Private 1506 Hughes, Edwin, was born in Wrexham in December of 1830. Before enlisting in Her Majesty’s forces, he worked as a shoemaker. In 1852, at age 21, Hughes enlisted in the 13th Hussars (then the 13th Light Dragoons [quibble]). In the summer of 1854, as the Crimean War escalated, the 13th Light Dragoons, Hughes among them, embarked for Sevastopol in the Black Sea, as a part of the British contingent, assigned to the Light Brigade of the Cavalry Division, under Lord Raglan.
On October 25th, 1854, Hughes and almost seven hundred other British horsemen of the Light Brigade of Cavalry galloped across the valley at Balaclava, “storm’d at with shot and shell”, toward the Russian guns in the famous charge immortalized by Tennyson. Hughes had his horse shot from under him, injuring his leg. He recovered to serve in the Crimea until the end of the war, and with the 13th Hussars, until 1873. Hughes eventually achieved the rank of Troop Sergeant Major, the uniform which he wears in the above (top) photo. After retirement from the 13th Hussars, Hughes enlisted as a Sergeant-Instructor in the Worcestershire Yeomanry, serving until discharged for “old age” in 1886. Hughes was awarded the Crimea Turkish Medal, the Long Service Medal, and Good Conduct Medal. (The four clasps on the Crimea Turkish Medal read “Sevastopol”, “Inkerman”, “Balaclava”, and “Alma”.)
Even before his retirement, Hughes had become a legend of sorts for his participation in the famous charge. He became known as “Balaclava Ned”, and was often asked to return to his birthplace of Wrexham to talk of his exploits in the “Valley of Death”. Hughes was also a recipient of a number of pensions created for the Light Brigade survivors. Public focus on the plight of the often-penniless veterans of the British Army, the Light Brigade in particular, came from none other than Rudyard Kipling, whose “Last of the Light Brigade” (1890) painted a sorrowful tale of the fate of twenty old soldiers who go to an aging Tennyson for help:
There were thirty million English who talked of England’s might,
There were twenty broken troopers who lacked a bed for the night.
They had neither food nor money, they had neither service nor trade;
They were only shiftless soldiers, the last of the Light Brigade.
Ned Hughes outlived all of his 672 comrades, nearly 300 of which fell on that October day in the Crimea in 1854. Troop Sergeant Major 1506 Hughes, Edwin died in Blackpool, 14 May 1927, at the age of 96.