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Old November 10th, 2012, 11:48 AM   #61

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In general I agree although I would include Lucan because he did not ask for clarification.
Maybe I have been too anxious to exculpate Lucan, but may I suggest that in view of your scepticism about the transmitted accounts, it doesn't necessarily follow that Lucan was in any way negligent. That depends on whether Nolan's gesture was sufficiently definite in pointing to the valley, or whether it was in fact vague as some have suggested. In the final resort, we don't know. It is quite possible that Nolan was deliberately directing Lucan down the valley, and that his gesture was in no way vague (even if it may have been rude and abrupt).
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Old November 10th, 2012, 06:49 PM   #62

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I decided that perhaps one way to solve the blame game was to look at the situation in reverse, not to try to fix blame but find excuses for behaviour.
First is Raglan. He can see what he perceives is a situation demanding immediate response, the moving of the guns on the Causeway Heights. He dictates the order to Airey. It's most likely some verbal exchange about the situation would have ensued. Raglan and Airey have about them junior officers who surely would have overheard this exchange. Assume they did not hear the words, they must have seen the situation that was developing and possibly discussed it among themselves.
Raglan writes the order. He does not include a specific location because he sees it as obvious.
Pass to Nolan. Nolan is given an oral instruction that the cavalry was to attack immediately. Surely Nolan has seen the situation from the same vantage point as Raglan. He would have seen that the valley guns were well dug in behind breastworks and protected on each flank by gun batteries and rifles. He would have seen the movement on the heights and even a modicum of intelligence would have linked Raglan's instruction of immediacy with that situation. What immediacy existed charging a protected fixed position.
Now we come to the famous exchange between Nolan and Lucan. We are told Lucan was unsighted. His only view was the valley guns.He is the commander of cavalry. Why is he in such a restricted location? As commander he must be aware there is more than one battery. He is puzzled by Raglan's message taking time over it.Why, at this juncture does he not move to a more advantageous viewpoint? Instead he asks "which guns and "what purpose"?
Now we have Nolan's response. Whether it was anger or an over excited young man pumped full of adrenaline, we do not know. But the response fails to answer the question.
Lucan does not do the obvious thing and reprimand the young man and demand clarity, instead he rides over to Cardigan. Now at this point both commanders can see the situation. Surely they can see the activity around the guns on the Causeway Heights. they can also see how well protected the valley guns are, Cardigan makes a comment on it, yet Lucan either does not see the obvious or fails to summon Nolan forward to explain his comment and gesture.
So, for my money, the blame for the blunder is Lucan's.
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Old November 16th, 2012, 11:53 AM   #63

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That's rather like saying that because someone is careless about locking up his house, he is primarily responsible if he gets burgled; it was Nolan who gave the wrong directions, and he was at least primarily responsible. Lucan certainly interpreted his directions as being quite definite.
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Old November 16th, 2012, 12:33 PM   #64
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But the response fails to answer the question.
This is the point of contention. From Lucan's viewpoint, he did receive a definite answer to the question. Putting the blame primarily on Lucan requires a lot of assumptions - that he should have known about the guns, that he should have seen the activity on the Causeway Heights, that he should have interpreted the orders as pertaining to that activity, that the junior officers present with Raglan knew his intention and so on.

However, in defence of your position, Cardigan was aware that there were other gun batteries, both on the Causeway Heights to the right and on Fedioukine Heights on the left, since he pointed out that there were batteries on both flanks. But to Lucan, those weren't the batteries that Nolan had indicated.
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Old November 16th, 2012, 03:39 PM   #65

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...... it was Nolan who gave the wrong directions, and he was at least primarily responsible. Lucan certainly interpreted his directions as being quite definite.
My whole approach was stated clearly "not to fix blame but find excuses." There is some controversy concerning Nolan's gesture. It is Lucan who, as far as I can ascertain interpreted the gesture as being the valley guns. Did anyone else hold the same view? My approach was to see why he did so and why he did not demand a clearer answer. For you there is no controversy. "Nolan who gave the wrong answer." Years of discussion dismissed in one sentence.

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This is the point of contention. From Lucan's viewpoint, he did receive a definite answer to the question. Putting the blame primarily on Lucan requires a lot of assumptions - that he should have known about the guns, that he should have seen the activity on the Causeway Heights, that he should have interpreted the orders as pertaining to that activity, that the junior officers present with Raglan knew his intention and so on.....
But to Lucan, those weren't the batteries that Nolan had indicated.
As I said above, for Linschoten there is no contention. I am less dogmatic. I stressed mine was an approach of excuses. Could there be a reason?
So it was a question of making assumptions and testing them to see if they weathered the probing. If any of my assumptions are unreasonable then we have grounds for debate.
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Old November 17th, 2012, 01:27 AM   #66

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y whole approach was stated clearly "not to fix blame but find excuses."
But you conclude: 'So for my money, the blame for the blunder is Lucan's'. I was merely pointing out that that the primary blame must rest on Nolan, because it was Nolan who misdirected him.

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There is some controversy concerning Nolan's gesture. It is Lucan who, as far as I can ascertain interpreted the gesture as being the valley guns. Did anyone else hold the same view? My approach was to see why he did so and why he did not demand a clearer answer. For you there is no controversy. "Nolan who gave the wrong answer." Years of discussion dismissed in one sentence.
There is not actually that much controversy about Nolan's 'gesture'. Lucan and everyone else who was present said that he had pointed down the valley, and it has never been suggested that his 'gesture' was ambiguous in such a way that it could also have been interpreted as pointing to the Causeway Heights. Lucan didn't regard it as vague, and as I have already pointed out, it seems most reasonable to assume that to be a secondary interpretation, resulting from later attempts of people to explain how Nolan could possibly have pointed in the wrong way: 'he wasn't really pointing there at all, it was just a vague gesture'. Personally I don't find that remotely convincing; but the essential point that needs to be kept in mind is that there is no suggestion whatever in the original accounts that there was anything vague or ambiguous about Nolan's indication (which was accompanied by his statement that that was where the guns were). It would seem that Lucan didn't question it because he regarded as a brutally direct indication of his commander's orders; the very contemptuousness of Nolan's behaviour had cut off any further discussion, because an officer of that rank could only behave like that if he was conveying unquestionable orders from above. The fact that Lucan couldn't see any guns from where he was serves to confirm that the indication of the direction was quite definite. It is not as if Nolan could have made a vague gesture which Lucan could have wrongly interpreted as pointing to a position that he already knew about.

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As I said above, for Linschoten there is no contention. I am less dogmatic.
I think if you read through my posts, I haven't been dogmatic, but merely tried to reach the most plausible interpretation of the evidence. It's not as if I'm biased in favour of any of the main characters in the drama.
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Old November 17th, 2012, 07:04 PM   #67

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When I laid out the actions of that day in my previous post, I was aiming to establish each fact beyond reasonable doubt. Each was a reason of probability however stretched that probability was.
What I cannot comprehend is why Nolan, knowing the situation from the Sapoune Heights, should arrive at such an extraordinary mistake. You give no explanation either.
I detailed Lucan's position and actions and find these too to be inexplicable.
So I was ready for you to explain them and point out to me any omissions or errors my account might contain by factual evidence and not supposition.
You start by denying any controversy existed, Lucan and everyone else present said that is what happened, so it must have. That, for obvious reasons, is a point of doubt.
You have made no answer to my comments on Lucan's position and actions on the day.
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Old November 18th, 2012, 01:05 AM   #68

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I agree that Lucan should at least have sent someone out to reconnoitre and report back; but I'm inclined to doubt whether that would have made a difference with regard to the charge, since Lucan was able to see quite well when he reached Cardigan's position. Nolan's behaviour was extraordinary, and I really can't offer any explanation for it! I'm willing to allow Woodham-Smith's idea that he had got it wrong may be possible. One must remember that he never saw Raglan's previous order that had specifically mentioned the Causeway Heights as the objective; and that judging from his subsequent behaviour, he was quite out of his head with excitement. He may have been a more professional and imaginative officer than most of the old fossils around him, but I certainly wouldn't have to rely on someone like him in a battle.

(This is what W-S says: "It is not difficult to account for such a mistake [!]. Nolan, the cavalry enthusiast, and a cavalry commander of talent, was well aware that a magnificent opportunity had been lost when the Light Brigade failed to pursue after the charge of the Heavies. It was indeed the outstanding, the flagrant error of the day, and he must have watched with fury and despair as the routed Russians were suffered to withdraw in safety with the much-desired trophies, their guns. When he received the fourth order he was almost off his head with excitement and impatience, and he misread it. He leapt to the joyful conclusion that vengeance was at last to be taken on those Russian who had been suffered to escape. He had not carried the third order, and read by itself the wording of the fourth order was ambiguous. Lord Raglan's last words to him, 'Tell Lord Lucan that the cavalry is to attack immediately', were fatally lacking in precision.")
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Old November 18th, 2012, 05:12 AM   #69
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When I laid out the actions of that day in my previous post, I was aiming to establish each fact beyond reasonable doubt. Each was a reason of probability however stretched that probability was.
What I cannot comprehend is why Nolan, knowing the situation from the Sapoune Heights, should arrive at such an extraordinary mistake. You give no explanation either.
But hold on. You don't know that Nolan did know what the situation was. There is no reason to assume that he was within earshot of Raglan's discussions, or that the junior officers discussed anything of the sort amongst themselves regarding the activity on the Causeway Heights. The fact that Raglan is often described as calling for Nolan in fact suggests that Nolan was not near Raglan's group. That Nolan interposed himself when the message was about to be handed to another officer is disputed.

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I detailed Lucan's position and actions and find these too to be inexplicable.
So I was ready for you to explain them and point out to me any omissions or errors my account might contain by factual evidence and not supposition.
You ask why Lucan was unsighted, and why he didn't know about the position of the guns. Lucan was repositioning the cavalry in response to Raglan's earlier order, and was positioned on the valley floor. Why should it be assumed that he would know about guns that were positioned, presumably out of sight on higher ground? And in fact, the guns that Raglan wanted recaptured were not Russian guns, but British guns that had earlier been captured by the Russians.

Battlefields are a moving and changing entity. We're not talking about an era where instant communication was available. It was incumbent on those who were able to see the positions to inform their subcommanders of the relevant information, but Raglan clearly did not.

There were at least three areas of the battlefield referred to as "Heights", and two of them had gun batteries on them. And Raglan had not, in fact, mentioned Heights at all, just referring to the front.

The fourth order was a supplement to the third order, which did mention the Heights, but there is no reason to assume that Nolan knew that either.
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Old November 18th, 2012, 05:18 AM   #70
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(This is what W-S says: "It is not difficult to account for such a mistake [!]. Nolan, the cavalry enthusiast, and a cavalry commander of talent, was well aware that a magnificent opportunity had been lost when the Light Brigade failed to pursue after the charge of the Heavies. It was indeed the outstanding, the flagrant error of the day, and he must have watched with fury and despair as the routed Russians were suffered to withdraw in safety with the much-desired trophies, their guns. When he received the fourth order he was almost off his head with excitement and impatience, and he misread it. He leapt to the joyful conclusion that vengeance was at last to be taken on those Russian who had been suffered to escape. He had not carried the third order, and read by itself the wording of the fourth order was ambiguous. Lord Raglan's last words to him, 'Tell Lord Lucan that the cavalry is to attack immediately', were fatally lacking in precision.")
Agreed. If he had witnessed the actual actions of the Heavies, he would have known the position of Ryzhov's cavalry, which were now positioned behind the Don Cossack battery. These were the cavalry that the Light Brigade should have attacked earlier when they were routed by the Heavies. Seen from that context, his remark "There, my lord, is your enemy" makes complete sense, if he was indicating Ryzhov's men.
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