So, Mr. Putin has barged into Crimea, a familiar place to history buffs. Seventy years ago it was a famous and controversial meeting (the 2nd) between Stalin, Roosevelt and Churchill. They were bargaining for power in Europe a few months before the end of Nazi Germany. Everybody wanted something. Roosevelt wanted Russia to help us defeat Japan. Stalin wanted Poland. Churchill wanted democracy in Eastern Europe, including Poland. They met in the magnificent seaside resort of Yalta in Crimea.

Exactly 160 years ago, Crimea was the stage for the Crimean War. It was a religious war over protecting Christians’ rights in the Holy Land. It started out between the Russians and the Ottoman Empire and, believe it or not, it was Russia trying to protect the rights of Orthodox Christians. However there were also territorial rights to the Black Sea at stake and Britain and France joined in on the side of the Ottoman Empire and defeated Russia. The land battles were fought on the Crimean coast. It was there that a famous battle took place (Battle of Balaclava) and six weeks after the slaughter, Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote his famous poem…

The Charge of the Light Brigade


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 dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Someone had blundered.
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs 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
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
charge of Light Brigade

If you’re still with me, patient reader, there are a couple of quick points to be made. This “Light Brigade” thing should never have happened. In those days, there were “Heavy Brigades” made of armored horses with soldiers carrying heavy weapons to attack dug-in armored troops. These “heavies” wore metal helmets, carried Calvary swords and were the Shock and Awe guys. After they gave a barrage of whoop-ass to the enemy, the “Light Brigade” (made up of fast horses, non-armored troops carrying sabres and lances), would swoop in on the retreating enemy and not allow them to withdraw their cannon and guns. The story goes that the Commander should not have ordered the Light Brigade in first because the cannon and guns of the Russian army were dug in at the mouth of the valley. However, it seems the head of the Light Brigade was the “hated” brother-in-law of the Commander. Hmmmm….not so nice.

One final point and a humorous one: One of the survivors of The Battle of Balaclava, was James Bosworth. He lived to be 70 years old and was a station-master at Northam in England. His live ended when he was run-over by a steam engine. In the spirit of Tennyson, his epitaph read:

Though shot and shell flew around fast,
On Balaclava’s plain,
Unscathed he passed, to fall at last,
Run over by a train.

About bakoheat

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2 Responses to CHARGING and BARGING

  1. Nick says:

    The ‘James’ Bosworth story’s bogus by the way. He was in India with the 12th Lancers at the time of the Battle Of Balaklava.

    • bakoheat says:

      Thanks for the heads-up on Mr. Bosworth. I love history, even when it disproves another’s history. It’s always wise to stick with Academic Historian’s instead of self-proclaimed Historians. They aren’t as much fun to read, but their research is usually more refined and they have the source notes. The latest academic historian to turn my head is Nancy Isenberg. She says Ron Chernow left many facts out of “Hamilton” and her stories about him are fascinating.

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