The Reason Why

By Cecil Woodham-Smith,

Book cover of The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade

Book description

This history is a war story of astonishing courage and honor, of stupidity, of blood, death, agony -- and waste.

Nothing in British campaign history has ever equaled the tragic farce that was the charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War's Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854.…

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It starts with a “kinship” analysis of the British Army at mid-century, 1850. Officers purchased their ranks and most were of the aristocracy. When the Crimean War broke out, two cavalry (Light and Heavy) brigades went into action.

The commander of both brigades despised the commander of the Light Brigade—they were relatives who did not speak to each other. Thus, a fatal written order was misconstrued and the Light Brigade charged into a valley surrounded by Russian artillery.

It was a slaughter to some extent, but the officer in…

Picking up on a line from Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem The Charge of the Light Brigade (‘Theirs not to reason why …’), the author delves into the events and characters behind a British disaster during the Crimean War with Russia. The class-based officer system of the mid-Victorian army, which permitted wealthy aristocrats like the haughty and snobbish Lord Cardigan to hold rank far above their abilities, is evoked in withering prose. Woodham-Smith also shows how the feud between Cardigan and his brother-in-law Lord Lucan contributed to the catalogue of errors that triggered the misguided attack of the Light Brigade at…

From Stephen's list on military disasters.

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