In the early morning of the 25 October 1854, a large Russian cavalry force of nearly 2,500 men were on the road to the Crimean city of Balaklava. About 400 of the cavalry force were heading towards a disorganised and vulnerable British camp and the sole force that lay between the oncoming cavalry and the camp was the 93rd Regiment of Foot.
The commander of the Highland Brigade, Major General Sir Colin Campbell, 1st Baron of Clyde is said to have told the men of the 93rd, “There is no retreat from here, men. You must die where you stand.” Sir Colin’s aide John Scott is said to have replied, “Aye, Sir Colin. If needs be, we’ll do that.” Campbell formed the 93rd into a line two deep. As the Russian cavalry approached, the Turks on the flanks broke and fled. The 93rd discharged three volleys: at 600, 350 and 150 yards respectively. They did not get a chance to discharge one at point blank range as the Russians turned away.
The Times correspondent, William H. Russell, wrote that he could see nothing between the charging Russians and the British regiment’s base of operations at Balaklava but the “thin red streak tipped with a line of steel” of the 93rd. Popularly referred to as the ‘Thin Red Line’, the phrase became a symbol of British composure in battle.
To recognise the importance of this piece of antecedent heritage The Royal Regiment of Scotland celebrates Balaklava Day every year.