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"You've lost the Light Brigade!" Topic

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Action Log

15 Feb 2018 6:36 p.m. PST
by Editor in Chief Bill

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23rdFusilier30 Jul 2017 2:48 p.m. PST

Who was most responsible for the "Charge of the Light Brigade" at Balaclava?

1. Lord Raglan (army commander)

2. Lord Lucan (cavalry brigade commander)

3. Lord Cardigan (brigade commander)

4. Captain Nolan (delivered order)

5. All four officers were responsible

Winston Smith30 Jul 2017 2:57 p.m. PST


Winston Smith30 Jul 2017 2:57 p.m. PST

Non fictionally…..

cavcrazy30 Jul 2017 2:58 p.m. PST

A blunder is a blunder and there is plenty of blame to go around. Whoever issued the order is the first one responsible.

Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP30 Jul 2017 3:33 p.m. PST

2. Lord Lucan (divisional commander)

3. Lord Cardigan (brigade commander)

it is not well understood that the Heavy Brigade started to charge ….
Yet it was now that Lucan – concluding that the Light Brigade would be wiped out before they reached the Russians at the end of the valley — ordered the Heavy Brigade to halt their advance and retire, leaving Cardigan's men without support. Turning to Lord Paulet, he justified his action and his desire to preserve at least half of his cavalry division, "They have sacrificed the Light Brigade; they shall not have the Heavy, if I can help it."




When the brigade charged into the valley it found itself surrounded on three sides by the Russian guns, with devastating results.

The letter written by Lieutenant Frederick Maxse, who was serving on Lord Raglan's staff, said the widespread feeling among the surviving men was that a 36-year-old officer called Captain Louis Nolan was to blame.

Capt Nolan was the messenger who conveyed Lord Raglan's written orders to Lord Lucan, instructing him to "follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy from carrying away the guns".

However, Prof Saul David, who has studied Lieut Maxse's account, says Capt Nolan – who had served in India and saw himself as a military tactician – over-egged Lord Raglan's orders.

Addressing Lord Lucan, Capt Nolan gestured towards the Russian forces and said: "There, my lord, is your enemy! There are your guns!" Capt Nolan demanded to be allowed to join the charge being led by Lord Cardigan on Oct 25, 1854, but was one of the first to fall when shrapnel from an exploding shell pierced his chest as he galloped to the front of the Light Brigade's assault.

Captain Louis Nolan, who misinterpreted or exaggerated Lord Raglan's orders

Lieut Maxse wrote: "On looking to the left, saw poor Nolan lying dead who 10 minutes before I had seen eager & full of life, galloping down to Lord Lucan, anxious & determined to make him do something with the cavalry (of which he is a member)."

He records Capt Nolan's apparent resentment at the behaviour of the cavalry until then. "He was always very indignant at the little they had done in this campaign & bitter against Lord L," he wrote.

"All the cavalry lay this disastrous charge on his soldiers & say that he left no option to Lord L to whom they say his tone was almost taunting on delivering the message – if he was to blame he has paid the penalty."

A second staff officer, Nigel Kingscoteé, confirmed the view that Capt Nolan was to blame for the disaster, later telling Raglan's son that he "would no doubt have been broke by court martial" had he lived.

Prof David, who teaches military history at the University of Buckingham, said all three key figures bore some responsibility but posterity would reserve its sternest judgment for Capt Nolan.

"So contemptuous was he of Lucan's ability, so desperate for the cavalry to show its worth, that he failed in the one essential task of a staff galloper: to provide the officer in receipt of the message with the necessary clarification," he writes in the latest edition of BBC History Magazine.

"It seems, moreover, that he used the word 'attack' when Raglan had intended a mere show of force. If so, Nolan bears the chief responsibility for what followed

ALL that said, only Nolan was killed -- neatly removing his testimony from the record and allowing all blame to fall on him….giving new meaning to the adage: shoot the messenger.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP30 Jul 2017 4:08 p.m. PST

4. Nolan – Intentionally perverted the meaning/context of the order.

Frederick Supporting Member of TMP30 Jul 2017 4:28 p.m. PST

In terms of chain of command, 3)

In terms of culpability, 4)

Interesting Nolan was born in Upper Canada and trained as a cavalry officer by the Austrio-Hungarians

Personal logo Nashville Supporting Member of TMP30 Jul 2017 4:37 p.m. PST



Afterwards, Cardigan is furious. "Did you hear the creature?" he barks. "Shrieking like some tight girl, like a woman fetching off, damn him. Damn all his kind." General Scarlett replies: "My lord, you have just ridden over his dead body."

Old Contemptibles30 Jul 2017 4:42 p.m. PST

"If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers."

Sun Tzu

dBerczerk30 Jul 2017 5:08 p.m. PST

6. The Imperial Russian Army.

(If the Russians had not seized the redoubt, and had not begun to evacuate the captured guns, there would have been no Charge.)

Glengarry530 Jul 2017 5:13 p.m. PST

All of the above.

Mooseworks830 Jul 2017 5:30 p.m. PST

4 and then 3.

23rdFusilier30 Jul 2017 6:24 p.m. PST

From the script of the 1968 movie, Charge of the Light Brigade. Nolan has just taken the order to the Light brigade. Raglan says of him;

"That young man, Nolan,
I don't really like him.
He rides too well.
Knows a lot, but he has no heart.
It will be a sad day when England
has her armies officered by men…
…who know too well what they're doing.
It smacks of murder."
Lord Raglan,

Read more: link

wrgmr130 Jul 2017 6:40 p.m. PST

+1 Rallynow
Clear concise communication is the key. The original order was not clear or concise particularly as the brigade commander could not see what was going on from his vantage point. Nolan in his exuberance expressed an unclear verbal part of the order. Every officer understands that there is a written part to a message and a verbal part. In this instance, both failed.

Battle Phlox30 Jul 2017 6:42 p.m. PST

2 and 3. Field grade officers should have an understanding of tactics and when to charge and when not to. They cannot put blame on the vagueness of the orders on a messenger. Now, if the the staff officer intentionally pointed them to the wrong target that's another issue. That said, no one has claimed Nolan did that. Convenient that the scapegoat isn't breathing anymore.

Roderick Robertson Fezian31 Jul 2017 7:38 a.m. PST

I go with 2 and 3, myself.

Convenient that the scapegoat isn't breathing anymore.

Neither are the others, at this point…

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jul 2017 10:33 a.m. PST

"If words of command are not clear and distinct, if orders are not thoroughly understood, then the general is to blame. But, if orders are clear and the soldiers nevertheless disobey, then it is the fault of their officers."

Sun Tzu

A manager of people needs to understand that all people are different. This is not ranking people. He needs to understand that the performance of anyone is governed largely by the system that he works in, the responsibility of management.
– W. Edwards Deming, The New Economics for Industry, Government, Education (1993)

The worker is not the problem. The problem is at the top!
– W. Edwards Deming, Management! Cultural Transformation Study Guide

Blame the process, not the people.[/I]
– Edwards Deming, Deming Seminar, Alexandria, Virginia, 19-22 January 1992

I am all for accepting ultimate responsibility for failure when you are in a position of authority.

The buck stops here.[/I]
– Popularized by U.S. President Harry S. Truman

But if you actually want to fix things, it is foolish to assume that all problems are caused by and can be fixed by changing the behaviour of the leadership.

Personal logo etotheipi Sponsoring Member of TMP31 Jul 2017 10:35 a.m. PST

Now, if the the staff officer intentionally pointed them to the wrong target that's another issue.


Personal logo Herkybird Supporting Member of TMP31 Jul 2017 11:15 a.m. PST


Is the famous order, if anyone hasn't seen it.

For my tuppence worth, I blame Raglan for writing an order that only made sense to someone on the heights, and able to see the guns being taken from the Turkish redoubts. I think Nolan may not have clearly clarified the order. I think he may have realised the charge was misdirected when he began to ride back towards Cardigan, and was trying to correct the error, but was killed before he could.
Just my thoughts…

Covert Walrus06 Aug 2017 4:10 p.m. PST

What throws everything into confusion is the comment made by the officer reporting to Cardigan, who said very loudly and was thus frequently reported as saying "My lord, were you not there?". Many people take that to imply Cardigan stuffed up when he had clear observation of the situation, which seems unlikely.
My tuppence ha'penny worth.

Nick Pasha06 May 2019 5:01 p.m. PST

Errol Flynn

Old Wolfman04 Sep 2019 5:58 a.m. PST

Transcribing Raglan's order in the clearest handwriting,and in the stress of the moment,like the old "message game",you say one thing and it inevitably gets turned into another down the line.

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