The popular TV programme Antiques Roadshow recently featured the bugle used by Private William Brittain to take cavalrymen into the Charge of the Light Brigade – an event immortalised by the poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
During the 1854 Crimean War, Lord Cardigan led his men into a suicidal battle, accompanied by the bugle which indicated whether the men should trot, cantor, walk or charge the Russian enemy. Out of 673 men entering the Valley of Death, 118 men died and 127 were injured.
When Brittain was injured, the bugle was taken with him to a hospital where he was treated by Florence Nightingale, but later died. His family kept the bugle until it was auctioned during the beginning of the 20th Century.
In 1964, the bugle was given to the Queens Royal Lancers and Nottinghamshire Yeomanry Museum. The curator, Captain Nick Holtby, presented the bugle to experts on the Antiques Roadshow event in Nottingham.
The bugle was used as a means of communication to signal manoeuvres to the cavalrymen. Although Brittain had been injured, he wasn’t going to let go of the bugle, despite the fact that a hole had been made in it – believed to have been inflicted by a Cossack.
The bugle was valued somewhere between £30,000 and £40,000, although experts found it difficult to estimate.
Antiques often carry a tale to be told, although typically not as tragic as this one. Older items of furniture, like antique bookcases and chests, are most likely to have a story behind them, as they would have been one of the main pieces of furniture in a home.