The 2nd (Royal North British) Dragoons disembarked in Crimea in September 1854 as Sevastopol was under siege from the British, French and Turkish armies. The port of Balaklava was captured to provide a supply line to Sevastopol, but the Russians regrouped to cut off this vital route from the surrounding heights.
At the battle on 25 October the British Heavy Brigade advanced through the valley to reinforce the 93rd (Highland) Regiment of Foot, the ‘Thin Red Line’ defending Balaklava from a vast Russian force. The Heavy Brigade was at a tactical disadvantage when it encountered the Russian cavalry, which had approached unseen above them and held the high ground. Along with the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons, the 2nd Dragoons were at the front of what would become known as the 'Charge of the Heavy Brigade' uphill. Russian attempts to outflank the British cavalry failed and after fierce fighting, mainly with sabres, the enemy weakened and retreated. Despite the intensity of the clash, the 2nd Dragoons suffered few casualties during the charge, but many fell later covering the retreat of the Light Brigade, which was decimated charging the Russian guns through the ‘Valley of Death’. Private Henry Ramage of the 2nd Dragoons won the Victoria Cross for coming to the aid of three comrades during the battle. Sergeant-Major John Grieve also received the highest award for gallantry for saving an officer’s life during the Heavy Brigade’s charge. Grieve was presented with his medal by Queen Victoria at the first ceremony in Hyde Park, London, on 26 June 1857. As the 2nd Dragoons were the senior regiment on the day, Grieve was probably the first soldier of the British Army to be decorated with the Victoria Cross.