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Charge of the Light Brigade

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Today marks the 162nd anniversary of the Charge of the Light Brigade. It was during the initial stages of the siege of Sevastopol that the 17th made their most famous charge as part of the Light Brigade at Balaklava. The allies had laid siege to Sevastopol and in an attempt to break the siege on the 25th of October 1854, the Russians launched an attack on the Causeway Heights to cut the British off from their supply chain. Initially the Russians met with success taking both the Heights and the redoubts defending them. The stubborn defence of the 93rd Regiment of Foot and the successful Charge of the Heavy Brigade halted their advance.

It was not however until the later stages of the battle that the famous Charge of the Light Brigade took place. In fact it was caused by confusion of orders. From his position on the Sapoune Heights, Lord Raglan could see that the Russians were about to carry away the captured guns from the Causeway Heights. Raglan therefore ordered Lord Lucan, the commander of the Cavalry Division, to launch the Light Brigade to retake the guns. From his position in the valley Lucan could not see the guns. When he asked for further clarification from Captain Nolan, the ADC who had brought the message, Nolan pointed not to the guns on the Causeway Heights, but to a Russian Battery at the end of the valley. Having received the clarification he required he directed Lord Cardigan, his brother-in-law and Commander of the Light Brigade, to advance down the valley.

On orders Cardigan advanced the five regiments of the Light Brigade towards the line of Russian guns at a trot. The first salvo was fired when the brigade had advanced only 200 yards. Each subsequent salvo took a heavy toll on the 17th, who were positioned forward left in the Brigade, but the advance continued unabated with the gaps in the line being filled quickly. As they neared the guns, the Light Brigade broke into a charge, and were met within eighty yards by a final salvo. The 17th, led by Captain Morris, swept down on the enemy, carrying the guns and driving the Russian cavalry, who were massed behind the guns, back in disarray. “Half a dozen of us leaped in among the guns, and I with one blow brained a Russian gunner.” (Private John Vahey, Regimental butcher). The force was however too small to maintain the position unaided and were forced to withdraw back up the valley, again under constant musket and artillery fire from the flanking Heights, and harassed by Cossacks who rode down among them.

Of the 147 17th Lancers that charged, only 38 answered the roll call after the battle. For their gallant actions that day, three Victoria Crosses were awarded to members of the Regiment. Although the 17th remained in the Crimea for the rest of the campaign they did not play a major role in any of the remaining battles, which were predominantly infantry affairs.

New Book - Centenary of the 'Last Charges' of the 9th/12th Royal Lancers

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The Last Charges written by Major (Retired) Philip Watson combines the accounts of the last two significant charges, in the opening two months of the First World War, of the 9th Queen’s Royal Lancers and the 12th Royal Lancers. The author has revisited the legends surrounding these charges and through 20 years of meticulous research and the use of, and reference to, previously unpublished sources has produced an account that is credible and readable and which has dispelled some popular myths. The use of many newly revealed facts and extensive illustrations (some from German sources and point of view) enables the reader to fully understand the events surrounding those two days and the roles played by those involved in the charges.
The battles of Mons and Moÿ continue to be commemorated annually by The Royal Lancers, as part of Mons Day. This book gives us the context and helps us to understand why.
The book (containing 136 pages and 135 illustrations and photographs) is available on the online shop - http://theroyallancers.org/TRL-Shop/ - for £12.99 exclusive of postage. The sale proceeds will go to the 9th/12th Royal Lancers Museum Trust which funded its publication.

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Somme 2016 Centenary Film

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Somme 2016 Centenary Film.  QRL & NY Museum plans to show this ground-breaking film that documented one of the most notorious battles of the First World War.  Screening dates: Friday 1st July at 11:00am and 2:00pm. Further showings on Thursdays throughout July at 11:00am. Book now on 01642824222, or via curator@qrlnymuseum.co.uk

Battle of Waterloo 18 June 1815‌

In March 1815, French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte escaped from exile on Elba and launched a military campaign which would end at the Battle of Waterloo. The European allies quickly assembled their armies and prepared to resume the war.

Napoleon, with his Grande Armée, resolved to attack Wellington’s Allied army, and marched into Belgium.  On 16 June at Ligny the French drove the Prussians off the battlefield.

Wellington established a strong defensive position defending a high ridge near the village of Waterloo, blocking the road to stop Napoleon’s advance towards Brussels. The villages of Papelotte on the left, La Haye Sainte in the centre and Hougoumont Farm on the right, formed the key positions of this defensive line.

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The battle of Waterloo was fought within a remarkably small area. From North to South it extended less than four miles and rather less in width. In this restricted area there were deployed more than four hundred pieces of artillery and over 140,000 men.

It had rained heavily during the night of 17 June and as a result the French attack did not begin until 11am, with the bombardment of Hougoumont Farm. This was followed at midday by an infantry assault which began the day-long struggle for the farm buildings.

At about 1.30pm French guns were brought forward opposite La Haye Sainte, held by the King’s German Legion, and 17,000 infantry began the attack on the centre and left. This assault continued intermittently for the rest of the day until the Legion ran out of ammunition and was finally overwhelmed.

Napoleon now mounted an attack against the British lines drawn up along the ridge, each assault was repulsed. Lord Uxbridge, Wellington's cavalry commander, had two brigades of heavy cavalry behind the ridge. The Union Brigade under Ponsonby and the Household Brigade commanded by Somerset. The brigades charged and hit the French infantry and Cuirassiers cutting through the cavalry and retreating infantry.

Carried away by their initial success, the heavy brigades failed to rally and continued towards the French positions. By this time their horses were blown and a swift retribution followed in the shape of a counter-attack by the French lancers.

As part of Vandeleur's cavalry brigade, the 12th and 16th Light Dragoons had been ordered against the flank of the retreating infantry, riding down infantry squares and squadrons of fleeing cavalry.

The 12th broke one the infantry squares but before it could reform, it was attacked by a French infantry reserve and a regiment of lancers. As a result they lost the strength of an entire squadron in killed, wounded or captured.

Vandeleur then recalled his brigade and ordered them to assist Ponsonby’s “Union” brigade of heavy cavalry who were being attacked by French lancers and chasseurs

The remnants of 12th and the 16th charged forward down the slope into a smoke filled valley below. The battlefield descended into a series of individual combats as English light dragoon fought the French lancer, each isolated from his comrades by the smoke, noise and general confusion.

The French eventually broke away allowing the survivors of the Union brigade and Vandeleur’s brigade to withdraw to their former positions.

Wellington’s army held out long enough for the beaten Prussians to regroup and attack the French again, uniting the Allied armies.

At about 8.00pm, Wellington ordered the whole line to advance. The two light brigades, followed by the cheering infantry, immediately charged the recoiling Imperial Guard. A panic now seized the French, and they were chased off the field.

By 8.30pm the battle was won, Napoleon was defeated, “but it was a close run thing”. In one day at Waterloo, Napoleon’s dream of French domination over Europe was finally crushed.

JMH

Battle of Waterloo 18 June 1815