Private Samuel Parkes (1815-1864)
Awarded the Victoria Cross during The Charge of the Light Brigade.
Private Samuel Parkes was awarded the Victoria Cross after the infamous British cavalry charge against Russian forces, during the Crimean War in 1854.
After his horse was killed, Parkes tackled two Russians attacking a defenseless trumpet major. He then fought off six more men so he and the major could escape.
His citation reads: ‘In the Charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade at Balaklava, Trumpet-Major Crawford's horse fell, and dismounted him, and he lost his sword; he was attacked by two Cossacks, when Private Samuel Parkes (whose horse had been shot) saved his life, by placing himself between them and the Trumpet-Major, and drove them away by his sword. In attempting to follow the Light Cavalry Brigade in the retreat, they were attacked by six Russians, whom Parkes kept at bay, and retired slowly, fighting, and defending the Trumpet-Major for some time, until deprived of his sword by a shot.’
The Victoria Cross is the highest award in the British honours system, and is presented to members of the armed forces. Twelve Victoria Cross holders are buried at Brompton Cemetery.
Samuel was born in Tamworth in Staffordshire. He worked as a labourer before joining the 4th Queens Own Light Dragoons in 1831, aged just 15 (although claiming to be 18). He served in India and later in the Crimea. After the Charge of the Light Brigade, Samuel was taken prisoner by the Russians and held for a year. Following his return to Britain, he served as a warden at Hampton Court Palace. He then joined the Hyde Park Constabulary, ending his career as an Inspector.