Sussex Survivors of the Fateful Charge

Last week I was taking a group of WI members on an historic tour of Lewes which includes the graveyard of St John-sub-Castro church near to where I used to live. Although I have walked through the churchyard many times before I spotted a grave that I had not previously seen which mentions the Charge of the Light Brigade.

The Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 still gets military historians discussing its merits. Although the suicidal frontal attack on enemy cannon positions during the Crimean War was doomed to failure, it led to a foreign respect for the bravery of the men and the British Army as a whole.  Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who had recently moved to the Isle of Wight from Seaford wrote the famous poem which cemented the incident in the ‘valley of death’ in the British psyche.

Screen Shot 2017-05-28 at 11.11.33

At least two survivors retired to Sussex but led very different lives.  Martin Landfried of Brighton loved his reputation as one of the trumpeters who sounded the charge.  He courted publicity and attended many events with his battered bugle, said to be the one used on that fateful day.  Richard Davis of Lewes however led a quiet but hard-working life as a railway labourer.

Landfried (who never seems to be too sure how his surname is spelled) was born in Gibraltar in 1834. His father was a bandmaster in the army and his son inherited his musical talents.   By the age of 15, Martin was living in Brighton and it was there he joined the 17th Lancers who were at that time based in the town. By April 1854 his rank was ‘trumpeter’ and he was en-route to the Crimea.    The fateful attack, during the Siege of Sebastopol was on 25th October 1854. 17 trumpeters took part in the charge but it was Landfried that went down in history as ‘the man who sounded the charge’

Landfried was injured in the attack and his horse killed underneath him. He was evacuated to the military hospital at Scutari (famously managed by Florence Nightingale). He went on to see action in India before leaving the army as a ‘Trumpet Sergeant Major’ in 1865.  He returned to Brighton where he got a job in Hannington’s department store in North Street.   The owner of this large shop (Smith Hannington) built the drill hall for the Sussex Artillery Volunteers in Church Street and the 4th Company of the Volunteers was formed of Hannington’s employees.  Not surprisingly Landfried was their bandmaster.

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Martin Landfried

The public interest in the Charge of the Light Brigade did not diminish and Landfried was a popular act at both for military occasions, local events and even in musical-halls.  In May 1894, he attended the Tide Mills between Seaford and Newhaven where a gun-train was being trialled.  Despite the enthusiastic reports in the local press, the event was not a success but the large gathering of dignitaries was entertained by Martin Landfried and his bugle.

Daily Graphic May 1894 - Train Gun
The Train-Gun is tested at Tide Mills

In October 1890 there was a re-union of men who had taken part in the Charge of the Light Brigade at Alexandra Palace and, although the local press devoted several column inches to Landfried only a brief mention is made of the other Sussex Survivor, Richard Davis.

Richard Davis was born in Surrey in 1827.  At the age of 25 he joined the 11th Hussars and was soon promoted to Corporal. He had only been in the army two years when he took part in the Charge.  His regiment was led by Lord Cardigan. The following years he was injured and also spent time in Scutari Hospital.  He left the army as a Sergeant and was married to Caroline Weaver in Lewes in 1858.  The couple lived in Eastport Lane and had two children.  He was originally a Groom but the 1881 census shows that he was a Railway Labourer.  In 1897 he was confined to his bed and died on 27th December.   He was buried at St John Sub-Castro Church in Lewes. His headstone was provided by the depot staff of his former regiment, the 11th Hussars.

Although quite badly eroded, some words of the epitaph can just be made out

170525 Davis Grave

SACRED

TO THE MEMORY

OF

RICHARD DAVIS

FORMERLY SERGEANT IN THE XI HUSSARS

WHO RODE ON THE

CHARGE OF THE LIGHT BRIGADE

AT BALACLAVA IN 1854

AFTER SPENDING OVER 40 YEARS

OF HONEST LABOUR IN THIS TOWN

HE PASSED AWAY PEACEABLY ON

THE 27TH DECEMBER 1897 AT THE

(undecipherable)

THIS STONE WAS ERECTED BY

PAST AND PRESENT MEMBERS OF

HER MAJESTY’S FORCES INCLUDING

THE DEPOT STAFF OF THE XI HUSSARS

His wife is buried with him.

Martin Landfried continued to benefit from that fateful charge.  He became a music teacher and in 1890 even took part in the Lord Mayor’s Parade in London.  He lived in Portland Road, Hove from where he gave music lessons.   He died on 8th December 1902 leaving a considerable sum to his wife, Annie.  He is buried at Hove Cemetery.  His grave is in the form of a cross decorated with a military sword. His grave is endorsed ‘God grant that he may sleep from Last Post to Reveille

I wonder if there are graves of other Charge of the Light Brigade survivors in Sussex?

For more information about Martin Landfried see the excellent research done by Hilary Greenwood of Shoreham Fort click here https://www.shorehamfort.co.uk/about/martin-leonard-landfried/

 

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