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We are all familiar with the poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by the famous British Author & Poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson.  In his poem, which was published in 1854, Lord Tennyson made known to the world the heroic valor of the British Soldiers of the Light Cavalry Brigade, who braved all to carry out their orders knowing that they would die horrible violent deaths. All of us remember these words made immortal by the actions of these heroic men and the pin of Lord Tennyson when he wrote.

“Cannon to the right of them, Cannon to the left of them, Cannon in front of them,

Volley’d and thunder’d; Storm’d at with shoot and shell,

Boldly they rode and well,  Into the jaws of Death, Into the mouth of Hell, Rode the six hundred.”   

What is not widely known is that there were at least twenty of these brave Cavalry Soldiers that survived this famous charge. All were wounded,  disabled, and were subsequently released from further duty.

As Paul Harvey the famous radio host would say, “Now for the rest of the story”.

Over 160 years have now passed since that fateful day when those brave young men became the symbol of the courageous British Soldier. Their deeds, as recalled in the immortal words of Alfred Lord Tennyson are considered so great that to this very day they are taught about in schools throughout Great Britain and the world as the epitome of duty, courage and patriotism . As to those young men that somehow survived this unimaginable charge into the “Valley of Death”, they quietly returned home to their native England. Unfortunately, none of these men had any wealth, education, trade skills, or any pension for support. What they did have was crippling wounds left from war, nightmares of death, and the pain of being abandoned and alone.


Some 35 years latter another famous British Author, named Rudyard Kipling, wrote of the plight of these Veterans who had survived the charge into the “mouth of Hell” in his poem “The Last of the Light Brigade”. In his poem he shamed the British people for how they had ignored these great heroes of the Crimean War who became the very symbol of courage and sacrifice to God, King and Country. However, before the people of England were brought to realize the error and injustice they had shown toward these heroic Veterans, all twenty, the very last of the Light Brigade had died; some in prison, some in the workhouses, and others as street beggars. All had died in pain, penniless, and forgotten. As some would latter remark; “It would have been better if they would have been left in that Valley of Death”.

The Last of the Light Brigade

By Rudyard Kipling

There were thirty million English who talked of England's might,

There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.

They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;

They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.

They felt that life was fleeting; they knew not that art was long,

That though they were dying of famine, they lived in deathless song.

They asked for a little money to keep the wolf from the door;

And the thirty million English sent twenty pounds and four !

They laid their heads together that were scarred and lined and grey;

Keen were the Russian sabres, but want was keener than they;

And an old Troop-Sergeant muttered, "Let us go to the man who writes

The things on Balaclava the kiddies at school recites."

They went without bands or colours, a regiment ten-file strong,

To look for the Master-singer who had crowned them all in his song;

And, waiting his servant's order, by the garden gate they stayed,

A desolate little cluster, the last of the Light Brigade.

They strove to stand to attention, to straighen the toil-bowed back;

They drilled on an empty stomach, the loose-knit files fell slack;

With stooping of weary shoulders, in garments tattered and frayed,

They shambled into his presence, the last of the Light Brigade.

The old Troop-Sergeant was spokesman, and "Beggin' your pardon," he said,

"You wrote o' the Light Brigade, sir. Here's all that isn't dead.

An' it's all come true what you wrote, sir, regardin' the mouth of hell;

For we're all of us nigh to the workhouse, an' we thought we'd call an' tell.

"No, thank you, we don't want food, sir; but couldn't you take an' write

A sort of 'to be continued' and 'see next page' o' the fight?

We think that someone has blundered, an' couldn't you tell 'em how?

You wrote we were heroes once, sir. Please, write we are starving now."

The poor little army departed, limping and lean and forlorn.

And the heart of the Master-singer grew hot with "the scorn of scorn."

And he wrote for them wonderful verses that swept the land like flame,

Till the fatted souls of the English were scourged with the thing called Shame.

They sent a cheque to the felon that sprang from an Irish bog;

They healed the spavined cab-horse; they housed the homeless dog;

And they sent (you may call me a liar), when felon and beast were paid,

A cheque, for enough to live on, to the last of the Light Brigade.

O thirty million English that babble of England's might, Behold there are twenty heroes who lack their food to-night; Our children's children are lisping to "honor the charge they made - " And we leave to the streets and the workhouse the charge of the Light Brigade!

The Tragedy of the Last of the British Light Brigade & The Shame of Britain

Widener University

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