British theater and film director best known for his association with the "Angry Young Men" of the British theatre and film of the late 1950s and early 60s - Lindsay Anderson (If...) and Karel Reisz - who wanted to depict aspects of working class life (so-called "kitchen sink" realism). Educated at Wadham College, Oxford graduating in English, active in OU Drama Society 1949-51. Worked in BBC 1952-1955 and co-directed a short documentary about working-class youths ("Free Cinema" movement) and directed stage production of John Osborne's play about sterility of post-war British culture "Look Back in Anger". Further collaboration with Osborne led to film versions of his plays: Look Back in Anger (1958) with Richard Burton and The Entertainer (1960) with Laurence Olivier.
A reference perhaps to the eponymous poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson written in 1855
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 valey of Death
Rode the six hundred.
Seen throught he eyes of a young professional officer with experieince in India, Cpt Nolan, who joins the Light Cavalry Brigade of the 11th Hussars and realises that the army is in great need of reform of abuses such as training of officers, field tactics, treatment of enlisted men by NCOs, and the arrogance and incompetence of senior officers. He is sent with the Light Brigade to the Crimea in 1854 where he participates in the slaughter at Balaklava which results from a misunderstanding of orders due to the bickering between Lord Cardigan and Lord Lucan. The Light Brigade is ordered to attack a well-fortified Russian position against artillery which kills over 400 of "the 600" immortalised by Tennyson's poem.
The Commander of the British forces in the Crimea, Fitzroy James Henry Somerset, First Baron Raglan (1788-1855), won the battles of Alma and Inkerman but was made the scapegoat for the decimation of the army at Sebastopol during the winter of 1854-55. George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl of Lucan (1800-85), the brother-in-law of Lord Cardigan, was an imperious and over-bearing aristocrat who was promoted to high position over more proficient profesional officers because of his social connections. As commander of the cavalry in the Crimea he let his personal quarrel with Lord Cardigan reach such a point that their respective staffs refused to cooperate and an order from Lucan to Cardigan was misconstrued, leading to the defeat of the Light Brigade. He was subsequently promoted to Field Marshall. Thomas James Brudenell, 7th Earl of Cardigan (1797-1868) was a "stupid, overbearing, arrogant, vindictive" general whose ancient title and great wealth overcame his inability to command in the eyes of the miltary leadership. He was placed under the command of his brother-in-law, Lord Lucan, with whom he could not get on.
The Times of London war correspondent, W.H. Russell, oberseved in his account of The British Expedition to the Crimea (1858) that:
It appeared that the Quartermaster-General, Brigadier Airey, thinking that the Light Cavalry had not gone far enough in front... when the enemy's horse had fled, gave an order in writing to Captain Nolan, 15th Hussars, to take to Lord Lucan, directing his Lordship 'to advance' his cavalry nearer the enemy. A braver soldier than Captain Nolan the army did not possess. He was known to all his arm of the service for his entire devotion to his profession, and his name must be familiar to all who take interest in our cavalry for his excellent work on our drill and system of remount and breaking horses. I had the pleasure of his acquaintance, and I know he entertained the most exalted opinions respecting the capabilities of the English horse soldier. Properly led, the British Hussar and Dragoon could in his mind break squares, take batteries, ride over columns of infantry, and pierce any other cavalry in the world as if they were made of straw. He thought they had not had the opportunity of doing all that was in their power, and that they had missed even such chances as had been offered to them - that, in fact, they were in some measure disgraced... He is now dead and gone. God forbid I should cast a shade on the brightness of his honour, but I am bound to state what I am told occurred when he reached his Lordship... When Lord Lucan received the order from Captain Nolan, and had read it, he asked, we are told, 'Where are we to advance to?' Captain Nolan pointed with his finger to the line of the Russians, and said, 'There are the enemy, and there are the guns', or words to that effect, according to statements made after his death...
At ten minutes past eleven our Light Cavalry advanced. The whole Brigade scarcely made one effective regiment, according to the numbers of the continental armies; and yet it was more than we could spare. As they rushed toward the front, the Russians opened on them from the guns in the redoubt on the right, with volleys of musketry and rifles. They swept proudly past, glittering in the morning sun in all the pride and splendour of war. We could scarcely believe the evidence of our senses! Surely that handful of men were not going to charge an army in position? Alas, it was but too true - their desperate valour knew no bounds, and far indeed was it removed from its so-called better part - discretion. (Wintle, p. 275).
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, "The Charge of the Light Brigade" in The Oxford Book of War Poetry, ed. Jon Stallworthy (Oxford University Press, 1988), pp. 115-116.
The Dictionary of War Quotations, ed. Justin Wintle (London: Hodder and Staughton, 1989).