The 11th Hussars took part in the Battle of Balaclava on 25th October 1854.
The Russians launched an attack near Balaclava, hoping to cut off the British supply route. The battle honour ‘Balaclava’ encompasses three actions, the Thin Red Line, the successful Charge of the Heavy Brigade, and the less successful Charge of the Light Brigade on 25th October 1854. The Light Brigade, commanded by Lord Cardigan, confused its orders and charged head on into the Russian guns down the ‘Valley of Death’. The Charge has gained fame from the gallantry with which it was executed, in spite of being unsuccessful. A Canadian officer, Cornet Alexander Dunn of the 11th Hussars, won a Victoria Cross during the Charge’s aftermath for saving the life of two comrades.
The Russians occupied the heights on both sides of the valley, with artillery and riflemen; at the end of the valley was the main Russian artillery position, protected by more infantry and cavalry. The 11th Hussars were in the second line of the Light Brigade, and commanded by Lieutenant Colonel John Douglas.
The best account of the 11th comes from the pen of Troop Sergeant Major Loy Smith, whose diary is in our museum. “As we moved off the Russians opened fire from all their batteries, the round shot passed through us, and the shells burst over and amongst us, causing great havoc.” Loy Smith lost some of the lace on his cuff to a bullet, but made the Russian gun line in one piece. The 11th then passed through the Russian lines for another 100 yards (no other regiment advanced so far), where they saw the waiting Russian cavalry. Loy Smith says: “Colonel Douglas, seeing that there was no time to lose … called out ‘Give them another charge, men, Hurrah’ … Waving our swords over our heads, on we galloped …”