THE MERTON SOCIETY
America's Oldest "Tea Drinking and Whisky" Speaking Society
The 17th Lancers and "The Charge of the Light Brigade"
Battle of Balaklava, the Crimea, October 25, 1854
The 17th Lancers' (The Duke of Cambridge's Own) Insignia Badge
Adopted when the regiment was raised in 1759,
In memory of General Wolfe, who died at the battle of Quebec
|Both the University Cottage Club and the Merton Society adopted the 17th Lancers' regimental colors (crimson, yellow and blackened blue) for their own insignias. In 1922, the 17th Lancers Regiment was combined with the 21st Lancers Regiment of the British Army, never to stand on its own again. In reaction to this event, the Merton Society added a Maltese cross to its original insignia in order to commemorate the following five brave members of the 17th Lancers Regiment who were awarded the Victoria Cross:
The Charge of the Light Brigade
On October 25, 1854, the 17th Lancers and four other British cavalry regiments engaged in what became known as "The Charge of the Light Brigade" of the Crimean War. They faced a valley that was approximately five hundred yards long, manned at the end and on both sides by Russian infantry and cannon batteries. The order that was issued to them was intended to direct them to attack the batteries on the right, where the Russians were removing some captured English cannons. Tragically, something was lost through the chain of command, and the order that was received by the Brigade required it "to advance rapidly to the front, and try to prevent the enemy carrying away the guns." Not seeing any enemy except those directly in front of him, Lord Cardigan, the commanding officer, ordered the Brigade to advance straight down the valley.
What happened after that was essentially a massacre, even though the British viewed the overall results of the entire day's fighting as a victory. The Russian batteries decimated the charging cavalry's ranks from three sides. Although a few brave members of the regiments did manage to survive in order to overtake the Russian battery at the end of the valley, they were forced to retreat upon encountering the Russian reserves of Cossack cavalry. The Cossacks then pursued them onto the field of battle, where they killed or captured many of the remaining members of the Brigade. Of the original 673 men, only 195 returned to the British lines; a much smaller number of horses survived. The 17th Lancers went in with 145 men, and only 45 returned. Amazingly, Lord Cardigan, who led the charge all of the way, escaped unscathed. He later would answer to several inquiries in London regarding this unfortunate series of events. It was during this battle that three members of the 17th Lancers gained the Victoria Cross.
Malone (13th Light Dragoons), Farrell (17th Lancers), and Berryman (17th)
Gain the Victoria Cross by rescuing Captain Webb (17th) after the Charge
(From a Painting by Henry Payne)