A HEROIC piece of military history has been brought vividly to life - by the very man who lived through it. A century-and-a-half since the Crimean War first seared itself into country's consciousness, its blunders and bravery have become the stuff of legend.

And now the great great-great grandson of a Green Howard who fought at the Battle of the Alma has turned the clock back to those tumultuous times.

He has given the regiment's museum in Richmond facsimiles of letters written at the front, which tell the story of the battle and the role of one Ambrose Cardew.

Cardew, who came from Falmouth in Cornwall, was just 18 in September 1854 when, as an Ensign and the adjutant of the regiment - then known as the 19th of Foot - he went into battle against the Russians. In a letter to his mother, who had already been told that he was dead, he wrote described how the Green Howards fought on the steep slopes of a hill above the Alma River.

His horse was struck twice, the second time as he crossed the "giving me a glorious sousing". Cardew continued on foot, under heavy fire.

He was then shot in the leg, but limped on, supported by a sergeant, until another shot hit him below the right ear and lodged in his jaw.

Cardew had the bullet removed on the battlefield and was then taken to the hospital at Scutari. He later had it engraved with the word 'ALMA' as a souvenir. He returned to front line duty at the start of 1856, in time to see the Russians surrender.

The letters Cardew wrote home have now been transcribed by his descendant Michael Cardew, who lives in Walmer, Kent. His task was made difficult because paper was scarce for his ancestor and many of the letters were written on small pieces in one direction, and then again at right angles.

As well as the letters he also took to the museum the blood-stained belt Ambrose wore at the battle, with a rare bullet box still containing two musket balls, and his British and Turkish Crimean medals.

Museum curator Roger Chapman said: "These ten letters give a very vivid account of the Crimean War and the Battle of the Alma - the first of the regiment's Battle Honours.

"Ambrose Cardew was a remarkable soldier - having been top student at Sandhurst, winning the Sword of Honour and the prize for the Best Athlete, he was made Adjutant of the regiment at the very early age of 17."

Despite his Crimean wounds he went on to have a distinguished military career and eventually died in 1901.