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Charge of the Light Brigade


Charge of the Light Brigade
The Battle of Balaclava, 25th. October 1854

The greatest spectacle but the most tragic event of the Crimean war took place at the Battle of Balaclava, the charge of the Light Brigade.

After the French and British victory at the battle of Alma the allied forces headed south toward the Russian citadel of Sebastopol.
However the allies became cautious and could not agree on how to attack Sebastopol therefore it was decided to submit Sebastopol to a formal siege.

The Battle of Balaclava was an attempt by the Russian army to cut the Woronzov road connecting Sebastopol to the port of Balaclava, where the British army were situated.

The battle started with the Russian cavalry overrunning the Turkish outposts but then they ran into the 93rd. Highland Regiment, who were unprepared for for a cavalry assault, but stood firm and repulsed the Russian attack. This action resulted in being described as the 'thin red line'and summed up the stoicism of the British troops in the Crimea.
The Highlanders drove off the Russian cavalry on their front but a larger Russian cavalry force were moving north. The Heavy Brigade comprising of the Scots Greys, the Inniskilling Dragoons and the Dragoon Guards, led by General Sir James Scarlett, though heavily outnumbered, charged and the Russians broke and retired. The Heavy Brigade had won a great victory against a numerically superior force.

The Light Brigade, comsisted of the 13th.and the 4th.Light Dragoons,the 8th. and the 11th. Hussars and the 17th. Lancers,in total 673 men, were expected to be sent in to hammer home this victory but however because of the lack of Infantry support Lord Raglan gave new orders for the Light Brigade to prevent the Russians towing away abandoned guns on the Causeway Heights. This message was delivered by Captain Nolan to Lord Lucan, the Commander of the Cavalry Division.
The geography of the battle was a key element to this famous charge because Lucan was at a disadvantage for he did not have the same vantage point as Raglan who was directing the battle from high above on the Heights. All Lucan could see were manned guns in front and at the sides of the valley and told Nolan that an attack would be useless. Nolan fumed that Raglan's orders are that the cavalry should attack the guns immediately! Lucan asked Nolan 'Attack what? What guns and where?' Nolan waved his arm and gestured down the valley, saying 'there is your enemy and there are your guns!'
Lucan passed this message onto Lord Cardigan, the Commander of the Light Brigade, who mildly protested but Lucan informed him they were Raglan's orders. Neither man wanted to disobey orders but neither made no attempt to verify such suicidal orders.

From their lofty advantage points, the allied troops watched with horror as the Light Brigade rode down the valley of death with cardigan in front of the charge, dressed in his blue, gold and cherry coloured uniform of the 11th. Hussars, like he was on parade, calling for his men to 'close in' and to 'look to your dressing!'
The Light Brigade was shot to pieces as the Russian guns rained down on them from three sides of the valley. Horses and men fell as they charged to the forward guns and when the remaining light Brigade reached the Russian guns and cavalry situated behind, they hacked and stabbed at any enemy in site. The momentum of the charge pushed the Russian cavalry back but eventually overwhelming numbers halted the charge and what was left of the Light Brigade made their way back.

Out of the 673 men of the Light Brigade who took part, 113 were killed, 134 wounded and nearly 500 horses died in the charge.
This was a disaster and the Light Brigade was unable to play any significant role for the rest of the war. The Russians were left in possession of the Causeway Heights which resrticted the movement of supplies from Balaclava adding greatly to the misery of the British Army in the coming winter.

However this action caused a sensation in Victorian Britain and around the world and became the stuff of legend and was made famous by a poem written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

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