John Bambrick (b1832)
Charge of the Light Brigade.
THE CHARGE OF THE SIX HUNDRED. The following graphic account of the celebrated charge by the Light Brigade at the battle of Balaclava has been fur- nished to the Narracoorte Herald by Mr. John Bambrick, one of the fortunate few who survived that ever-to-be-remembered test of British valour. As Mr. Bambrick is a resident of the town mentioned in this province, and is well known throughout the district, his version will no doubt be read with interest : The 25th day of October, 1854- a day full of sad remembrances- dawned cold and hazy. We turned out as usual at break of day, and were standing at our horses' heads, watching our outlying pickets, (furnished from the 17th Lancers), whom we could just discern through the heavy mist, anxiously waiting signals from them whether the enemy were on the move or not. Just as the sun tipped the heights of the Tchernaya we saw bur pickets forming the figure eight at a canter, which indicated the advance of the combined forces of the Russians infantry, cavixlry, and artillery. Lord Cardigan, with his staff, came galloping' across the plain towards us, and gave the order ' Light Brigade will advance ! ' We obeyed, moving towards the Turkish redoubts, where we saw the poor "Bono Johnnies" (as we had nicknamed the Turks), running away as hard as pos- sible, the shot and shell at this time becoming rather unpleasant for their faint hearts. We were here ordered to take ground to the left in column of troops, and shortly after the 11th Hus sars (to which I belonged) were detached to cover the guns of the 1st Troop Horse Artillery, Capt. Maude commanding. I may just mention here as a rather strange incident that Captain Maude, having ordered the stretcher party to tho guns, was carrying the stretcher before him on his saddle when he was wounded in the leg, and was the first to be carried off the field upon it. It was at this time we saw the Russian cavalry advancing upon Sir Colin Camp- bell's position, under a murderous fire from the marine heights above Balaclava, which looked like one sheet of fire. On coming up they were met by the High land division, under Sir Colin, in rank entire, with a volley that emptied many a Russian saddle. 'Twas then we gave a shout ,of delight when we saw the enemy actually reel and turn tail. Before the Russians had time to recover from the panic caused by the Highland reception, down came the Heavy Brigade (composed of the Scots Greys, Inneskillens, 4th Royal Irish, 5th Dragoon Guards, and 1st Royal Dragoons), led on by as noble a soldier as ever drew blade from scab bard, General Scarlett, and, thundering across the plain on the heels of the Rus- sian cavalry, actually mowed them down. We at this time were anxiously awaiting our turn, and it came. After the Heavy Brigade had driven the enemy back to their own position we were ordered to advance to the mouth of the valley, where we dismounted and looked to our horses' girths and appointments. We had not been long dismounted, when we saw Cap- tain Nolan, one of Lord Raglan's staff, galloping down to the Earl of Lucan. Immediately afterwards an aide-de-camp was dispatched from Lucan's staff to Lord Cardigan. What orders were then given is a mystery to me ; however, we were there to obey, and that was enough for us, although it was evident there was a blunder in the matter. His Lordship then came back, and gave the orders, 'Light Brigade, stand to your horses!' 'Prepare to mount !' ' Mount!' To the best of my remembrance the 8th Hussars were on the right of the line, the 13th next, the 17th next, the 11th Hussars, and the 4th Light Dragoons. We were ordered to advance in echelon of regi ments from the right. Before us was a battery of Russian artillery, another on the right of us, and another on the left, with some squares of infantry to our right front, the guns being supported by masses of cavalry. The battery on our left was silenced by the -Chasseura d'Afrique. After cutting our way through the batteries, squares of infantry, and squadrons of cavalry, the command was still 'On, on, forward, boys!' till we reached the Trakta (?) bridge at the bottom of the valley. Our horses were by this time pretty well blown, and it was there we noticed how fearfully thin our ranks had become. Colonel Douglas, fully aware of the awful position we were in, exclaimed, 'For God's sake, boys, what is to be done ?' or words to that effect, and I with others answered, ' The 17th Lancers are deployed in line in our rear, Sir.' He then called out, 'Threes about, and rally on the 17th Lancers.' We did so, but on reaching them, found to our dismay, they were the Polish Lancers, who came from the carry to the engage lance, giving vent to a wild yell of de light as they bore down upon us. We cut our way through them, when we were confronted by a second line. There a few of us, with Colonel Douglas, of the 11th Hussars, at our head, skirted their right flank.' Shortly after having done so a shell, fired from the Russian battery on the left (which was on our right going down) lodged in my (B6) mare's side and exploded, tearing her completely open. Whilst trying to extricate myself, her whole weight being on my left leg, I was attacked by a Russian officer. He made a cut at me with his sword, which I guarded, having fortunately retained hold of my blade, at the same moment grasp ing his reins with my left hand, which caused his stallion to throw up his head, thus dragging me from under my own. On regaining my feet, still retaining hold of his horse, he made a cut (seven) at my head, which guarding I delivered first point, which took effect under his waist belt. He at once quitted hold of his sword, and seemed to be fumbling in his holster for his pistol. While in the act of doing so I ran him through about the same place, the blood spurting over me as I drew my blade, which I followed up with a well-delivered blow on the face, when he fell to the earth dead. On trying to mount the charger thus gained the saddle slipped round with me, and I had gone some considerable distance before I became properly seated and found that I had received two wounds- in my late con flict, one just below the knee and the other in my arm, the Russian having given me a severe wound in the muscle of my right arm, but in the excitement I had felt neither at the time. On getting out, the first faces I met were, to my delight, those of the 4th Regiment of Chasseurs d'Afrique of France, who were thrown out in a line of skirmishers to cover our retreat after having silenced the battery on the left. The first words that greeted me for I was alone now were 'Bon charge!' (grand charge), ' Vive la Reine I' (Long live the Queen), and such exclamations as these. I called out as well as my state would allow for in addition to loss of blood, be it known we were on the allow ance of a handful of biscuit per diem 'Ou ert la Cavallerie Legere V (where is the Light Brigade I) when they answered ' Morte ! morte !' (dead, dead.) After going through their line I came on to the 47th Regiment of British Infantry in skirmishing order. Dismounting, I requested a drink of water, which was immediately proffered me by a son of the Emerald Isle, which he poured into Ms pannican from his calabash, with this characteristic remark,. ' By the piper of war I will, my boy, for yes hiv' irned it to-day.'' I was about drinking, when the doctor of the regiment stopped me and mixed some brandy with it, and also gave me a biscuit. I then made enquiries as to where the Light Brigade were. They directed me. I found them in a group some lying down, others standing to their horses' heads. In their centre were Brigade-General Lord Cardigan, Colonel Douglas, Sir Roger Palmer, and other officers. As I rode up they greeted me with a cheer, for many of my comrades, some of whom saw my horse shot under me, thought I was lying with the lost majority. When in calmer moments I had time to reflect on the host of narrow escapes which I, with all the survivors, expe- rienced, it seems little short of a miracle that any of us ever came out. The carnage was something terrible, and although 22 years have now nearly elapsed since that fearful day, what I saw on that 25th of October still remains a vivid picture, and must ever remain such to the end of my days. I remember well the comrades on my right and left hand falling, while the one immediately behind me lived through it, although he, like myself, had those on each side of him stricken down. But here I must cry halt, for were I to write all I remember in connection with the charge it would make a book of itself. I afterwards got permission from my commanding officer to sell the horse (a chesnut stallion), as a reward, I suppose, for the way in which I had gained posses sion. Sir Roger Palmer bought him, who afterwards exchanged to the 2nd Life Guards, on our return to England, taking the horse with him. The last time I saw my Russian prize was on Ascot race- course, with the ugly scar over his eye that I gave him, though meant for his rider, in the tussle already referred to. He was then the off-leader of Sir Roger's four-in-hand drag. I was furthermore rewarded, through the recommendation of my commanding officer, Colonel Douglas, with the Cross of the Legion of Honor, as Chevalier or Knight of the same Order. The following paragraph, which we extract from an account of the charge in Once a Week, will prove interesting in connection with the above :"On the same night I buried their arms, which had been shot off. One of the men named John Bambrick had his horse shot from under him. A Russian officer in riding past at the time was dismounted, when Bam- brick rushed after the horse, caught it, and mounting it took it to Balaclava. '
Extract from pg 134, "Forgotten Heroes: The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Roy Dutton
John Bambrick died in 1893. Here is a story about him, published in 1892.
Quiz and the Lantern (Adelaide, SA : 1890 - 1900) Fri 8 Jul 1892 Page 7 CRACRED CHESNUTS Cracked Chesnuts Some years ago one of the Six Hundred named Bambrick occupied the position of ostler at the Narracoorte Hotel. He had just come off a bad tear, and by way of weaning himself decided to invest in some locally made cider. Narracoorte was never captivating. Bambrick sampled the stuff, and was about to ruin the cider-maker's con stitution for ever when a happy idea struck him, and he carted off two gallons of the cider. Having deposited it safely in his small but neat room (he had all the good order of a soldier), he went out and invited to his room all the people he didn't like and placed the cider before them. None of them died, but they got near enough to doing so to fully satisfy Bambrick, and he was hard to please in a little matter of that sort.
(An ostler is "a man employed to look after the horses of people staying at an inn"... I imagine he would've been more than capable of this!)
John Thomas Bambrick
BIRTH 6 Feb 1832 India
DEATH 17 Oct 1893 (aged 61)
Bourke, Bourke Shire, New South Wales, Australia
BURIAL Bourke Cemetery
Bourke, Bourke Shire, New South Wales, Australia
(I don't believe he married or fathered any children.)
There are newspaper advertisements in Australia showing that after he published his story in the paper, his older brother Robert, in south Australia, tried to get in touch with him. I don't know if they ever did meet up.
- John Bambrick (b1791) - John's father (probably my great great great grand father)
- Harriet Ann Bambrick - John's mother
- Robert Bambrick (1827) - John's brother (my great great grand father)
- Valentine Bambrick (1837) - John's brother