Born in the parish of All Saints, Cambridge, 31st of October 1816.
Enlisted at Maidstone on the 2nd of October 1835.
Height: 5' 10.
Fresh complexion. Hazel eyes. Dk. brown hair.
Embarked for India on the 27th of June 1837 and joined the regiment at Bangalore on the 8th of October
From Private to Corporal: 31st of January 1844.
As "John Lincoln", he married Elizabeth Lloyd at the Bethany Chapel, Cardiff, on the 17th of April 1845. He was shown as a bachelor and Corporal of the 13th Light Dragoons, stationed at Cardiff Barracks, the son of James Lincoln, a Builder. She is shown as a spinster, the daughter of Edmund Lloyd, an Innkeeper, living in Charles Street, Cardiff. Both are shown as being of "full age." The witnesses were Richard Lloyd and Mary Stergy. The service was conducted according to the rites of the Baptist Church by the Revd. William Jones.
His marriage did not entirely meet with the approval of his wife's family in Wales. Nothing is known of where she died, and his estate, which amounted to £124, was left to his son, John.
No record of any children can be found in the Army Chaplains' Baptismal Registers, but the birth of a child named Linkon (Christian name unknown) was recorded in 1847.
Children known to have been born while John Lincoln was a soldier:
A son, John, born at Leith, circa 1850.
Richard, who emigrated to America and died in Albany, New York State, about 1912.
Ellen, who died young on the 10th of October 1853 at Coventry as the result of scarlet fever. (John Lincoln himself contracted the disease the same day as her funeral, 15th of October 1853, and was hospitalised at Coventry).
Children born after discharge:
Elizabeth (shown in a photograph in the 13th Hussar file with her father, husband and daughter) was born in 1870. (She married John Williams, a schoolmaster, in 1896, and died in 1942. Their daughter, Esther Lily, was born in 1901, and later became a Mrs. Fleury, but had no children.>
Corporal to Sergeant: 15th of May 1850.
Piershill Barracks, Leith South, Midlothian, Scotland.
John Linkon, aged 35, Soldier Sergeant, born Cambridge, England.
Elizabeth Linkon, 26, wife, born Bedworth, Wales [sic?].
Ellen Linkon, 5, daughter, Scholar, born Linwick, Ireland [sic?]
John Linkon, 1, son, born Edinburgh, Scotland. [PB]
Note: It has not been possible to consult an image of the original Scottish Census document. The above information relies on the transcription available 28.3.2012, which is not always accurate.
Members of the Light Brigade in Piershill Barracks at this time, who would later go to the Crimea, include 1127 William Cresdee 13LD, 1029 Joseph Gammage 13LD, 762 John Linkon / Lincoln, 1140 Robert Lowthorpe 13LD, 1319 Daniel Mahoney 13LD, 1367 Isaac Manning 13LD (appears as Isaac "Maussings"), 1208 Edward Martin 13LD, 1207 Benjamin Marshman 13LD, 1339 Thomas McBrine 13LD, 1254 James Pamplin 13LD, 1424, 1424 Robert Stanger, and many more.
Appointed to Troop Sergeant Major on the 25th of May 1853.
At Scutari General Hospital from the 22nd of September 1854 and sent to rejoin the regiment in the Crimea on the 11th of October.
Served in Captain Goad's Troop in the Crimea.
Taken prisoner of war at Balaclava, 25th October 1854.
He is shown on a nominal roll of men of the Regiment made out at the Cavalry Depot, Scutari on the 9th of November 1855 as being a Prisoner of War there from the 4th of November. Tried by a Garrison Court-martial at Scutari on the 10th of November 1855 for "having been taken a prisoner of war at Balaclava during the Charge of the Light Brigade — of which he was honourably acquitted". (See below.)
Sent from Scutari to England on the 15th of December 1855 and was acting RSM at the Regtl Depot from the 24th of January 1856.
At the end of March 1861, his wife and family, but seemingly not John Lincoln himself, were living in the Piershill Barracks, as they had been in 1851:
Piershill Barracks, Leith South, Midlothian, Scotland.
A E Linkon, aged 32, "Wife of Troop Serg Major Linkon 13th L Dragoons", born Wales.
J Linkon, 11, son, Child of Mrs Linkon, 13th L Dragoons, Scholar, born Piershill, Edinburgh, Scotland.
E Linkon, 7, daughter, Child of Mrs Linkon, 13th L Dragoons, Scholar, born England.
C Linkon, 5, daughter, Child of Mrs Linkon, 13th L Dragoons, Scholar, born Ireland. [PB]
[PB: Given the places of birth of the children, it would seem they had not lived there for the whole of the previous decade.]
Discharged from Hulme Barracks, Manchester, on the 15th of July 1861, "Free, at own request, after 24 years' service".
Served 25 years 293 days. In Turkey and the Crimea: 1 year 7 months. India: 2 years 7 months.
Conduct: "very good". He was in possession of two Good Conduct badges when promoted to Sergeant
Awarded a pension of 2/- per day. Aged 44 years on discharge.
Entitled to the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaclava, Sebastopol and the Turkish medal.
Documents confirm the award of the Crimean medal with clasps for Alma, Balaklava and Sebastopol, andd the Long Service & Good Conduct medal.
Awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal (as "Lincoln"), with a gratuity of £10.
The Returned medal book states: Forfeited the Long Service & Good Conduct medal and this was returned to the Mint. No trace of re-issue.
He was awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct medal on the 14th of April 1859, and was later shown as "Awarded annuity and Long Service & Good Conduct medal returned".
EJB: This would have been on the award of the Meritorious Service Medal with an annuity of £20 and would explain the entry in the Returned Medals Book as the Long Service medal having been "forfeited" — an unfortunate choice of words. The ruling at this time made was that:
"A Sergeant on becoming an annuitant is required to forfeit the gratuity of which he may be in possession, making a declaration in writing that he does so voluntarily. The medal inscribed for "Meritorious Service" cannot be held together with that for "Long Service and Good Conduct", but the latter must be surrendered on the receipt of the former."
Awarded the Meritorious Service Medal (as "Linkon") on the 14th of April 1871 with an annuity of £20, (vice Priestley of the same regiment, deceased). In a picture that appeared in the "Picture Magazine" in the mid-1890s he is wearing three medals and one of them may be this.
The variation in the spelling of his name continues throughout his documents (which also includes a copy of the court-martial proceedings set up after his return from Russian captivity).
Items presented to him when he left the Army include a large heavy bronze clock, with Greek figures, and the inscription, "Presented to Troop Serjeant Major Lincoln by his brother Non-Commissioned officers of the 13th Light Dragoons as a token of their esteem and regard."
Another item is a silver ink stand and tray presented by the Officers and inscribed, "Presented to Troop Serjeant Major Lincoln. 13th Light Dragoons. Aug. 1861."
Also possessed by the greater family is a portrait in oils of John Lincoln in the uniform of the Hampshire Carabiniers (circa 1865).
Present at the first Balaclava Banquet in 1875.
Member of the Balaclava Commemoration Society in 1877 and 1879.
Signed the Loyal Address to the Queen in 1887.
Lived in Weymouth, Dorset, after discharge, where he was Drill Instructor to the Hampshire Carabiniers (Yeomanry) from 1862 to 1869.
Beerhouse, Middle Brooks, St Maurice, Winchester, Hants.
John Lincoln, aged 54, Chelsea Pensioner, born Cambridge.
Elizabeth, 44, born Wales.
Richard, 17, born Middlesex.
Ellen, 14, born Ireland.
He was living in Southampton in 1875, and Portsea in 1881.
14, Fratton Road, Portsea, Hampshire.
John Lincoln, aged 62, Life Insurance Agent, born Cambridge.
Elizabeth Lincoln, wife, 52, born in Wales.
Also an unmarried daughter, Ellen, 23, born in Ireland.
10, Highfield Street, Portsea.
John Lincoln, aged 72, Army Pensioner, Sergt Major, born Cambridge.
Elizabeth, 62, born Wales.
12, Selborne Terrace, Portsmouth.
John Lincoln, aged 84, Army Pensioner, born Cambridge.
Elizabeth, 74, born Cardiff.
Elizabeth Lincoln, 75, December Quarter 1903, Portsmouth.
He had become an agent for the Prudential Insurance Company in 1870 and was superannuated after twenty years' service. Having become unable to look after himself he agreed to enter the Workhouse [but see below].
Around the turn of the century he went to live with his son, John, in Tottenham, London. He then returned to Portsmouth and lived with a Mr and Mrs. Wilder at 128, Telephone Road, Southsea, in 1904.
From the Portsmouth Evening News, 25th of October 1904:
BALACLAVA DAY. A PORTSMOUTH VETERAN AGED 88.
Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade Balaclava.
A correspondent writes: It might be of interest to you to know that probably the oldest survivor of the Balaclava charge is living your town, viz, Sergt-Major John Lincoln, 13th Light Dragoons, of 129, Telephone-road, Southsea.
He entered the 13th on October 2nd, 1835, and left the regiment on pension in August, 1861, after serving 26 years. He was present at the siege of Sebastopol and took part in the famous charge, in which he had two horses shot under him, and was taken prisoner and marched a thousand miles into the interior of Russia.
Tho gallant sergeant-major has the Crimean and Turkish medals and the distinguished service medal, which carries with it £20 a year pension.
On October 31st he will celebrate his 89th birthday. He is very good health for his age.
In 1908 he moved to "The Myrtles," Chichester Road, Portsmouth.
Finally, in 1910, he moved to "Apia", Belgravia Road, North End, Portsmouth, where he died. An ex-Inspector of Police had discovered his whereabouts and gave him a home. His physical health was good to the last, although he became mentally feeble.
John Linkon [sic], 94, June Quarter 1910, Portsmouth.
Died on the 19th of May 1910 at Belgravia Road, Portsmouth, aged 94 years, and was buried in Portsea Cemetery on the 3rd of June 1910.
His death certificate, in the name of John Linkon, shows him as having died of "Senile Decay" at "Apia", Belgravia Road, North End, Portsmouth. This was the home of David Wilder (the ex-policeman who had befriended him in his later years) who was present at his death. His family insist that he was never in the Workhouse but rather was a paying guest in the Wilder home, his keep being paid for by a son, also named John, who was at one time Postmaster at the Houses of Parliament. A possible misinterpretation may have been placed on the words, "taken into care", in the newspaper reports at the time of his death.
His grave (now said to be in Kingston Cemetery, Portsmouth) is in Alywn's Plot, Row 1 Grave No. 68. It is also said to be un-marked, although the family believed a headstone was erected.
Copy of a letter sent to his brother from Scutari:
Turkey in Asia,
8th November 1855.
My dear brother,
I hope this will find you in a perfect state of health. Also your wife and family and my dear mother and sister Matilda. I have been very much disappointed at not receiving a letter from you but perhaps you was not aware that I should receive it in Russia and it is not unlikely that I should not, as you might have written that which would not have been agreeable to the authorities and they are not very particular in this highly civilised country, the more they travel the more they feel that every Briton has cause to be proud of his native land and that it is no vain boast to call it the land of freedom.
On suspicion of your having had a account of my voyage out and adventures in Turkey, I shall commence with the 25th of October a day which to one engaged in the battle was no joke. We turned out at half past 4 o'clock in the morning as usual and was on the point of turning into our lines when the Turkish redoubts opened fire. Of course, this put us on the qui-vive. My regiment and the 17th Lancers were sent to the front which honourable post we occupied all day.
As the Russians advanced they were received with a tolerably strong fire from the redoubts and 1st horse and foot artillery batteries which must have caused them heavy loss but when they began to ascend the mounds that the batteries were on the Turks ran down the reverse side the shot and shell from the enemies field batteries going over our heads into some of the regiments that were in our rear. It was a beautiful sight, but not a very agreeable one, as after the Turks ran away the enemy took possession of the batteries and fired upon us and them which caused us to retreat a little out of the way. The Russians had taken some pieces of cannon and their infantry seemed to have been quite content with this, as they halted. Their Cavalry advanced two Regiments not so much regiments in ours as points of number but two — two thousand five hundred strong making 5000.
They swept the plain until they met an obstacle in the form of a regiment of Highlanders which by its glorious firmness brought them to a halt at from 30 or 40 yards distance bringing a number of them to the ground and to make the remainder think seriously of a retrograde movement, but as they were thinking of this important movement our Greys charged and appeared to be lost among the mass. Picture to yourself a dozen policemen going into one of our election mobs in Parker's Place or into the Senate House at the time of the students taking degrees, or into a crowded church when a popular preacher was holding forth or any other place where a small party would be swallowed up and lost to sight, but they were relieved by two or three squadrons for you cannot call them regiments as compared with the enemy.
Now would have been the time for us the Light cavalry to have attacked the Enemy's right flank, but we were to be reserved, to perform an impossibility. Three batteries in position and fourteen pieces by a battery flanking us on our right front at an angle to the valley. After the affair of the Heavies we changed position in front of the valley we had to charge down and remained there about ten minutes inviting the enemy to give us a warm reception which invite they did not fail to respond to in the warmest possible manner. I can only compare it to a shower and a heavy one as it was all iron.
We had gone some 500 yards when my horse was shot and in was in the pleasant predicament of being shot by the enemy or ridden over by my own party, that it was the second line however as I retired the 1st squadron opened out and let us through, someone shouting "Don't ride over him." After which I looked rather sharply about me for I can tell you the faculties are very keen on an occasion of this sort.
I saw about one hundred and fifty yards from me a loose horse. I made towards him no faster than my legs would carry me, mounted, galloped up and joined the squadron that had previously let me through, advanced to the attack with the 8th Hussars. In the melee I got separated from them and advanced to find my own regiment, but I was too late for them and was very nigh taken prisoner, a party of the enemy making a regular dash at me. I only escaped, having a splendid horse and making two of them bite the dust by shooting them and wounding a third in the bridle arm.
I got quite clear and joined a small party I came into contact with under the command of Lord George Paget whose admirable coolness was most conspicuous and has often been the subject of remark amongst the prisoners whilst in Russia, that is the men of the cavalry and I omitted to pay a tribute to the brilliant courage of the Earl of Cardigan who gallantly led the first line in the most Briton-like and dashing manner, but the party of the 4th I had joined, about a troop or two-thirds, it could not be more, as we were returning a strong party of the enemy were formed right across our retreat they did not seem disposed to oppose us as they opened up and let us through as we rode at them.
They ought to have taken the whole party prisoner if they had been plucky enough but they contented themselves in following us at about 40 or 50 yards interval and picking up those whose horses were shot or who were wounded. I unfortunately had my 2nd horse shot about the same spot as my first was shot, my cloak and holsters were riddled and I thought is was up with me as the enemy was then close upon me. I turned round determined to do my best and the party halted, the officer motioning me to throw down my arms and after a moments consideration I did, as I saw the utter hopelessness of such a contest and he appeared a mild man.
I was taken with some others in front of General Liprandi who asked me why we were mad enough to charge. I replied because we were ordered and a British soldier always does as ordered. He said, "Why were you drunk," I said no, Sir, we had not taken any thing during the morning, he said why was some brandy found in the men's wallets. I answered that is a proof Sir, they had not drunk it, he said you are a brave set of fellows and dismissed us, we were taken into the enemies position which extended three or four miles there being some 38,000 men, we were kept there two days and marched on the 27th of October.
I was stationed in two or three enemy camps, which at those times was composed of boughs of trees. The soldiers were tolerably civil, the officers exceedingly so, we were marched to Simpheropol a town about 60 verses, about two thirds of an English mile each verse, this is a tolerable town, the inhabitants very kind and our men who were wounded tolerably well. Trumpeter Howarth of my regiment had 19 wounds and died. Some of the men were most horribly mutilated I saw Sergeant Lynch of the 4th Light Dragoons hacked about in a most dreadful manner. This was in the village where we were taken on the 25th.
The Cossacks are a cowardly set of villains I never saw one of them who would fight unless they were three or four to one, most of our poor fellows at Balaclava when wounded or killed were mutilated in a shocking manner. We lay in the jail here when the two Princes Nicholas and Michael went to Inkerman and we all heard the firing at this place whilst the battle was raging about 60 verses from Sebastopol. We marched incessantly through frost and snow and rain which I can assure you was so cold being from 10 to 27 degrees when frost, every pace taken was slip half a pace back, and walking through mud was much worse. It is no uncommon thing on entering what the Russians call a town is toe up and knee down, knee deep.
Well, we continued marching until the 21st of January and considering that I had been a cavalryman for twenty years I think I put some of the infantry to their shifts to keep up with me. When we arrived at Fronts about 1500 verses from Sebastopol I think they had sent us the farthest way to it. We were literally naked and should think there is not another nation in the world who can boast of such delightfully dirty Gaols as Russia, the most abominable place it is possible to conceive and this coupled with the assistants or what we call convicts being marched around the country-side with us made our situation anything but agreeable. Our only covering was a sort of sheepskin coat not the most graceful covering in the world and when we marched into any sort of village which could not boast a prison we were billeted into the peasant houses and they are not the cleanest persons I ever saw, for the first thing they do is to use their fingers for a handkerchief and drop the contents of their noses on the floor.
They are certainly the best-tempered people I ever saw for if an officer gives a soldier, which is very often the case a box on the ear he dares not turn his head to avoid the blow but submits to this with the best possible case and it is the same thing with civilians, and think nothing else but to simply take it as a matter of course and it is impossible that such soldiers can fight they are are so much used to the obedience of the fist.
When we arrived at our destination we, as I have observed before, were naked, and the Russians would not bestir themselves an inch to get anything for us. We were allowed to go out but had nothing to go out in until a Scotch Gentleman of the town in which we were quartered and who was a Russian subject having married a Russian lady and who was of noble birth and he made our situation known to some Russian Englishmen of Moscow and two friends of his a Mr. James and Longlands who with the most untiring zeal laboured incessantly for us and got a most handsome subscription for us from Moscow with which and their own liberality we were made most comfortable.
I can only say we had every cause to be most grateful to them for their benevolence on our behalf. But for the Russians and Turks we have only every contempt and every cause to entertain this as they never thought of clothing us until we was coming away and then we got a coat, coarse overalls, a cap and worthless boots and I suppose they hoped by this to cover their previous neglect of us by a pretended anxiety on the point of our final departure.
We then commenced our journey home on the 27th of August and after having our souls shook out of us by going sixty versts a day in what are called Paddiwaddys drawn by ponies a sort of cart without springs for about 700 versts and the remainder of the journey without horses, but drawn by bullocks we arrived at Odessa on the 29th September and remained at Odesaa until October 21st when we were put on board the "Columbia" steamer for the fleet which was then at Kimhous and had taken it a day or two previous. It was a gallant sight and did ones heart good to see it.
On the 24th we were transferred to the "Agamemnon." This was a noble vessel of about twenty guns we sailed again on the 25th and were landed at Kamisha and were marched to Balaclava where I had the mortification of finding my regiment had gone to Eupatoria. We remained there three days and embarked on board the "Himalaya" for Scutari we are now in what is called the reserve depot but I hope we shall not remain here for long. I am not as well as I would wish as the continual state of excitement I have been in for the last two years as well as 21 years or nearly of service has not improved my health.
I remain, your most affectionate brother, J. Linkon.
P.S. Write as soon as possible, my love to all."
When his horse was shot under him during the Charge he is said to have captured a riderless horse, that of Captain Nolan. This too, was killed. He later told many colourful stories of his own captivity which were not borne out by the narratives of other men of the regiment. Most were probably not true, or greatly exaggerated. Some of these were told in newspaper articles. He was exchanged on the 26th of October 1855 and being a prisoner-of-war, was later tried by Court-martial.
John Donovan — 1067, 8th Hussars provided evidence for the defence of Troop Sergeant Major John Lincoln at the latter's court-martial after his return from Russian captivity, In his evidence Lincoln had stated that after losing his horse, he obtained another (claimed by him to have belonged to Captain Nolan) and joined a troop of the 8th Hussars. He called on Private Donovan of the 8th Hussars to certify that he had been with the 8th during part of the Charge.
The report of the proceedings stated — Private Donovan, 8th Hussars, being called into the Court and duly sworn in, he was questioned by the prisoner. "Did you see me on the 25th of October 1854, dismounted, passed by the 8th Hussars, subsequently joined it, mounted, and advanced with it."
In reply Donovan said that, "I did see a soldier of the 13th Light Dragoons dismounted and subsequently join the 8th Hussars and to the best of my belief, Sergeant-Major Lincoln was that man".
He also appears in the photograph, said (by Lummis and Wynn) to have been taken in the spring of 1855. Fenton did not leave for the Crimea until February of 1855, Lincoln then still being a prisoner-of-war. It is captioned in the 13th Hussar Regimental History as being "taken the day after Balaclava." Either the photograph was taken by someone else, perhaps before the landing in the Crimea, or Lincoln is not the man named as one of the group depicted.
Extract from the Illustrated London News [date?]:
"Return dated the 27th of March 1855. English prisoners at Voronez in Russia who have been supplied by Her Majesty's Government through the offices of the Danish Minister at St. Petersburg with the following — 50 Caps, 50 Coats, 82 Trousers, 43 Shirts, 40 Stocks, 88 pairs of boots.
TSM Lincoln, Sergeant Alderson, Corporal Armstrong, Tptr. Crawford, Ptes. Bagshaw, Bolton, Donoghue, Farquharson, Fredericks, King, O'Brien, Parkes, Bird, Beavan, ? Horan, Palfreyman, Parker, Picking [? shown as Pilkington], McCann, Warren and McAllister."
EJB: The receipt of these articles was signed for by TSM John Lincoln, 13th Light Dragoons.
From the Portsmouth Mail, 25th of October 1895:
A Balaclava Hero. John Lincoln of the famous Light Brigade.
Today is the forty-first anniversary of the celebrated charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. As each successive year comes and goes the dwindling ranks of those veterans who took part grows thinner and thinner to remind us who we are and from whence we came. Few, few indeed there are of those who now live to tell the tale of the thrice famous deeds they wrought upon the memorable morning of 1854, and many of these still linger in misery, poverty and distress, living monuments of their country's magnanimity, generosity and gratitude for services so faithfully and nobly rendered.
The story of the Charge is an oft-told tale, but what an additional charm is lent to its telling when related by one who actually rode the "half-a-league onward" through the "valley of death" where so many of the gallant Six Hundred fell. It was for this reason that a "Mail" representative sought out Mr. John Lincoln, who is one of the two veteran survivors residing in Portsmouth and obtained from him a detailed account of the action.
Mr. Lincoln, as would be expected from his advanced age — seventy-eight — is now somewhat feeble, but he is still well-proportioned, and his limbs, thin indeed, and spare, testify undutiably that in the flower of his age he displayed considerable vigour and elasticity, while his whole frame seems to have been well-fitted for the exertion and fatigue of a soldier's life.
"I had seen nineteen years' service", said he, "when in the Crimea, and was probably the oldest non-commissioned officer present at the time. I was a Troop Sergeant Major in the 13th Light Dragoons, now the 13th Hussars. On the morning of the 25th of October we of the regiment had just dismounted and were turning in for breakfast when the trumpets sounded, "To horse". The Light Brigade, consisting of the 13th Light Dragoons, 17th Lancers, 11th Hussars, 4th Dragoons and the 8th Hussars immediately formed up in column of troops, my regiment being under the command of Captain Oldham. My regiment was on the extreme right of the line, the 17th Lancers on the left and the 11th Hussars in the centre.
"The second line was composed of the 4th Dragoons and the 8th Hussars. We advanced under cover of three Turkish batteries, but the Russians kept up such a severe and incessant fire that we were compelled to retire by successive squadrons to some distance, where we formed up in open column. Within one hundred yards of where we then stood, a conflict then ensued between the Russian cavalry and the Heavy Brigade and I am confident that had the Light Brigade sent to attack the enemy's flank, the disastrous events that followed might have been prevented.
"At this moment Lord Cardigan took command of the Brigade and advanced down the valley to the... and that apt, able and bravest cavalry officer's of his day, galloped up to Lord Cardigan and an agitated conversation took place, conducted in an undertone, immediately in front of my regiment. Nolan's parting words were, "There are your guns, my Lord. You will have to take them." as he charged forward with his sword held high in the air. He caracoled his horse with considerable dexterity about fifty yards in front, and just as the orders had been given to "Walk," "Trot," "Gallop," "Charge," he was struck by a rifle-bullet, and not by a portion of shot, as is erroneously supposed. Nolan's hand released its hold on the uplifted sword, his horse wheeling to the right, and the dead body of its owner, sitting as firm and upright as if on parade, was carried far beyond the Brigade before it fell to the ground.
"The Brigade tore madly on its wild career, every face deadly pale and with every eye burning with un-natural fire. Grape and canister-shot mowed the men down in scores, and bullets rained down like hail-stones. When about half-way across the deadly space my horse was shot under me, the men of the second line opening out and allowing me and the dead and wounded to pass through. I at once espied a rider-less Staff officer's horse, which from its accoutrements and trappings I have since been under the impression belonged to Nolan. The animal was standing with uplifted head and expanded nostrils as though sniffing the battle from afar. I sprang upon it's back and galloped at full speed until I succeeded in overtaking the second line, where I joined the 8th Hussars. Together we entered the batteries.
"I was indifferent to danger, insensible to fear. I... and struck out left and right with my sword. Serjeant Major Weston, the favourite of the regiment, was killed by my side. The g... wer sp... and Lord Paget hurridly formed a party of all ranks and commenced to retire. Here we were confronted with a new danger. Paget, with wonderful foresight however, perceived that if the enemy did advance towards us, we, with our own weight and that of our chargers, would, with much difficulty, cleave our way through. We routed them, but on emerging into the open again a Russian battery opened fire on our flank and it was here that I had my second horse killed. I was captured by the enemy's cavalry, who took me prisoner, and I endured one year and a day's imprisonment at Verontz before I was released."
Mr Lincoln has the Balaclava, Sebastopol and Alma medals. He is also in possession of the distinguished or meritorious service medal for which he receives £20 a year and in addition to this he receives the noble sum of 2/- per day pension as a reward for the gallant services he rendered his country in days of yore.
From the Hampshire Telegraph, 29th of October 1899:
A Crimean Veteran's Story.
The experiences of an old soldier who has served his country faithfully in various parts of the world are always interesting, even if they have nothing more to relate than the ordinary changes of home and foreign service. But they are especially more so when told by some sturdy veteran who has spent nearly a lifetime in his country's service and who faced the rigours of the Crimean winter, now nearly half-a-century ago. There are many of these old heroes about, some enjoying a well-earned pension, but many, unfortunately, spending their declining years in anything but comfortable circumstances.
A member of the "Telegraph" staff came upon one of these old warriors the other day, a Mr. John Lincoln, now living at Landport, who was formerly a Sergeant-Major in the 13th Light Dragoons, the "Bangalore Gallopers" as they were called at the time. It was not difficult to see that Mr. Lincoln had been a cavalry-man. His erect and soldierly bearing, in spite of his 82 years, was evident as to what he had been, and the old man still showed some of the fire and enthusiasm of his youth when describing how he rode with his regiment up the fateful "valley of death" on that October morning 45 years ago. He was induced to "fight his battles all over again" for the benefit of the "Hampshire Telegraph" readers and here is the yarn:
He enlists and goes to India.
"I served with the 13th Light Dragoons for 25 years 315 days and for 20 years of that time I was a non-commissioned officer," he said with justifiable pride. "It was in 1835 that I enlisted. I went from Cambridge to London on the stage-coach and stopped there a fort-night. My pockets were then empty, so I joined a cavalry regiment — the 13th Light Dragoons — and was sent to Maidstone in Kent. We were not at home for very long, for in the following year the regiment went to India, [Not so, it had been in India since 1819.]
"We went out on the 'Repulse', an East India-man of some 1600 tons. She was a splendid vessel and a noble sight when all her 'sky-scrapers' were set". Here Mr. Lincoln paused to express his regret that he had not been born in Portsmouth and that he had not come here instead of going to London, for he added, "I have always liked the sea, and if I had come here to Portsmouth I should certainly have joined the Navy". "How long did it take you to get to India", he was asked. "Three months and eleven days to Madras. It takes a little over a month nowadays. Of course it was tough work at sea then and so very different to what it is now. Nearly all of us...[?] I have never heard of it being done before, although it must have been.
"It was like this: A shoal of grampuses came in sight one day and there was a rush by the soldiers to the lee side to get a look at them. One young fellow, more agile than the rest, climbed up the nettings. Somehow he fell overboard. Ropes were thrown over and he was soon rescued, but only just in time, for he had been scarcely lifted out of the water before a huge shark appeared and made a grab at him. The creature was about 13 feet long. The sailors dropped a baited hook overboard, but it would not take it. They then dropped a noose overboard with some bait to close to it. The shark hung about the ship for some time until its tail got somehow tangled up in the rope and the men, drawing the noose tight, dragged the creature up into the chains, where they soon despatched it. "And I'll not wager", added the old soldier, with a laugh, "that I did not eat a piece of the flesh."
"We were sent up country and I have some vivid recollections of the spree we had with some of the 45th Regiment's men — who were on the eve of going home.
"There was nothing of particular interest during my first stay in India. In 1840 we returned home and were quartered in Canterbury." For the next fourteen years Mr. Lincoln's regiment was serving chiefly at home stations.
The Crimean War.
"Now, how about the Crimean War," suggested the reporter.
"Well," said the veteran, "I went through that campaign, and although we suffered considerably from cold, and from a scarcity of provisions — we were not as badly off as the infantry, because we did not have to go into the trenches. My regiment went out on the "Jason" in September of 1854 and I was then a Troop Sergeant Major. We landed at Balaclava Harbour and formed part of the Light Brigade under Lord Cardigan". "Were you at the Alma", he was then asked. "Yes, but the cavalry was not engaged. It formed up as a reserve, there. I saw one poor fellow have both legs shot away, and that was my first taste of war; it was by a stray shot after the fight. We ought, no doubt, to have followed the Russians up. If we had done so, the chances are we would have taken Sebastopol there and then, but it was one of those occasions when people are wise after the event".
Two Horses Shot under him during the Charge.
"Now, Mr. Lincoln", said the interviewer, "Tell me about the Charge at Balaclava".
"Well, it was quite early on the morning of the 25th of October when we were ordered, "To horse." We had just gone in to breakfast when the bugles sounded. Of course, all ideas of breakfast were over at once and we were in our saddles in a moment. The Russian, had gradually advanced along the hills with twelve or fifteen thousand men and captured three Turkish redoubts. They were earth-works with guns mounted in them and commanded the valley below. The Russians had no difficulty in clearing out the Turks.
"It was then that the "Heavies" under General Scarlet made their charge. Their Brigade was composed of the 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards, the 1st Royal Dragoons, the Scots Greys and the 6th. It was a fine sight to see them ride into action. They drove the Russians back — rode right through them in fact — and then retired, whilst the Russians re-formed at the head of the valley, behind a strong force of artillery. Meanwhile our Light Brigade had formed up in open column".
"Who ordered the famous charge. Have you any idea." Mr. Lincoln was of the opinion that it was a mis-understanding between Lord Lucerne and Captain Non. "I saw Captain Non ride up to Lord Cardigan, "he said", and I saw him killed almost as soon as we began to advance, going some distance on his horse until he finally fell from the saddle.
"Our Brigade then advanced at the trot, but we soon broke into a gallop. The 13th Dragoons were in the front line, and it was soon after we got well up the valley that my horse was shot under me. Fortunately I soon got free. Several others had horses shot as well, and men were dead and dying all around me. Just then the second line came along at full gallop, and seeing us, the officer in charge of that section of the line shouted, "Open out" and the troopers did so and let us through. But I did not like being on terra firm, nor yet fighting as a foot-soldier, so I looked about me, and seeing a horse standing close by — I think it was poor Captain Knoll's — I mounted him.
"I never felt so happy in all my life as when I found myself once more on horseback. The 8th Hussars were the nearest regiment, so I rode after them and joined their ranks, shouting "Hurrah, boys", and they shouted back. Of course, as you can imagine, we were all terribly excited. Well, we got up to the Russian guns and captured them, but the first line had to bear the brunt of the fighting, and after charging the Russian cavalry the order was given to retire. You see, we were under a fearfully heavy fire.
"We had ridden up to the left, and where the "Heavies" had charged under Scarlet. There were the guns in front, which opened up a deadly fire into us the moment we commenced our advance, and then the redoubts on the hills opened fire upon us as well, as soon as we came within range. The ground was strewn with our dead fellows, dead and dying, but we made up for it on the Russians, for our men cut the gunners down from their guns. But we could not hold the batteries and so we had to retire. Then the deadly fire was once more opened upon us from the hills and the Russian cavalry followed us. Here my second horse was shot under me."
A Prisoner with the Russians.
"Then you were made a prisoner-of-war?"
"Yes, When my horse fell I got clear and picked up my pistol. Just then the Russian cavalry came charging down and an officer shouted at me, "Surrender". There was nothing for it but to do so, so I handed him my pistol. Several others had been made prisoners as well".
"What did they do with you?"
"Well, we were taken before old Liprandi himself, and he questioned each one of us about the disposition of the British troops, and our numbers and so on. I thought at the time that several of the men were too communicative. They gave him information which I do not think they should have done. But he got nothing out of me, for I only "cheeked" him and he ordered me... and the contempt which the Russians had for the Turks.
"We English prisoners were in one hut and the Turkish prisoners in another. I remember a great big Turk sneaking up to the door and trying to sneak past the sentry, but the Russian merely laid down his musket, picked up the Turk and flung him to the other end of the hut.
"On the following day we were all marched a long way inland. I always got on very well with the Russians whilst I was a prisoner of war. When I was taken I had ten sovereigns in my pocket, and I was allowed to keep my money. At the end of twelve months I and the others were exchanged, but that completed my service in the Crimea, for when I got back I was sent to Varna and soon after that left for home, where I joined the Depot."
Mr. Lincoln did not go abroad again, thereafter filling the position of Drill Instructor to the Hants Yeomanry for seven and a half years until he retired on his well-earned pension.
These newspaper articles form part of a collection of memorabilia, photographs and medals in the possession of a great-grand-daughter of John Lincoln, a widowed lady living in York. She insists that the family name is spelt "Lincoln" and not "Linkon".
Death registrations and Census information for 1871, 1891 and 1901 kindly provided by Chris Poole.