This week my short story “The Crimean Centaur” appeared in the Doctor Who charity anthology, Time Shadows Second Nature. All proceeds benefit CODE. The story features Lord Raglan, the British Commander in the Crimean War, memorably portrayed by Sir John Gielgud in The Charge of the Light Brigade, which is 50 years old this year.
When researching Raglan, I discovered that he only had one arm, due to an injury at the Battle of Waterloo. Few contemporaries commented on this. We keep talking about diversity and equal opportunities in our society, but it is difficult to imagine the modern British Army appointing a one-armed man to lead a combat force or the Metropolitan Police hiring a disabled Commissioner. Sir Edward Bradford, who lost his left arm to a tiger, led the Met from 1890-1903.
One interesting fact about both Raglan and Bradford is that they communicated directly with their men and earned their respect. Bradford visited police stations and spent time talking, and crucially listening, to constables. Raglan spent most of his time in the Crimean fighting the bureaucracy that denied crucial supplies to the army. He personally rode through the snow to deliver warm clothing to the wife of a corporal who gave birth in a tent. Soldiers spoke highly of him, but the press did not and their accounts have, over time, proved more influential.
Raglan’s chief tormentor was William Russell, correspondent of The Times. Russell was played in The Charge of the Light Brigade by TP McKenna who later stared in Doctor Who.