In 1854, war was declared on Russia and the British and French Armies landed at Calamita Bay on the Crimean Peninsular on 14th September to capture the Russian Naval base at Sevastopol, some 27 miles to the south. Both the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment (33rd Foot) and Green Howards (19th Foot) were part of the Light Division in the 1st and 2nd Brigades respectively. It was on the high ground along the south bank of the River Alma that the Russians resolved to hold their advance believing the high ground which dominated the river to be impregnable.
The British attack was led by the Light Division with the 1st Brigade, the 33rd at its centre, on the right and the 2nd Brigade, including the 19th, on the left. Their objective was the battery of siege guns on the heights overlooking the river, the key to the Russian defences known as the Great Redoubt. After struggling through enclosed vineyards and clambering over stone walls they reached the precipitous banks of the river where they were exposed to plunging fire from the Russian positions as they forded the river. They then advanced up the hill into the teeth of the Russian guns and forced their way onto the Redoubt but at a great cost. It was here that the 19th captured the seven Russian Drums of the Vladimir, Minsk and Borodino Regiments.
The Russian counter attack was not long in coming. The Light Division had been so mauled in the attack that they were briefly forced off the position until the Guards Division and Highland Brigade reinforced the attack to re-establish control of the Redoubt. By 4 p.m., after only some three hours of intense fighting, the battle was over and the Russians in full flight. It was a victory brought about almost entirely by the indomitable courage of the British infantry that cost them dearly. The British casualties were 2,002 and the casualties within the 19th and 33rd were particularly severe.
The 19th lost 220 greater than any other regiment except the 33rd who lost 239. In no regiment outside the Light Division did the casualties exceed 200.