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An interesting letter, and one of many that were sent to the Times in that year and for a few years afterwards, as the drama concerning who was to blame for the loss of the light brigade turned into a political and military football, everyone blaming everyone else. Captain Shakespear seems to remember the whole scene, but cannot remember receiving a direct order from his commanding officer as he 'was not paying close enough attention,' he tell us! No one wanted to be seen as not doing his duty and everyone seems to have their own thoughts on what exactly happened that day. The only thing that each individual officer could all agree on was that they themselves were not to blame for those brave men who were sent forward to be slaughtered.
The politics around the Light Brigade's conduct at Balaklava are almost more interesting than the action itself. It was a great embarassment for the British because they held the Russian Army in such contempt. (The Brit's were contemptious of just about everyone in those days.)
The "old boy" network in the British Officer Corps was what caused the disaster. Neither Raglan, nor Lucan were fit to lead; Lord Cartigan was an over dressed fox-hunter; the lot of them ought to have been retired, but the social hierarchy over ruled common sense. The incompetance started at the top, and the blame started at the bottom. Each attempted to blame his subordinate, when it was the duty of the C/O of the Light Brigade to soberly observe the course of the battle and the lay of the land.
As for Capt. Shakespear, it is hard for one to remember an order that was never given. The Horse Artillery could not have saved the Light Brigade, they would only have lost their guns. He discribes that the other officers he met were all talking to him informally, one does not deliver orders informally.
If the British General Staff has written & exchanged their orders as exactly on the day of the battle as they did when defending their actions in the press... well, we wouldn't be discussing it now. What was "missing" at the charge of the Light Brigade was a competant General Staff.
Bang on old chap, the old school tie and the (Horse)Guards seniority and "by-jingo" code had alot to answer to. Poor old Tommy Atkins.