Friday, January 20, 2012

Raison D’être: Why Balaclava?

The battle of Balaclava captured the imagination of the western world almost as soon as it took place in 1854. In the time it took the first reports to appear in the British Newspapers, the mid-Victorians and every generation since have been captivated by the exploits both actual and romanticised of actions involving the Thin Red Line, the Charge of the Heavy Brigade and the more famous or infamous Charge of the Light Brigade. Reported in the press; the subject of scandal, criticism and a public enquiry, Balaclava has been remembered and immortalised through the heroic poetry of poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson and repeated representations on canvass. The first military campaign to be photographed; the enduring fascination with the Crimean war and this battle in particular has endured to this day and has been the subject of historical review, popular fiction and inspired two motion pictures.  Little wonder that as a life-long military historical enthusiast I find myself drawn to this monumental event in the history of my forefathers.
In the early 1970s as a boy of seven I was allowed to stay up and watch Tony Richardson’s 1968 motion picture The Charge of the Light Brigade. I still recall how enthralled I was with the pageantry, the colour and spectacle of the entire event as it unfolded on the family’s early model colour television. Being a feature of my generation’s early childhood, I owned a copy of The Charge of the Light Brigade action transfer book (Patterson Blink Instant Picture Book) which I gleefully scratched away at designing my own versions of the charge. I cannot recall how many times I read and re-read that booklet from cover to cover. Cecil Woodham-Smith’s book The Reason Why was always amongst my parents’ library but it wasn’t until the 1990’s and well into adulthood that I obtained my own copy and read it for the first time. Having obtained the video and later the DVD of Richardson’s movie, I rekindled my love affair with this tragic war but had not sought to replicate it in any way - until now.
With the recent entry onto the market of new figure manufacturers with a growing range of competitively priced, attractive and dynamic sculpts, the time has come for me to exercise this long dormant daemon and embark on yet another major wargaming project: The Balaclava Build. Run concurrently with other similar projects, I will begin assembling a 28mm scale representation of this famous battle in as much detail as I am able in an attempt to recreate in some small way what it could have looked like from a birds-eye view. As a miniature wargamer, this will be no static display but will allow me and my friends to re-enact the decision making, actions and battlefield consequences of the commanders in the field on that day and experiment with the ‘what ifs’ so beloved of the amateur military historian.

As wargaming is a visual hobby, my Balaclava Build very much appeals to my connection with the aesthetic.  For the protagonist nations which fought in the Crimea, their armies represented the last word and high tidal mark if you will for elaborate uniform design. From the spiked helmeted ranks of the great coated Russian infantry, to the braided tightly fitting uniforms of the British Hussars these men were the last generation to fight in parade standard dress before the influence of true industrialisation and the introduction of modernism into the military styles which followed. Beyond the ceremonial dress handed down from this Victorian period, we will never again see the same flair and fashion on the field of battle.

It is also my intent to build an on-line repository for all pertinent information relevant to this battle on this blog for the enjoyment and use of anyone wishing to research the battle of Balaclava and the Crimean War more generally. In attempting to uncover Balaclava on-line myself, I have discovered much repetitive and general information on disparate sites and a lack of specific detail on units which fought. I intend amassing libraries of art, cartoons, unit histories, maps, internet links, figure reviews and plenty of examples of my representations as my build unfolds over the next few years. I also undertake to include anyone’s contributions which assists in broadening a collective knowledge base on the subjects covered.

So, please make yourself at home within the growing posts of this blog and feel free to read, contribute, criticise and download as I delve a little deeper on-line into the history of the battle of Balaclava.

2 comments:

  1. What afantastic idea! You have me hooked; permission to come aboard Sir?

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  2. Permission granted with enthusiasm. Welcome aboard Number One.

    ReplyDelete