Friday, July 13, 2012
Book Review: Hell Riders by Terry Bighton
First published in 2004, Terry Brighton's considered volume Hell Riders "The truth about the Charge of the Light Brigade' approaches the Charge of the Light Brigade with a concentration on first person accounts recorded from or written by combatants and onlookers. This is simply a 'must have' for any wargamer's or enthusiast's collection and is an essential companion to Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Reason Why.
The socio-political context to the Crimean War and the Balaclava campaign itself is referred to only minimally; such background detailed only insofar as it relates to the Charge itself. Hell Riders is very much about the Charge and the Light Brigade and consequently I found much additional detail for modelling, characters and units surrounding the events at Balaclava - which will feature in my detailed project 'Allied Army Order of Battle' to follow.
The key feature of this volume is Brighton's approach to the Charge in part two - in my volume, pages 81-204. Taking excerpts from the accounts of the men who charged or witnessed the attack, the author takes us through the murderous approach stage by stage, lacing his narrative with the survivors commentary and synchronising their experiences. The chapter gathers its own momentum and by the time the reader hits the gun-line one fairly re-lives the seven minute disaster as it unfolds along. With the constant interjections from the cavalrymen's accounts, you feel you are riding in with them.
Brighton takes us from the point of decision, through the charge to the wild skirmish at the guns (and beyond) then back again up the valley of death. More than this, part four of his work discusses who was to blame, he describes the disgraceful wasting of the Brigade the following winter (part three) and delves into every dynamic of the legend from 'the bugle controversy' to awarding of the Victoria Cross.
This work includes a very handy roll call for the entire Brigade as well as handy tips for researching the Charge of the Light Brigade. If you are after greater detail concerning the battle of Balaclava; however, you will need to read further afield than Hell Riders. Nevertheless, anyone wishing to 'know' about the Charge must simply include this work in their reading list if they want to be even close to authoritative on the subject.
I highly recommend this to those who have not as yet had the pleasure and it can be purchased readily through Amazon.com as I did. Enjoy.