02 June 2011

Death or Glory


Vernon said...

Blenheim, Waterloo, Ladysmith, Mons, the Somme, much more as I recall from the originals.

Vern Trotter

MWG said...

...becomes just another story

Spearfish said...

Charge of the Light Brigade?

Laguna Beach Fogey said...

Spearfish ~ Yes, originally.

Queen's Royal Lancers
17th/21st Lancers
17th Lancers ('Charge of the Light Brigade')

Spearfish said...

Godfrey Morgan was a Captain of the 17th at the charge

Spearfish said...

In order to answer such questions we must start in April 1831, when Godfrey was born at the now-ruined Ruperra Castle, roughly equidistant between Cardiff and Newport. He was the second son of Sir Charles Morgan Robinson and his wife Rosamund. Sir Charles was heir to the Tredegar estate which owned much of Newport, a good part of Cardiff, and extensive tracts of land and industrial properties in the coalfield.

As befitted one of the wealthiest families in Wales, Godfrey was educated at Eton College. After leaving aged 17, like many second sons in the landed classes he joined the Forces, being commissioned into the cavalry regiment the 17th Lancers, known as the “Death or Glory Boys”.

By 1853 when war between Turkey and Russia broke out, Godfrey was a captain, and when Britain and France entered the conflict in March 1854 the 17th Lancers were sent to the Crimean peninsula in the Black Sea.

British and French troops landed on the Crimea in September 1854 and within a week had fought a major battle at the Alma – a name today preserved in occasional pub signs, street names, and as a rare girls’ Christian name – Alma Cogan anyone? With the Russians subsequently behind their defences in the port of Sevastopol, the Allies made the small harbour of Balaclava their base.

On October 25 the Russians launched an attack on Allied positions outside Balaclava. The battle contained three noteworthy encounters: the repulse of a Russian cavalry attack by the “Thin Red Line” of the 93rd Highlanders; the extremely successful Charge of the Heavy Brigade of British cavalry which routed a much superior Russian mounted force; and the notorious, glorious Charge of the Light Brigade.

What we know for certain is that the Light Brigade, comprised of the 13th Light Dragoons, the 17th Lancers, the 11th Hussars, the 8th Hussars and the 4th Light Dragoons, and totalling 673 officers and men, was ordered to attack Russian positions at the end of the North Valley. To reach the enemy it had to advance approximately two kilometres exposed not only to frontal fire from Russian artillery batteries, but also to flanking fire from more guns on left and right.

So, with “cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon to front of them” the cavalry moved off at about 11am. Captain Godfrey Morgan on Sir Briggs was in the front line and witnessed the death of the impetuous, and possibly culpable, Captain Nolan, but had no time to mourn him as the advance proceeded “amidst the thickest shower of shell, shot, grape, canister, and minie [a type of rifle bullet], from front and flanks – horses and men dropping by scores every yard” – as Morgan wrote to his father after the battle.

Remarkably, the Light Brigade reached the Russian positions, but suffering heavy losses had no option but to turn around and retreat. At this point Morgan was almost cut off, but “digging my spurs in my horse’s sides, he went at it as he has often gone at the big fences in Monmouthshire” and made it back to British lines.

Godfrey was one of only two officers in the 17th Lancers to return unscathed. Of the 673 who began the charge, 113 had been killed, 134 wounded and 15 taken prisoners. As important, 475 of the horses were dead. Although the Light Brigade saw further action in the last major battle of the war, at Inkerman on November 5, it had been rendered almost impotent.