The Charge of the
Alfred Lord Tennyson
Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!
"Charge for the guns!" he said:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
Some one had blunder'd:
Their's not to make reply,
Their's not to reason why,
Their's but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of Hell
Rode the six hundred.
Flash'd all their sabres bare,
Flash'd as they turn'd in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
All the world wonder'd:
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right thro' the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reel'd from the sabre-stroke
Shatter'd and sunder'd.
Then they rode back, but not,
Not the six hundred.
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
Volley'd and thunder'd;
Storm'd at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell,
They that had fought so well
Came thro' the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of Hell,
All that was left of them,
Left of six hundred.
When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
All the world wonder'd.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
Noble six hundred!
The Charge of the
Promoting the Idiocy of War
Poets, and wordsmiths, are more dangerous than generals.
They promote the idiocy of war with fine words and phrases so that politicians, generals, and teachers adopt them as part of the mythology of who they are and what they should do.
Like those who mindlessly repeat John McCrae's bloodthirsty poem from World War I, where he demands that we seek revenge, and "take up our quarrel with the foe," that if we do not, and fail to keep the fight and bitterness going "we shall not sleep" if "ye break faith with us who die."
Essentially he says, keep the killing going to keep the faith with the dead, not pursue peace.
Create more corpses to keep the dead company...
So John, though a superlative war poet, is not a good role model for peace time pursuits.
And teachers make children recite these poems from an early age, so a new generation is trained to think that there is something noble in butchering human beings or being butchered.
All that's needed is a good cause.
And publishers, who live cheek to jowl with the rich and the super-rich, are eager to provide that to their stable of pliant media journalists who pass that message on to the general population in their columns and broadcasts.
Which makes politicians happy.
In our day American television broadcaster CNN famously commissioned a Hummer for the use of its journalists in Iraq, printing the blaring slogan "CNN - Warrior #1" in big letters on the side.
That's to make clear to everyone, especially the US administration, that CNN - that loud and stalwart champion of Judeo-Christian values - could be counted to be in the front lines in the American war against Iraq, that saw US troops killing hundreds of thousands of Muslim men, women, and children.
It is this practice and mind set of white European journalism which has perpetuated war since time immemorial.
In Canada journalists eagerly follow in the footsteps of their American cousins.
Just look at all the pliant scribes at the CTV and Globe and Mail media corporation. Its high profile columnists and broadcasters are doing famously well for getting the "Right" message out.
And that is pro-war against Muslims in Afghanistan. And pro-Israel in whatever it chooses to do, whenever it wants, against Muslim Palestinians and Lebanese.
The Globe's Christie Blatchford wrote an entire book praising the work of Canadian soldiers who are, after all, killing women, children, and men, in Afghanistan, dismissing the innocent civilians they routinely kill as part of their military activity, merely as "collateral damage" and targetted teens, as "fighting age males."
And in a column that stunned many, which she wrote in the Toronto Globe and Mail, she openly said she wept tears for three young soldiers who beat a vagrant to death in downtown Toronto, shaking their military dog tags in his face, shouting, "This gives us the authority." One was due to ship out to Afghanistan the next day.
No tears, though from Christie for the vagrant, or the other woman, a passer-by, they almost killed, let alone the women and children killed in Afghanistan.
It's no wonder to us at all - when she writes, in a confessional article - that even her dog refuses to share her bed anymore...
As a former "military brat," who some might call "a tough broad," she is a stern believer in vigorously promoting General Patton's dictum of making the "other dumb bastard die for his country." And dead foreign women and children at the hands of the Canadian Forces, are just part of the price we must pay to "protect our democratic freedoms in far-off Afghanistan." (No laugh-track please, she is serious.)
All her columns promote this medieval mentality. But then she gets paid big bucks to do it.
And at the very least she hopes to get a seat in the Canadian Senate, like other recent right wing CTV Globe Media journalist appointees, who have made a career of bending over backwards to support government domestic and war initiatives.
They include CTV's former Ottawa based sycophants, Pamela Wallin and Mike Duffy.
Like many of CTV's Ottawa news reporters, Duffy made no secret - in breathless on-air outbursts, no less - for his disdain for out-of-office Liberals. Many of his CTV colleagues were no less demonstrative in their on-air comments.
To many observers it looked like CTV Globe Media was being paid out of the Prime Minister's Office.
Conservative Prime Minster Harper showed how grateful he was for their yeoman service in the media on his behalf, by appointing two of them, at once, to Canada's most famous and best paid sinecure, the Senate.
And they're already spending, and how. An MP accused Duffy of already billing $44,000 after having only "been on the job" for three months... And Duffy got angry at that, but didn't deny it...
Now do you see why everybody wants a Senate seat...
The surprise for many was how did he end up picking Duffy from the pack?
The latest CTV journalist, to get into bed with the Conservatives, is none other than CTV Director of News, Jana Juginovic, who is apparently, tired of making all those phone calls about which of her journalist pals to promote to fat government posts, and has decided to move in with Peter MacKay, the Conservative Minister of Defence on a permanent basis.
Christie, your chances for a Senate seat just improved! The merits of your case will be pillow talk in future... though there's word that pal Maggie Wente (she thought the Iraq War was great, "torture when necessary, but not necessarily torture," and long time booster of Conrad "the Criminal in Jail" Black) pushing her way up the line...
And let's not forget arch right wing journalist, Linda Frum Sokolowski, the latest Senate appointee, for her years of loyal service at Conrad Black's (you know, who's in jail) and Izzy Asper's, National Post, the most extreme right wing paper in Canadian history.
She is, of course, the poster child of how privileged children, with rich, powerful, and influential parents, can thrive in Canada, by leap frogging over all kinds of people who have to make it on merit alone, against those with lesser credentials.
Her brother David Frum - an extremist US-based journalist, and pro-war fanatic, you know the guy who wrote some of the grossly illiterate George Bush's most scary speeches - is apparently, one of the PM's closest friends. So...
But Frum, to hedge her bets, also put on what many say is the biggest political fund raiser ever seen in Toronto, in June 2003, for Conservative Prime Minister Harper. She helped raise millions for his re-election.
Hold it! There's more...
In early 2009, she organized the Frum family to initiate one of the most stunning political ads ever seen in Canadian journalistic history - a full page promo in the Toronto Globe and Mail, personally endorsed by the Frum siblings - and ever helpful dad, millionaire Murray - as well as a couple of dozen fellow tribesmen (mostly media and real estate millionaires) all praising the Prime Minister - and to hedge their bets, also the Liberal Leader of the Opposition - for their much noticed, and extremely strong backing of the state of Israel, and whatever it chooses to do militarily, and for carrying on the war against the "terrorists" - read Muslims in Afghanistan.
They say Mr. Harper was tickled pink - make that red - to get such an expensive thank you card. The ad probably cost the Frums $50,000. He had to do something fast to show his gratitude to her family and her fellow tribesmen.
Ms. Frum's notification letter for a Senate appointment - for which she will reap well over 5 (five) million dollars by the time she retires, and have to produce nothing for - was in the next mail.
You can say Ms. Frum Sokolowski not only earned her seat, with her columns, but paid for the damn thing as well...
Cynics say the $50,000 is already tagged to come off her Senate expense account...
None of this crowd, to understate the case, have a reputation for liking Muslims very much...
In Canada, war and war promotion, especially against Muslims, pays, big time...
No Canadian journalist, publisher, industrialist, or politician, can make a buck promoting peace.
So for many people, war is not idiotic at all, but the way to go...
Just take it from Linda Frum. Set for life on caviar row, courtesy of the tax payers of Canada.
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
A fabulous print by John Charlton, of a member of the British 16th Lancers, which was published by the Graphic, Apr. 4, 1891, complete with attached matte and decoration, ready for mounting in a frame.
These lancers are showing the finery they wore during regimental parades not in the field. During the 1890s British soldiers, including the lancers, campaigned in khaki.
But artists continued to ignore the fact because they wanted to use all the colours on their palettes. And publishers encouraged the falsehood because "colourful" prints sold a lot better.
So during the opening months of the Boer War, several of the famous Bacon prints showing the British army at war, depicted them in red and blue uniforms.
Countless numbers of these romantic prints would be hung in hotels, and offices, throughout the British Empire. And in the homes of ordinary civilians.
Today only military families or collectors display pictures like this.
The general public's view of the military has changed a great deal, as has the "work" of the military.
These lancers at no time ever targetted or killed women and children.
Modern armies, like the Israeli, routinely and deliberately, kill Muslim women and children as part of their normal operations.
Even the Canadian army has killed countless numbers of Afghan women and children, which its generals dismiss as mere "collateral damage." In October 2009, Canadians deliberately shot a 14 and a 16 year old, on a motorbike. The general refused to acknowledge they had killed "kids" but in a press conference cynically referred to them repeatedly as "fighting aged males."
Most Canadians do not want to hang patriotic pictures of people who do things like that and parse words like that.
|Chromolithograph, the 16th Royal Lancers - Apr. 4, 1891
|Orig. chromolithograph - Image Size - 24 x 30 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
|Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Left a fine cabinet card showing how a contemporary British lancer from the 1880s was properly outfitted.
This is Canadian Arthur Rhodes, from Zelma, Saskatchewan, who served in a British lancer unit.
Charging Fuzzy Wuzzies armed with spears, knives, and bows, was very romantic in 19th century India and Africa. Lancers practiced "pig sticking" at the full charge. For close in work they would switch to the sword.
Lancer units were sent to the Boer War and marched with Lord Methuen on Kimberley. The 16th Lancers were with Lord Roberts on the march to Bloemfontein.
But, faced with deadly Boer rifle fire from over a mile away, the profession where a man charged in with a long stick, lost its relevance.
Clearly shown here is the complicated setup of halters, bridles and bits used by British cavalrymen of the period. Arthur's lance appears to have a bamboo shaft.
Also of note is the brass breast plate on the martingale.
|Cabinet Card (detail), Arthur Henry Rhodes - c 1890
|Orig. cabinet card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Alexandria Bay, NY
When Knighthood Was in Flower
Lancers in warfare hearken back to medieval days, and King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, honourably jousting with each other with wooden lances, for the hands and whatever, of fair maidens.
Amazingly, at the dawn of the most mechanized war in history, men on horseback carrying these long sticks to poke the enemy with, were still considered the elite units in the armies of Britain and Germany.
Right a German lancer's pennant that could be tied to steel eyelets near the tip of the lance, to help identify the units.
But by 1914, except on ceremonial occasions, they would not be used. It is virtually impossible to find photos of lancers with guidons flapping. But they were invariably included when artists, with their romantic streak, painted cavalrymen in the field.
The point shows the four-sided edge, and below it, the eyelets to which a multi-coloured guidon would be attached on ceremonial occasions.
The grip is made of very heavy webbed leather material that is, now, shifting slightly on the shaft, probably due to usage.
Missing is the leather shoulder strap that was once attached so the trooper could have his hands free to guide the horse or use his carbine, say, against an airplane.
Two joints can be found along the shaft. They do not appear to be welded but fit extremely tightly, perhaps around wooden dowels. They are impossible to twist apart. Unlike its British counterpart, the German lance is a one piece unit. At 3.2 m long, it is extremely unwieldy for general transport. Perhaps it was easier to manufacture in sections.
The back end has a rather bluntly rounded taper, probably to spike it into the ground when resting, as the lancers are doing on the Russian Eastern Front below.
German lancer units were more usefully employed in the war against Russia because the battle front was more fluid and less encumbered with the barbed wire trenches that tied up the Western Front.
A severe technological failing of this lance has to be the eyelets, six of which protrude a significant amount from the side of the tip.
In a lancer's thrust, with the weight and momentum of a man and horse behind it, the spear would penetrate easily through a body, with the eyelets ripping through.
But when the lancer would try to withdraw it from the body, the eyelets would resist mightily, acting like hooks, and make it virtually impossible to pull it free.
One kill is all a lancer would get. He would be finished off by someone else, as he struggled helplessly to try to pull his lance free. Something the Von Seydlitz Cuirassiers (1900) would not have learned while practicing on straw dummies below.
Theirs not to reason why; their but to do and die...
For many observers it is hard to believe that these men with their pointy sticks would charge against guns and rifles firing deadly shells and bullets from a long way away.
But men were paid to do that. And so they did, and died like flies, dropping their useless lances long before they could even come close enough to an enemy they often couldn't see, was shooting from rocky hills which horses couldn't climb, or from barbed wire trenches.
In October 1854, at the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War, the Charge of the Light Brigade was celebrated as a courageous feat of arms by British cavalrymen. Some 650 lancers charged up the "Valley of Death" against some 50 Russian guns and thousands of infantrymen.
Some 150 lancers, and 335 horses were killed in a charge which French General Bosquet, who saw it, said, "Magnificent, but it is not war!" A general's way of saying "stupid." Below on location in the Crimea, he points out the insanity to his staff.
At Balaclava, the lancers were effectively wiped out, but Tennyson's poem, and the myth making of journalists, transformed this horrific British defeat into a celebrated victory for the courage - read stupidity - of Victorian British cavalrymen.
Wrote the famed poet, Alfred Lord Tennyson, in The Charge of the Light Brigade, "Theirs not to reason why, their's but to do and die." His way of saying, "in the military don't use your brain."
Countless thousands of us, who have served in the military, military cadets, or reserves, remember the modern version of this ancient chant, shouted at us on the parade square. "You're not here to think! I'll tell you what to think! You just shut up, and do what you're told."
US General Patton would later cast the "magnificent" charge in its proper light. "The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his." Lancers and generals learned this decades too late.
Poets, journalists, and movie actors like Errol Flynn, have perpetuated Balaclava as a romantic idea.
Men of action and courage always got the babes...
Especially lancers, right?
Ambushed by a Lancer's Wife
Shortly after arriving in Cape Town, South Africa, in the spring of 1900, during the Boer War, Canadian cavalry officer Agar Adamson wrote his wife of attending, with five brother officers, a dinner hosted by the wives of British officers, in the Mount Nelson Hotel.
"I dined with five men of the Buffs and six Grass Widows, with husbands at the front. The pace was quite fast enough for me. And their morals not becoming, with husbands fighting for their country, I was taken upstairs, after much eating and drinking, by a v. smart major's wife in Vth Lancers to look at some photos, and it was not her fault that I remained faithful to you my sweetheart."
He wrote that he was the only one who did not end up spending the night with a married "host."
The husbands of the six women were all officers in the British Vth Irish Lancers, fighting the Boers "up country," and had left their wives in Cape Town so they would be "safe" from the Boers. The wives knew their husbands would not turn up unexpectedly, because the Boers had trapped the entire squadron - and, most conveniently, their husbands - inside Ladysmith, for months.
Now see what the husbands were up to.
Agar brought back a war trophy to-die-for, of his own...
Below an excellent view of a British bamboo lance of a British Vth Irish Lancer looking back, with concern, hoping his wife is in good hands... Had he known of the true state of affairs he might have reacted with rage. After the return of one American unit from a tour of duty in Iraq, four US soldiers, who had risked their lives for their country, came home and shot their wives...
General Sir David Watson (1869-1922)
This lance was a trophy of war brought back from Belgium by Canadian General Sir David Watson, who was a journalist by profession.
In 1914, he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force and was soon given command of the 2nd Battalion, CEF. He was promoted to Brigadier General in 1915, and took command of the 5th Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division.
In 1916, he was promoted to Major-General and took command of the 4th Canadian Division. He fought in most of the major Canadian battles of World War I including Ypres, Vimy Ridge, Passchendaele, Amiens, Arras, and Cambrai.
While others brought back thousands of souvenir artillery shells, he correctly saw the lance as the best war trophy of all, signaling as it did, the end of an age of warfare during which, for thousands of years, men fought hand-to-hand with spears and lances.
And then again, only a general could possibly have scrounged a space on the passage home, for this extremely long and unwieldy piece of baggage.
The CNN Lancer c 2005
The lancer of the 21st century - you know the one who skewers you with the pen, that is mightier than the sword - rides into battle on a horse of iron - the Hummer.
Here decked out for CNN's finest scribes, for war duty in Iraq, is the official Hummer the US broadcaster had specially painted up to reflect what American journalists are all about as they report on the US war against the Muslims.
A picture is worth a thousand words here, to describe the even-handedness of American journalism in the 21st century.
CNN has given clear and unmistakable notice that its journalists will not take second place to anyone in the US war against the Muslims. Is there any doubt now, about why US wordsmiths are targets overseas, and why CNN has been forced to use non-American stringers all the time. CNN has made it too dangerous for its own journalists to travel in the war zone without a huge armed guard. They flagged themselves as key combatants in what future historians will call "one of the biggest race wars in history."
The lancer in European armies was really just an evolution of the weapon that Indians on the American plains - and Mongols on the steppes - had been using for thousands of years.
Even well into the 19th century, for them it was a useful weapon since so much intertribal warfare was still hand-to-hand. The coming of the US cavalry with their Gatling Guns and repeating rifles put an end to all that, as Indians too, dumped their lances, in exchange for repeating rifles.
Probably long before European generals they saw the lance as outmoded.
The Twilight of an Era
Above a typical romantic scene of a German lancer painted in 1915. The leather shoulder strap is there, and the guidon. The grass is green and the birds are singing. No sign of the real carnage of war that had already killed hundreds of thousands. That is, of course, the job of artists, and journalists, in times of war. Hide the reality from the population from which you have to draw gullible manpower.
Artists hated lances. Because they were so long they were impossible to fit into compositions. So the artists faked them. Above the guidon is much too low on the shaft but the artist wanted the flag in his composition so he painted it some four feet lower than it would have been. The lance right is also four or five feet too short.
The military uselessness of lancers died hard with the cavalry generals like British General Haig, who directed the course of the war on the Western Front in World War I. But even for them the writing was on the wall, and during the war the lancer units in the German and Allied armies lost their sticks and small carbines, and had them replaced with full sized rifles to become mounted infantry, and later, tank units, using the "iron horse" of the 20th century's cavalry.
A fine picture that shows the end of two of the most ancient tools of war - the sword and the lance - just as they were technologically developed to the highest level of perfection.
A German officer wields his sword far from the enemy - only privates and NCO's carried lances - as two lancers pop away with their small carbines at an approaching plane, while their lances flop idly on their shoulders straps.
The 1897 pattern British officer's cavalry sword, has been called the finest combat sword ever made. Just as the machine gun and the airplane made it totally useless, in a war that was to be fought with ever increasing distances between the combatants.
The German lance, too, on the eve of World War I, was a finely machined and well balanced tool of war, but was totally useless against the machine gun.
Right A famous picture showing the last time that cavalrymen with lances had a significant role in a battle, in October 1899, at Elandslaagte, South Africa, during the opening weeks of the Boer War.
As the heavily outnumbered Boer farmers fled the battlefield, a British lancer unit attacked them from behind, and speared some 60 to death. Corporal Kelly was immortalized by an artist, by spearing two at one time, the tip of his lance coming out of the stomach of the front man. Later Kelly was killed too but his achievement - thanks to gushing journalists - fired the imagination of a nation as a great achievement.
The Boers would never be caught like this again. In future, their accurate Mauser rifle fire decimated the ranks of lancers when they were still hundreds of yards away. None ever got near Boer riflemen again.
Lancers accompanied Lord Roberts on his famous March to Pretoria but their day as an effective unit in warfare was over.
The other famous lancer action was the much celebrated defeat of the 17th Lancers - the "Death or Glory" boys - at Modderfontein by Boer Commandant Jan Smuts, in Sept. 1901.
For many of them, and for lancers long term, it was to be Death.
Some 35 lancers were killed in a futile last stand famously painted above by Caton Woodville in "All That Was Left of Them." Woodville shows the useless lances scattered about as the lancers try to pot away with their small carbines at Boers using deadly accurate modern Mauser infantry rifles from cover behind rocks.
Right the hardware for the British pattern 1868 lance which was fitted on to an ash or bamboo shaft. (The Germans had opted for a one-piece pole of steel.)
One of the most ridiculous aspects of lances, as a modern weapon, was that they had to be used out in the open, in terrain a horse could run. And the enemy had to "come out and play."
The Boers just refused to follow any of these rules, leaving the lancers vulnerable, and exposed, out in the open to die helplessly, easy targets, like fish in a barrel.
The writing was on the wall for lancers with their sticks, but British generals, themselves infused with their youthful upbringing as members of the elite cavalry units, held on to the myth into World War I.
And in our day many military romantics pretend the lancers performed some history altering actions in World War I.
But it was Caton Woodville who gives the lie to all of them with his magnificent picture of men who were essentially military "losers" holding on to an outmoded motto "Death or Glory," and an outmoded weapon of war, the cavalry lance, lying uselessly at their feet.
Right the 16th Lancers stop on Lord Roberts' historic March to Pretoria, and make use of the pointy bottom end of their lances to stick them in the ground.
Later, they stop for a drink in the Modder River.
By the end of World War I, lancer units had disappeared for keeps from all the armies of the European combatants.
But German artists have preserved, in splendid portraits, why the glory of what was the lancer, resplendent in colourful uniform, with guidons flying, was hard for generals to give up, especially when so much of modern warfare seemed to be grungy.
With the departure of the lancer, the glory had gone out of war...
European armies had started to target European civilians as a deliberate policy - in the US the American military had long had a policy of exterminating Indian women and children whenever they got the chance. Like some 200, which US soldiers shot at Wounded Knee in 1890 right.
In South Africa, during the Boer War, the British herded women and children into huge unsanitary concentration camps. As a result some 26,000 of them died. It worked. The deaths of their women and children caused the Boer commandos in the field to stop the war. They feared they would be exterminated as a people if they kept on... Probably 10% of the Boers were... Below the French view of the British military policy against the Boer civilians.
In World War I civilians became normal collateral damage as a by-product of war between Europeans.
In World War II civilians became deliberate targets of both Nazi and Allied forces. Multi-millions of them died.
Today, armies like the Israeli "Defence" Forces, routinely and deliberately target - with great success - Muslim civilians, especially women and children, hoping, since they can't catch the warring men, they'll get their wives and children to force them to give up their territorial rights. Hey, it worked in the Boer War...
The Canadian Forces in Afghanistan have killed more civilians than any other Canadian Army in history.
Not a development Canadians should be proud of, though many will, privately, defend the policy saying, "Hey, they're not white, or Christian, now, are they?"
Neither German or British lancers would think of doing that. They sought out each other, for combat, not civilians and not women and children.
Above Hanovarian Dragoons on patrol (1900)
Above German railway troops (1900) - Below Saxon Horse-Guards (1900)