Charge of the Light Brigade
~ Mahatma Gandhi on Charge of the Light Brigade
The Charge of the Light Brigade is a celebrated British military victory..er screw up.. that is today still commemorated in Britain by a ceremonial smashing of tea cups and sticking hot tea bags in ears. It wasn't good for horses either - 300 died of shame rather than admit they were killed by Russian fire.
Ride That Past Me Again
During a quiet moment during the Crimean War , Florence 'Flo-Nightie' Nightingale organised a picnic outside the walls of Sevastapol. She was fed up of looking after sick soldiers and pretending to enjoy people coughing their guts all over her . So Florence decided to take the day off and head for a nice quiet spot for tea, sandwiches and perhaps even a game of nude croquet.
She invited two of her favourite French delicacies - the DeGaulle Brothers (Asterix and Charles), a Turkish delight by the name of Selim Fry and a tin of sardines. Florence also brought along her favourite teapot (a White porcelain Queen Victoria model) to make the picnic go really well. It soon became a very jolly party with Florence flirting and French kissing with Asterix and Charles (but not with Selim or the sardines) when they were spotted by mounted Russian patrol, fresh out of serfs to sabre practice on.
Before anyone could make a joke about Borscht , the Russians seized the teapot and matching tea service and dragged them to their own battery of percolating Samovars positioned nearby. They thought this would upset the English and it did !
Now you will have nothing to drink with your limp cucumber sandwiches, taunted the Russian general Boris Munchkinov from behind the safety of his own Battle Couch.
What Really Happened
The British generals were appalled by the Russian's blatant teapot stealing. The Duke of Sheepskin and his deputy, Viscount Cashmere conferred with the their French colleague, Marshal St.Rech Leotard to avenge the insult to the allied forces. Leotard asked if the Russians hadn't taken a coffee pot too but was assured this had been missed by the Russians. Reluctant to commit his own troops for a 'fight over porcelain', Leotard eventually agreed to support what ever was required. They would require a noble sacrifice and the lord they had in mind was Earl 'Brute' Pink Cardigan.
He was told to saddle up the Light Brigade and put his corset on as British military pride were prejudiced against fat losers. Cardigan's orders were scribbled down (plus an addendum asking 'Two Sugars and a round of Huntly & Palmer Colonial Biscuit Choice') . Captain Jack 'Nits' Nylon was selected to ride over to Cardigan with this important message but at first seemed to question the necessity of starting a battle to retrieve a tea port:-
Sirs. This order is absurd. You want the Light Brigade to go chasing a tea set around the walls of Sevastabol? Can we not just shoot Florence Nightingale??
Sheepskin said it once belonged to Queen Victoria and that meant the British Empire , duty, stiff upper lips , making sure the servants were clean and whatnot. He stood tall in his saddle to look down on Nylon and his lower class aspersions.
You sir! You sir!! You are not here to question my command? This is matter of extreme importance. The Duke of Wellington would have shot you at Waterloo for what you have said. Now Captain Nylon, ride like the devil to save the British Empire from dishonour. If you fail, then understand Captain Nylon, I will see you are blackballed from the Army & Navy Club .
Nylon wheeled his horse about and rode down the hill to find Cardigan,
Where is the Teapot Sir ?
Lord Cardigan (a card carrying cad who had beaten a man to death for drinking beer at an officers dining club) was deemed expendable.
Cardigan had already saddled and mounted his 'Cherry Bottoms' (his pet name for the Light Brigade) for a days fighting somewhere. He was already in a bad mood, the corset he was wearing to fit his belly inside a incredibly tight uniform was already drawing blood. Cardigan was swishing his sabre when Nylon came into view. 'That damn fellow..that damn fellow' ..as Cardigan recalled an earlier fight with Nylon when they had argued at a dinner party if serving red wine with fish was an example of extreme radical political positions. The two men had only stopped their fight when a servant was executed for dropping the dessert. Nylon presented the note to Cardigan who made no move to accept it.
- Nylon: My Lord Cardigan. I carry an order from Duke Sheepskin and Viscount Cashmere.
- Cardigan: Sir you were a blaggard that evening and you remain a blaggard who deserves to be horse whipped out of society. What do the fools on the hill want me to do now?
- Nylon: Then I suggest you read the order Lord Cardigan.
Lord Pink Cardigan then asked Nylon where the teapot and matching tea set were. Nylon airily waved his ceremonial tea spoon in the general direction of the Russians, though Cardigan couldn't make out where he was pointing. Exasperated, Nylon then exclaimed
There Sir are your Russians..and there is where you will find the teapot!!
Cardigan told the Light Brigade to finish their biscuits and cake break and to prepare to charge. He also ordered up the Mounted Milking Cow Troop to join in the attack and to be ready to make a nice of cup of tea once the battle had finished.
I want no crumbs on my men do you see Nylon. No Crumbs. No crumbs!! shouted Cardigan as he wiped the last traces of Battenburg cake from his lips.
The Light Brigade began to trot, then to canter and finally changed gears to go into a full gallop. They could sniff a horrible acrid smell wafting down towards them which they thought smelt like English tea being brewed badly. But as they pointed their mounts for the final rush, the aroma of tea could be detected in two different locations.
Which way Nylon! Which valley? demanded Cardigan but Nylon was just then felled sugar lump shrapnel, fired from the Russian guns. With no further guidance, Cardigan decided chose to charge towards 'the Ivans' he could see dead ahead who were polishing long round cylindrical objects and dropping round balls down brass tubes.
To cheer on his brigade on Cardigan boomed We have nothing to fear my cherry bums ! The Russians will be too busy playing with themselves or drinking vodka to face us like cowards! Hurrah ! hurrah !! HURRAH !!!....arrrahhhh...arrrgh..coming up...let's get the massacre started !
Oh..I..say...damn bad luck !
These must have the last words many a brave British trooper must have said as they saw Queen Victoria's lost teapot was actually an armed and primed battery of Best Quality Russian kitchenware. And they were brewing up a nice collection of burning hot bowls of Cossack Soup to threw at the impetuous Britishers.
Well it was all pretty all over before the starters were finished. Some of the brave Light Brigade got in touching distance of plate of caviar and Lord Cardigan actually made it to the main course only to discover no one had laid a place out for him at the table. But he couldn't see Victoria's teapot. Behind him strewn across the battlefield were the remnants of the Light Brigade but Cardigan was hungry and decided to return to his yacht moored in the harbour behind the British lines. Disappointed at not having anything to eat or finding the teapot , Cardigan drank himself stupid with his fellow officers. Tea was definitely not served that night.
Madam..You Have Just Lost the Queen's Dinner Service !
Sheepskin who had seen the tragedy unfurl did the decent thing and blamed all his subordinates . He then climbed off his horse and died with Honor (his American Camp follower from Philadelphia) in a suicide pack involving a cup of lukewarm Earl Grey tea . Lord Cashmere also did the manly thing and pointed a gloved finger and blamed Florence Nightingale for the disaster. Leotard who had also been watching the charge from the safety of his deck chair came up with his own comment :-
Il est magnifique mais ce n'est pas petit dejeuner, said Marshall Leotard - though he really meant to say That is magificent but it is time for lunch and promptly went off with his army for a three hour lunch break at Cafe Napoleon in Paris.
Some of the Other Charges That Fateful Day
- Charge of the Fat Bastard Brigade - led by Lord Lardarse of Lardarseshire.
- Charge of Light Headed Brigade. Got carried away and ended up in Moscow.
- Charge of the Fire Brigade. Whoop..whoop..whoop..HONK..HONK..into the valley of death drove the three engines.
- Charge of the Boys' Brigade. A last move by the British to bring on child soldiers to fight their battles.
- Charge (with interest) of the Bank Brigade.
- Reverse Charge of the Telephonists Brigade. 'Can you hear me ? I am on a battlefield ...yes a battlefield. I will be late home tonight.'
Court of Enquiry
Following the end of the Crimean War , Queen Victoria insisted that Florence Nightingale face the full force of British justice. So the Lady With The Lumps was shot in the Tower of London but got loads of statues as memorials in compensation.
I Feel A Poem Coming On
Alfred Tennyson was inspired to write the poem Die Horribly Florence ! but changed his mind and renamed it Charge of the Light Brigade. The poem is still sung in silence in British cavalry barracks to this day. It said even the horses cry when they heard the words.
The Crimean War wasn't so named after someone said to the writer Ian Rankin 'Crime ? Ian ?? WHOAAAR !?'. It should have been called 'The War Over a Set of Keys for A Church in Jerusalem' but you can see why Historians chose the snappier 'Crimean War' to label this conflict.