NEWSLETTER NO. 318
The meeting was grateful to Charles Whiteing, who stepped in at short notice to provide am alternative DDH. He presented a BBC video of a special D-Day production, based on contemporary broadcasts and films, linked by a detailed commentary. This film concentrated mainly on the British landings on the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944. Although the film was in black and white it gave us a clear and dramatic impression of the events on that major day in 20th century history.
We were pleased to have Robin Smith with us from Cape Town to present the main talk of the evening. His subject was The Crimean War of 1854 - 1856 and focused on The Charge of the Light Brigade and the award of a Victoriam Cross, (which was established in 1856 - but backdated to the start of the Crimean War - as the highest military award "For Valour"), to Corporal Joseph Malone of the 13th Light Dragoons. Malone died in Pinetown in 1883 and is buried there, hence the local interest.
In the 1840's and 1850's the Russians were encroaching to the south with the eventual objective of capturing Constantinople, to obtain an all-year round port. The conflict eventually involved the Turks and their allies Britain and France against the Russians. In pursuit of their plan, the Russians invaded Moldavia and Wallachia, besieged the Turks at Silistria and defeated them at Sinope in 1853. In 1854 Britain declared war on Russia.
The British, not having been involved in a major war since the early 19th century, had difficulty in finding experienced senior officers to lead them. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, the younger brother of Lord Charles Somerset, once governor of the Cape, became a full general in 1852 and master-general of the ordinance, despite losing an arm at Waterloo. He was raised to the peerage in 1852 as Lord Raglan. He had never commanded an army in the field, but in 1854 he was sent to command the British forces in the Crimea. Two other leaders who were to play a prominent part in the actions that led to the Charge of the Light Brigade, were Lord Lucan and Lord Cardigan.
George Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan at the age of twenty-six, had commanded the 17th Lancers, providing elaborate uniforms and splendid horses, which caused them to be dubbed "Bingham's Dandies". Before the Crimean war he had no experience of wartime action, but was appointed to command the cavalry division at Balaclava. James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan and Lucan's brother-in-law, witH whom he was at odds in a private quarrel, had obtained his advancement in the arMy by purchase, as was usual at that time. He became Lt. Colonel of the 15th Hussars and, in 1836, transferred to the 11 Hussars until 1847, when he was dismissed on a charge of wounding a fellow officer in a dual. After his acquittal, he rejoined the army and when war broke out he set out to take part in the Crimean War as commander of the Light Brigade. He landed at Varna (in modem Bulgaria) and spent much time between engagements on his yacht moored in the harbour, earning him the nickname "the Noble Yachtsman".
The Bntish and French troops landed at Calamita Bay. They then marched to the Alma River, where the Russians were drawn up to the south of the river. The British infantry crossed the river and the Russians retreated in disorder. Several VC's were won in this engagement, including those of Lord Lindsay and Private William Reynolds. The latter's VC appeared some time later in Cape Town, and was eventually bought by his regiment and today it is held in the Regimental HQ of the Scott's Guards.
After the Alma River action, the allies rested for a few days before marching around Sebastopol to invest it. The Russians left 14 000 men in the city while their main army marched out to the east. The city was not, however, sealed off and the Russians retained access to it from the south. The British held the village and harbour of Balaclava as their base. They built lines of redoubt to protect their supply lines. To the north of Balaclava the terrain was split along a line of heights known as the Causeway Heights, with the North Valley and the South Valley on either side. To the east of Sebastopol the ground rises to a plateau on which the British and French took up their positions, with the Heavy Cavalry Brigade under general Scarlett in the South Valley, closer to Balaclava.
On the 17 October 1854 the Russians crossed the Causeway heights but were driven back in disorder when Rykov of the Russian cavalry detached some of his men to attack the 93rd Highlanders under Sir John Campbell: "the thin red line ". The Light Brigade under Cardigan missed an opportunity to complete the rout of the Russians, who retreated behind their guns when the Heavy Brigade drove them down the North Valley. Raglan's order to Sir George Cathcart (also once governor of the Cape) to lead the 1st and 4th Divisions down to Balaclava Plain to assist Campbell, fell on deaf ears. Raglan then ordered Lucan to advance with his cavalry, with infantry support, to recover the heights where the Russians had taken up their positions. There appeared to be no sense of urgency in this order. The fourth order, delivered by Captain Nolan was more peremptory. The cavalry was to advance to prevent the Russians from carrying away their guns.
What happened next is known mainly from the accounts given by Lucan and Cardigan. It seems certain that considerable misunderstanding in a tense situation contributed to these events. Lucan passed Raglan's order to charge on to Cardigan, who muttering "Here goes the last of the Brudenells" led the Light brigade down the North Valley towards the Russian guns. The brigade came under fire from the Russians on the Fedrikimme Heights and on both sides of the valley, with the guns of the Don Cossacks further away. Cardigan galloped his horse Ronald beyond the first line of the Russian guns towards the Don Cossacks. He then turned and spurred his horse back along the valley as he felt he had carried out his order. The Russian battery was destroyed by the 11th Hussars and the 4th Light Dragoons who were in the van of the advance.
During the rest of the campaign the Russians rallied and launched a huge assault. At the Battle of Inkerman the casualties on both sides were enormous. This followed the general pattern during the Crimean War when disease and privation, especially during the severe winter of 1854-85 killed more men than died in battle. In round numbers, the British casualties were 20 000, but fewer than 2 000 died in battle. The Turks lost 100 000 men and the Russians 200 000.
It was during the Charge of the Light Brigade that Corporal Joseph Malone won his VC, in assisting the wounded Captain Webb to safety. After the Crimean War Malone returned to Ireland, then to India and finally to Pinetown, where as Captain Malone he died in 1883 of typhoid. He is buried in St Andrews Churchyard, and although his gravestone can be visited, most of the Churchyard is now a car park: an inglorious resting place for a hero of the Charge of the Light Brigade. His descendants lent his medals to a relative who sold them for $250. They were, however, eventually bought by his regiment - now the 13th/18th Royal Hussars - at auction at Sotheby's in 1988, and are held today at the regimental museum in Barnsley, in the north of England. And for providing the meeting with an excellent
Professor Mike Laing proposed the vote of thanks to Charles Whiteing for showing his D-Day film on the British landings, remarking that the American involvement was only mentioned, but that Eisenhower received more attention than Montgomery. He also thanked Robin Smith for making the journey from Cape Town and for providing the meeting with an excellent and well researched talk, which was enlivened by a number of amusing anecdotes.
THE SOCIETY'S NEXT MEETING: THURSDAY -8 NOVEMBER 2001 As we (10 not have a formal meeting in December, our November meeting will be the closest to the 60th anniversary ofone oftlie major events oftlie 2nd World War-the Japanese Air attack on the American Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbour. The date was 7 December 1941. To mark this important anniversary, our Vice Chairman BILL BRADY will present the main talk on PEARL HARBOUR - THE 60th ANNIVERSARY and will show what happened on that crucial morning when the course of the war was changed dramatically and the American forces joining the allied cause against both Japan and Germany. The events at Pearl Harbour has been given a great deal of publicity of late due to the release of a Hollywood film on the attack, but as so often happens in films of this kind, historical truth was the loser. If you want to know what really happened at Pearl Harbour 60 years ago, why the Japanese decided to attack, what the final impact was, who on the American side was to blame for being caught asleep and much more besides, then be at tIne November meeting. As it is November, and the birthday month of General George Patton (11 November ) that means that PROFESSOR MIKE LAING will be performing his annual variations on a theme of the great general. The DDH in November will be on COLONEL OSCAR W. KOCH, who was Patton's G-2 Intelligence Officer and who served with Patton in North Africa, Sicilv and Europe. As usual, expect the unexpected. ARMISTICE DAY:i1 November 2001 A reminder from last month's newsletter. Unfortunately, this year the Society's annual meeting with the MOTH's at Old Fort on Armistice Day has been cancelled. In 2001 Armistice Day will fall on Remembrance Sunday. The MOTH's will be on parade at 1100 hours on that day and we suggest that all members who would have attended the Society/MOTH's ceremony at Old Fort, go instead to the Cenotaph and watch the official service and parade. We will ineet again at Old Fort, on 11 November 2002. THE ANNUAL DINNER:13 December 2001 As voted l)y members at the September meeting, the Annual End of Year Dinner will be held on the 13 December (the 2nd Thursday of the month), at the COCKPIT RE STA, U RA NT at Virginia Airport, from 7.301)111 for 8.00p m. We will have the full restaurant to ourselves. Tile list of members who have signed to attend will fill the restaurant, and as we have had to pay a substantial down payment to secure the booking, we are asking for all members to pay in full ( R 56 per head ) by the November meeting at the latest. As BILL BRADY, the dinner organiser will be giving the main talk in November we are hoping that all members attending will send cheques to him, or to the Chairman, before that date. The good news is that about half have already paid, so we are asking for the remainder to settle in good time. Many thuanks, and here's to a successful year-end function. Thanks for your efforts, Bill. SEE YOU ALL ON THE 8th NOVEMBER AND AT THE DINNER ON 13th DECEMBER !!!
THE SOCIETY'S NEXT MEETING:
THURSDAY 11 OCTOBER 2001
Not for the first time this year, the Society will have the pleasure of welcoming a guest as our
main speaker for the evening. ROBIN SMITH will be travelling up from Cape Town to address us with the main talk for the October meeting. His subject for the evening was originally to be CONFLICTS IN THE CRIMEA, and he has decided to keep to the main subject but to change the emphasis in order to add some important local KZN flavour.
ROBIN intends to use the information he has on Corporal Joseph Malone VC, as the main theme of the evening. Malone was a hero of the Charge of the Light Brigade and as we all know was later promoted to Captain and is buried in Pinetown. Consequently the talk will be called CORPORAL JOSEPH MALONE VC, of the 13th LIGHT DRAGOONS. The talk will cover the Crimean Wars, including World War 2 briefly, but emphasis will be on the Charge. This will be another fascinating talk and again on a subject rarely covered by the Society.
There will be a change to the DDH. Our Chairman PAUL KILMARTIN has to go into hospital for an operation on his neck and will not be available to give his talk on RUDOLF HESS - HIS FLIGHT TO SCOTLAND. It will be given at a later date. We will, therefore be able to welcome our "missing" DDH speaker from last month, Lt. COLONEL CLEM CHANING-PEARCE, who was unable to address us last month due to illness. CLEM is now 85 years old, served in Burma as a Gunner in the 2nd World War. His talk will be entitled ON THE CHINWIN RIVER, BURMA. It will be an honour to listen to an "old" soldier and his experiences in this most difficult of campaigns.
BATTLEFIELDS TOUR 2001: Majuba Revisited
Once again the weather beat our plans to revisit Majuba. Some of the worst snowstorms for some years hit the Natal Midlands, on exactly the week end of our planned revisit to climb the hill. Watch this space !!
ARMISTICE DAY: 11 November 2001
Unfortunately, this year the Society's annual meeting with the MOTH's at Old Fort on Armistice Day will have to be cancelled. In 2001 Armistice Day will fall on a Sunday and will be on the same day as Remembrance Sunday. The MOTH's will be on parade at 1100 hours on that day and we suggest that all members who would have attended the Society/MOTH's ceremony at Old Fort, go instead to the Cenotaph and watch the official service and parade.
FUTURE SOCIETY DATES : To Year End 2001
Dr Ingrid Machin
Secretary: Durban Branch
S.A.MILITARY HISTORY SOCIETY
4 Hadley,101 Manning Road,Glenwood,Durban,4001
Telephone: (031) 201 3983