Finally, after many months, we have some firm evidence about the alleged epitaph to the station-master “James Bosworth” who, according to the Wikipedia article on The Charge of the Light Brigade, had been run over and killed by a railway engine: “In his younger days he was one of those who had fought at the Battle of Balaclava and survived.”
I wrote about this rather sceptically last year, after which Nick Miller got in touch with some very useful info: “James” was in fact “John”, and he certainly wasn’t in the Charge, but he had fought in the Crimea, had been a Station Master, and had indeed been killed by a train. But it still remained to be seen whether his gravestone (which Nick had tracked down to a cemetery in Southampton) did in fact say:
Though shot and shell flew around fast,
On Balaclava’s plain,
Unscathed he passed, to fall at last,
Run over by a train.
Nick has written once again to say that he has now visited the grave.
“…have just got back from a five-day cruise break with P&O, starting and finishing at… yes, Southampton. So I took advantage of the opportunity and finally managed to pay John Hacker Bosworth a visit in person. Kate [Nick’s wife] took loads of pics – I’ll attach a representative sample. Bottom line is: I can absolutely confirm that the ‘facetious’ verse quoted in the Wikipedia article does not appear on the memorial.”
Many thanks to Nick and Kate.
So now we know, I’ll be having another go at persuading Wikipedia to change their text. If you check their entry on the Charge every now and then, you’ll be able to see whether I’m successful.
Shame, as usual the myth is better than reality!!
> On 08 July 2016 at 14:48 Lives of the Light Brigade > wrote: > > Philip Boys posted: ” Finally, after many months, we have some firm > evidence about the alleged epitaph to the station-master “James Bosworth” who, > according to the Wikipedia article on The Charge of the Light Brigade, had > been run over and killed by a railway engine: “” >
Thanks for copy. I think the end comment of ‘Shame, as usual the myth is better than reality’ sums it up. Having said that, it is an interesting ‘story’ and definitely requires Wikipedia to alter their facts Good luck…Chris /////
Many thanks, Chris – I’ve emailed Wikipedia with my concerns. There seems to be a block on directly editing the Charge page, presumably because it’s been attacked too frequently in the past. I’ll let you know what happens.
As for myth being stranger than reality, oddly quite a number of perfectly factual stories about the subsequent lives of soldiers of the Light Brigade turn out to be very much stranger than fiction. I used to read more novels than was probably good for me, but gradually came to realise that, for the weird and wonderful, the fantastical and the freakish, history just won’t be beaten. No one’s imaginings, no matter how fertile the intelligence, can match happenstance. In short, you really can’t make it up.