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The Times 3.4.1855 p 10

Letter


The LIGHT CAVALRY CHARGE at BALAKLAVA

TO THE EDITOR OF THE TIMES

Sir,— Having been repeatedly asked to lay before the public what I know relative to the attack made by the Light Cavalry at Balaklava, and what was done, or not done, by the Horse Artillery, I have been induced to make the following statement:— It is well known that on Major Maude falling seriously wounded early in the day I, who had been with him in four previous actions and affairs, succeeded to the command of his troop. Passing over all previous occurrences of that day, I had brought my guns up at a gallop on the left flank of the Heavy Cavalry, while reforming after their charge. The Light Cavalry, having passed along my rear, were on my left flank. It must now be remembered that the whole cavalry brigade were in the plain on the Balaklava side of the heights on which were the redoubts. My troop would be about 600 yards from the crest of those heights. Considering all immediate action over, if not, indeed, the whole thing for the day, I rode over the heights to reconnoitre. I there met Lieutenant-Colonel M’Mahon, the Quartermaster-General of Cavalry. We were alone, and with our telescopes were examining the Russian Artillery in the bush on the opposite heights across the second plain. The distance would be about 1,500 yards. I had counted 10 guns; there were other guns further on to the left of these. There was cavalry, infantry, and artillery in the plain, nearly a mile away. I knew that the Russians held Nos. 1, 2, and 3 redoubts, which, it must be remembered, faced the bush I have before mentioned. Captain Charteris rode up to us; he was accompanied, I think, by Captain Methuen, of the screw steamship Colombo. The former said, ‘You will see something now; the Light Cavalry are going to attack down the plain.’ I exclaimed, ‘You will all be destroyed. I will go and bring up the troop and try and give assistance.’ I galloped back; I could not see Lord Lucan; but, Major-General Scarlett being close at hand, I said, ‘Will you allow me to go to the support of the Light Cavalry?’ His answer was, ‘Certainly.’ I moved off at a smart trot, seeing the rear regiments of the Light Cavalry just slip out of sight over the heights. My horses were tired and reduced in numbers, several having been killed in the early part of the day; so I soon came to a walk. The Scots Grays had moved before me, and had halted in line just at the foot of the heights. I passed through their squadron at intervals. At this time Major Walker, Lord Lucan’s aide-de-camp, rode up to me, and, in a conversation I had with him afterwards, he said, ‘with an order for me to advance.’ I perfectly remember his being with me, but have no recollection of this order. Had he brought me directions to do otherwise than I was doing, I should probably have paid more attention. Major Walker, in speaking to me on the subject afterwards said, ‘My life was probably saved by being sent back for you.’ I passed on over the heights with the troop; a heavy fire was immediately opened on me, happily without effect, from the artillery in the bush on the opposite heights; to this I could not reply, the range being too great for my light guns. I at once ‘wheeled to the right,’ and endeavoured to pass along the Balaklava side of the heights immediately below their crest, screened from the enemy’s fire, and so come over, if possible, on the right rear of our Light Cavalry, but a cut down into the Woronzoff road, past which I could not get my guns, prevented me. I wheeled about and followed the Heavy Cavalry, which had now come up, down into the plain in support of the Light Cavalry.

The fire at this time from the Russian front and flanks was tremendous. I halted for a moment in the rear of the Heavy Cavalry, but, not being able to make my guns of any use, seeing the disaster and knowing from previous observation that descending further into the plain was taking the troop to certain destruction and giving the guns intrusted to my care into the hands of the enemy, I retired at a walk to the crest of the heights on my own responsibility, fearing a second Chilianwallah, and was almost immediately followed by the Heavy Cavalry, who were, indeed, close on to my guns when I reached the crest.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant,
J D SHAKESPEAR, Captain RA

Hardwicke-court, Glocester, March 31


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