Bob Rigby at the Charge of the Light Brigade
It's one of the great mysteries of history, along with the Marie Celeste and the curse of Tutankamun. What train of events was it that sent the men of the Light Brigade charging towards the Russian guns at Balaclava? Dragoons, Lancers and Hussars, 600 of them rode into the jaws of death. 'Cannon to the right of them; cannon to the left of them volleyed and thundered', and among the 600, and also among the 198 who survived, was Bob Rigby of Blackburn.
Born in 1830 in Livesey, Bob was a handloom weaver by the age of twelve. Trade was bad so he and a companion walked to London hoping to get work at the Great Exhibition. They returned and a few years later tried their luck again. This time they'd got no further that the Rising Eagle in Manchester when they fell in with a Sergeant recuiting for Crimea. Tempted by the Queen's shilling, they enlisted in the Light Dragoons and made a merry night of it.
The following morning, forgetful of events of the night before, they continued on their way. They were on the Gorton road when they heard the sound of horses' hooves in pursuit. They were taken to London, given their unifoms, drilled for three months and then embarked at Portsmouth for Balaclava. Bob saw action at Inkerman and Alma.
On the 25th 0f October 1854, a bleak grey morning, Bob was on parade with his horse early. Lord Raglan was in charge. The order to advance arrived. Lord Lucan seemed to question it, but nevertheless the brave 600 began to advance on the Russian army. They charged the guns. Cannon and musketry fire were soon cutting through the British lines, but they rode on.
Bob's horse was shot in the head and they were both down. So much of the poor animal's brains and blood covered Bob, that he wasn't sure if he was hurt or not. He did know his leg was trapped and a hard struggle he had to free himself. He did so and catching a riderless horse, remounted and rode on. By now smoke obscured much of the battlefield. They reached the guns, spiked them and wheeled round to return. Russian Lancers attempted to bar their way, but were brushed aside. Bob returned unscathed.
Later back in England he received an injury training horse and was invalided out of the army. He became a navvy on the railway and worked on the Settle to Carlisle line. Later he became a general labourer and in the absence of any pension from army or state was still labouring in his 70th year for Watson and Sons wheelwrights in Dock Street.