The Crimea Medal with 3 clasps, Alma, Balaklava and Sebastopol,awarded to E. Loftus, 17th Lancers, sold in the February 14th 2007 sale for £1,610.
Britain declared war on Russia on 28th March 1854 after Russian troops crossed the River Danube and entered Turkey and refused to withdraw. Turkey was at the time known as the “sick man of Europe” and Britain was to send 27,000 troops and France 30,000 with the purpose of forcing the Russians to withdraw from Turkey.
The 17th Lancers sailed from Portsmouth on 25th April and arrived off Constantinople on 20th May where they disembarked. The Turks forced the Russians back across the Danube before the allied forces could help and this could have been the end of the war. However orders were received to invade the Crimea, capture the Russian seaport of Sebastopol and destroy the Russian Black Sea fleet to ensure a lasting peace.
The allied forces began disembarking in the Crimea on 15th September and the first battle took place on 20th September with the capture of the heights above the River Alma. The allied force then moved on to lay siege to Sebastopol and it was the Russian attempt to break through which led to a number of actions on 25th October which, together, became the Battle of Balaklava and included the Charge of the Light Brigade.
The reasons for the charge and apparent misunderstanding of verbal orders passed from officer to officer and the mutual dislike between senior commanders within the cavalry is well documented. The Light Brigade was intended to re-capture the heights and Turkish guns on one side of the valley, but which could not be seen from the Light Brigade’s position when the order was received. Capt Nolan delivered the order to Lord Lucan and when questioned the following was recorded:
Nolan: “Lord Raglan’s orders are that the cavalry should attack immediately.”
Lucan: “Attack, sir. Attack what? What guns, sir? Where and what to do?”
Nolan: “There my Lord. There is your enemy. There are your guns.”
Unfortunately Nolan was pointing down the length of the valley. At 11.10 with the 17th Lancers and 13th Light Dragoons leading, the Light Brigade began its charge into history with Russian troops and artillery positioned on the heights on both sides and at the head of the valley, the cavalry were caught between devastating cannonball and musket fire from the 3 sides. The charge reached the Russian guns over a mile down the valley at approx 11.17 where the gunners were cut down and when they went to advance further, they found themselves faced by a superior strength Russian cavalry formation. While the survivors were occupied around the captured guns, their line of retreat back down the valley was cut off by Russian cavalry through which the survivors had to fight their way and then face the guns and infantry on the heights a second time. By now a great number were walking due to their horses being killed or wounded and the return trip took far longer than the advance. Less than 200 returned down the valley.
The Charge of the Light Brigade is perhaps the most famous cavalry charge in history due not only to the heroism of the participants themselves, but the controversy and senselessness of the orders that brought it about.
In Terry Brighton’s 2004 book “Hell Riders”, Pte Edward Loftus is listed as confirmed killed in the charge. Only 673 of the 1000 or so members of the Light Brigade at Balaklava were involved in the charge and there is no full list of chargers. Only those killed, wounded, taken prisoner or referred to in witness statements or correspondence can be confirmed as having taken part in the charge. Of the 157 men killed in the charge, 23 men from the 17th Lancers are listed as killed and this is a rare chance to buy a very sought after medal. Information provided with the medal states that Edward Loftus was born in Powerstock, near Bridport in Devon and that he was a labourer prior to his enlistment on 26th June 1832.