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Writing about the war

William Howard Russell was an unknown reporter when he was sent to cover the Crimean War in February 1854 by The Times newspaper. His reports were emotive, dramatic and used highly visual language. Russell was harsh in his criticism of the leadership but he also supported the ordinary troops and described their heroic sufferings. Queen Victoria felt that the reports in The Times were inappropriately explicit in their criticism, but her son, the Prince of Wales, was later to travel to the Crimea and also to India with Russell in his entourage.

Russell’s narrative of the Battle of Balaklava on 25 October 1855, and in particular, the charge of the Light Cavalry Brigade, inspired Tennyson to write his poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade. After reading Russell’s reports in November 1854, Tennyson wrote the verse on 2 December. It was first published on 9 December 1854, before being revised and republished in Maud, and other poems in 1855.

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