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Frank Leward: Memorials

Same to the Same

page 225

Same to the Same.

Balaclava, Nov. 2.

Dear old Man I daresay you are tired of reading my letters but its a sort of consolation to have some one to write to to tell some of the things one thinks about. I suppose you read all that rot about me and the shell in No. 5, as though any one else wouldn't have done the same if he cared a lot about his life even and his precious self and you know I care very little about either. I often think I might as well get rid of both if I could do it in a way that was all right and not cowardly.

When I begin to write I always want to begin at the end instead of the beginning, and tell what has just happened instead of what happened just after I wrote last. Things have been going so fast lately I cant always remember how they came. I think I finished my last while we were pounding away at this beastly old town. On 25th of Oct. the Russians made an attack on us near here. They got at the Turks whom we had for some reason or other left to take care of four small forts called redoubts and the guns that were in them. The Russians came down on them like one o'clock and the Turks fought like anything in the first one I never saw any one fight better nearly two hundred of them were killed before they would give in then the rest in the other redoubts as soon as they saw them going went off too without striking a blow their officers setting them the example. These poor Turks you see can fight as well as possible sometimes but you cant depend on them page 226they fight well when they have good officers but when they see their officers are no good they get like horses without riders and don't know what to do. They ran like mad but took good care to take their beds and other things with them right down to this harbour shouting out "sheep Johnny sheep" meaning they wanted to get on board ship and get away from the enemy, they always call the English Johnny. The Russians got seven of our guns the Turks had been left to guard which is beastly humiliating to us, however if we had managed properly we might easily have got them back again.

While all this was going on Balaclava was only guarded by a small force of Highlanders under Sir Colin Campbell and a lot of Russians came at them. "You must die where you stand" I heard Sir Colin Campbell cry out "Aye aye Sir weel do that" said the Scotchmen. It was the same 93rd that did so much towards winning the Alma. They had to he down on their faces while the Russians were coming up and when the enemy was right up to them they jumped up and astonished them. They were going to make a rush at the Russians who would have overpowered them but Sir Colin called out "no dam that" and stopped them. They gave the Russians a good volley however and the Russians turned off to try to take them in the flank. Then the 93rd wheeled round just as though they were on parade and gave them another volley and off went the Roosians as my sailors always call them. If we had put a man of war right up across the harbour at Balaclava it would have protected the place but as usual no one thought of that till afterwards.

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You would have laughed to see the Turks as they came helter skelter down into Balaclava. Theres an old Scotch woman lives there near me who doesnt like the Turks much more than she does the Russians. An awfully big strong boney woman. When the Turks came running down she thought they might be going to steal her things so out she came with a stick and laid about her like anything. I saw her catch two or three and give them a most tremendous drubbing amidst the cheers of the 93rd.

Then I went upon the height over what they call the Coll to see what was going on and got to where there were a lot of French and English looking on at a sort of thing Homer describes going on down below. There stood the Russian cavalry in strong force and against them our heavy cavalry under Scarlett and I saw him charge be had about 300 I suppose against 3000. He was followed soon after by the Enniskillings and the Scots Greys and when they got up to the enemy and were closed in by them we could hear a sort of roar going on where we were more than a mile off but we couldnt see what was up till we saw the Russians going off beaten. Our men were too few to follow them so after all we didnt get much by all that bravery and loss of life. Just as it seems to me it always is with us. It did seem strange that a lot of us should be looking on while these few men were fighting in that way but the strangest thing of all was to see Lord Cardigan with the Light Brigade 11th Hussars 17th Lancers and part of another regiment close by looking on too, many of the page 228men not even in their saddles. The French who are awfully particular to do everything right couldnt understand it they couldnt make out why the light cavalry didnt go to help Scarlett or at any rate have a go at the Russians when they were running away. No more could any one else I should think. I was told all Lord Car digan said all the time was "dam the heavies dam the heavies" because Lord Lucan wouldnt let him go at the Russians too. Why he shouldnt no body can tell except your precious government who had put at the head of the cavalry a lord instead of a proper general. Then began the most senseless thing that has happened even during this stupid war. I hardly know how to write about it I feel so savage. Lord Raglan sent orders to Lord Lucan to stop the Russians carrying off the seven guns of ours they had taken from the redoubts defended by the Turks. Captain Nolan took the order in writing. It could easily have been done. Nolan who was an awfully good fellow delivered the paper to Lucan who was so stupid he didnt understand it and was beastly rude to Nolan and Nolan told him pretty plainly what it meant. From where Lord Lucan was he couldnt see the Russians going off with the guns but Nolan pointed out the direction to him. Lucan who is an ill-tempered overbearing sort of man went off in a rage to poor Lord Cardigan who had still got the 11th Hussars and 17th Lancers ready to do something anything you liked pretty well. Hed not been up in time for the beginning because he sleeps on board an awfully swell yacht hes got out here and not in camp like the others do and so wanted some chance of page 229distinguishing himself now. Well Lord Lucan told him he was to take the guns—take the guns? said Lord Cardigan meaning about twenty big brass cannon the Russians had got bang in face of him about a mile or a little more off. Yes said Lord Lucan those are my orders from Lord Raglan and shrugged his shoulders and went off. He must have known it was a beastly lie because Lord Raglan never could have been such a fool as to send such a ridiculous order and even if he did believe it it was so absurd he ought to have sent to Lord Raglan to see if that was what he really meant. Besides these guns bang in front the Russians had other guns on each side of the valley along which our men would have to go as well as a lot of riflemen all along and behind the big brass guns there were a lot of Russian cavalry. No one but a fool would ever have thought of going for them because even if by some chance you could get up to them alive it would do no good. But Cardigan hadnt the sense to see that. He must have known it was a mistake but he wanted to do something grand and didnt care whether he was killed or not as long as a lot of people were looking at him doing it. So he turned round and told his men to charge. I daresay I'm all wrong. I would have a go myself at anything I'd got to go at as long as it was all right as I suppose most other people would but if I had been one of that brigade I'm blessed if I would have budged an inch. They were all supposed to be reasonable men and knew what they were told to do was ridiculous they knew some horrid ass was going to sacrifice them for nothing and I say page 230they ought to have refused to a man and said to Lucan or Cardigan or any other Lord go yourself on your fools errand we wont. If they had done that before the rumpus was over orders would have come to say they were right and Lucan was wrong.

As it is I believe he is to get into a row for it. In my opinion he ought to be hung as many times over as men who were murdered by his wickedness. And your splendid government ought to be hung too for putting such a man at the head of the bravest lot of idiots who ever lived and made us the laughing stock of all the other nations who were looking on.

As it was on they went and if it hadnt been so beastly sad we should really have laughed to see them go. You know how they got butchered not one of them would have come back alive if it hadnt been for the French cavalry who made a charge round one side of the valley up which our men had gone and dispersed the enemy there who were waiting for our men as they came back. One couldnt help seeing the difference between the two. We went like a lot of blockheads and lost a great part of our cavalry we are tremendously in want of all for nothing and the French quietly did a lot of good work and sent the Russians off with small loss to themselves and allowed Lord Cardigan and what soldiers of his were left to get back alive. And the guns we went for we had to leave behind after all.

It wasnt only the stupid waste of life but if Lord Lucan had done what he was told he would have got back our seven guns the enemy was carrying off. As it is the page 231Russians got them and they are now in Sebastopol showing the victory the Russians gained over us on the 25 th of October 1854. The Russians kept possession of our four redoubts too and will cause us a lot of bother from them. Although I daresay we astonished them when Scarlett went at them and drove them back and when Lord Cardigan threw away the lives of all those men we lost tremendously by that days work in the eyes of everyone.

Cap. Nolan soon saw the mistake Lord Lucan was making and did his best to stop the disaster. He rushed across in front of the Light Brigade as they were coming on pointing with his sword to where the Russians were taking away our guns to try to make Lord Cardigan alter his course he knew what must happen if he went on in the way he was going. But at that moment a shell burst close to him and a bit went right into his heart and killed him on the spot his sword fell from his right hand and his horses bridle fell from his left and the horse plunged back with Nolan still sitting upright in his saddle amongst the cavalry now going at full trot. Even after Nolan was dead they say he did his best to stop them and yelled out in the most unearthly way. They couldnt understand what he meant but he made the most terrible row they all said after he was dead. I can quite believe it Ive seen something of the same sort myself. I believe if a man dies with some tremendous thought or bother on his mind he can make a row or make some unnatural effect on people immediately after he dies.

The result of what they call the battle of Balaclava is ever since the Russians have been cock a whoop instead page 232of being down in the mouth as they had been ever since our beating them at the Alma. They were so cock a whoop next day about 12 o'clock 3000 came right out and attacked us. We had our infantry ready under General Evans and gave them a good licking and as they went back down by what I call my battery Hewett opened on them with his Lancaster gun the only one there then and smashed them up awfully. I dont think they will try that again with such numbers.

However our side by Mount Inkerman is very much exposed and every one says if the enemy came up there in large force it would be touch and go with us. You see we are trying to besiege a place without being able to surround it. We have about 20,000 men left and the French about 40,000 and theres a road open through the place from Sebastopol right into Russia and they can get fresh troops into it and provisions as fast as they like, they have taken their men off the Danube and the best of them are all here now. They say they have 120,000 men in and about the place. We have very little defence on our right and if the Russians came up there in force I dont know what would happen.

Ive been most of my time lately taking up food to our No. 5 battery where the men dont get too much to eat Ive got a small Tartar pony I gave a blue jacket a pound for he said he found it goodness knows how he came by it really and you should see me any day on it with a lot of hams and bottles of pickles and bread and bottles of beer it would make you laugh. Its rather difficult to carry bottles on these poneys. It reminds me sometimes of page 233that night at Upton when I smashed the bottle of beer over old Pott they are always going off with a bang.

Send me some money old man foods awfully dear in Balaclava. A lot of Maltese and Greeks and goodness knows who have set up shops and charge a tremendous lot for everything.

You should hear the cheers when I get up to the camp on old Bango as they call my poney it would do you good and it makes up for all the bother. Write soon as soon as you get this I shall be getting hard up. Yours old man

F. Leward.