Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)



Director:     Tony Richardson.

Starring:     Trevor Howard (Lord Cardigan), Vanessa Redgrave (Mrs. Clarissa Morris), John Gielgud (Lord Raglan), Harry Andrews (Lord Lucan), Jill Bennett (Mrs. Fanny Duberly), David Hemmings (Capt. Louis Edward Nolan), Ben Aris (Capt. Fitz Maxse), Mickey Baker (Trooper Metcalfe), Peter Bowles (Paymaster Capt. Henry Duberly), Leo Britt (Gen. Scarlett), Mark Burns (Capt. William Morris), John J. Carney (Trooper Mitchell), Helen Cherry (Lady Scarlett), Chris Chittell (Trooper), Ambrose Coghill (Lt. Col. Douglas).

Crimean War, 1854-1856


I enjoyed the movie.  The British army did not function well in the Crimea and this is portrayed in the movie. The film makes use of some cartoon drawings to poke fun at the British.  Watch out Russian Bear! Here comes the Brits!  An age of bravado and desire to go to war, but the army is not really prepared for it. 

Here is the light brigade of cavalry, looking so neat and pretty that might be the Queen's guard.  And their leader Cardigan (Trevor Howard) is so full of himself that he is abusive to many of his cavalrymen.  This does not set well with the rebellious Captain Nolan who opposes Cardigan at every excess. 

Reaching their destination abroad, the army does not seem to know what to do with the men who drop from their saddles with illnesses such as cholera.  And when the British arrive on the battlefield, one wonders if this is a real battlefield.  The officers and men just seem to be much too relaxed and jovial for what awaits them. Is it an army or the Keystone Cops?

And, of course, when things go wrong everyone tries to pass the blame on to others in another disgusting scene of incompetence. 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 


Historical Background:


Crimean War (1853-1856)

1825-1855 --  Nicholas I (third son of Paul I, 1796-1801) ruled Russia.  His reign was a period of reaction resulting in a police-state.

1839-61 Sultan Abdlmecid I of the Ottoman Empire.

1852 -- France obtains from the Sultan Abd al-Majid of the Ottoman Empire certain privileges for the Latin churches in Palestine.

1853 -- Russia under Czar Nicholas I demands privileges for the Orthodox churches. The demands are turned down.

1853, July -- Russia occupies the Ottoman vassal states of Moldavia and Walachia (now parts of Rumania).

1853, Oct -- Ottomans declare war on Russia.

1854, Mar -- England and France declare war on Russia.

1854, Aug -- Austrian troops occupy Moldavia and Walachia after they are evacuated by Russia (following Austria's threat to enter the war against Russia).

1854, Sep -- allied troops land in the Crimea; preparation for siege of fortress at Sevastopol (now in the Ukraine; an inlet of the Black Sea).

1854, Oct -- allied victory at Balaklava (Charge of the Light Brigade in this battle).  (For details see 1936 movie of the same title on this website.)

1854, Nov 5 -- Battle of Inkerman.  Serious defeat for the Russians in the last of three battles leading up to the siege of Sevastopol.  Russian commander in chief, Prince A. S. Menshikov. French forces under General Bosquet.  General Pennefather commanded the British 2nd Division.

1855, Jan -- Sardinia declares war on Russia.

1855 -- allies capture Malakhov and Redan.

1855, Sep -- the Russian fortress at Sevastopol finally falls.

1855-1881 -- Alexander II, son of Nicholas I, becomes czar and starts to negotiate for peace.

1856, Feb -- Treaty of Paris.

Russians suffered 600,000 losses (including from diseases). The Treaty of Paris ends Russian dominance in southeastern Europe.

Florence Nightingale, the nurse, became famous in this war.

A storm of indignation arose in France and England over: the failures of allied commanders to take Sevastopol in a short time; the disaster of the charge of the Light Brigade; and the poor way the soldiers were treated, particularly the wounded.


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