medal code j1914

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A FANTASTIC 1ST ROYAL DRAGOONS ‘HEAVY BRIGADE’ D.C.M. GROUP. SUFFERING SABRE WOUNDS TO HIS HAND AND FOOT, HE WAS TAKEN PRISONER DURING THE FAMOUS CHARGE AT BALAKLAVA, ONLY TO ESCAPE FROM THE CLUTCHES OF EIGHT COSSACKS, DESPATCHING TWO OF THEM DURING HIS FLIGHT. DETAILED LETTERS HE WROTE FROM THE CRIMEA WERE PUBLISHED IN HIS LOCAL NEWSPAPER

DISTINGUISHED CONDUCT MEDAL, V.R. ‘JOHN THOMAS. 1ST RL. DRAGS.’; CRIMEA 1854-56, 3 CLASPS, BALAKLAVA, INKERMANN, SEBASTOPOL ‘PTE. J. THOMAS 1ST RL. DRAGS.’ CONTEMPORARILY ENGRAVED NAMING, TOP LUGS REMOVED; TURKISH CRIMEA 1855, SARDINIAN ISSUE, UNNAMED AS ISSUED, PLUGGED WITH SMALL RING SUSPENSION

John/Evan Thomas was born in Haverfordwest, Pembrokeshire. He was baptised ‘Evan’ and known locally by this name, but recorded as ‘John’ in all military records. Thomas attested for the 10th Hussars in 1838, and transferred to the 1st Royal Dragoons the following year. He served with the Regiment in the Crimea, and took part in the famous charge of the Heavy Brigade at Balaklava, 25 October 1854.

Thomas wrote to his mother during the Crimean war, and three of his letters were published in the local paper for Haverfordwest, as was a lengthy obituary after his death. The content of these letters is hugely interesting. Reading them it is apparent Thomas was clearly well educated, his letters giving an insight into the hopes and fears of a soldier in the ranks who served throughout the Crimean War. The letters and obituary also reveal he was wounded by a sword cut to his hand and foot at Balaclava. Clearly only slightly wounded and therefore not on the casualty rolls. This again is most interesting to note because it is estimated that large numbers of other Officers and men did not report minor injuries. As such casualty rolls should only be looked at as a guide, giving only figures of soldiers who actually reported their injuries or they were injuries that would keep them of duty.

His initial letter describes the preparations for the attack on Sebastopol, battle of Alma, huge numbers of Russians and looking after his cousin who is dreadfully ill. He is confident in the superiority of the British Army but clearly not confident he will survive.

The second letter, written days after the battle of Balaclava gives an excellent description of the battle, his regiments role in it and just brutal it was; ‘blood covering nearly every one of us..’ . What is also apparent is he is also very clearly aware of the ‘bigger picture’ during the battle.

The third letter talks of the siege of Sebastopol, receiving the Distinguished Conduct Medal – something he describes in detail. The horrors of burying the dead during a five hour truce and expecting a great attack to be made later that night. He also tells how by then (June 1855), there are only 97 left out of the 280 of the regiment who landed in the Crimea 12 months earlier!

Finally is Private Thomas’s obituary from 1863. This gives a great deal of detail about the man and his service and in particular goes into great details about his exploits at Balaclava; being captured by Russians, killing his captures and escaping back to the British lines whilst pursued by Russian Cavalry. It also describes his wounds to hand and foot by Russian sabres during the battle.

A really superb group for a historic action. All the more interesting because of the letters, which give a rare insight into what the recipient was like and also what is almost certainly the reason he was picked out to received a medal for gallantry. This in itself is unfortunately a scarce thing with Crimean War DCM’s.

D.C.M. recommendation dated 9 January 1855. 8 D.C.M.’s were awarded to the Regiment for the Crimean Campaign, according to Thomas, 6 of these were for Balaclava.

Condition VF, light contact marks. All with contemporary silver top ribbon buckles. Sold with a detailed file and CD of copied research and the Regimental History.

Code J1914        Price £9485