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The Reason Why: The Story of the Fatal Charge of the Light Brigade Paperback – Bargain Price, July 1, 1991

4.6 out of 5 stars 42 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, July 1, 1991
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (July 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140012788
  • ASIN: B0048BPF34
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,206,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Daniel Jolley HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 26, 2002
Format: 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.
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Format: Paperback
Woodham-Smith presents, in minute detail, the wages of placing social rank over experience, and even competence. British military history follows a disturbing trend. War starts, Brits get trounced upon, influx of fresh talent and new ideas comes (along with, sometimes, timely intercession by allies), British return to triumph. Woodham-Smith attributes this pattern to the notion in the higher ranks of the army (a notion espoused by the Duke of Wellington himself, pip pip!), that nobility ensures, if not competence, at least loyalty.
The price of this notion, is, of course, massive death, but because the massive death does not happen to the nobility, nobody important really minds. This is one reason the Charge of the Light Brigade, with which _the Reason Why_ primarily deals, was so different, and worthy of eulogizing in prose and song (Alfred, Lord Tennyson, by the way, appears absolutely nowhere in this text)--those dying, those paying the price for the Army's obsession with aristocracy, were aristocrats themselves.
Woodham-Smith manages to trace the careers of two utterly unsympathetic characters--Cardigan and Lucan--in a fascinating manner. This is no small feat, considering the reader will probably want, by the end of _the Reason Why_ to reach back in time and shake both of them, and maybe smack them around a bit.
Again, Cecil Woodham-Smith proves herself a master of the historian's craft, and produces a well-researched, thorough and driving account of what is probably the stupidest incident in modern military history.
The Crimean War changed so much about how war is waged--the treatment of prisoners and wounded being tops on the list of reforms brought about in the wake of the debacle. _The Reason Why_ is an excellent account, and should be required reading for anybody with even a remote interest in military history, or European history in general.
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Format: Paperback
The Charge of the Light Brigade on the 25th October 1854 was one of the three famous engagements that formed the Battle of Balaklava. The Charge, the most famous of all military blunders, was barely over before the process of transforming it into myth began. Accusations, counter-accusations, legal actions and patriotic poetry created more obscuring smoke and dust than the infamous Russian guns. Cecil Woodham Smith traces the careers of two of the major players: Lords Lucan and Cardigan, the brothers-in-law from hell, whose vanity, arrogance and (at least in the case of Cardigan) incompetence, inexperience and crass stupidity, contributed to the fatal Charge. Almost 40 years of peace, and the reactionary influence of the Duke of Wellington, had left the British army in a parlous state of unreadiness and bureaucratic confusion when the call came to defend Turkey against the Russians. The choice of the aged, gentle, inexperienced and unassertive Raglan, as leader of the expeditionary army, only made a bad situation worse. (For a rather more sympathetic portrayal of Raglan, as victim of an inefficient military system, criminally disorganised commissariat and unreasonable government, see "The Destruction of Lord Raglan" by Christopher Hibbert.) A more recent study, "The Charge" by Mark Adkin, provides a detailed and well-illustrated account of the events leading to the Charge of the Light Brigade. Adkin challenges traditional views , including parts of Cecil Woodham Smith's account. Particular attention is given to the role played by Captain Nolan (the messenger). Adkin suggests that Nolan may have deliberately misled Lucan and Cardigan as to Raglan's real intention. Whatever the truth, which is of course unknowable, "The Reason Why" is a genuine classic and an excellent introduction to a fascinating subject.
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