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Thursday, October 28, 2004

The Charge of the Light Brigade - October 25, 1854.

The Charge of the Light Brigade - October 25, 1854.

It is over a year since my last post. Work and work-related travels kept me away from the blog. My apologies to the visitors who continued to come in regularly looking for updates. I will begin the posts with one that made a big impact on me when in school, and still does.

One of the poems that left an indelible mark on me as I was growing up was "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Lord Alfred Tennyson. In flowing poetry, Lord Tennyson lucidly narrates the ill-fated wild charge carried out during the Crimean war exactly 150 years ago on October 25, 1854. His poem carries the heavy emotions and passions that drove those 673 men down the slope into the firing guns. And though they knew it was not the wisest path to take, to man they rallied and obeyed the illogical orders. A third of the force were killed. Miscommunications, egos and poor leadership cost the British 100-200 brave lives.

The Crimean war was the first war to have media coverage. Folks back home got to read about the blood and gory within 3 weeks of its happening. William Howard Russell witnessed the charge and wrote in the Times:
They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendour of war. We could scarcely believe the evidence of our senses! Surely that handful of men were not going to charge an army in position?

Alas, it was but too true - their desperate valour knew no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better part - discretion.


And this prose inspired Lord Tennyson's unforgettable lines in his poem:
Canon to right of them,
Canon to left of them,
Canon in front of them
Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldy they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the Six hundred.


And
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
Some one 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.


And though not a major blunder or one that caused heavy casualties, William's account and Lord Tennyson's poem ensured this charge from the Battle of Balaclava was never forgotten.

To date, Lord Tennyson's poem fills me with sadness and disgust at the waste of life. A loved one, a family, a son, a daughter - a void that can be filled with no other. And all at the bidding of those in the higher echelons of power as they move their chess pawns across the table. War is a shame.

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