Gerald Littlehales Goodlake VC

Brevet-Major Gooldlake and two other Guards officers were put in charge of the group of sharpshooters which numbered 69 in all, from different regiments. During the Siege of Sevastopol, it was decided to form a small force of sharpshooters or snipers to pick off any Russians manning the guns and defenses of the city. The main reason for this radical change of tactics was the introduction of the Minie rifle which although still slow to reload, had a rifled barrel and improved ammunition. It was accurate up to a range of 1,000 yards but troops had no time to practice with it and there was no time to adapt the tactics to this new capability.

One of the sharpshooter officers was wounded and the other was involved in a disciplinery enquiry so Goodlake ended up as the only officer. There were ten NCOs and the men took a pride in their work so they were not difficult to command. Goodlake was allowed to operate independently and was doing so on 28th October 1854 in front of the 2nd Division picquet. They were in a ravine below the Inkerman Heights and saw some caves ahead that needed to be investigated. Goodlake and Sergeant Ashton went ahead to the caves and left the rest of the patrol to keep watch. Unfortunately a large Russian column marched past the caves while they were inside, and they were heading towards the sharpshooter group. When the group saw the Russians coming towards them, they assumed that their officer and sergeant had been caught.

They opened fire on them and began to withdraw to a ditch from where they could hold off the superior force. Goodlake and Ashton came out of the cave and ran in amongst the Russians, pushing their way to the front where the two sides were exchanging fire. Goodlake shouted out to his men to let them know they were there and he and the sergeant dashed over to them. They held off the Russians until relieved by 2nd Bn Rifle Brigade.

On another occasion, Goodlake's sharpshooters surprised a Russian picquet and captured their weapons and knapsacks which won another Coldstream Guards VC for Private Stanlock. Goodlake's VC was for his bravery and leadership throughout the 42 days that the sharpshooter group existed.

Gerald Littlehales Goodlake was born in Wadley, Berkshire on 14th May 1832 and died in Denham, Middlesex on 5th April 1890. There is a memorial to him in Harefield Churchyard, Middlesex.

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