77 Coldstream Guards 1854, Pioneers
This set of six pioneers of the Coldstream Guard are on the march carrying their axes at slope and their rifles slung.
At the time of the Crimean War, 1854, each British army battalion had a pioneer unit, comprising one corporal and ten privates. To enable the battalion to perform its role on the march and on the battlefield, pioneers were trained to carry out minor engineering tasks and the clearing of natural obstacles and those placed by the enemy. In old prints and paintings, pioneers are identified by having full beards, leather aprons and broad axes. Other tools carried were the leather cased saws worn on their backs and the billhook at their waist.
Founded in 1650, and named the Coldstream Regiment of Foot Guards from 1678, the Regiment's name was officially changed to the Coldstream Guards in 1855. On the commencement of the Crimean War (1854-56), the 1st Battalion of the Coldstream Guards was soon in action at the Battle of the Alma, where the objective for the British were two Russian redoubts. Initial attacks fell into confusion on both sides, and into this were brought the Guards who ‚'advanced in beautiful order-a well-dressed steady line as perfect as though it was in Hyde Park.'
Riding with the Coldstreams was the Guards Commander, the Duke of Cambridge, and so fierce was the fighting it was feared ‚'The Brigade will be destroyed', It was then that Sir Colin Campbell made his famous speech to the Duke, "Better, sir that every man in Her Majesty's Guards should be dead upon the field than that they should turn their backs upon the enemy". Then leading the Guards and the Highland Brigade they carried all before them with the enemy in full retreat.
The Coldstream Guards went on to fight at Inkerman (1854) and Sevastopol (1855). On its return from the Crimea, four men of the regiment were awarded the newly instituted Victoria Cross.