Saturday 18 February 2012: Svalov's Unicorn
We went into Cardigan today. It's one of the more interesting and lastingly friendly towns in the area. Between arriving and exploring some shops I posed with Shvalov's Edinrag (unicorn), which was a Russian field cannon captured during the Crimean War (1853-1856).
The antiquity and phallic pride of this old gun are not the only reasons why it's blippable. Some months ago I read The Reason Why by Cecil Woodham-Smith, which after half a century is still the definitive text on the 1854 "Charge Of The Light Brigade," perhaps the stupidest event in the long history of human stupidity. The British Army was commanded by incompetants who had literally purchased their commissions, and led by a general who had never made actual battlefield decisions before. The commanders also included some bitter personal enemies who were hardly communicating with each other at all, and so an ambiguous command from the top found Lord Cardigan (his title, after this town) at the head of a fabulously dressed cavalry, thinking he was being ordered to charge directly into a large force of Russian rifles and cannons (like this one) that were waiting for him in plain sight and in broad daylight. Although every single person present saw the charge as mass suicide, they charged.
Seven hundred horsemen went in, and around two hundred lived through the day. It came down to honor and glory. The certainty of a huge loss of life meant nothing, and the stupidity of it from the military point of view was academic.
The charge has been presented as an honorable and extremely glorious moment ever since it happened. Like "Custer's Last Stand" in 1876 and the Raid on Dieppe in 1942, the Battle of Balaclava was lost by idiots in a war that was won. It became the task of the winning-side Media to assure the public that idiots are heroes and wasted life was noble sacrifice. One must study these matters critically in order to see their insanity.
Here is one example from 1936 of the glorification of stupidity. A later film in 1968 did a fine job of showing what stupidity was actually made of.
There are some good steak & kidney pies to be gotten in Cardigan, by the way.