Alan Bricknell, Ford Park CemeteryEmail 01752 665442 Facebook
The second of two profiles of Victoria Cross recipients whose graves can be found at Ford Park Cemetery.
Captain Andrew Henry was awarded the Victoria Cross for his bravery during the Battle of Inkerman. This battle was part of the Crimean War and took place in November 1854.
At that time Crimea was part of the Russian Empire and the battle was fought between British and French troops on one side and the Imperial Russian Army on the other. Inkerman is described as “The Soldier’s Battle”, a reference to the ferocity of the fighting, the importance of the role of battalions, companies and even small parties of men and the foggy isolation of the soldiers who were thrown on their own initiative.
12 Victoria Crosses were awarded to British soldiers for actions in the battle and “G” Battery of the Royal Artillery, 2nd Division, particularly distinguished itself during the battle. The Battery fired all its ammunition at the advancing Russian columns, repelling several attacks.
When overwhelmed by the Russian infantry, Sergeant Major Andrew Henry fought back with his small sword, attempting with a gunner, James Taylor, to remove the guns. Sergeant Major Henry received 12 bayonet wounds in his chest, left arm, back, right leg and head and was left for dead. A counter attack by French infantry drove the Russians off the guns, which were secured. Sergeant Major Henry survived his wounds and was awarded the Victoria Cross and the Battery was given the title “Inkerman Battery'” which it still holds.
There is a rather stirring account written about 10 years later by Andrew William Kingslake, an English travel writer and historian who wrote an 8 volume opus on the Invasion of Crimea.
“When the foremost of the enemy’s troops had so closely surrounded Henry’s guns as to be already but a few paces off, they charged in with loud shouts, undertaking to bayonet the gunners; but by Henry himself, and one at least of his people, they were encountered with desperate valour. Henry called upon the men to defend the gun. He and a valiant gunner named James Taylor drew their swords and stood firm. The throng of the Russians came closing in, very many of them for some reason bareheaded, and numbers of them, in the words of a victim, ‘howling like mad dogs.’
Henry with his left wrested a bayonet from one of the Russians and found means to throw the man down, fighting hard all the time with his sword arm against some of his other assailants. Soon both Henry and Taylor were closed in upon from all sides and bayoneted again and again, Taylor then receiving his death wounds. Henry received in his chest the up-thrust of a bayonet, delivered with such power as to lift him almost from the ground, and at the same time he was stabbed in the back and stabbed in the arms. Then, from loss of blood, he became unconscious, but the raging soldiery, inflamed by religion, did not cease from stabbing his heretic body. He received twelve wounds, yet survived.”
I think that probably we need to excuse a little poetic license.
Captain Andrew Henry ended his career in the Royal Citadel. This headstone was erected on subscription by members of the Citadel Garrison in 1952 and ever since on the same weekend at the end of October the Royal Artillery Association hold a service at the graveside to remember Andrew Henry.