Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Alfred, Lord Tennyson
On this day in 1854 the Battle of Balaclava was fought between the Russian Empire and the allied armies of the Ottoman Empire, The Second French Empire, and the United Kingdom. It is perhaps the best known event of the Crimean War, largely due to the popularity of Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem, Charge of the Light Brigade.
Following the allied victory at the Battle of the Alma on September 20th, the allies failed to press their advantage with the Russian army able to regroup, recover and prepare a defence of the city of Sevastopol. The allies were forced into a siege, one that would last until September 1855 and involve many battles and naval bombardments. The British, under the command of Lord Raglan, and the French, under Canrobert, positioned their troops to the south of the city: the French Army occupied Kamiesh on the west coast whilst the British moved to the southern port of Balaclava. However, this position committed the British to the defence of the right flank of the Allied siege operations, for which Raglan had insufficient troops. On October 25th, recognising the weakness of the allied position the Russians, under General Liprandi decided to try an break the siege and attacked.
The Russians' first assault, which focused on the Ottomans, was successful and resulted in the retreat of the besieging force. With the first line of the Allies defences beaten the Russian cavalry moved to attack the second defensive line. This was held by the Ottomans and the British 93rd Highland Regiment, and since became known as the 'Thin Red Line'. This line of Allied defences held and repulsed the attack and was followed by the British Heavy Brigade charging and defeating the larger proportion of the Russians cavalry advance.
In the later stage of the battle, the Allies undertook a further cavalry charge. To this day the exact intentions of the orders given by the high command are still unclear but what ensued was one of the most famous ill-fated events in British military history - the Charge of the Light Brigade. The brigade made use of light horses, as opposed to heavy ones, which made these units fast and mobile, attributes good for reconnaissance and skirmishing, but not frontal assaults against well-armed artillery batteries, as the 4th and 13th Dragoons, 17th Lancers and 8th and 11th Hussars found themselves heading towards during the charge.
Led by Lord Cardigan, the Light Brigade charged the Russians and after going through devastating fire engaged the Russians. Due to heavy casualties, they were forced to retreat, under further fire from the Russians. Although the brigade was not completely destroyed, 118 men were left dead, 127 wounded and around 60 taken prisoner. After regrouping, only 195 men still had a horse. Despite this, the British cavalry’s reputation was significantly enhanced from the charge, though the same cannot be said of the commanders.
This little model was built by Steve Snasdell. It's an unusual build for us as it based around a literary character, namely the Harry Paget Flashman. Flashman was created by Thomas Hughes (1822–1896) in a semi-autobiographical Tom Brown's School Days (1857) and later developed by George MacDonald Fraser (1925–2008). Steve has built a series of models based on MacDonald Fraser’s novelisation, in which Flashman appears at the Siege of Sevastapol in the 1973 novel, Flashman at the Charge. You can see Steve’s whole series in this Flickr album:
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