Charge of the Light Brigade - Survivor's Story by Bob Watson (26 October 2004)
October 25th 2004 was the 150th anniversary of an heroic battle which took place during the Crimean War. That battle has been immortalised in Lord Tennyson's classic poem:
"The Charge of the Light Brigade" "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."
Remarkably a Church Magazine (dated 1907) came into my possession, just a few days ago, in which I came across the following personal story, told by one of those who was "Left of six hundred". Some of the expressions may seem strange or archaic but we leave it in it's original form. After all it is the personal story of his life before and after that historic and heroic charge in which he valiantly played his part and was grateful not only to survive, but to experience another miraculous deliverance which completely changed his life. - Bob Watson
I was born in Dublin on the 25th May,1820, being the youngest son of Daniel Ryan, Head Gardener to Lord Ormonde, of Kilkenny Castle. I entered that gentleman's service very young, and travelled with a nobleman's son as a valet. He died in France and left me a considerable portion of money and money's worth at his death. I came into London a young man with four thousand pounds. I spent it in gambling and fast living, and in some little over for years found myself penniless, without a friend in England. I had no other resource but to enter the army. I listed in the 17th Lancers, their motto is: "Death or Glory." I went with my Regiment out to the Crimea and fought for my Queen and Country. I am happy to say that I am one of the survivors of that Memorable Charge of the Gallant "Six Hundred." I came home in 1857 from the battlefield safe and sound. I claimed my discharge on the old Act of 14 years good conduct on rank you hold. I got my discharge and the Queen's Bounty of 50 pounds, as I held the rank of Troop Sergeant Major.
I need not describe to you the horror of the battlefield, or what devastations it makes in the Country in which it takes place; but I should like to describe to you something more horrible in the sight of God than the battlefield: it is sin in every form. The soldier must endure the misery of the battlefield until one side or the other gives in, then there is a chance of peace. But if the sinner will not come to Christ, and sue for pardon and peace, he must endure the misery of Hell through the countless ages of Eternity. I served my Queen loyally, but that was forced on one by the articles of war. I served the Devil with greater loyalty, because that was voluntary – I was everything to him, a drunkard, a gambler, a Sabbath breaker. Instead of attending some place of worship, I was off on Sunday with my dogs poaching. I was an awful swearer and had a violent temper, my passion almost amounted to madness in fact. I had everything the Devil wished for in me. I never took the name of God in my mouth unless it was in profane swearing; but thank God the case is altered. Perhaps you would like to know how this wonderful change came about.
I had a friend in a fellow workman, and he was a Total Abstainer and a Christian young man. He was, as I then termed it, tormenting me to join the Teetotal Society, but I used to call him bad names and drive him away with volley of curses; that would not frighten him. Day after day he pleaded with me to leave off this Cursed Drink. To get away from his torment, as I termed it, I told him that I would be Teetotal for a month. He said to me: "Can I take your word as a man that you will not enter a public house or drink any intoxicating drink for a month?" I told him that he could take my word, and I thank God with all my heart that I kept my word. At the end of the month I was better in health, I did my work with ease; before, after spending time and money in drink, I could hardly get through my day's work. At the end of the month he came to me to know how I liked my change from a drink soddened to a sober man, I told him the truth, I was a better man every way.
He then advised me to come with him and join the order of Good Templars. I did do so, and I bless that day to the end of my life, for by joining the Good Templars it led me further than that, it led me to the Cross of Christ, where I am happy to say my load of sin fell off. It was there I felt what a load it was I had carried for years when my back was lightened. I rejoiced in the death of Christ on the Cross for me. You may like to know how this great change came about. By an old Christian praying for the unsaved (one of the Lodge) and he told of the misery of Hell and the Glory of Heaven, and the way to shun the evil and gain the good; and I got no peace of mind night or day until I yielded my guilt up to my Saviour; and that was 44 years ago.
If this should drop into the hands of one like I was then, he need not despair. Jesus will receive him and remove his sins from him "as far as the East is from the West" Psalm 103 : 12