal unscathed. His comrade in the Charge was Sgt. Major Weston, but he fell a victim to the Russian guns. After the fall of Sebastopol, Mr. Leaney was invalided home.

Subsequently he served as a Sgt. Major in the Ayrshire Yeomanry and later in the same capacity in the Maidstone Troop of the West Kent Yeomanry. The deceased may be said to have passed his whole life in the Army and it is to be regretted that only a small pension was granted to him. He died at his residence at No. 18 Camden Street, Maidstone, on Monday last (the 22nd.) aged 70 years. He leaves an only son, Mr. Edwin Leaney of Hollingbourne, and a married daughter.

The departed soldier regularly attended the annual banquets of the survivors of the Charge, held in London. The date of his interment (which takes place at the Cemetery) has been fixed for Monday next."

References & acknowledgements

Newspaper clipping from 1877, further details about ER's membership of the Balaclava Society, and marriage and death registrations kindly provided by Chris Poole.

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