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Old 30th September 2022, 09:08 PM   #1
Jim McDougall
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Default Valley of the Shadow of Death

This epithet used by Lord Tennyson in his immortal poem of December 1854 evokes Psalm 23 and the phrase used by British soldiers in the Crimea telling of the 'Charge of the Light Brigade' October 25, 1854 at Balaklava.

"...half a league, half a league, half a league onward,
All in the Valley of Death rode the Six Hundred".
He went on to describe ,
" ...cannon to the right of them, cannon to the left of them,
cannon in front of them, volleyed and thundered".

In 1855, the photographer Roger Fenton, went to the Crimea to photograph the elements of what was the Crimean War (1854-56), which became the very beginning of photography in the reporting on war. He wanted to dramatize the 'Charge' and the Seige of Sebastopol.
He went to a location in which a road was littered with cannon balls, that was in actuality several miles from the true charge location, and took two images.
One of these has the balls, aside the road in a ditch, while the other had them littered all over the road, as if left where they fell after being fired.

He published "Panorama of the Plateau of Sebastopol in Eleven Parts" in September 1855. In this, the second photo with cannon balls all over the road was titled, 'Valley of the Shadow of Death".
In this controversial photo, investigation has proven in degree that the photo published was apparently 'staged'

The last photo is of the area of the 'Valley of Death' in Crimea as seen about 15 years ago, mostly vineyards.
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Old 30th September 2022, 10:20 PM   #2
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Default The Charge

The fateful charge into the 'Valley of Death' resulted from an unfortunate misinterpretation of a written order from the commanding officer of the British cavalry which was carried to the ranking officer of the cavalry. There was considerable distance between them over notable terrain and the order was carried by a young officer who was anxious to begin the action.

The order had intended for the cavalry to advance and to keep the Russian enemy from carrying away captured British guns from redoubts to the right.
Not having the scope of vision that Lord Raglan had overseeing the entire valley Lord Lucan could not see what was meant, visually. When he asked the young aide 'what guns' , he frantically motioned ahead to the North Valley. While this seemed ludicrous to Lucan, as there were heavily armed positions on all sides there, he ordered the advance ...it was the order.

Though Tennyson's poem suggests the entire body of the force (600) were all lost. and while numbers seem varied, one of the largest losses were the horses, almost 475 killed. The men lost were 118 killed, 127 wounded, about 60 captured.
Despite the terrible carnage, many of the survivors were prepared to 'go again' however only 195 still had mounts, and they were told they had done enough for that day.

The order carried would have been held in a pouch which was slung from the same straps as held the saber scabbard, called a sabretache. This type of pouch would likely have held the fateful order carried by Lt. Nolan, the aide who was attached to the force despite being from another unit, 15th hussars.

The front line of the charge was the 17th Lancers, whose emblem was the skull and crossbones, motto "Death or Glory". The sabretache attached is of the type worn by them at this time and can be seen in some paintings of the charge (though the skull device not always discernible).

The 13th light Dragoons and 11th Hussars were also first line,
the second line were 4th Light Dragoons and 8th Hussars.

The Fenton photo is of survivors , 13th Light dragoons

Another photo of a light dragoon.

the sabers carried by the light brigade, the M1829 and the M1853 (of which only nominal numbers had been issued.
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Old 3rd October 2022, 02:55 PM   #3
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The Valley of the Shadow of Death is also where Christian spends a night and described in great detail in John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progess'. Published
in 1678 and never out of print.
This allegory would have been known to every Englishman in the mid 19Cent.
It is at the bottom of the centre column.
Regards
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Old 3rd October 2022, 08:22 PM   #4
kronckew
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I've read somewhere that many Brits still had the older 1821 pipe back blades, not terribly good cutters, and too flexible to thrust through Russian greatcoats.


The photographer of the road likely replaced the cannon balls in the road for effect, after the fact. That was a busy supply road and the Supply corps would have pushed them off to the sides.
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Old 3rd October 2022, 09:50 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kronckew View Post
I've read somewhere that many Brits still had the older 1821 pipe back blades, not terribly good cutters, and too flexible to thrust through Russian greatcoats.


The photographer of the road likely replaced the cannon balls in the road for effect, after the fact. That was a busy supply road and the Supply corps would have pushed them off to the sides.
Thank you Wayne! It does seem there was a variance in the equipment of the different units of course, though the M1821 light cavalry saber was prevalent (along with the M1822 for officers) both three bar hilts.

There was a disruption in the production of the M1821 light cavalry saber from what I understand, and production did not resume fully until 1829. This is why these are often termed M1829. I was not aware that the early models had pipe back blades.

It was not known until recent years (mostly thanks to research by Richard Dellar , "The British Cavalry Sword: Some New Perspectives", 2013) that the M1853 cavalry saber for both light and heavy cavalry was present in some degree at Balaklava.

In later years at survivors reunions etc. it seems there were cases of M1796 light cavalry stirrup hilt sabers inscribed and presented.

The Russian great coats were a test for virtually all sword blades and that issue was brought up constantly over many of the British swords in the Crimea.

The two photos of the 'valley' by Roger Fenton in 1855 were probably staged as per the practice of photographers in so many cases in war or military images.
All that is known is the actual location of these photos was some distance from the location of the actual charge. as you note, these spent balls would have been moved off the road with the traffic of supply, equipment and forces.
I have thought (though it is not indicated) that this might be the Wozoronoff Road, which if the case, was near several of the British redoubts. It does seem that often with artillery, spent shot was retrieved and used for further action, but unclear how much of the Russian fire was shot, shell and canister.
It is known that both Russian and British had 12 pounder guns.

One thing I wanted to achieve in this thread, is to determine just how many Russian guns there were; the sizes included; and where positioned.

Also, I am curious why there has never been any archaeological study of the Balaklava battle field, and why there are no known (substantiated) relics of the battle from the field. It would be interesting to know if any examples of spent shot or shells were taken as souvenirs. I know Mark Twain visited there in the 1860s and I think found something but cannot locate notes.

Last edited by Jim McDougall; 4th October 2022 at 07:26 AM.
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Old 4th October 2022, 12:35 AM   #6
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Jim, I believe the 1821 troopers blade was fullered while officers blades may have been pipeback as were infantry officers swords. Or the confusion could come from artillery officers swords which had an infantry blade but the light cavalry 3 bar hilt.

Robert
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Old 3rd October 2022, 09:05 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard G View Post
The Valley of the Shadow of Death is also where Christian spends a night and described in great detail in John Bunyan's 'Pilgrim's Progess'. Published
in 1678 and never out of print.
This allegory would have been known to every Englishman in the mid 19Cent.
It is at the bottom of the centre column.
Regards
Richard
Richard thank you for responding! and this is a great illustration of the allegory with this phrase, which is of course also Biblical. It most definitely brought forth the impact Tennyson intended with his 1855 work, which was motivated by his desire to raise funds to help wounded veterans. Many of the wounded were terribly maimed in battle, and in this debacle at Balaklava the graphic detail of the effect of cannon fire was devastating.
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