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Old November 7th, 2012, 08:38 PM   #41

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Originally Posted by Naomasa298 View Post
But not only that, Lucan did ask which guns. Nolan by all accounts gestured vaguely in the direction of the valley rather than the redoubt where the guns Raglan was referring to were sited. The dialogue apparently went like this:
Whose account are you referring to?

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Originally Posted by Naomasa
Lucan: "Attack sir? Attack what? What guns, sir? Where and what to do?"
Nolan (throwing out his arm, possibly in anger): "There, my Lord! There is your enemy! There are your guns!"
A points to make here. Use of the words possibly and anger. Together with the comment that there was no doubt about Nolan's gesture throws the onus on Nolan. I've already made the point that Nolan's state of mind and the direction of his gesture are open to interpretation.
Now the question "What guns sir? Where and what to do?" Asking that question and receiving an insubordinate and angry response would seem to absolve Lucan, but does it? Two vital questions remain unanswered. It was Lucan's responsibility to to bring Nolan into line and demand a clear answer.


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Originally Posted by Naomasa
Lucan then rides over to Cardigan and relays the orders, instructing Cardigan to attack the guns at the end of the valley.

Cardigan, to Lucan who had come over to him: "Certainly sir. But allow me to point out to you that the Russians have a battery in the valley in our front, and batteries and riflemen on each flank. There must be some mistake. I shall never be able to bring a single man back."
Lucan: "I cannot help that. It is Lord Raglan's positive order that the Light Brigade attacks immediately."
Cardigan (to himself): "Well, here goes the last of the Brudenells [referring to himself]."
What a noble and self sacrificing exchange!


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Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
In the end, Nolan was responsible for the disaster, since he alone could have indicated the proper direction for the attack. There is no doubt that he pointed toward the North Valley, where the Russian cavalry were with guns in front, rather than the Causeway Heights, where the captured guns were. Cecil Woodham Smith, while admitting that any explanation of his extraordinary behaviour must be merely conjectural, thinks that Nolan had into a muddle in his excitement and really did think that the attack was to directed down the North Valley. Lucan thought that Nolan was conveying a direct order from Raglan, and Cardigan also questioned the supposed order when it was relayed to him by Lucan. Neither Lucan nor Raglan(sic) could have acted any differently without directly disobeying an order from their commander as explained by the aide-de-camp who had brought it. Lucan did not in fact over-react to the grossly impertinent behaviour of Nolan, he took his time reading the orders, and questioned them to Nolan; when Nolan indicated the direction of attack, Lucan had to accept it.
So even Cecil Woodham -Smith has to admit to conjecture concerning Nolan. Nolan conveyed a written order When questioned his response was vague, restricted to "there are the guns.". You say Lucan did not overreact but took his time. Surely he could have rephrased his question asking Nolan exactly which guns.

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Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
Raglan's order was imprecise, but the aide-de-camp who transmitted should have been able to explain it, ........Raglan permitted him to take the scrap of paper from Leslie's hand.
A wonderful whitewash of responsibility taken from Raglan.

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Originally Posted by Lindschoten
I don't believe there is any doubt about the course of events when Nolan met up with Lucan, that Nolan took his time reading the orders, asked what guns were meant (his words are recorded), and that Nolan made his famous gesture, pointing toward the valley. The situation was recalled by others who were present, and the events must have been stamped on their mind.
You don't believe there is doubt. "His words were recorded." By this do you mean they were written down verbatim?

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Yes 'stamped' on their mind indeed but that doesn't mean accurately, a witness to any event is not always reliable for many reasons.

For instance you can have 'false' memory syndrome, you are told this or that happened often enough and you believe it did.
Totally agree.

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Indeed, but one has to consider the nature of the specific situation. That Nolan(sic) took his time reading the orders (this caused some impatience in those who were present), that he asked which guns were intended as the objective, and that Nolan gestured toward the North Valley: these are the crucial factors, and is there any way in which there could have been any misapprehension about any of them?
Yes they are crucial factors but equally crucial was the question of more clarification. "To what purpose?" And with three batteris befoe hm and the most difficult apparently being indicated, surely Lucan would not have accepted a vague gesture as sufficient reply.

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Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
Yes, everyone interpreted the gesture as indicating that the valley was the target. It must either be the case that Nolan intended to indicate the valley was the target (that is what Woodham-Smith thought), or that is was a vague gesture of impatience which was misinterpreted as indicating the valley. Even in the latter case, Nolan was culpably irresponsible, because Lucan had asked him what guns were to be attacked and he failed to give a proper answer; if he knew that the guns on the Causeway Heights were intended, it was his duty to make that clear and not allow Lucan to go away under a misapprehension.
"Everyone' accepted the gesture. Yet no one questioned it. Surely it would have been on the minds of more junior officers. But as Kevin says hindsight memory is often at variance to reality. In part of this you are relying on what Woodham-Smith thought. Earlier I put a different possibility and that's all we really have, conjecture.

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Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
The orders were not given to Nolan, he was merely carrying Raglan's written orders to Lucan; it was not as if Raglan had explained his intentions to Nolan, though Nolan should have been able to explain the situation to the commanders below who were unable to see the lie of the land. Woodham-Smith thinks that Nolan had misunderstood Raglan's intentions and thus indicated to Lucan that he should attack the guns in the valley.
Again Raglan was not responsible. He only wrote the order. And once more we rely on what Woodham-Smith believes.
The intersting thing here is that up til now you have shovelled responsibility on Nolan's shoulders, now we come to a shift. Nolan was "merely" carrying Raglan's orders, Raglan had not explained his intentions. But that doesn't matter, Nolan should have been able to explain. Surely the order should have carried the explanation. How much effort does it take to write a simple command "Charge the battery on the heights." So we are back to Raglan's failure and how often have you defended Raglan in this thread?
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Old November 8th, 2012, 12:29 AM   #42

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Whose account are you referring to?
As far as I'm aware, the first part of the conversation, between Lucan and Nolan, was as recalled by Lucan himself and a certain James Blunt, who was present (Victoria's Wars, Saul David, pg. 229).

According to Blunt: "[His Lorship] appeared to be surprised and irritated at the impetuous and disrespectful attitude and tone of Captain Nolan, looked at him sternly but made no answer, and after some hesitation proceeded to give orders to Lord Cardigan to charge the enemy with the Light Brigade."

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A points to make here. Use of the words possibly and anger. Together with the comment that there was no doubt about Nolan's gesture throws the onus on Nolan. I've already made the point that Nolan's state of mind and the direction of his gesture are open to interpretation.
Now the question "What guns sir? Where and what to do?" Asking that question and receiving an insubordinate and angry response would seem to absolve Lucan, but does it? Two vital questions remain unanswered. It was Lucan's responsibility to to bring Nolan into line and demand a clear answer.
A point that perhaps throws the onus back on to Lucan is that he later claimed that from his position, he could see neither enemies or guns, in which case, he should have asked for further clarification. But the valley guns were in plain sight for Cardigan when he received the orders from Lucan.

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What a noble and self sacrificing exchange!
Well, it needs to be looked at in the context that Cardigan had earlier been instructed (I don't know by whom, but presumably by Raglan) that he must follow Lucan's orders, in light of the antagonism between the two men, and by God, that was what he was going to do, to the letter. He had earlier lost a chance to destroy the Russian cavalry after they had been routed by the Heavy Brigade because Lucan had previously ordered him to stay put.

Cardigan was the passive-aggressive type, IMO.

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Again Raglan was not responsible. He only wrote the order. And once more we rely on what Woodham-Smith believes.
The intersting thing here is that up til now you have shovelled responsibility on Nolan's shoulders, now we come to a shift. Nolan was "merely" carrying Raglan's orders, Raglan had not explained his intentions. But that doesn't matter, Nolan should have been able to explain. Surely the order should have carried the explanation. How much effort does it take to write a simple command "Charge the battery on the heights." So we are back to Raglan's failure and how often have you defended Raglan in this thread?
But Raglan didn't actually instruct the cavalry to charge. His order was "Lord Raglan wishes the cavalry to advance rapidly to the front - follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy from carrying away the guns. Troop Horse Artillery may accompany. French cavalry is on your left. Immediate." (emphasis mine)

In other words, take any opportunity that presents itself to prevent the guns from being withdrawn, not necessarily to conduct a full frontal attack. It was Nolan who changed the emphasis by using the word "attack" to Lucan.

Last edited by Naomasa298; November 8th, 2012 at 12:35 AM.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 01:01 AM   #43
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Actually that was a deliberate mistake - director Richardson ordered that ALL the British cavalry wear red pants despite the historical advisers pointing out that this was a trademark of the 11th Hussars

Richardson though was making an anti-war movie not a glorious hurrah movie like the Errol Flynn version and wanted to suggest an army obsessed with grandeur and vanity
Thanks for that Poly, I never knew that. They were certainly obsessed with grandeur and vanity in those days. Cardigan who bought his rank, also bought his men all new uniforms.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 02:11 AM   #44

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So even Cecil Woodham -Smith has to admit to conjecture concerning Nolan. Nolan conveyed a written order When questioned his response was vague, restricted to "there are the guns.". You say Lucan did not overreact but took his time. Surely he could have rephrased his question asking Nolan exactly which guns.
Anyone can only conjecture about Nolan's bizarre behaviour because he didn't survive to explain it. The essential point is that we don't know whether or not he thought the attack should be directed down the valley. The supposed vagueness of his famous gesture may in fact be a matter of subsequent interpretation, designed to explain why he pointed in the wrong direction; if he was deliberately pointing down the valley, there may have been nothing vague about the gesture, even if it was abrupt and impatient.

Let's go over it again. Lucan reads the order and asks, 'Attack, sir? Attack what? What guns, sir?' Nolan flings out his arm and points, not to the Causeway Heights to the right, but straight down the valley, and says, 'There, my lord, is your enemy, there are your guns.' Is there anything unequivocal in that, from Lucan's point of view? He has asked where the guns are, and Nolan has pointed down the valley and said, that's where they are. Lucan can't see the guns from where he is at that moment, but when he rides over to Cardigan, they can be seen down the valley, and that serves to confirm what Nolan has indicated. I have no particular brief for Lucan, bit I simply cannot see that he carries any blame on this point.

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A wonderful whitewash of responsibility taken from Raglan.
Hardly a whitewash. You suggested that it was irresponsible of Raglan to choose Nolan to take the message, I merely pointed out (a) that Raglan would have had no reaso to suspect that Nolan would have behaved in the irresponsible manner that he did, and (b) Raglan didn't even pick out Nolan in the first place, but Nolan put himself forward for the task after Raglan had given the message to another aide-de-camp. Raglan's order lacked precision, but if Captain Leslie had taken the order to Lucan, it is likely enough that he would have told Lucan that the guns in question were on the Causeway Heights, and disaster would never have come about.

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You don't believe there is doubt. "His words were recorded." By this do you mean they were written down verbatim?
Of course they weren't written down verbatim, these were army officers in a battle, not journalists, but the words as recalled by Lucan were confirmed by others who were present. The point is that the story is entirely coherent and the words and behaviour as reported are entirely consistent with what we know of Lucan's and Nolan's characters, and of their attitude to one another. As I said, there is no reason whatever to doubt that Lucan asked where the guns where (as he was bound to do, since he couldn't see any guns from where he was), and that Nolan pointed down the valley, saying that that was where they were. He neither pointed to the Causeway Heights nor made any effort to provide any further explanation.

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Yes they are crucial factors but equally crucial was the question of more clarification. "To what purpose?" And with three batteris befoe hm and the most difficult apparently being indicated, surely Lucan would not have accepted a vague gesture as sufficient reply.
Lucan couldn't see the guns, and he plainly didn't regard Nolan's gesture as being vague, but as pointing down the valley (as I have said, it quite possible that he was deliberately pointing down the valley, and that the 'vagueness' is a matter of secondary interpretation; the crucial point is that nobody who was present regarded the gesture as being sufficiently vague as to suggest that the attack should be directed anywhere other than down the valley!).

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Again Raglan was not responsible. He only wrote the order. And once more we rely on what Woodham-Smith believes.
The intersting thing here is that up til now you have shovelled responsibility on Nolan's shoulders, now we come to a shift. Nolan was "merely" carrying Raglan's orders, Raglan had not explained his intentions. But that doesn't matter, Nolan should have been able to explain. Surely the order should have carried the explanation. How much effort does it take to write a simple command "Charge the battery on the heights." So we are back to Raglan's failure and how often have you defended Raglan in this thread?
I'm not really interested in trying to apportion blame, but in understanding how the attack came to be misdirected. The lack of precision in Raglan's written orders was plainly a factor in that. What Raglan could not possibly foresee was that the officer carrying that message would point down the valley when asked where the attack was to be directed! There is a further point that has not been raised, I think, that the orders are not in fact so very imprecise if Raglan's third and fourth written orders were read in conjunction, as he could have reasonably expected that they would be. He had initially ordered the cavalry 'to advance and take any opportunity to recover the Heights' and in the next order 'to advance rapidly to the front - follow the enemy and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns'. If you want to criticize Lucan, he could perhaps be criticized for not recognizing that the Heights were envisaged in both cases. But he couldn't see any guns, asked Nolan where they were, and Nolan pointed down the valley, not toward the Heights!

A further point: the fourth order doesn't directly order a charge. It is more tentative. But as Nolan was leaving, Raglan called out to him, 'Tell Lord Lucan the cavalry is to attack immediately',( i.e. to try without further delay to prevent the enemy from getting away with the captured guns), and Nolan repeated this emphatically to Lucan, indicating that the attack was to be made along the valley. Raglan's meaning was thus misinterpreted in this regard too. Another factor than needs to be taken into account.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 02:27 AM   #45

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Originally Posted by Linschoten View Post
A further point: the fourth order doesn't directly order a charge. It is more tentative. But as Nolan was leaving, Raglan called out to him, 'Tell Lord Lucan the cavalry is to attack immediately',( i.e. to try without further delay to prevent the enemy from getting away with the captured guns), and Nolan repeated this emphatically to Lucan, indicating that the attack was to be made along the valley. Raglan's meaning was thus misinterpreted in this regard too. Another factor than needs to be taken into account.
Just a point to mention, Saul David doesn't seem convinced that Raglan did call after him, as that would have gone against the sense of the original order - he seems to believe that Nolan used the word "attack" on his own initiative.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 02:43 AM   #46

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That's only too possible!
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Old November 8th, 2012, 03:26 AM   #47

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The Captain Morris who was with Nolan before the charge is plainly an important witness, can anyone provide us with an exact record of what he said afterwards?
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Old November 8th, 2012, 04:17 AM   #48

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The Captain Morris who was with Nolan before the charge is plainly an important witness, can anyone provide us with an exact record of what he said afterwards?
I don't think this is what you mean, but according to "Cardigan: The Hero of Balaclava" by Donald Thomas, the encounter before the charge went like this:

Nolan: "Where is Lord Lucan?"
Morris: "There! There on the right front!"
Morris: "What is it to be, Nolan? Are we going to charge?"
Nolan: "You will see. You will see!"

During the initial stages of the charge, Morris rode to the head of the column but was prevented from going further forwards when Cardigan drew his sword and lay it across Morris' chest, saying "Steady! Steady Captain Morris! Stay, sir! How dare you attempt to ride before your commanding officer!"

At that point though, Nolan was already dead. I can't find any record of what Morris and Nolan may have talked about after the orders had been relayed and before the charge itself.

[edit] A little further reading suggests that Morris (who was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and made a Companion of the Bath), unlike Cardigan, never made any real comment on the charge afterwards, except to say that Cardigan had led the charge "like a gentleman".

Last edited by Naomasa298; November 8th, 2012 at 04:25 AM.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 04:37 AM   #49

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Thank you. It looks as if Nolan may have said nothing to Morris about the objective, which is exceedingly odd. He certainly seems to have given no indication to him that they should be heading toward the Heights.
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Old November 8th, 2012, 06:00 AM   #50

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Thank you. It looks as if Nolan may have said nothing to Morris about the objective, which is exceedingly odd. He certainly seems to have given no indication to him that they should be heading toward the Heights.
It's only speculation on my part, but Morris may have been trying to protect the reputation of both his friend Nolan and his commanding officer Cardigan, even though he didn't seem to get on all that well with the latter, having been involved in a heated argument with him over the aftermath of the Heavy Brigade's charges. Maybe Nolan did say something but Morris didn't mention it. He was, after all, a Victorian-era officer and may not have wanted to seem churlish by casting aspersions on his fellow officers. But of course, we can't know any of that for certain.
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