Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Account of Charge of the Light Brigade Auctioned

It's always pleasant when the voice of the archetypal Private (or in this case Trooper) Bloggins is heard over the years. In this case, an ordinary soldier's account of the Charge of the Light Brigade was recently auctioned in England. As you can see below, he must have watched stonefaced but full of foreboding as Capt. Nolan gave Lord Lucan his famously vague orders. Even my fellow chaplain candidates, after a week of training on NATO battle procedure, would recognize those orders as being fatally flawed. It's very gratifying to hear that Trooper Olley was rescued from a shameful beggardom and lived to a ripe old age.




From BBC News:

A soldier's account of the doomed Charge of the Light Brigade is expected to fetch up to £2,500 at auction.

Private James Olley, of Knapton, Norfolk, was 16 when he lost an eye and suffered a broken skull in the Battle of Balaclava in 1854.

Scores of cavalrymen died when they galloped straight into enemy fire after being sent in the wrong direction.

The soldier's handwritten account, which pinpoints some of the confusion, is being auctioned in Shropshire.

The document, which is believed to be one of only a few surviving eye-witness accounts of the charge, is being sold by Mullock's Auctions at Ludlow Racecourse on Thursday.

The auction will also include the sale of a map used by Sir Winston Churchill before D-Day.


Pte Olley penned his account to escape begging on the streets.

After returning to Norfolk, the injured soldier fell on hard times and begged with a placard around his neck.

Just as we saw the Russians a bullet from the enemy took away my left eye

Private James Olley

Pte Olley's account suggests the miscommunication between the head of the British cavalry, Lord Lucan, the Light Brigade's Commander Lord Cardigan and Captain Edward Nolan, who ordered the charge.

He wrote: "I was within 10 paces of the Earl (of Lucan) and his staff when the order was brought in - 'He (Lord Cardigan) may advance but what can we do?' said the Earl.

"'There is the enemy and there are the guns' cavalry,' replied Nolan, pointing to the Russian squadrons."

However, Captain Nolan indicated the wrong guns and caused confusion by commanding the entire valley, instead of a select number of troops.

Pte Olley told how he came across a horse with an empty saddle after his own horse was shot down.

"I mounted it and rode down to the guns, when I was attacked by a Russian gunner who I cut down with my sword," he wrote.

"I received a severe wound on my forehead, which went through the skull bone."


Pte Olley said the soldiers were soon "overpowered by the enemy".

"Just as we saw the Russians a bullet from the enemy took away my left eye, " he wrote.

"I still rode and fought through the lines of the enemy.

"When we got through we rode into our encampment, what few there were left of us."

Richard Westwood Brookes, of Mullock's Auctions, said the charge was a "spectacular example of dreadful leadership and lack of communication".

He said: "What makes this manuscript so important is that Olley was present when those crucial orders were delivered."

Pte Olley was seen begging by a squire who wrote an angry letter to the press about his treatment.

He was later granted a subscription fund and went onto work as a horse trainer.

He died aged 82.

1 comment:

DeWolfe said...

Hi Padre

I just wanted to point out that Capt. Nolan actually delivered the fatal order to Lord Cardigan (commanding the Light Brigade) not Lord Lucan (commanding the Heavy Brigade). As a bit of useless info I think you may find interesting; the first VC awarded to a Canadian was awarded to Lt. Alexander Dunn for valor durring the Charge of the Light Brigade.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.

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