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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Charge!
This is THE definitive work on this fascinating and tragic subject. The author has researched the subject matter meticulously and it shows! The characters,the period and the long ranging result of the Charge start with a 'walk' through the main characters involved i.e. Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan and Captain Louis Nolan, their backgrounds and what has made them the people...
Published on 25 Oct 2002 by Wasp

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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read, but a little outdated
I brought this book with on a trip to the Crimea in 2009 and to read while on holiday in the Ukraine. I thought that this book would be a good guide to have while touring Sevastopol & Balaclava and seeing some of the battle fields there.
Cecil Woodham Smith presents a gloriously readable account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the lead up to the fatal charge and...
Published on 9 April 2011 by Andrew G


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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Charge!, 25 Oct 2002
This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
This is THE definitive work on this fascinating and tragic subject. The author has researched the subject matter meticulously and it shows! The characters,the period and the long ranging result of the Charge start with a 'walk' through the main characters involved i.e. Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan and Captain Louis Nolan, their backgrounds and what has made them the people they are. We then move to the 'march' when the Brigade arrives in the Crimea and is subject to the realities and horrors of war not only with the enemy but with disease and Victorian beaurocracy whilst still being kept 'in a bandbox' by Lord Lucan. The book moves on to the 'trot' when the Charge actually takes place and this is simply breathtaking due to the wealth of information and detail that Woodham-Smith has placed before the reader. A definite must - after reading this book the aroma of cordite, human bravery and and the stupidity of 'the upper classes' will remain with the reader as long as this action has remained an outstanding example of military incompetence in the annals of British history. If you read only one book on this subject then tome will cover all aspects of this subject.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Charge!, 25 Oct 2002
This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
This is THE definitive work on this fascinating and tragic subject. The author has researched the subject matter meticulously and it shows! The characters,the period and the long ranging result of the Charge start with a 'walk' through the main characters involved i.e. Lord Cardigan, Lord Lucan and Captain Louis Nolan, their backgrounds and what has made them the people they are. We then move to the 'march' when the Brigade arrives in the Crimea and is subject to the realities and horrors of the best cavalry unit in the world at war with the enemy, disease and Victorian beaurocracy whilst still being kept 'in a bandbox' by Lord Lucan. The book moves swiftly on to the 'trot' when the Charge actually takes place and this is simply breathtaking due to the wealth of information that Woodham-Smith has placed before the reader. A definite must - after reading this book the aroma of cordite, human bravery and and the stupidity of 'the upper classes' will remain with the reader as long as this action has remained an outstanding example of military incompetence in the annals of British history.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Classic gripping account of the charge of the Light Brigade, 15 Dec 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
Well written account of the events leading up to the charge of the Light Brigade. One of the few history books that combines not only great historical insight into the pride and social quagmire of Victorian England but also exciting and entertaining reading for someone that knows nothing about that period of history. I would very much like other suggestions of well written history books (Others suggested so far are CV Wedgewood's "The King's Peace" and Runciman's "The First Crusade")
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still the best account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, 30 Nov 2002
By 
Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
The Reason Why remains the classic study of the intriguing and sadly ludicrous episode in military history known as the Charge of the Light Brigade. The author, coming from an Army family and relying heavily on the writings of officers, largely neglects the experience of the private soldier and concentrates on the main characters in the drama. The story is dominated by these extraordinary personalities, serving as a reminder that war is an inherently human drama. On a second level, it is a criticism of the privilege system of the British Army of the mid-nineteenth century. In retrospect, one is hard pressed to believe such a purchase system could have ever won a victory at Waterloo. Intolerant aristocrats with no experience in battle, paltry leadership skills, and maddening unconcern for the soldiers under their command, bought their commissions. The Charge of the Light Brigade illuminated all of the faults of the system and proved that bravery alone was insufficient for victory. While human blunders led to the debacle that was the Charge of the Light Brigade, the British military system was intrinsically to blame.

The heart of this book concerns the relationship between society at large and the military. Military leaders feared nothing so much as public scrutiny, for widespread discontent could lead to political interference and, indeed, political control of the army. Whether in dealing with the incorrigible personalities of Lords Lucan and Cardigan or in covering up the series of blunders that resulted in the sacrificial ride of the Light Brigade, the military leadership acted with the overriding principle of preserving the Army from governmental control.

The embarrassments of the Crimean campaign proved uncontainable. A great source of difficulty was the incompetence of the Army staff; rank and privilege were held to be superior to actual experience. When these difficulties led to humiliation and defeat, the commanders' concern was not with the men they had lost nor the future of the war effort; to the exclusion of these, their main concern was that bad publicity would appear in Britain, that the public would hear of the lack of success, that the House would begin to ask questions of the military leadership, that the press would begin to criticize the Army. This great fear of political interference was realized in the aftermath of the Crimean War. The author portrays this as the one positive effect engendered by the War effort. A new era of military reform was born in Britain, Europe, and America. Experience now became a prerequisite for command, and officers were trained in staff colleges. The author's final point is that, above all, the treatment of the private soldier changed as the military system was humanized to some degree. Her assertion that at the end of the Crimean War the private soldier was regarded as a hero seems rather bold, but it is clear that he was no longer seen as a nonhuman tool of his commanders' designs.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars not so incompetant, 3 May 2010
By 
James Wells "Cambyses" (KSA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
This is without doubt an excellant review of the charge of the Light Brigade and the main charaters involved.

Incompetance was shown but neither man charged blindly, both checked their orders first. Cardigan questioned the order to charge at Brigade level, Lucan questioned this at higher command level. If Raglan could see two sets of artillery, Lucan and Cardigan could only see one such, not the intended target

Only on apparent verification of their orders did the charge then begin. This must absolve both men from charges of incompetancy. The whole thing is a lawyers dream.

One small unoticed detail. Both titles, Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan, still exist but only the latter seems to be used.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Highly readable yet thoroughly detailed account of one of Britains most well known military blunders., 16 July 2014
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The study of this book was a mandatory part of my Eng. Lit. GCSE course almost 50 years ago. I promised myself one day that I would read it again perhaps when it would mean more to me having had some life experience etc. I was not disappointed - this isn't just a study of that ill fated charge but also a very insightful study of those times. The power structures and hierarchies of a time when the aristocracy still pretty much ruled the roost. Lord Cardigan (who led the charge) himself was perhaps the most enigmatic of all. He was pretty much a bully, martinet and very much a pedant when it suited him. Yet despite his many failings he was possessed of a genuine remarkable courage. I say this because if the story written here is to be believed he led the charge knowing full well it was reckless in the extreme and indeed did not personally expect to survive it. The superior officer who gave the order was a long time rival if not enemy of Lord Cardigan and he had thought little of disobeying or ignoring orders from him in the past - so I can only speculate why suddenly he was so obedient. My theory is that the other orders had more to do with the day to day running of the camp or were more administrative in nature and therefore it is possible that Lord Cardigan did not attach as much importance to such orders as those concerning direct military action. This is the only part of the story that I wish had been examined in more detail and indeed it is quite possible that other books about Lord Cardigan and\or the ill fated charge have shed more light on this apparent contradiction. All in all though I thought it a remarkable book obviously well researched and gives the modern reader a window into a world (for better or worse) now long gone forever.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An absorbing and detailed account of the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War, 22 Feb 2014
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This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
This book gives a detailed and historic account of the family rivalry and dislike which existed between Lords Lucan and Cardigan which influenced events leading to the disastrous Charge of the Light Brigade.
Cecil Woodham-Smith's book is an absorbing and compelling read giving insight into how Army appointments were made in the nineteenth century and in particular how misunderstanding and misdirection combined with the bitter antipathy of Lucan and Cardigan resulted in the tragic loss of men and horses.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Reason Why...., 26 Nov 2013
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The subject is all in the title of the book. It was brought to my attention by a note in "Flashman" by Gorden MacDonald Fraser referring to this book. The book is a very easy book to read and is extremly informative about the characters who were involved in the Charge of the Light Brigade and their influence on the outcome.

Almost in the style of "Flashman" Cecil Woodham Smith explains the whole of the story of the charge and how it fits into the outcome of the Crimean War. She relates how two brothers-in- law (Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan) personal enmity came to be an enormous infulence on how the charge came about.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham Smith, 11 Oct 2010
By 
eric kelk (Bedford, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
An excellent account of the backgound of the Crimean War and the various military "fools" who were involved.
There is no doubt that the Charge of the Light Brigade was a needless sacrifice and one wonders how we managed to "win" the war with such incompetent Generals. The book neverthless gives a really interesting view of the way peoplke lived in the 19th century with the majority living in poor conditions while the rich prospered. It also shows why the ridiculous system of purchasing commissions was abandoned.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An easy read, but a little outdated, 9 April 2011
This review is from: The Reason Why (Paperback)
I brought this book with on a trip to the Crimea in 2009 and to read while on holiday in the Ukraine. I thought that this book would be a good guide to have while touring Sevastopol & Balaclava and seeing some of the battle fields there.
Cecil Woodham Smith presents a gloriously readable account of the Charge of the Light Brigade, the lead up to the fatal charge and some of the political fall out in Britain after the battle. The book is lively & entertaining and her enthusiasm for the topic shines through with a boyish intensity.
However it is obvious from reading the book that Cecil Woodham Smith never visited the Crimea and the book is short on details that tie it to this region of the world. Given that the book was written in the 1950s, it is understandable that the book had to be written from a distance at the height of the Cold War.
The book could have done with some maps of the Black Sea region where the Crimean War battles occured in Bulgaria & in the Crimea. Also useful would have been maps showing how the battle unfolded and the fateful choices that launched the infamous charge towards the Russian cannon.
I can honestly say however that "The Reason Why" is an enjoyable book and reads well, but would be a little disappointing to the military historian.
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The Reason Why
The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham-Smith (Paperback - 24 Jun 1971)
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