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The Charge of the Light Brigade

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They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendor of war. We could scarcely believe the evidence of our senses! Surely that handful of men were not going to charge an army in position. Thus wrote William Howard Russell, the Times Special Correspondent after he witness first hand probably the most infamous cavalry charge in military history.

The charge of the Light Brigade was a mistake, the result of confused orders from the commander British forces Crimea, Lord Raglan. In a nutshell, 673 men of the 4th & 13th Light Dragoons, the 17th Lancers and the 8th & 11th Hussars, under the command of the Earl of Cardigan tear-arsed up a valley between the Fedyukhin and the Causeway Heights at Balaklava, straight in to the mouth of Russian artillery and flanking enfilade fire.

Such a ballsy action resulted in some head scratching by the entrenched Russians who initially thought that the British were drunk. Not so. Once committed to the charge, the troopers endured a hail of canister and roundshot before eventually reaching the Russian positions, whereupon the gunners were lanced and sabred with aplomb.

Its a miracle anyone survived at all, but - and contrary to popular belief that it was a massacre, just 118 were killed. I say just, but when one considers mounted cavalry charging direct fire artillery, it really is amazing that casualty figures were so low. With 127 wounded, the worst to fare were the poor horses with over 50% losses. Captain Nolan (one of the guilty parties in the order mix up) wrote a book pre-charge (post-charge he was dead) saying cavalry could charge guns and win ... he was almost right.

The charge was immortalized forever by Tennyson, and reunions were held regularly for survivors of the charge. Interestingly, there seemed to be more survivors attending the reunions than actual participants. An early example of Walting perhaps? The last survivor died in 1927 still within living memory.

(Apparently, some of the participants actually were of these was the 17th Lancers' regimental butcher, who escaped the tent where he was being held [for drunkenness, natch] and joined the charge.)

Trivia: The great-great-grandson of Col Prince Obolensky, the Russian commander of the 3rd Don Cossack Battery, 6 Hussar Bde at the Charge, joined the 17th/21st Lancers in 1981 and left as a Major.

A lesser known Charge was Documented in the summer of 2001 in the Chorley B&Q supercentre. Two distraught electricians lost their tempers when impish tykes from plumbing snook up behind them and made 'bang' noises causing them to fall off their ladders. The sparks, hungry for revenge waited until there foe retreated to the drainpipe and U bend aisle before advancing to contact in the form of a charge...... passing through the lighting and heating section....... The action was abbreviated to the charge of the Chorley lighting brigade to avoid confusion with the battle involving the Nolan sisters and some horses