Captain George Buchanan

George Buchanan was born c1830 the son of R Carrick-Buchanan of Drumpeller (or Drumpellier) Lanarkshire, near Glasgow. His father lived at Drumpellier House, Coatbridge, and died when George was a teenager, in 1844. George's mother was Sarah Marie Clotide Hoare who outlived her son and died in 1881. He purchased a commission in the Scots Greys as a cornet on 16 Mar 1849 and then purchased his promotion to lieutenant on 27 Aug 1852. He went out to the Crimea with the Greys in 1854 and as was usual in wartime he was promoted without purchase, to captain on 8 Dec 1854. He was laid low with dysentery in 1855 and when he was well enough he was sent back to England. His health however did not improve at home and he retired from the army on 28 April 1863. He went to Malvern for recuperation, but while there he had some sort of accident which caused him to become fatally ill. He died in London on 9 Nov 1863.

From July 1854 to August 1855 he wrote letters to his mother which were published in 1866: Letters of an Officer of The Scots Greys to his Mother During the Crimean War. He had a very poor opinion of the staff officers who worked for Lord Raglan. In one letter dated 23 Feb 1855 he recounts a story of how a week earlier the cavalry along with two Highland regiments and two batteries of artillery were alerted at 11pm on a bitterly cold night to march several miles to meet up with a French force of 20,000 to attack a few thousand Russians in a village. It was pitch dark and Buchanan's horse fell, crushing him underneath. When they arrived at the village they waited 9 hours but the French did not turn up, they had called off the attack as they could not believe that the British would march that far in such terrible weather. So the force returned through the snow during which ordeal many body parts were lost through frost-bite:

'We had a good many frostbitten; several lost their ears, and one poor fellow, who died this morning, one of our best and oldest soldiers, lost both his feet. I very nearly got rid of my right ear, but it has now condescended to stick to me, and get well. I had to be lifted off my horse when we got to camp; I could not stand; but had a bowl of hot tea and rum poured down my throat, and was put to bed..'

It turned out that the whole expedition could have been avoided if a staff officer had done his job. Raglan had cancelled the trip but the officer was too worried about riding through wet weather to deliver the message.

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by Stephen Luscombe