This is a fascinating true account of the fatal charge of the Light Brigade which took place during the Crimean War between 1854-56. The story begins with two gentlemen – James Thomas Lord Brudenell later Earl of Cardigan and George Charles Lord Bingham later Earl of Lucan. Both these princely characters have been rigorously dissected by Cecil in this masterful book. Both of them were rich coming into princely estates, aristocratic, ill tempered, foul mouthed, arrogant, incompetent and incidentally both were related – Earl of Lucan had married the youngest sister of Earl of Cardigan. Both were keen on military role and as is the wont those days in the British Army, both of them purchased commissions so they had virtually next to nothing military experience much less war time exploits to their name. Both were desperate to enter the theatre of war. The Earl of Lucan was considerably better and more disciplined than the Earl of Cardigan who was a lazy wasteful person more considered with the uniforms of his cavalry than military strategy. Their wish to enter war got fulfilled with the Crimean War of 1854-56 between Russia on one side supported by Cossacks and England and France as Allies on the other side. Cecil has done a magnificient job in taking readers to the incidents leading to the fatal charge of the Light Brigade. Both these personalities were seen fighting amongst themselves at the war scene and their inability or say incompetence in following orders is what led to the massacre of the Light Brigade at the hands of Russian. Brilliant book for all those who like history. Cecil’s narrative is quite brilliant, the language she has used is absolutely magnificient. There are a lot of characters in the book all Lords and Dukes and Earls and therefore one has to read slowly to understand it fully. Post the disastrous Crimean War, lot of efforts went to improving the lives of army men, including the welfare of army personnel, their training, education, etc. got a lot of boost post the the Crimean War.
Cecil Woodham-Smith (1896-1977) was a British historian and a biographer. Her other books include a biography of Florence Nightingale, The Great Hunger: Ireland 1845 to 1849, and the first volume of Queen Victoria, Her Life and Times
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