Balaclava’s Greatest Hits: Trumpeter Lanfried sounds the Charge …

Trumpeter Lanfried, photographed late in life.

Trumpeter Lanfried, photographed late in life.

I’ve always wanted to write a blog about developments in the “Lives of the Light Brigade: The EJ Boys Archive” and the related Charge of the Light Brigade website, but I’m such Old Technology myself, and so allergic to instruction manuals, that until now the prospect has been too forbidding. Too many things to learn, too many decisions to be made.

But I’ve hit on a plan. I’ll try to write shortish pieces fairly regularly to reflect some of the material I’ve come across or been contacted about. (I frequently receive emails from people who come across the site, chiefly wanting to know more about an ancestor, or suggesting amendments and additions.) The articles I write are likely to be fairly rough and ready visually and technically, but I hope to get the hang of it as I go along.

Today I heard about an article by Peter Aspden in the Financial Times (“Sounds of the past, ways of the future“, 9 Jan 2015) that refers to (but does not name) Trumpeter Lanfried, 17th Lancers, the only person who rode in the Charge (160-odd years ago) whose voice we can still hear today. (There are many photographs, of course, but no moving images of Chargers, so far as I know, though a film was made of them before WW1 that has since disappeared. But that’s for another day.)

You can listen to the recording here.

‘I am Trumpeter Lanfried. One of the surviving trumpeters of the Charge of the Light Brigade at Balaclava. I am now going to sound the bugle that was sounded at Waterloo, and sound the charge as was sounded at Balaclava on that very same bugle… on the 25th of October, 1854.’

The article begins:

‘The woman’s voice is stilted, funereally slow, but full of portent. “When I am no longer even a memory, just a name,” it says, “I hope my voice may perpetuate the great work of my life.” Then a long pause. “God bless my dear old comrades of Balaclava and bring them safe to shore. Florence Nightingale.”

‘Hundreds flocked to the town and village squares of England to hear the sensational recording that had been freshly cut in the summer of 1890. Not so much for the message, but for the medium. The wax cylinder toured by George Gouraud, an associate of Thomas Edison, was the iPhone 6 of the late Victorian era.

‘Listeners huddled around Gouraud to be wowed by his latest playlist. There was, in addition to Nightingale’s prescient missive, a reading by Lord Tennyson of his “The Charge of the Light Brigade”, and the plaintive call to that very charge, played by the bugler who had first blown those doom-laden notes. Here was history made vivid in a completely new way.’

The EJBA contains quite a lot about Trumpeter Lanfried’s life, his antecedents and descendants, and about the recording.

Notice Martin Lanfried does not claim to have sounded the Charge at Balaclava – the evidence is overwhelmingly against anyone having done so, in spite of numerous claims to the contrary (including his own gravestone). Nor that the trumpet he is playing was ever at Balaclava. Or does he? It really is quite ambiguous.

Martin Lanfried was born in Gibraltar on the 25th of August 1834, probably the son of Bandmaster Lanfried of the 60th Rifles. He enlisted at Dublin on the 10th of November 1844, when he was just 14 (and only 4′ 10″ in height). Ten years later he was shot through the right arm during the Charge at Balaclava. A bullet, striking his pouch, glanced off and killed his horse. (He was brought out of action by 1149 James Mustard, also 17th Lancers. This act kept them in close friendship all their lives, and every signed copy of the Balaclava Dinner menus seen have their signatures next to each other.)

After he recovered from his injuries, he went out to India on Brunel’s S.S. “Great Britain” to suppress the “Mutiny” there. He was discharged in 1865, and went to live in the Brighton area, where he worked as a Draper’s clerk and as a musician, married twice, and had at least seven children.

In later life, Lanfried (along with the few surviving Chargers) became quite a celebrity, and was often asked to sound the Charge – for example on October 27th 1890 at a special Variety Performance. The Times reported the following day:

‘At a given moment, some of the famous “Six Hundred” to the number of 30 or 40, appeared on the stage, when Trumpeter Landfried sounded the “Charge” as he did on October 25th 1854, whereupon Mr. Charles Warner came forward and recited Lord Tennyson’s poem, with much feeling. The veterans, who appeared in civil garb, were loudly cheered, and by way of response, they waved their hats and shouted “Hurrah”.’


Martin Lanfried (variously referred to in life and since as “Landfrey”, and “Landfield”, but by now firmly cited as “Landfried”) died in Hove and was buried, with full military honours, in grave N. 171 Block F. Section, on 13 December 1902. The stone bears a rather witty inscription on the stone, referring directly to the sounds he made in life:

‘Here lies a soldier of the King and of the King of Kings.


Who from his 15th year he served his country in the 17th Lancers at Sevastopol, the Alma, Balaclava – sounding the charge at the latter engagement – and in the Indian Mutiny, and retiring as Trumpet-Major in 1865. Joined the 1st Sussex R.G.A. (Vols.), becoming Bandmaster in 1890.

Born 25th August 1834. Died 8th December 1902.

God grant that he may sleep sound from the “Last Post” until “Reveille”.’

Let me know what you think of this first blog. It’s a start.