Thursday, December 09, 2004

The Charge of the Light Brigade

Perhaps it is mere coincidence that the 150th anniversary of a famous but little read poem is noted. Perhaps, because it is not widely appreciated that the poem was about a military debacle:


Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Someone had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.


Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.

From: C. R. B. Barrett, History of the XIII Hussars, William Blackwood and Sons, Edinburgh and London, 1911.

The total strength of the Light Brigade when it started on the charge is usually accepted as 673.

Lieutenant Percy Smith, who, by the way, was the only officer who rode through the charge and came back on his original horse, states that when he formed up the remains of the regiment, after the charge, he "could only get hold of fourteen mounted men; and one of them was on a Russian horse which he caught after losing his own. Possibly a few horses had got back before me, and had attached themselves to other regiments, but for the moment the effective [?] strength of the 13th was one officer [myself] and fourteen rank and file."

No comments:

Post a Comment