The Charge of the Light Brigade, 1854

The Times

October 26, 2006

Light Brigade survivor is honoured by old regiment

By Alan Hamilton

The British Army charges towards the Russians during the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War, 25th October 1854. The Light Brigade consisted of the 4th and 13th Light Dragoons (external - login to view), 17th Lancers (external - login to view), and the 8th and 11th Hussars (external - login to view), under the command of Major General (external - login to view) the Earl of Cardigan (external - login to view). This charging at the Russians was disastrous - the British had 118 men killed, 127 wounded, and 362 horses lost.

Photograph of the surviving members of the Light Brigade after the battle, 1854

HE WAS one of the last survivors of one of Britain’s most glorious and celebrated military disasters, and yet for 90 years he has lain forgotten in a pauper’s grave.

Yesterday, on the 152nd anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the King’s Royal Hussars made amends to Trooper Thomas Warr, who survived the Russian guns to die of old age in his home town of Dorchester in 1916. Members of the regiment, some dressed in the crimson and primrose uniforms of their Victorian past, when they were the 11th Hussars, gathered to honour and remember him at special church service.

Like many old soldiers, Trooper Warr found himself on the scrapheap of civilian life when he was discharged from the Army in 1860. He lived a life of poverty, yet hundreds of townspeople lined the streets for his military funeral when he died at the age of 87.

He was then forgotten until Peter Metcalfe, a military historian, traced his grave to St George’s Church at Fordington, Dorchester, after a visit to the Crimea two years ago.

“As far as I know he didn’t have any family. His regiment took pity on him and sent six non-commissioned officers to act as pallbearers, and soldiers from the Dorset and Gloucestershire Regiment for the burial party,” he said, adding that the funeral took place ten days before the start of the Battle of the Somme.

When Trooper Warr died he was one of the last survivors of the 1854 cavalry charge at Balaclava. Many of the 616 troopers who took part and more than half of their horses were slaughtered in the assault.

“He made it to then Russian battery but his horse was very badly injured from spears and cannonball shrapnel. So he dragged it 1 miles back down the valley to the English lines and the poor animal was shot and put out of its misery; the cavalry chaps were very dedicated to their animals,” Mr Metcalfe said.

At the memorial service in St Peter’s Church, Dorchester, Trooper Warr’s own account of the charge by the “noble six hundred” was read out in the Dorset dialect that he would have spoken. Afterwards, Robin Potter, the Mayor of Dorchester, unveiled a plaque at the cemetery gates, and another marking Trooper Warr’s grave.

Regimental Sergeant Major David Ford, of the King’s Royal Hussars, said: “Balaclava Day is a big day for our regiment so we made sure some of us came. We have six young troopers here today of the same rank that Trooper Warr was at the charge. We wanted them to understand about the regimental family they are joining.” Mr Metcalfe said: “For a bloke to have done what he did only to be completely ignored by his country after that incredible event is woeful. It is only right we should do this for him now; I hope he would have been chuffed.”

THE CRIMEAN WAR - Russia VS Britain, France, Turkey (Ottoman Empire)

The Crimean War was fought between Russia on one side and Turkey, Britain and France on the other.

The alliance feared Russia's interference in the Ottoman Empire would lead to expansion into the rest of Europe.
In autumn 1854, as the allies prepared to strike the Sebastopol naval base, the Russians attacked British and Turkish forces at Balaclava

[b]Before the charge
The battle began with the Russians capturing Turkish guns on the Causeway Heights (1).

To the south a "thin red line" of Highlanders fought off a Russian cavalry force (2). The Heavy Brigade - also outnumbered – repelled a separate attack (3).
The British cavalry ended up at the western end of the North Valley (4).

The charge
British commander Lord Raglan, standing above his cavalry, decided to attack the Russians on the Causeway Heights.

An order was sent but it was fatally misinterpreted, and 673 Light Brigade cavalrymen were sent charging down the valley with Russian guns all around.
The numbers are disputed, but between 100 and 200 are thought to have died.
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Who was to blame?
Debate has raged over who was to blame.

Raglan's order (top left and bottom) was poor. It told cavalry commander Lord Lucan (right) "to advance rapidly to the front... & try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns".

Lucan has been criticised for not doing enough to check what was meant. Pictures courtesy National Army Museum.
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Impatient messenger

The order was delivered by Captain Nolan (left). Questioned by Lucan, he impatiently pointed down the valley and replied: "There, my lord, is your enemy; there are your guns."

Light Brigade commander Lord Cardigan (right) also queried the order, but proceeded with the suicidal mission nonetheless.
Pictures courtesy National Army Museum.

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Peace deal
Sebastopol eventually fell in September 1855 and a peace deal was subsequently signed in Paris.
Picture courtesy National Army Museum.

Last edited by Blackleaf; Oct 26th, 2006 at 01:03 PM..