Recalling the Charge

2014-10-25 00:00

THE famous “Charge of the Light Brigade” took place 160 years ago today and one of its survivors lies buried in the centre of Pinetown.

Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula has become an international flashpoint in recent months. Not much has changed since 160 years ago when the Crimean War (1854-56) saw Britain and France come to the aid of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) in a bid to prevent Russian expansion.

This was the first major war covered by the press, who revealed both the incompetence of the generals, as well as the horrors of combat.

The war also saw the creation of Britain’s highest military award for valour, the Victoria Cross (VC), one of which was won by Joseph Malone, who is buried in St Andrew’s churchyard opposite Pinetown’s civic centre.

Malone was 21 when he won his VC. Born in Manchester in 1833, he enlisted in the army in 1851 and by the time of the Charge, he was a lance-sergeant in the 13th Light Dragoons (later 13th Hussars).

The Charge of the Light Brigade was just one incident in the battle of Balaclava fought on October 25, 1854. From a high vantage point, British commander Lord Raglan saw captured British guns being hauled off by the Russians. He gave orders to the Light Brigade, of which the 13th Light Dragoons were part, to retrieve them.

However, down below on the valley floor the Light Brigade couldn’t see these guns and following confusion over orders they found themselves — first at the trot, then at the gallop — charging down the wrong valley directly at the Russian artillery under heavy fire from three sides.

Of the 673 men who rode out, 118 were killed and 127 wounded. Of the 360 horses that died, one was ridden by Malone. According to the citation for his VC, Malone, returning on foot from the Charge, stopped under heavy fire and helped Sergeant Major J. Berryman and Sergeant J. Farrell assist the mortally wounded Captain Webb to safety.

After the Crimean War, Malone returned with his regiment to Ireland where he received a commission in the Sixth Dragoons (Inniskillings) on September 7, 1858. His new regiment was serving in India where he joined them, serving on the sub-continent until April 1867.

He was promoted to captain on July 1, 1881, and served in South Africa from November 1882.

Aged 50, Malone died suddenly in the Officer’s Mess, the Rugby Hotel, Pinetown, on June 28, 1883.

On his tombstone Malone is described as “Riding Master” and the inscription records he “was one of the six hundred in the charge of Balaclava”.

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