First-hand account of the Charge of the Light Brigade unearthedA graphic first-hand account by the last survivor of the Charge of the Light Brigade, describing his ride 'in the valley of death' during the Crimean War, has been unearthed.
By Nick Britten
4:13PM GMT 04 Nov 2008
Pte James Olley, of the 4th Light Dragoons, who was in the van of the 1854 cavalry action, tells of how he relentlessly fought the Russians despite having an eye blown out and a chunk of his head torn off.
The three-page document is believed to be one of the only eyewitness accounts by a frontliner and is expect to fetch about £2,000 at auction.
Pte Olley, who was aged 16 at the time, recalled how he charged into battle against the Russians and was shot through the left eye.
He added: "I still rode on and fought through the lines of the enemy."
He wrote: "A little further on my horse was shot down - I caught one of the horses, which was coming back without its rider who had been shot out of his saddle.
"I turned it round facing the enemy - I mounted it and rode down to the Guns, when I was attacked by a Russian Gunner who I cut down with my sword.
"I received a severe wound on my forehead which went through the skull bone.
"The man I cut down."
The account is a sobering antidote to the romanticism that has grown up around the disastrous charge into the face of Russian artillery by British cavalry under the command of Lord Cardigan during the Battle of Balaclava.
With such lines as "All in the valley of Death / Rode the six hundred", Tennyson's poem The Charge of the Light Bridge is a typical example.
Despite his injuries, Pte Olley, from Holt, Norfolk, lived until 1920, when he died at the age 82.
He wrote how he had raised the alarm that morning, having spotted the Russians advancing, before "every man was called to his horse".
"All the Light Brigade were soon in their saddles ready to do their duty or die - order was given to advance and back up the Turks."
After a couple of advances and retreats, they were ordered to charge the Russians.
Pte Olley said all went well initially before they were suddenly overwhelmed.
He wrote: "After a time we prepared to return when, to our surprise we found that we were overpowered by the enemy.
"When we got through we rode into our encampment what few there were left of us."
The document, signed and dated 1897, goes on sale at Ludlow Racecourse on November 6.
SOURCE: The Telegraph 4th November 2008http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/3379015 ... rthed.html