Bidders battle for Charge of the Light Brigade sword

A rare sword that saw action in the famed 19th-century Charge of the Light Brigade sold fora hammer of £1,900 in a recent Antiques & Fine Art sale at Elstob Auctioneers’ Antiques. 

Measuring just over a metre in length, the sword was carried by Lieutenant John Chadwick, a troop leader in the charge of British light cavalry led by Lord Cardigan against Russian forces during the Battle of Balaclava on October 25, 1854.  

The sword has been put up for sale by Lt Chadwick’s descendants and was expected to reach between £500 and £700.  

Regarded as one of the most infamous days in British military history, the battle lasted only 20 minutes but resulted in the deaths of 110 British soldiers with a further 161 wounded. The near-suicidal action of the charge was immortalised in Alfred Tennyson’s famous poem, depicting the plight of the 600-strong cavalry who rode into the ‘Valley of Death’. 

Lt John Chadwick was one of only two officers taken prisoner at the battle. He managed to reach the Russian guns but his injured horse was unable to move any further and he was knocked from the saddle by an enemy lance. The officer was taken prisoner by the Russians and released 12 months later at the end of the Crimean conflict.  

Born in 1817, Lt Chadwick joined the 17th Lancers in 1835. After action in the Crimea, he transferred to the 15th Hussars, becoming an Honorary Captain in 1858. He was then appointed Adjutant and Quartermaster of the Royal Hospital in Dublin, a post he held until his retirement in 1867. He died in Liverpool aged 52 in 1869. 

Made by Firmin & Son, Strand, London, the sword is decorated with an 1847 pattern. It is etched with a crowned VR royal cypher and accompanied by the name XVII Lancers, which is surrounded by scrolling foliage. It has a three bar hilt with a wire fishskin grip. 

“It is amazing to have an object with such a fascinating backstory,” said the auction house’s director David Elstob. “The Charge of the Light Brigade is such a well-known event in its own right but the fact that we know such a lot about the sword’s owner adds even more to its appeal. 

“Lt Chadwick’s Crimea Medal, with clasps for Alma, Balaclava and Sebastopol were sold for £14,000 at a London auction house in 2020,” he added.