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BUT WHO WAS WILLIAM BYERS?

The Battle of Inkerman was fought on the 5th November 1854, between a portion of the allied British and French army besieging Sevastopol in the Crimea and a Russian army under Prince Alexander Menshikov.  Victory fell to the allies but only through the grit of the ordinary Soldier in fierce hand to hand combat.  Inkerman became known as ‘A Soldiers’ Battle’ scarcely to be surpassed in modern history.  The allied Commander was Lord Raglan (Fitzroy James Henry SOMERSET, 1788-1855), whose wife was Emily Harriet WELLESLEY, daughter of the 3rd Earl of Mornington and niece of the Duke of Wellington.  Lord Raglan had lost his right arm at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.  He was promoted to Field Marshall after Inkerman.  History always remembers the Admirals and Generals, seldom the rank and file.

 

BUT WHO WAS WILLIAM BYERS?

 

There’s an untended lonely grave, upon a misty mound,

At an elevated Churchyard within the shire of Down,

Where a sandstone marker, stands proudly on the ground,

A memorial to a warrior from a victory of renown.

 

‘Here lies the body of William Byers who fought at Inkerman’,

No time of birth, whence he hailed, or when he passed on;

One asks the question, ‘Who was he?’ answer if you can;

There’s a story hidden here, of him who’s gone beyon’.

 

Did he crouch on the frozen earth, beside the bivouac fire,

With the Crimea’s cutting wind, chilling him to the core?

Did he keep watch in darkest night as others did retire

And recall encounters past, also friends who were no more?

 

Did he look the Russian in the eye, driving the bayonet deep?

As comrades fell and the front reformed, did he hold the line?

Advancing through the smoke and shell, on that hillside steep,

Did he rally to the Colours, with an enemy to define?

 

Was he shocked by the dead and dying, at that bloody scene?

In the aftermath of a battle fought, where victory was the cry;

Did he see the broken bodies there, later smell the gangrene,

And give thanks for being spared, beneath that Russian sky?

 

If you must know of William Byers, then think on Inkerman;

The shot and shell, the blood, the smell, picture him there if you can;

To later rest on a misty moun’,

Beside a Church in the Shire of Down.

 

                                                           Monty Alexander 16.9.99

 

Footnote:  William byers was born in 1826 and died at Belfast on the 18 April 1901.  In his early life he had been a Private Soldier in the 44th (East Sussex) Regiment of Foot.

 

 

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