This material graciously had been shared with the Victorian Web by the Green Howards. Thanks are due to the Green Howards Regimental Museum, Richmond, North Yorkshire and to Mr. Kenneth Usherwood, the living relative of Charles Usherwood. Added by Marjie Bloy, Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore.
At the age of 20 years and 5 months, being at the time in Leeds in the County of York, I was asked on a Saturday afternoon the 3rd January 1852 by Private Michael Maloney of the Grenadier Company 19th Regiment of Infantry whether I should not like much to become a soldier, when after some further conversation with him I consented to become the owner of a Red Coat. I was sworn in before Sir John Chapman, Mayor of Leeds on Monday following (the 5th January 1852) at the Town Hall and after staying some few days in Leeds was despatched with other recruits to join the Regiment which at that period lay in Devonport.
In our journey we stayed one night at Hull where one or more of our pugilistic comrades managed to get up a fight as a recreation somewhat of the character which they thought was tolerated in the Army so pugnacious were these innocent foundlings for Her Majesty's Service.
From Hull we sailed in a Steam Boat and after a few days which were certainly the most forlorn in my existence, landed at London Bridge, where after staying in Billets for about the space of a week set sail again in company with many more recruits for other Corps (whose Regiments were stationed in Ireland) and landed at Plymouth and joined my Regiment at Mount Wise Barracks, Devonport, early on Saturday morning the 24th January 1852 — the recruits in company with myself being Ben Thompson who bought himself off before the Crimean War, John Macmananmam who was afterwards wounded at Alma and lost his finger in the Siege of Sebastopol afterwards discharged in 1856 on a pension, and Joseph Reilly who went through the whole of the Eastern Campaign in Turkey in the Crimea and ultimately died in India in 1861.
On the 8th of May 1852 the Regiment which at that time consisted only of one Battalion left Devonport in two Divisions by rail to Exeter the Head Quarter portion of which I was one starting on the 8th and remained in Barracks at Exeter a few days whence on a Monday morning we proceeded per route march to Sidmouth, Lyme, Bridport and Dorchester and from which latter place by rail through Southampton on to Winchester where we were stationed with the 38 Foot. My Company at this time I had never joined as it appears it had been on detachment, but on its arrival with the second portion of the Regiment at Winchester I joined it, the Captain of it being the late Lt. Col. Rooke CB and its Colour Sergeant the late Lieut.& Adjutant Thomas Thompson but my only comrade and whom I chose on account of his respectability (Joseph Southwood) being in Company No.8, of which Captain Bright was Captain, I desired an exchange so as always to be with him, and which I effected tho' opposed by Colour Sergeant Thompson who told me at the time that if I would only remain in the Company he would guarantee to me a Lance Corporalship by means of his Captain who had taken much interest in myself.
On the 14 Nov 1852 the Regiment was ordered to proceed to London to be present at the funeral of the late Duke of Wellington and in which we acted a part remaining in billets till the 19th of same month when we returned to Winchester, our parade while in London being the square of St Thomas Hospital near London Bridge on the Surrey side of the River.
While stationed at Winchester an accident occurred to me by which I nearly lost my life for while bathing with Joseph Southwood and a few others of the Regiment in the locks on the river there, a Sergeant swam out to where I was, unseen by me and out of a freak caught hold of my shoulders and sank me beneath his body keeping me there immersed within the locks until my strength was gone when he cruelly swam away from me. My companion seeing the predicament in which I was plunged to my assistance and by the help of his walking stick swam out with me to the bank on which I lay for some time unable to speak or move from pain and exhaustion.
On the 4th January l853 the Regiment removed by rail from Winchester to Portsmouth where the Head Quarters took up Cambridge Barracks, my Company and the Light, Colworth Quarters and No 5 Company Fort Monkton Barracks.
After having once been refused promotion by Col. afterward Major General C. C. Hay, of the School of Musketry at that time Lt. Col. of the Regiment Commanding on account of my youth tho' he had promoted my companion months ago and who was younger than myself, I eventually obtained the high and first step on the ladder of preferment under the designation of Lance Corporal (minus extra pay) on the 6th of April l853, a dignity which I appreciated better than the appellation Private.
In May l853, principally on account of a disgraceful disagreement between the 38th and 19th Regiments the Regiment was removed to Gosport and a detachment consisting of Nos. 1 ,6 ,7 & 8 Companies were despatched to Weymouth and Portland to duty over the convicts. Of this detachment I was one and it was at Portland where I first commanded a guard on my own account, their arms always being loaded. For two months we remained divided when orders were given that the whole of the Corps should proceed to the Encampment situated at Chobbam formed for exercise when after a month's drilling we started for Walmer in Kent by rail, the right wing of the Corps occupying the South and the left Wing the North Barracks.
Not long after the Regiment had settled down in quarters at Walmer, and which I think was about the 20th of August 1853, Captain Bright asked me whether I would like to go and assist as clerk in the orderly room reminding me at the same time that a good opening would there offer itself to my future prospects owing to the retirement shortly of Orderly Room Clerk Wheatly and also that the other clerk Corporal Pollard was on the eve of leaving the service his period of servitude being about expired. The offer I accepted.
For the first time during my service I availed the opportunity of a furlough and went on the 1st Dec l853 to London, Birmingham and Rotherham returning to Walmer at the end of the month. On the 1st Dec the Corps was augmented to 1000 strong.
During this winter which produced great quantities of snow, Colonel Unett, who at this time was in temporary command of the Regiment organised together with the Adjutant of the Corps Lieut. R. Barrett, two parties for attack and defence, i.e. the Right wing against the left, and caused to be erected in both squares batteries and entrenchments of snow, himself heading one party and the Adjutant the other the missiles of course being confined to balls of snow. The action commenced by the left wing attacking midway the snow lines of the right whose embattlements were nearly carried by the brave "leftonions", so vigorously was the assault made. By a turn of good luck or else the sheer weight of the Grenadiers, the left felt themselves manfully opposed, for as the balls flew fast and thick the Grenadiers closed and besides pelting beyond arms length nobly received their adversaries who once fell unfortunately too near their grasp and not content with half smothering them under the snow finally ejected them by main force through the gates; following up this advantage they rushed upon their foes outside who thought it more prudent to gradually retire within their own defensible lines their stock of ammunition not being within reach but at these points.
Having gained their entrenchments they set to to defend them with the utmost vigour and long and debateable did they do so until it was found that nearly the whole of the material of which their forts were constructed was converted by friends and enemies alike into an uncountable number of missiles broken and unbroken and strewed about in every direction of similar make and material of original projectiles, so much so, that the whole space on which stood their defiant strongholds did not offer the least protection. Finding it was useless to carry on the struggle longer the left wing was obliged to succomb and lay down their weapons of snow at the feet of their victors.
Great praise was due to the Commanders of their respective Brigades for the manner and the hearty goodwill they shewed in the attack and defence for alike to their men they in turn got well battered with well directed showers of snow balls and sometimes one or two good rolls beneath the white feathers of winter.
Ever anxious to amuse the men Col. Unett exerted himself to get up an amateur theatre, the performers at which were to be officers and men whose taste and abilities tendered thereto; himself by no means a bad imitator in such characters as suited his appearance, enlivened the performances often. Of the actors the Officers being generally Col. Unett, Lt. Clay, Capt. McDonald, Chippendale etc. and of the Non-Comd. Officers and men, Colour Sergts Madden and Thompson, Sergt Armstrong & Haskaid and Pte Austin. The theatre took better than anticipated and was generally overcrowded and was the means of much amusement to the men and credit to the Corps.
In addition to the performances singing classes were established under the conductorship of band Master Smith and Drum Major Hunt and concerts given; besides at times lectures were delivered by the School Master of the Regiment, illustrating subjects which was a source of much benefit and amusement. Unfortunately however, at the time when all these diversions were improving, rumours came of a move to London and which subsequently took place shortly after.
Before leaving Walmer, one day I had occasion to go to the Colonel's quarters in the North Barracks, for the purpose of having some documents signed by him, as I had done often before. As soon as I entered his apartments I saw the Adjutant there, (Lt. R. Barrett) and on my leaving to go back to the Orderly Room was called by the Adjutant to stay a little while, as the Colonel wished to speak to me; in a very short time I was called in, when he questioned me as to my relations and why I had enlisted, and so on. I told him the truth and he seemed satisfied with my answers, and upon going away told me that not only were I to be the successor of Wheatly the Orderly Room Clerk, but that when an opportunity offered I was to receive a Commission. It appears that a friend of my uncle a Banker, had written to him about me who well knew himself and family, and having ascertained my connections through this gentleman, he wished to forward my promotion.
On the 11th Feb. 1854 the Regiment received a notification to move which they did on the 14th of same month, Tuesday to the Tower of London, per rail, and a detachment consisting of Grenadiers, No 2 and Light Companies went to Deptford, No. 3 Company also (Colour Sergt. Thompson's) to Kensington.
On the 25th Feb.1854 I was promoted Corporal.
Rumours that a war between Russia and England was pending, recruiting for the Regiment. was opened and on the 11th of March Minnie Rifles were substituted for the old smooth bore with which we had hitherto been armed.
12 March 1854, a most painful occurrence teak place at Deptford, my comrade Joe Southwood having shot himself while on sentry, at about 5 minutes past 6 pm (Sunday). An inquest was held over him on Wednesday the 15 March and he was buried on the same day in the churchyard at Deptford. Curiously I had written a note to him from the Tower on that same afternoon but as no one was going that way I did not send it, its contents being to the effect of asking him to go with me on a visit to my sisters at Peckham.
Last modified 21 May 2002