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The Recall of Lord Lucan

Some Documents in the Case


The significant documents relating to Lord Lucan's recall are:

  1. Lord Raglan's despatch dated 28.10.1854
  2. Lord Raglan's private letter to the Duke of Newcastle dated 28.10.1854
  3. Lord Lucan's letter to Lord Raglan dated 30.11.1854
  4. Lord Raglan's official letter to the Duke of Newcastle dated 16.12.1854
  5. Lord Raglan's private letter to the Duke of Newcastle dated 16.12.1854 (?)
  6. The Duke of Newcastle's letter to Lord Lucan of Dec 1854 or Jan 1855
  7. Lord Raglan's official covering letter to Lord Lucan dated 12.2.1855
  8. Lord Raglan's private covering letter to Lord Lucan dated 13.2.1855
  9. The Duke of Newcastle's letter to Lord Raglan dated 27.1.1855
  10. Extracts from Viscount Hardinge's letter to the Duke of Newcastle dated 26.1.1855
  11. Paragraph from Viscount Hardinge's letter to the Duke of Newcastle dated 26.1.1855
  12. Lord Lucan's letter to the Adjutant-General dated 1.3.1855
  13. A note from Lord Panmure to Lord Lucan of 5.3.1855
  14. The Adjutant-General's reply to item 12 dated 5.3.1855
  15. Lord Lucan's letter to the Adjutant-General dated 5.3.1855
  16. The Times leading article of 9.3.1855.
  17. The Adjutant-General's reply to item 15 dated 12.3.1855

On 28 October 1854 Lord Raglan sent an official despatch (item 1) and a private letter (item 2) to the Minister for War (the Duke of Newcastle) reporting the battle of Balaclava. On 13 November 1854 The Times published the official despatch.

On 28 November1854 the newspaper reached the Crimea, and Lord Lucan read the despatch for the first time. He thought it was unjust towards him. He attempted to discuss the matter with Lord Raglan, but it was intimated to him that such a meeting would not be welcome. He accordingly wrote a letter (item 3) giving his version of events, and requested Lord Raglan to give it the same circulation as the original despatch. He hoped that it would go by the next post to England in a day or two. It did not - for two weeks General Airey attempted unsuccessfully to get him to withdraw the letter.

Lord Raglan forwarded the letter to the Duke of Newcastle on 16 December1854, together with his observations on it (item 4), which alleged that Lucan had failed to comply with his earlier order to recover the heights. He probably also sent a private letter (item 5) at the same time. [The existence of this letter is a matter of presumption. Newcastle said on 19 March 1855, ‘as regards any private letters sent to me by Lord Raglan, the noble earl is well aware that in the letter which Lord Raglan addressed to me giving an account of the Battle of Balaklava, he did not refer to him at all, and that, on other occasions, when he did refer to him he had always done so in the kindest possible tone.’ 1 According to Adkin the letter dated 28 October 1854 (item 2) did mention Lucan, saying that he ‘had made a fatal mistake.’ 2 If so, Newcastle's evidence is untrustworthy. It seems likely that there was a private letter accompanying the letter of observations, as there had been with the previous despatch.]

Lucan had sent a copy of his letter to his personal solicitor in London, Mr Parkinson, requesting him to get it published in The Times if Lord Raglan did not submit it to the Minister for War. Parkinson was also Newcastle's personal solicitor, and showed him the letter. Newcastle thus had sight of Lucan's letter before he received it officially from Lord Raglan on 8 January 1855. In the interim he wrote privately to Lord Lucan (item 6) advising him that, while his letter was calm and temperate, on no account ought it to be published, as it would be detrimental to the public service. This letter does not appear to have survived, but references to it in the Lords debate of 19 March 1855 give an idea of its contents.

On 14 February 1855 Lucan received his recall, consisting of four letters (items 7-10): an official and a private letter from Lord Raglan enclosing an instruction from the Minister for War that Lucan was ordered to relinquish his command and return home, and an extract from a letter of Viscount Hardinge, the Commander-in-chief of the British Army, concurring with the recall. (This was one of Newcastle's last acts as Minister for War. At the end of January Aberdeen's Government fell, and Newcastle was replaced with Lord Panmure.) The official reason for Lucan's recall was not his conduct on 25 October 1855, but his subsequent disagreement with Lord Raglan. Hardinge's letter was not copied in full to Raglan and Lucan. It was not until 19 March 1855 that Lucan learned of a further paragraph from it (item 11), criticising him for not consulting with Lord Cardigan before ordering the Light Brigade to advance.

Immediately on arrival in England on 1 March 1855, Lord Lucan wrote to the Adjutant-General requesting a court-martial to examine his conduct (item 12).

The Times of 2 March 1855 printed a copy of item 3.

On 2 March 1855 Lucan addressed the House of Lords and read items 7, 9, 10, 3, and 12, stating that he had not sent the copy of item 3 to The Times. At that time he was unaware of the existence of item 4. On the afternoon of Monday 5 March, Lucan was handed a note (item 13) from the new Secretary for War, Lord Panmure, telling him that the correspondence he had read to the Lords was incomplete, and enclosing a copy of item 4.

On the same day Lucan received a reply (item 14) from the Adjutant-General refusing his request for a court-martial. He immediately wrote (item 15) requesting that the decision be reconsidered in the light of the new charges against him contained in item 4, of which he had previously been unaware.

On Tuesday 6 March 1855 Lucan again addressed the House of Lords, and read items 13, 4, 14, and 15.

On 9 March 1855 The Times published a leading article (item 16) to the effect that Lucan was wholly to blame for the Light Brigade disaster.

On 12 March 1855 the Adjutant-General replied (item 17) to Lucan's application of 5.3.1855, refusing to reconsider the previous decision not to grant a court-martial.


1. House of Lords, 19 March 1855, reported in The Times, 20 March 1855.

2. Mark Adkin, The Charge, 1996, Leo Cooper, p235.


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