Times Past: From the Crimean War to North Devon

William Rogers in the uniform of the Bideford Rifle Volunteers wearing his Crimean medals.

William Rogers in the uniform of the Bideford Rifle Volunteers wearing his Crimean medals. - Credit: Archant

North Devon has been associated with many military men over the centuries - one of whom was William Rogers.

He was born in 1823 and aged 18 enlisted into the Royal Scots Fusiliers at Canterbury. He rose through the ranks and by 1852 was a colour sergeant. His regiment was then sent to fight in the Crimean War in August 1854. Here he took part in the bloody battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman as well as the siege of Sevastopol.

At Inkerman he had to take over command of his company after his officer was seriously wounded. Running out of ammunition he realised Russian cartridges fitted his musket – and getting his men to collect these bullets from Russian wounded they fired them back at their enemy. He also carried wounded Russians to safety who, lying in front of his position, were in danger of being killed by their own artillery.

His regiment returned to Britain in May 1855 and three years later they were posted to Malta. From here he then went to the West Indies in 1860 and was stationed at Barbados.

Discharged from the Army in 1863 after 22 years’ service he moved to Barnstaple and then spent the next 20 years working as a ‘sergeant instructor’ to the local Rifle Volunteers. These latter had been formed as a sort of ‘Home Guard’ in case a threatened French invasion materialised.

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Rogers trained and drilled Volunteers in Barnstaple, Bideford and Torrington. In 1875 the Bideford Corps became part of the 4th Battalion of the Devon Rifle Volunteers and Rogers became their sergeant-major. Much later the battalion became one of the units of the Territorial Army.

Rogers finally retired in 1883 and died some 14 years later in 1897. He passed away at his house in Clovelly Road, Bideford that is still called Inkerman Cottage today. He had married and named his son, born in 1866, Albert Inkerman Rogers, who went on to become variously, a watchmaker, an early local historian of Bideford and a Freeman of the Borough.

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