Into The Valley Of Death

This book has it all, heroics, intrigue, honour – and dishonourable acts, bravery and stupidity. The more I read, the more I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t a novel based on actual events, but a well-researched, fresh narrative on ‘The Charge’ and its place in the greater battle.

The book doesn’t cover much about the wider campaign, as explained in the introduction. The first two brief chapters do however, set the scene, albeit with a broad brush. Chapter three and four cover the events leading up to the charge, increasingly in more detail with accounts from those there at the time.

I remember reading a book on ‘The charge of the Light Brigade’ maybe forty or so years ago – along with being able to recite Tennyson’s poem on the subject from a younger age, from then on it became ‘known history’ to me and I never really challenged the accepted view. This book was sent to me as a wildcard – and I’m glad it was, what follows on from chapter four is an incredible read, the author has put a large amount of effort into creating a chronologically accurate account of ‘the charge’ – which was only the last three or four hundred Yards of a total distance of one and a quarter Miles, the rest being covered at walk, trot and canter whilst being under artillery fire from three sides.

Chapter five ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and Chapter six ‘Behind The Guns’ are a fascinating if harrowing read, the author has used the survivors accounts – debunking where necessary, to bring the action to life once more, there are also accounts from the Russian side.

Chapter seven ‘A Fighting Retreat’ gives chronological accounts missing from much of the earlier works, for example, at one point there is a line of Uhlan lancers blocking the path of the retreat – which parts to allow the Light Cavalry through, rather than simply passing through the gap and retreating towards their own lines, the survivors turn about and get stuck into the Polish lancers!

Chapter eight deals with the aftermath, followed by a well-considered conclusion – I’ll not spoil the book by giving anything away except to say there are heroes and villains on both sides, the Cossacks are dishonourable – even by Russian standards and the French saved many British lives by acting without orders…

So that covers the first 158 pages of 357, what takes up the remainder I found just as fascinating as the chapters above. Appendix I covers medals and awards – in some cases the citations and expanded accounts of the actions are included, Appendix II covers personal accounts by Regiment, this includes details of injuries such as being ‘pricked by lances’ in some cases in double figures.

There is also the ‘tables’ where accounts of every known man’s status as a charger (or otherwise) can be found, again, a fascinating, sometimes harrowing read.

As you’d expect, the book is thoroughly referenced and indexed for further reading (which I intend to do!).

1623599914069.jpeg

The book sets out to cover the events surrounding the charge, the reasons why it happened and why it became a cornerstone of British military history. I previously reviewed a book that tried (and failed) to explain why so much of the world map came to be coloured pink, this book explains the courage, training and willingness to follow orders that can achieve that. To quote the author ‘So much was the Light Brigade’s reputation enhanced by its gallantry at Balaclava, that for a long time following the charge the Russian Cavalry would not engage even small numbers of British Troopers’.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is the one book I would take to a desert island, it wholeheartedly deserves full marks, if I had to criticise it in any way, maybe a bigger map, or modern photos showing the ground from different aspects – these are easily found online though. I’ll certainly be looking out for other books of this era by the author, thoroughly recommended – 5/5 mushroom heads.

Amazon product
 
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This book has it all, heroics, intrigue, honour – and dishonourable acts, bravery and stupidity. The more I read, the more I had to keep reminding myself that this wasn’t a novel based on actual events, but a well-researched, fresh narrative on ‘The Charge’ and its place in the greater battle.

The book doesn’t cover much about the wider campaign, as explained in the introduction. The first two brief chapters do however, set the scene, albeit with a broad brush. Chapter three and four cover the events leading up to the charge, increasingly in more detail with accounts from those there at the time.

I remember reading a book on ‘The charge of the Light Brigade’ maybe forty or so years ago – along with being able to recite Tennyson’s poem on the subject from a younger age, from then on it became ‘known history’ to me and I never really challenged the accepted view. This book was sent to me as a wildcard – and I’m glad it was, what follows on from chapter four is an incredible read, the author has put a large amount of effort into creating a chronologically accurate account of ‘the charge’ – which was only the last three or four hundred Yards of a total distance of one and a quarter Miles, the rest being covered at walk, trot and canter whilst being under artillery fire from three sides.

Chapter five ‘The Charge of the Light Brigade’ and Chapter six ‘Behind The Guns’ are a fascinating if harrowing read, the author has used the survivors accounts – debunking where necessary, to bring the action to life once more, there are also accounts from the Russian side.

Chapter seven ‘A Fighting Retreat’ gives chronological accounts missing from much of the earlier works, for example, at one point there is a line of Uhlan lancers blocking the path of the retreat – which parts to allow the Light Cavalry through, rather than simply passing through the gap and retreating towards their own lines, the survivors turn about and get stuck into the Polish lancers!

Chapter eight deals with the aftermath, followed by a well-considered conclusion – I’ll not spoil the book by giving anything away except to say there are heroes and villains on both sides, the Cossacks are dishonourable – even by Russian standards and the French saved many British lives by acting without orders…

So that covers the first 158 pages of 357, what takes up the remainder I found just as fascinating as the chapters above. Appendix I covers medals and awards – in some cases the citations and expanded accounts of the actions are included, Appendix II covers personal accounts by Regiment, this includes details of injuries such as being ‘pricked by lances’ in some cases in double figures.

There is also the ‘tables’ where accounts of every known man’s status as a charger (or otherwise) can be found, again, a fascinating, sometimes harrowing read.

As you’d expect, the book is thoroughly referenced and indexed for further reading (which I intend to do!).

1623599914069.jpeg

The book sets out to cover the events surrounding the charge, the reasons why it happened and why it became a cornerstone of British military history. I previously reviewed a book that tried (and failed) to explain why so much of the world map came to be coloured pink, this book explains the courage, training and willingness to follow orders that can achieve that. To quote the author ‘So much was the Light Brigade’s reputation enhanced by its gallantry at Balaclava, that for a long time following the charge the Russian Cavalry would not engage even small numbers of British Troopers’.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that this is the one book I would take to a desert island, it wholeheartedly deserves full marks, if I had to criticise it in any way, maybe a bigger map, or modern photos showing the ground from different aspects – these are easily found online though. I’ll certainly be looking out for other books of this era by the author, thoroughly recommended – 5/5 mushroom heads.

Amazon product

Sounds like a great read. I've read a few books about the charge and this one is definitely one I shall try to get my hands on. Apart from a military history perspective I have a personal interest: the gentleman sat in roughly the centre of the picture, with the pale trousers and his hands hanging down, was my great-great grandfather, James Wightman. We never even knew about his military career, let alone his involvement in the charge until my wife got stuck into some ancestry stuff a few years back.
 
Trivia Moment.

When I was attached to the 17/21st Lancers in Fallingbostel (74 - 75) there was a large display cabinet in RHQ with various bits of regimental history inside.
One item was a large flag which had definitely seen action as it was quite badly burnt.
I think the description said that the 17th Lancers had ridden into battle at Balaklava with it.
I could be mistaken as I only saw it once and it was almost 50 years ago but I would like to think that I saw the actual colours used in The Charge of The Light Brigade.
 
Trivia Moment.

When I was attached to the 17/21st Lancers in Fallingbostel (74 - 75) there was a large display cabinet in RHQ with various bits of regimental history inside.
One item was a large flag which had definitely seen action as it was quite badly burnt.
I think the description said that the 17th Lancers had ridden into battle at Balaklava with it.
I could be mistaken as I only saw it once and it was almost 50 years ago but I would like to think that I saw the actual colours used in The Charge of The Light Brigade.
What shape was it ? Light Cavalry carried guidons - swallow tail shape

1624283508008.png
 

ACAB

LE
Can anyone ID that building?

Is it the rear of Horse Guards? Presumably its a cavalry-related barracks in London.
It looks vaguely like Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow.
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
Sounds like a great read. I've read a few books about the charge and this one is definitely one I shall try to get my hands on. Apart from a military history perspective I have a personal interest: the gentleman sat in roughly the centre of the picture, with the pale trousers and his hands hanging down, was my great-great grandfather, James Wightman. We never even knew about his military career, let alone his involvement in the charge until my wife got stuck into some ancestry stuff a few years back.
There is no firm indication of the location where the photo was taken, but as the commemorative banquet for the rank and file in 1875 was held at Alexandra Palace and there is no indication of the venue changing in 1890, it's a fair bet that is where the photo was taken.
1177 Pte. J. Wightman is shown as attending in 1877 & 1879
In the tables, he is shown as being taken prisoner of war (wounded) and repatriated in 1855

The fact that I could find all that in a few minutes indicates (to me) the depth of research and work put into the book.

@Maximus Acidus I've just read the account below, words fail me.

1624294889750.jpeg
 
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There is no firm indication of the location where the photo was taken, but as the commemorative banquet for the rank and file in 1875 was held at Alexandra Palace and there is no indication of the venue changing in 1890, it's a fair bet that is where the photo was taken.
1177 Pte. J. Wightman is shown as attending in 1877 & 1879
In the tables, he is shown as being taken prisoner of war (wounded) and repatriated in 1855

The fact that I could find all that in a few minutes indicates (to me) the depth of research and work put into the book.

@Maximus Acidus I've just read the account below, words fail me.

View attachment 583360
It's incredible isn't it? I have a copy of an article he wrote for The Regiment magazine, which I think was an extract of his autobiography, where he details all this. Some of the others were not so lucky, I remember one in particular whose head was taken clean off by a round-shot, the horse continuing on with the charge accompanied by its headless rider. The language used in the article is of the era and in some parts quite amusing (he concludes his article by saying ' I can write these things on paper but if I were called upon to recount them verbally I would surely play the woman')!
 

OneTenner

LE
Book Reviewer
It's incredible isn't it? I have a copy of an article he wrote for The Regiment magazine, which I think was an extract of his autobiography, where he details all this. Some of the others were not so lucky, I remember one in particular whose head was taken clean off by a round-shot, the horse continuing on with the charge accompanied by its headless rider. The language used in the article is of the era and in some parts quite amusing (he concludes his article by saying ' I can write these things on paper but if I were called upon to recount them verbally I would surely play the woman')!
There are many such accounts in the book, I remember reading the phrase you quoted, without re-reading the book I couldn't say whether it is from your Great-Great Grandfather's account, as you say, it was the language of the time. Its nice to know that these memories live on, even if almost by accident!.
 
There are many such accounts in the book, I remember reading the phrase you quoted, without re-reading the book I couldn't say whether it is from your Great-Great Grandfather's account, as you say, it was the language of the time. Its nice to know that these memories live on, even if almost by accident!.

The memories certainly live on in epic poetry as well.
I remember, from my schooldays

' Har fleag, Har fleag, Har fleag onwards !
Into the Valley of Death rode the St Custards ! '

or something like that
 
A view of the Russian War that puts the operations in the Crimea into perspective. I studied this for A Level History yet I only covered a fraction of this. Sadly the sound quality is a bit GB News at times, but Professor Andrew Lambert is well worth listening to.

 

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