Crimea medal with four clasps issued to Private 3726 George Coxon Coldstream Guards
George Coxon was born on the 4th September 1825, the fourth son of Daniel and Sarah Coxon, at Hollington, Derbyshire. He
worked as an agricultural labourer until enlisting as Private 3726 George Coxon with the 1st Battalion 2nd Foot Guards on the
26th April 1850.
The Guards were usually barracked in London, with a change of barracks occurring every six months. Soon after George Coxon
joined his regiment at the Portman Street barracks, it celebrated the 200th anniversary of its founding. On the 22nd May
1850 at 1a.m, 1,400 non commissioned officers and men assembled at St. James’s Park and after a brief parade, returned to
their barracks for a substantial repast, which had been prepared for them. The Duke of Cambridge, who was their Colonel,
and all of the officers were in attendance. A large yard in the centre of the barracks was completely covered with canvas and
the colours of the regiment, which had been carried at Waterloo, were prominently displayed. The men were seated and
Grace was said by Sergeant-Major Hurle. A meal consisting of 1,400 lb of beef, followed by pudding and beer was then
served. At the end of the meal, the Sergeant-Major rose again and proposed a toast to “The health of Her Majesty the
Queen”. Later that evening, the men were allowed their friends to visit them and dancing and other amusements were
permitted for some hours.
Shortly after this celebration, the death of the Duke of Cambridge, Colonel of the Coldstream Guards, was announced. On
the 16th July 1850, his funeral took place, with the 1st and 2nd Battalions of the Coldstream Guards forming the Guard of
honour. They marched from St. George’s barracks in Trafalgar square, through Piccadilly, en route to Kew. 100 men of the
regiment filed off at Cambridge House and formed in the court yard in front of the mansion. The remainder of the Guards
arrived at Kew at 8a.m. and made a hasty bivouac on the common. They then formed in front of the Royal cottage as the
funeral procession approached, lining the path through which the coffin was to be borne to the church. The Coldstream
Guards under the command of Colonel Clitherow, mounted a Guard of honour in front of the church throughout the service
and then returned to their barracks.
The Battalion then alternated between Windsor, Wellington barracks, the Tower of London and Portman street barracks.
It was while they were at Portman Street that the news of the death of the Duke of Wellington was announced, in November
1852. On the 18th November, the Brigade of Guards, consisting of the 1st Battalions of the Grenadier, Coldstream and Scots
Fusilier Guards were ordered to form in contiguous columns in front of Horse Guards. At 7.45a.m 17 minute guns began firing.
As the sides of the tent, which held the coffin and its carriage were drawn up, the Guards presented arms and then reversed
arms, in readiness to move off. They then marched towards St. Pauls cathedral, forming up at Ludgate hill and allowing the
Artillery and Cavalry to move through them to take up their respective posts. As the funeral carriage reached their flank,
the Guards presented, reversed and rested upon their arms until the carriage had passed.
In early June 1853, a camp was established at Chobham, in order to see how quickly a large body of troops could be
assembled in one point in the event of an emergency. The 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards, under the command of
Colonel Bentinck, received orders to hold themselves in readiness to assemble at Chobham. On the 14th June they arrived
by train from their barracks at St. Johns Wood, paraded in the station yard and then marched to the camp. On the 21st
of June, Queen Victoria arrived to witness a grand review of the troops followed by a sham fight. The camp broke up on
the 12th July and the eight companies of the Coldstream Guards marched from Chobham to Chertsey and then proceeded by
South Western railways to Waterloo station.
On Monday the 13th February 1854, “The Times” newspaper announced that the Government was sending out to Malta, the
first division of the British contingent, destined for the defence of Turkey. It would consist of 10,000 infantry with a
proportionate force of cavalry and artillery. Included in the division were three Battalions of the Guards, consisting of 850
men from 3 battalions of the Grenadier Guards, 800 men of the 1st Battalion Coldstream and 800 men of the second
Battalion Scots Fusilier Guards. The Coldstream Guards were ordered to march from their barracks in London to
Chichester, Sussex, where they would join their 2nd battalion, which was already stationed there.
On the 14th February, at just after 12 noon, the Coldstream Guards marched out from St. George’s barracks, Trafalgar
Square en route for Chichester. Colonel Bentinck commanded the battalion, which as it marched along the Strand, was
enthusiastically cheered by the assembled crowd. The men appeared to be in the highest spirits and marched along to the
familiar tune of “The girl I left behind me”
On the 22nd February at 6 a.m. the Coldstream Guards boarded a special troop train at Chichester station, which would carry
them to Southampton, where they would embark on the West India mail companies’ ship “Orinoco”. The Government had only
four transports at home to convey troops to Malta. These could carry 1,200 men each but that was far short of what was
required. They were therefore forced to charter additional steamers, which included the “Orinoco”. This vessel was a
steamship of 2,800 tons and 700 horse power and it had been the intention of the shipping line to place it in dry dock for
inspection, prior to being despatched with the mails to the West Indies in March. Now it hurriedly took on board the
On the 4th March, “Orinoco” arrived at Malta, being welcomed with great enthusiasm by the troops already arrived on
the island. In the afternoon, 34 officers and 924 non commissioned officers and men disembarked, together with 32 women
connected to the battalion. They remained on the island throughout April and May before sailing again in June to
Here they were quickly transferred onto the steamers “Cambria” “Andes” “Himalaya” “Golden Fleece” “Trent” “Emperor”
“Hydaspes” and “City of London”, together with the rest of the Duke of Cambridge’s division, which included the Scots and
Grenadier Guards, and sailed to Varna, in Bulgaria, on the 14th June. Soon after landing an order was issued that the wearing
of the stock was optional. Most of the men immediately flung the leather encumbrance away and began wearing coloured
handkerchiefs and neck clothes. The authorities were obliged to order them to wear the stock or nothing around their necks.
Slowly the army assembled, until on the 4th September, orders to sail to the Crimea were issued. The Coldstream Guards
were ordered to board the “Simoom” for the voyage, but as soon as the men were aboard, a few cases of Cholera were
detected amongst them. It was decided to transfer the Guards to other vessels and two companies were sent on board the
“Vengeance” while 500 more were sent to the “Bellerophon”. For the landing in the Crimea the Coldstreams were to be on
board the “Souvenir”, with transports 7 and 10 attached. When assembled the invasion fleet numbered 600 vessels.
The fleet sailed in six parallel lines at four miles an hour until on the 12th September, the coast line of Sebastopol was
sighted. At 3 a.m. the fleet anchored in Calamita bay and by 9 a.m. the first troops were ashore. The Guards landed with
50 rounds of ammunition, 3 days rations and their personal effects. As the men spread inland, the wind started to blow
and it rained continuously.
The march to Sebastopol began on the 19th September. The British line of march was three divisions on the left, two on the
right, each in double companies from the centre, with cavalry behind and on the flank. The bands played and the Guardsmen
marched in their bearskins and with colours uncased, just as if they were at a review in close column. Only closer scrutiny
would reveal that they were looking like “animated lumps of undigested packages, all cloak, bundle and hairy caps”.
It had been established soon after landing that the Russians were in force on the heights above the Alma river. The British
troops spent the night of the 19th September with their backs to the Bulganak river in preparation of a battle the following
day. The next morning the army was roused without the aid of bugles or trumpets. There then followed an exasperating delay
while the ammunition train was brought up. Finally, about 10 a.m. the order was given to advance. At about noon the heights of
the Alma became visible and a halt was called. The troops were ordered to load their muskets with ball cartridge and then the
advance began again.
The Russian position ahead was dominated by a position called the Great redoubt. This consisted of a battery of 12 guns
protected by low breastworks three feet in height and a protective ditch to accommodate infantry. Shallow trenches had
been dug between each gun for the use of sharpshooters and the guns commanded all of the ground between itself and the
British side of the Alma.
The Russian guns opened fire at about 1.30 p.m. and the British deployed into line from the right. The Light division was ahead
of the 1st division and the Coldstream Guards were halted and stood at ease. They remained halted for 90 minutes under
artillery fire, awaiting news of the French deployment to their right. Finally it became impossible to hesitate any longer and
the order was given to advance. In a line two miles wide the British army went into battle for the first time on European soil
since Waterloo. The Light division crossed the river and advanced under heavy fire towards the Great redoubt. After a hard
struggle they entered the redoubt, but a frantic staff officer’s orders to stop firing and then to retire made the division
start to fall back down the hill. An A.D.C. was despatched with an order for the brigade of Guards to hurry forward and
retrieve the situation.
The Guards were no nearer than the crossing of the Alma. They had remained deployed in line but the inexperience of their
commander, the Duke of Cambridge, had caused them to halt and then lie down in a vineyard close to the river. They were
ordered to break ranks and get over the river as best they could, and soon they rapidly became disorganised. One officer
wrote that “the grape and canister was falling around us like hail”. The Scots Fusilier Guards were the first across the river
and following a request for instant support, surged forward in imperfect order and without even fixing bayonets “little
better than a mob”. The Grenadier and Coldstream Guards had not received this urgent request for assistance.
The Coldstreams had been last across, owing to a bend in the river which required a triple fording and they were then halted
once across, to align and dress ranks. Nothing would move the regiments forward until these operations had been carried out.
Once the alignment was complete the two regiments started to ascend the slope ahead of them.
The Coldstreams had not advanced far when the 23rd regiment, which was just ahead of them, suddenly gave way. As they
did, the Vladimirsky regiment marched ponderously forward from the Great redoubt. The Grenadier and Coldstreams opened
their ranks to allow through the broken units of the Light division. Then they reached the vicinity of the disorganised Scots
Fusilier Guards and called out to them “Shame” and “What about the Queen’s favourites now?”. The Guardsmen halted and
poured a torrent of fire into the advancing Vladimirsky regiment, which had no option but to retreat. The Scots Fusiliers
were given time to reform and rejoin in their proper place, between the Grenadiers and Coldstreams. Then the entire
brigade resumed their forward march in one unbroken line, firing volleys as they went forward. By the time that they were
within 40 yards of the Great redoubt they had fired 16 rounds. At this point the order was given to charge and the
Guardsmen swept into the redoubt. All along the line it was apparent that the battle of the Alma was over, as the Guards
raised their Bearskins on the points of their bayonets.
The battle had only lasted 35 minutes since the British attack had begun. Casualties amounted to 362 men killed and 1,621
wounded. The Brigade of Guards numbered 15 Officers and 312 men as killed and wounded, the Coldstream Guards having 14
men wounded out of the 815 men involved.
For the next two days the entire army buried the dead and carried the wounded the three miles to the sea. It was not until
the 23rd September that they advanced again towards Sebastopol.
The next action which George Coxon was involved in was the battle of Balaklava. His regiment was called upon to act as
support to the 1st division in their attempt to recapture the third redoubt which had been taken by the Russians. However
General Cathcart, when his division was level with the fourth redoubt, ordered the men, who had been up all night in the
trenches before Sebastopol, to lie down. The Russians continued to remove the guns from the third redoubt and the Light
Brigade was called upon to stop this from happening. The Guards were never ordered to come forward but were considered
to have participated in the battle. The clasp Balaklava on the Crimea medal was awarded to 751 Coldstream Guardsmen.
The siege of Sebastopol now commenced, with the Guards camp established 400 foot high on the Sapoune heights.
To the North was the camp of the 2nd Division and to their left the Light division. The Guards had a picquet post just south
of the Wellway and behind their camp was the important road running to Sebastopol and the post road. They were the
nearest supports to the 2nd division.
On the night of the 4th November, the Coldstream Guards provided the men to carry out picquet duty. It had rained for
all of the day and as darkness fell, a thick fog developed. By early dawn, the night picquets were being relieved and had
started to return to their camp. A roving picket of Coldstream Guardsmen, commanded by Captain Goodlake, suddenly saw
coming out of the fog, a large number of Russian troops, and opened fire upon them.
These troops were the advance party of over 50,000 men with artillery, who had been sent from Sebastopol to attack
the British and hopefully split the army into two, cut off the 3rd and 4th divisions and take the Guards in the flank. The
Guards picquet post by the Wellway saw the Russians coming up from the valley below and lined up on the edge to open an
enfilading fire upon them. This sent the Russians into retreat and eased the pressure on this dangerous sector.
Elsewhere, the sheer number of Russian troops was driving the British positions backwards. The thick fog caused great
confusion to the fighting with many men losing touch with their regiments.
The Coldstream Guards were late to arrive as many of the men had been out on Picquet duty and were now asleep, wrapped in
their great coats. They had to be roused from their beds and it was not until 7a.m. that the first of the Guards finally
arrived. The Grenadier advanced in line with their colours flying, followed by the Scots Fusilier Guards. The Coldstreams
were still far behind, scrambling to catch up through the thick undergrowth. When Home ridge was reached it was seen that
the Sand-bag battery was in Russian hands. The Duke of Cambridge told the men quite simply “You must drive them out of it”.
This the Grenadiers did but then more Russians appeared out of the Quarry ravine. Slowly the dead raised the floor level of
the battery, as first one side then the other took possession of it. Finally the Coldstream Guards, about 400 strong, arrived
to the accompaniment of cheers. The Grenadier launched another assault on the battery, and the Coldstreamers aligned
themselves to the right and facing the valley below.
The fight for the battery continued but losses were accumulating. Of the 1,300 guardsmen who had set out that morning, now
only 700 were left. An officer asserted that “We were totally unsupported and put to do what no troops in the world but
English would have attempted”. Having driven the Russians from the battery they ignored an order to not pursue them and
poured down the slope, cheering, firing and using their bayonets. They reached the bottom of the valley only to find
themselves being fired upon from above. A large party were led back through the Russian lines while a smaller party
consisting of mainly Coldstream Guards inclined too far to their right and started to move up the slopes of Fore ridge.
Russian skirmishers appeared and started firing at them. There were no Coldstream officers present and a young surgeon
who was with them, shouted out that they must fix bayonets, charge and keep up the hill. The Guards responded and charged
forward against a body of the enemy twenty times their size. They battered their way through but with heavy losses.
The British right was now near collapse, with the defenders being reduced from 1,300 men to about 200. The sand-bag
battery was abandoned as untenable. The final reserves were thrown in and then French troops started to arrive in support.
The Guards brigade now numbered barely enough men to form a company. The French charged forward accompanied by a
scratch force of Guardsmen, who had managed to make their way up the valley. Incredibly the Russians were driven back and
down the Inkermann slopes. By 2 p.m. the battle was over.
The British dead numbered 632 of whom 43 were officers and 8 of those came from the Coldstream Guards, including 3
Lieutenant Colonels. Wounded amounted to 1,873 men, the Coldstream Guards having 67 severely wounded, of which 3 later
died. Another 49 were slightly wounded and 1 man was posted as missing. 70 men of the Coldstream Guards were killed, which
included George Coxon. It is impossible to say where exactly he was killed, although the defence of the Sand-Bag battery
seems to be the most likely place.
The clasp Inkermann was issued for the Crimea medal and 708 Guardsmen from the Coldstream Guards qualified for it.
The medal was sent to George Coxon’s next of kin, officially impressed and having the three clasps attached which he had
qualified for. It was unfortunately, mispelt as Coxan when issued. Later on another clasp was issued for service at the siege
of Sebastopol. As George Coxon had spent some time before the city, he had also qualified for this clasp. The loose clasp
was posted to his family, who did not bother to have it riveted to the medal, but chose to merely slip it over the medal ribbon.
A monument was erected in 1861, to commemorate the 2,152 officers, non commissioned officers and men of the Guards, who
died in the Crimea from wounds or disease. It stands in Waterloo Place and is made of bronze, from the guns captured at
Sebastopol. It depicts three Guardsmen wearing their great-coats, with Victory bearing laurel wreaths above them.
|Calamita Bay landing area.|
|River Alma from the heights.|
|Looking toward the Alma heights.|
|View from the Alma |
heights toward the river
|Guard’s Camp looking |
|The upper part of |
|Crimea medal with four clasps|
issued to Private 3726 George Coxon
Crimea Memorial to the Brigade of Guards