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Book reviews for - Napoleonic Wars

  • The Men of Wellington's Light Division

    Gareth Glover and Robert Burnham
    The vast majority of this book consists of letters written by officers of the 43rd Light Infantry to their families and friends back home. The authors have done a splendid job in searching out these previously unpublished accounts of the lives of these men. The reader gets a fascinating insight into what mattered to the men. The range of their concerns/interests is enormous but food, money, clothing, billeting and promotion get regular mention. There isn’t a great deal of detail about the actions they were part of perhaps this is avoided to spare the recipients although the wounding and death of fellow officers and men is often reported. One particular poignant letter from Ensign John Brumwell where, after having the officers on each side of him killed, he writes ‘I am beginning to think the ball is not yet cast that is intended for me.’ The next letter his parents received was to tell them of his death.
    This book contains a wealth of information, written without the ‘benefit’ of hindsight, which will enrich our understanding of life in Wellington’s army. We highly recommend it as a jolly good read.

    Frontline Books, 2022
  • Blood, Guts and Gore.

    John Gordon Smith
    This book is to be enjoyed as a novel although it is so much more than that. The true adventure of John Gordon Smith, an Assistant Surgeon with the 12th Light Dragoons, from pre-Waterloo, through the battle to the end of the occupation of France. Previously published in 1830 and now resurrected by Gareth Glover whose introduction and footnotes enhance the text.
    This book is little more than a fascinating insight into one man’s experiences and thereby to an understanding of soldiering in that time. One can learn How to persuade a young man to have his shattered arm amputated. That the French did not serve horseradish, considered a necessity, with roast beef but it could be obtained from the apothecaries. How you find your regiment again after you’ve been left behind for three days caring for wounded. All this and much more is in John Gordon Smith’s reality and he tells it well.
    We warmly recommend it to a wide range of readership.

    Pen & Sword History, 2022
  • Wellington's Waterloo Allies

    Andrew W. Field
    Here we have a different view of the Waterloo campaign which calls into question many aspects of some previous Anglo-centric views of the battles. Using the national archives of the various nations new light has been shone on the battles at Quatre Bras and Waterloo. This corrective is useful in so much as no one saw the whole battle, every soldier, if their voice could be heard, would give a different view and that also would change as time passed, this is another view.
    This book is a strong reinforcement to more recent thinking about the contribution of the non-British troops to the eventual victory. What is special and particularly valuable is an army officer’s analysis of all aspects e.g. training, equipping etc., of the various national contingents. Understanding of which goes a long way into understanding the actions of the various national contingents. This is incidentally an interesting insight into how different nations organized their army's in the Napoleonic period.
    The text is well supported by maps and charts and makes clear as possible the confusion of the battle fields.
    A good read which we highly recommend.

    Pen & Sword Crime, 2022
  • Peninsular and Waterloo General

    Marcus de la Poer Beresford
    Here we have a life story which would stretch credulity as a novel but this is no imaginary creation. Denis Pack not only attended many battles but got into the thick of most of them. Multiple times he left the battlefield wounded and as many times he stayed on the battlefield wounded. He lead men in battles in South Africa, South America, the Peninsular and at Waterloo. He knew both defeat and victory and as well as wounds he also suffered imprisonment. He died in London of a ruptured blood vessel aged only 46 years old. His character both as a man and as a commander of men is beautifully drawn out in this book.
    This is a large well-researched book which contains material not previously published presented in an easy readable style. Also there are a number of sketch maps and a good set of relevant photographs.
    A jolly good read which we highly recommend.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2022
  • Marching Fighting Dying.

    Gareth Glover
    This is a super read and those who, like me, are Gareth Glover fans will welcome this as a classic. The author has undertaken wide ranging research into primary sources and most of the text consists of excerpts from letters home from the Peninsular. There is very little about the battles as the bulk of the book is about activities off the battlefield e.g. the journey by ship or the entertainment when in winter quarters. The stories are entertaining and fascinating and lead one to gain a deeper insight into life in Wellington’s army. Here is the unvarnished detail of what the troops did and felt about it.
    It would be enough to be an ‘interesting’ book but it is more important than just that. The substance of the correspondence brings into question many previously held ‘understandings’ of soldiering in the Napoleonic wars. The brief concluding paragraphs to each chapter and the summary Conclusion chapter are valuable correctors to many ‘widely accepted views’. This book is a big step towards historical truth.
    We highly recommend it to all levels of readership.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Wellington's Cavalry and Technical Corps, 1800-1815

    Gabriele Esposito
    At last we have the companion to Wellington’s Infantry by Gabriele Esposito [reviewed elsewhere on this site]. This book covers the Cavalry and Technical Corps 1800 to 1815 and includes the artillery arm. Naturally in a book of 130 pages the coverage of each unit is slight but sufficient, to build an overview of a whole wing of the army. The content is not confined to British troops but also covers foreign troops in British service and this includes the Kings German Legion.
    The many illustrations showing a range of uniforms of different units are really excellent and the bibliography points the reader to further reading.
    Bear in mind that the whole army is the subject and content is not limited to those who came under Wellington’s zone of command. Enjoy a jolly interesting read and put this book into your reference section for dipping into as the need arises or when you just feel like looking at some superb illustrations.
    We strongly recommend this book.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Wellington and the Vitoria Campaign

    Carole Dival
    This book tells the story of a defeated, demoralized rabble turned round to become, in Wellington’s own opinion, ‘never a finer army’. The rebuild came through the restoration of discipline and morale largely by giving the troops rest, recuperation and logistic support in food and clothing. This was followed by intense training. Only then came the advance towards Vitoria. Wellington’s careful planning of the positioning of his army columns consistently wrong footing the French. Also his use of Portuguese and Spanish troops in a more integrated way strengthened his manoeuvres. Recording this could have resulted in a very dry book but the lively writing and the use of first-hand accounts from Allies and French troops makes it most readable and understandable.
    The text is supported by five very good maps of the campaign and one map of the battlefield. The battlefield map has some faults in that it shows Soult as commanding the Army of the South and it does not show all the places named in the text. For a fluid battle like Vitoria three or four maps showing the development would have been welcome. There is also a nice set of illustrations including the major protagonists. Six very useful appendices showing strengths and casualties round up the information.
    The value of this book is in the description of the whole campaign while the battle description gives a real flavour of a Peninsular battlefield. We recommend this very good read to a wide audience.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • The Great Waterloo Controversy.

    Gareth Glover
    Another classic Gareth Glover about the battle of Waterloo but this book is firmly focussed on the 52nd Foot. There is a little about the regiment prior to the battle and slightly more about them up to the end of their time in France after the fall of Paris. The 52nd became the Oxfordshire & Buckinghamshire Light Infantry notably going in gliders to hold Pegasus bridge on D-day, WW2.
    The controversy referred to in the title is around the defeat of the Imperial Guard in the final stages of the battle. So many accounts present the myth that it was the foot guards alone who achieved this. Glover expertly and conclusively destroys the myth, explaining on the way how it came into existence, and replaces it with the best available evidence of what really happened. The author qualifies his reliance on first-hand accounts by the nearness in time to the event that the account was written and the proximity to the action of the various writers. A large part of the accounts are included in the text. The last two chapters and the appendices are an excellent summary of what is in effect a mass of primary data.
    There are some useful maps, a nice set of photographs and an extensive bibliography.
    We highly recommend this book which, as well as being a jolly good read, is also a lesson in battle history writing.

    Frontline Books, 2020
  • Nelson's Navy in 100 Objects

    Gareth Glover
    This is not an easy book to review, there is much to enjoy, some to criticise but the quality is uneven from item to item. The enjoyment comes from the easy style of Gareth Glover’s presentation of the information. The breadth of his selection, from what is a very wide field, is interesting, ranging as it does from a Purser’s button to Naval bases in the Americas. There are many fascinating items which are rarely focused on. One example is the swatch of cloth for Royal Marine uniforms sent by a supplier for approval by the Admiralty.
    Having enjoyed the book as much as I did it seems a little disingenuous to criticise two elements. The first is that there are not 100 objects e.g. identical photos of HMS Trincomalee are used for objects 25 and 30 The second more serious criticism is that the writing in a number of cases does not focus on the objects illustrated. In both instances of the Trincomalee little is about that ship but is mostly general points about her class and type. In the item about ships’ biscuit very little is about the biscuit. Many readers would like to know the recipe, was it oats or wheat based? How much was a sailor’s ration? Is it true it was too hard to eat without being smashed and soaked into a stew or a kind of potage? None of this is in the text.
    The book as a whole is beautifully presented with many more than a hundred illustrations. In spite of the caveats given above we would recommend it to a wide range of readers.

    Frontline Books, 2021
  • Napoleon's Imperial Guard

    Gabriele Esposito
    This is a fairly slim volume to cover such a large topic but what it does it does very well. From the book as a whole two things come out very clearly. The first is how personal to Napoleon the Imperial Guard was and secondly how complete an army, albeit a small army, the total guard was. At its core was the infantry added to which were the cavalry, heavy and light including lancers, foot and horse artillery, engineers, sailors and Gendarmerie. The development of this special body of troops is traced from the pre-revolutionary Royal guard through the Consular guard to its final Imperial title. This includes the ebb and flow of its composition always with Napoleon’s personal stamp upon it . The creation and nature of the Old, Middle and Young Guards is clearly spelt out. The use of foreign troops within the Guard e.g. Poles and Mamelukes, continues to draw out the personal connection of Napoleon with his soldiers. The strong focus of the book is on the uniforms which are described in detail and supported by superb illustrations of many of them.
    We recommend this book as an eye opening introduction to this special element of the Napoleon myth.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Coastal Defences of the British Empire

    Daniel MacCannell
    The physical structures for the defence of the coasts are occasionally touched upon but rarely dealt with in detail. That this book does just that makes it special. The text flows easily and covers the political background, the designs and discussions around them and goes on to the building, equipping and manning of the great variety of structures. In addition to the British Isle overseas territories are covered. There are lots of illustrations placed in their relevant locations throughout the book. Among the extensive end notes there are many references out to further reading.
    This is both an informative and enjoyable read which we recommend to all readers.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • Napoleon and the Art of Leadership

    William Nester
    When I first saw this book I was fearful that it was just another biography of Napoleon. But part of the title ‘the art of leadership’ intrigued me. I was pleased to find that the author stuck faithfully to his brief for at least the first three-quarters of the book. The focus was very clearly on the leadership actions and thinking of Napoleon himself and includes on the way the large amount of advice on leadership he gave to others. The final quarter reverts to more of a biography which perhaps reflects the absence of fresh thinking on Napoleon’s part.
    Almost incidentally to the main theme we end up with a rather good biography of this ‘flawed genius’. We see the initial energy and drive of the genius become more and more egocentric until the flaws take over. This narrative flows through the book and beautifully draws out the increasing mismatch between what Napoleon said/wrote and what he did.
    It is quite a large book as befits the subject with 395 pages of well written text and with over a hundred further pages of supporting notes.
    We highly recommend this book to those who only want a good read about the life of a ‘flawed genius’ and those who want more will get more.

    Frontline Books, 2020
  • Napoleon's Peninsular War

    Paul Dawson
    In Paul Dawson’s book we have an altogether different view of the Peninsular War. The sub-title is an accurate summary of the contents namely the French experience of the war in Spain 1808-1809. It was Napoleon’s war but he spent less than three months in Spain. The substance of the book is the correspondence, both official and personal, which passed back and forth among those involved in the campaign. It makes for some fascinating reading, some real insights into the other side of the coin and the reality of soldiering for both sides in a gruelling war. What I found interesting was the nature of the private letters home. It may be a reflection of the author’s selection but they were far more military focussed than the equivalent letters sent by British. For the French no mention of fox hunting or parties.
    Paul Dawson claims to be pro-Napoleon but for me the message of the book and the Peninsular campaign is anti-Napoleon. He failed to give the necessary authority/power to anyone but himself so that his marshals disagreed and failed to cooperate. Napoleon’s attempt to micro-manage from a distance was also a failure. The first hand evidence has been brought from the archives, some for the first time, which makes this book rather special and a very good read.
    We warmly recommend it.

    Frontline Books, 2020
  • Wellington's Infantry

    Gabriele Esposito
    Here is a book with a bit of a wow factor and it goes much further than the title suggests. All the British Guards, Line, Scottish and Light Infantry regiments are covered. Then come the hundreds of units from around the world. A further section covers foreign troops in British service and this includes the Kings German Legion. The range is from the many full regiments raised in Canada to the militia companies of the West Indies. Militias, Veterans and Fencibles are all included even the Select Embodied Militia, making the coverage truly comprehensive. By way of example of the inclusivity one unit mentioned is the grand sounding Canadian Light Dragoons raised in 1813 comprised only eighty men but took part in several engagements until disbanded in 1815. Naturally in a book of 137 pages the coverage of each unit is slight being an overview of the whole picture rather than the detail.
    The many illustrations showing a range of uniforms of different units are really excellent and the bibliography points the reader to further reading. There is also a concluding chapter on uniforms and the changes made in this period.
    Forgive the somewhat misleading title, many of these units mentioned never came anywhere near Wellington’s zone of command. Enjoy a jolly interesting read and put this book in your reference section for dipping into as the need arises or when you just feel like looking at the pictures
    We strongly recommend this book.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2021
  • The Duke of Wellington in 100 Objects

    Gareth Glover
    This is the third book of the 100 objects series that I have read and the format is truly inspired. As with his Napoleon book Gareth Glover gives us the story of each of the hundred objects in their context and in doing so writes a brief broad brush history of the life of Arthur Wesley/Duke of Wellington The objects are dealt with individually but the whole is structured in chronological order. Every item has two or three pages which makes this book easy to pick up at odd moments for a ‘little read’ but be warned it is easier to pick up than to put down. One may intend to read one section but then sees the picture of the next item so one reads on and ten minutes soon becomes half an hour.
    The range of the objects chosen is very wide from ivory miniatures to monuments on mountains, from violin to Tipu’s cannon. This is an illustrated biography that visits many bye ways in the Duke’s life.
    The publication is of a high quality; the photographs are beautifully presented. Although I am not keen on black print on some rather dark pages the overall effect lends an antique feel to the book.
    There is one surprising omission in that there isn’t any acknowledgement of where many of the objects are now. It would be nice to know on the off chance that one could visit the place.
    This book will appeal to a wide range of readers and we recommend it highly.

    Frontline Books, 2020
  • The Light Division in the Peninsular War 1811-1814

    Tim Saunders & Rob Yuill
    Tim Saunders and Bob Yuill have done it again and given us a superb book. After the Light Division 1808-1811 [reviewed on this site] we had high expectations of the second part to take us from 1811 to 1814 and we have not been disappointed. Again the text is well focussed and doesn’t drift off into writing about the wider campaign more than is necessary to tell the Division’s story. This volume seemed to have even more insights into the lives of the officers and ordinary infantry soldiers both in and between the battles. Lots of snippets stick in the mind such as hunting with foxhounds, shooting woodcock and marching whole battalions out of the line to re-uniform. The skirmishes and battles are well described and given colour by the personal reports of both officers and men. The story is not all glory but includes the lows and the dark passages of the division. This is the story of the ‘incomparable Light Division’ accurately and engagingly told.
    There are a large number of maps and photographs interspersed throughout the text. Many photographs are of the locations today which would be a big help to anyone visiting the battlefields and marching routes.
    We highly recommend you read The Light Division1808-1811 first then you will find this book a ‘must read’.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Wellington and the British Army's Indian Campaigns 1798-1805

    Martin R. Howard
    Between 1798 and 1805 the British army plus large numbers of native troops made enormous gains in the conquest of India. Arthur Wellesley played a large part in the campaigns and this book tells that story. He took chances, he tried different tactics, he honed principles which he later developed in the Peninsular. When to move at speed, manoeuvre on the battlefield, dig in, lie down, and keep the men supplied with all their needs were all worked out and tested during his Indian period. In all this luck was on his side. To those who are familiar with Wellington’s later campaigns the book’s final sentence ‘India had been the making of him.’ rings true. But this book is about more than Wellington, it is a very good introduction to the nature of conquest especially in the application of ‘divide and rule’. Additionally for many it will be an eye opener on the power and influence of the East India Company at this time.
    A jolly good read with a super set of illustrations and the best, most informative, set of maps, all with Northings and scales, that I have seen in a very long time.
    We highly recommend this to a wide range of readers.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The Light Division in the Peninsular War 1808-1811

    Tim Saunders & Rob Yuill
    Our opinion of this book is best summed up by imploring the authors, Tim Saunders and Bob Yuill, to let us have volume two as soon as possible. This book about the Light Division is well focused and doesn’t drift off into writing about the wider campaign more than is necessary to tell the Division’s story. Of particular interest are the many insights into the lives of the officers and ordinary infantry soldiers between the battles. The story flows easily along the timeline from the Division’s inception to its fruition.
    There are a large number of maps and photographs interspersed throughout the text. Many photographs are of the locations today which would be a big help to anyone visiting the battlefields and marching routes.
    We highly recommend this book and look forward to volume two.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • The French at Waterloo. Eyewitness Accounts

    Andrew W. Field
    This book, taken as a whole, is fascinating. Each of the twenty-eight eyewitness accounts is engaging and intriguing and the introduction offers wise guidance for any would be military historian. There are three accounts from Napoleon himself progressively ‘adjusted’ as time passed to cast himself in a better light and to place the blame for defeat on other shoulders. To a certain degree one would expect accounts from different sides of the battle to differ but these accounts are all from the same side and one wonders, in some cases, if they were in the same battle. A number of accounts have Hougoumont and La Hay Sainte both falling while others confuse the two. Somewhere in the midst of this confusion of first hand accounts lies the truth.
    The text is support by a few photographs and a map of the disposition of French troops at the start of the battle. Also, before each account, there is a very useful potted biography of the writer and the source of the document.
    A most enjoyable read which we highly recommend.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Napoleon in 100 Objects

    Gareth Glover
    What a fascinating approach to the life and times of Napoleon Bonaparte. Proclamations, furniture, cannons, hats, frocks and so much more are all illustrated and written about. Gareth Glover gives us the story of each of the hundred objects in their context and in doing so writes a brief broad brush history of the Napoleonic period. Every item is dealt with individually but the whole is structured roughly in the correct chronological order. Every item has two or three pages which makes this book easy to pick up at odd moments for a ‘little read’ but be warned it is easier to pick up than to put down. One reads one section then sees the picture of the next item so one reads on and ten minutes soon becomes half an hour.
    This is a high quality publication; the photographs are beautifully presented. Although I am not keen on black print on some rather dark pages the overall effect lends an antique feel to the book.
    There is one surprising omission in that there isn’t any acknowledgement of where the objects and paintings are now. It would be nice to know on the off chance that one could visit the place.
    This book will appeal to a wide range of readers and we recommend it highly.

    Frontline Books, 2019
  • Wellington's Spies

    Mary McGrigor
    This is a story of three men parts of which, if told as fiction, would be seen as taking things too far. Who would believe that an army officer in uniform and in their right mind, would take a journey of a few hundred miles, behind the enemy lines, accompanied by his servant and with various guides? And another who after capture and being held prisoner in Paris continues to send valuable information back to the commander in the Peninsular? The adventures of the three principals is well told against the background of the Peninsular war. The author, Mary McGrigor, has an easy, readable presentation of the facts and uses lots of extracts from the men’s journals and other official papers to support her words. Here are rich insights into the character of a certain class of men of that period. They don’t all have it easy and they don’t all survive but to say more would be to spoil the story.
    This book takes a different, fascinating angle on life in the British army for three men in the Peninsular war. It can be read as a novel but it is so much more than that. We highly recommend it.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2020
  • Reminiscences 1808-1815 Under Wellington. Memoirs W. Hay

    William Hay/Andrew Bamford
    A fascinating insight into the life of William Hay as an officer in Wellington’s army. Beginning in the infantry, 52nd Foot, and later transferring to the cavalry, 12th Light Dragoons. The journey is through the Peninsular, on to Waterloo finishing with his service as ADC to the Governor-General of Canada. There is very little about the actions but a great deal about the day to day detail of a soldiers life. The story draws out the variations of his life being at times really suffering the privations of an active army to the pleasures and privileges found at the oddest of times. While on garrison duty in France after Waterloo the 12th Light Dragoons ran a pack of fox-hounds of which William Hay was in charge.
    The notes and commentary by Andrew Bamford is most helpful and ‘light touch’ correcting as required spellings, dates and locations.
    A very interesting and enjoyable read which we highly recommend.

    Helion & Co. Ltd., 2017
  • The Royal Navy 1800-1815

    Mark Jessop
    This book follows Mark Jessop’s The Royal Navy 1793-1800 [ reviewed elsewhere on this site] There have been many books written about the Royal Navy of the Napoleonic period these books are different. The difference is due to two main factors one the presentation and two the sources. The author has confined himself to primary source material mostly written within a decade of the events. This, in itself, is not so uncommon but it is the presentation of the information that makes this book almost unique and imparts a special liveliness to the ‘facts’. The author has created about twenty people who report, discuss and reflect upon events as they understand them from their stations in life in the times in which they lived. It is to the author’s credit that the voices ring true.
    We warmly recommend this book to ‘beginner’ and ‘old-hand’ alike. The beginner because it makes the information so accessible and real. The old-hand because it enriches the wealth of information with a flavour of the times.

    Pen & Sword History, 2019
  • The Trafalgar Chronicle, New Series 4

    Ed. Peter Hore
    The Trafalgar Chronicle is the journal of The 1805 Club which publishes new research into a broad range of subjects connected with the Georgian navy. This edition, new series 4, edited by Peter Hore, contains twenty-one articles many of them with an American interest but with a wide range of subject matter. Among the articles is the intriguingly titled ‘Nelson was an Irishman’, as well as articles on ‘Sin Bo‘suns’, the oldest Admiral of the Fleet ever with a naval service of 96 years, and ‘Jack Punch’ the one black post-captain of the period. The subjects of the non-biographical articles include privateers, the balloon, carronades, the battle of St. George’s Cay and the Russians on the Tagus. I could go on to list all the articles as I enjoyed everyone.
    The book is beautifully produced with some rare appropriate illustrations, and extensive references. A rather nice touch are the brief biographies of the contributors.
    Every article is well written, extensively researched, informative and a joy to read. We highly recommend it to both expert and layman alike.

    Seaforth Publishing, 2019
  • Battle for Paris 1815

    Paul L. Dawson
    For anyone seeking a full understanding of the end of the Napoleonic era this book is a must read. Paul Dawson’s tour de force of research, into previously rarely access French sources, really has produced the previously untold story of Grouchy’s withdrawal/retreat from Wavre to Paris. One example is when he writes of a French cavalry charge on the 3rd July 1815 ‘This was the last cavalry charge of the Napoleonic wars. It has been, until the details were teased out from the mass of paper work in the French Army Archives, totally forgotten about.’
    Dawson makes clear that he is a firm supporter of Grouchy and criticises the ‘received wisdom’ about him by using lots of first hand evidence. It is refreshing to note that the author also makes clear where he has had to change his own mind as he came across new evidence. There are some pertinent insights, given almost as throw aways, into the minutiae of campaigning such as the lack of good horses for aides carrying dispatches.
    The narrative flows in an easily readable style and there are some appropriate illustrations.
    All the above is most positive however there at two major negatives, one within the book’s scope the other without. First down side is that a reader of this book needs at least two large maps. One of the area retreated through and another of the city of Paris. Without these much of the information does not have much meaning. A troop movement from A to B is only understood if you know where A and B are.
    The other negative, not strictly about this book, probably requires another book to address. This would cover the contemporaneous movements of the Allies. Knowing these would allow some fuller judgements to be made on the appropriateness of Grouchy’s movements.
    We thoroughly recommend this book with the caveat that the reader provides their own maps.

    Frontline Books, 2019
  • Wellington's History of the Peninsular War

    Stuart Reid
    In this book we find the four long memoranda concerning the Peninsular war which Wellington wrote. He only did this for the years 1808, 1809, 1810 and 1811; it is a pity that he did not do the same for the remaining years of the war. However these years are covered by the author in selecting some dispatches from Wellington concerning the major battles 1812 to 1814. This is the first time that this material has been brought together as a continuous narrative. It is supported by brief summaries of the careers of the officers mentioned in Wellington’s dispatches, by a set of 21 very nice annotated colour plates, and 8 moderately useful maps. Appendix 2 is particularly worthy of mention as it contains a breakdown of the Peninsular army from 1808 -1814. It goes into much detail even to the extent of movement of regiments between division and temporary commands of various formations.
    What I found really interesting is the way Wellington writes about events, actions and other people which reveals so much about himself. The times he goes through the thought process in considering the for and against an action proceeding to explain why he came to the conclusion he reached. He constantly makes reference to the well being of the men and to the subsistence of both men and animals. He held to Napoleon’s maxim ‘an army marches on its stomach’ far better than Napoleon ever did. This is Wellington’s performance review of his own and his subordinates actions and we see a generous nature in his praise of them.
    This is a very good read for the general reader and a valuable resource for the specialist. We highly recommend it.

    Frontline Books, 2019
  • The Royal Navy 1793-1800

    Mark Jessop
    This is an unusual book not for its content but its style. Mark Jessop has chosen a novel way of presenting the ‘Birth of a Superpower’ by creating fictional characters through whom he introduces the reader to each particular aspect before developing the actual history. The characters are not the ‘great and good’ but the surgeon, the trader, the bosuns wife, the secret agent and others. It is the style that makes the information entertaining and most accessible to the casual reader or to the new comer to the history of our navy.
    While reading it I enjoyed it but on reflection there are other books which convey more information in an accessible form and there are novels which present more of the flavour and the atmosphere of the Royal Navy of that period. Getting both in one book was a tall order and I applaud Mark Jessop for his attempt and the scholarship which underlies it.
    Where the book succeeds unequivocally is in showing just how complex the creation of ‘the superpower’ was. The author places an emphasis on people, from the First Sea Lord to the powder monkey, as each in their own station worked to make the wooden wall strong and paramount. I felt the Epilogue could have been stronger in drawing together all the threads with which the various chapters deal.
    This book will be enjoyed by readers with only a passing interest in the subject, anyone rather more knowledgeable will still get a lot from it. Especially as throughout the book the author makes reference to publications in an impressive bibliography which lists some quite rare sources.

    Pen & Sword History, 2018
  • A Scots Grey at Waterloo

    Gareth Glover
    The sub-title on the cover is ‘The Remarkable Story of Sergeant William Clarke’ and that is just what this book is – a truly remarkable story. Clarke has written of his life from being a farm hand until, with the rank of Troop Sergeant Major, he left the regiment in 1825. The language is typical flowery early 19th prose. In the initial chapters much is in the Scots vernacular. Glover warns that the reader may find this challenging. But thanks in large part to Glover’s translations and annotations, which on occasions correct Clarke on matters of fact, I found the style of writing gave authenticity to the text. The whole book is a good read but some sections deserve special mention. The Gypsy King’s tale of his life as a soldier in the Seven Years war is illuminating. The account of the retreat from Quatre Bras is, in its detail, a clear indication of how well it was commanded and executed. What might have been a rout was anything but. Naturally the charge of the Union Brigade figures large and again shows us how every individual in a battle sees only his fight and never the whole battle. The final highlight, full of raw emotion, is Clarke’s description of the killing field as he was one of the regiment’s burial party on the 19th June. For example he reports seeing, among the heap of amputated limbs as he passed the field hospital, a leg which had belonged to a Highlander because it still wore the long socks which accompany the wearing of the kilt.
    At times the book reads like a novel, other times a journal and at other times like the report of a war correspondent; at no time is it dull. The discovery, recognition and publication of an important manuscript are to be applauded.
    We highly recommend it.

    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2017
  • The Sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo

    Tim Saunders
    Here is a book that does just what it says on the cover and does it well and at the same time is an excellent insight into Napoleonic warfare in general. The sieges of Cuidad Rodrigo in 1810 by the French against the Spanish and the 1812 return match of the British/Portuguese against the French are dealt with in detail. The movements and engagements of the armies between the two events are covered sufficiently for the reader to grasp the strategic significance of the sieges. The book is rich in illustrations including photographs of things as they are today and one of the appendices is a battlefield tour guide.
    The text flows easily with many appropriate contemporary accounts covering many aspects of the soldiers lives. Two of them will stick in my memory for a long time. One is of an Irish woman dropping out of a very tough winter march to have a baby by the side of the road and who then rejoined the marching column. The other is of a major who had his arm amputated and then wandered around to find a bed for the night. There are many similar accounts which enrich the narrative and get the reader closer to the reality of Napoleonic campaigning. I often have cause to complain about the maps in modern books but I don’t need to here. To my joy the maps are excellent supports to the text, some are reproductions of contemporary maps and these are supported with new maps and battlefield plans which have both keys and scales.
    There are four useful appendices and the bibliography is contained within the notes attached to each chapter.
    We thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Napoleonic warfare and especially to anyone thinking of visiting this area of Spain. My hope is Tim Saunders is going to write a similar book on the siege of Badajoz, an altogether bloodier affair.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • The Two Battles of Copenhagen

    Gareth Glover
    This book covers the two battles of Copenhagen, the intervening years and what followed. Both the political and military aspects are dealt with in relation to one another. There is an extensive bibliography should the reader wish to follow up any thread in greater detail.
    I declare my bias I am a Gareth Glover fan and I am pleased to say that this book will not disappoint others like me. The narrative flows easily without getting bogged down in lists or too much factual detail. But the detail, the product of much research, is contained in the appendices of which there are thirty six. The author’s forte in flushing out hitherto unpublished first hand accounts is used to good effect. He makes clear the difference between reporting and opinion whenever he has exercised his judgement especially when dealing with variations between a number of original accounts.
    There are a number of illustrations throughout the book and a well chosen set of colour plates in the centre of the text. The weak point, true of almost every recently published book, are the maps. It is all very well to insert small facsimiles of the original maps which were used at the time but they are very little use without scales to the reader attempting to understand locations. I turned to the maps in The Great Gamble by Dudley Pope, published in 1972, and used its four excellent maps.
    This is a most readable, informative and enjoyable book which we fully recommend to anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic period.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • Salamanca

    Battlefield History TV Team
    The battle of Salamanca in 1812 is one of Wellington’s most artful victories. In a series of manoeuvres against Marmont’s Army of Portugal Wellington waited for his opponent to make a mistake. When he saw the error he exclaimed ‘That will do, by God’ and acted decisively. This DVD captures the drama of that event using maps, pictures, re-enactors and expert explanations. There is more talk indoors than in other DVDs from this publisher but this is redeemed by the excellent location filming and the explanations given on site.
    This DVD is part of the Peninsular Collection of films and its general impact on the war as a whole, as well as the precursors which allowed it to happen, are discussed.
    Well worth watching.

    Pen & Sword Digital, 2012
  • Wellington's Foot Guards at Waterloo

    Robert Burnham & Ron McGuigan
    This book by Robert Burnham and Ron McGuigan is a thorough exposition of who the Foot Guards were and what they did. Some readers will think it is telling them more than they need to know. For example when it comes down to colour of eyes and hair why should that matter? It doesn’t ‘matter’ but it, along with the other factors described, does build a strong picture of who those men were as people and incidentally indicates the thoroughness of the authors research. The authors are also to be admired for sticking to their subject and not being pulled into more general descriptions of the battles; even so it is still a large 380 page volume.
    Within those pages are some rather apt plates which support the text and there is an extensive bibliography. The very useful Name index allows the reader to follow many persons through the action, some with over twenty references in the text. I also liked the way that the rank and file are treated which is as well as any other book I have read. There is far more information concerning officers available to the researcher and, while acknowledging this, the authors have compensated for the lack to some extent. This includes the contents of the fifteen appendices which contain a mass of detailed information for the reader to access easily.
    There are some minor criticisms which do not detract from the overall value of the book. The maps are reproductions of those appearing in a book published in 1874 which would have had, and still need, keys and supporting text. The plan of Hougoumont appears on page 136 rather than page 171 as shown in the list of maps.
    In our opinion this book successfully bridges what is a difficult divide between a reference book and a good sit down read and, as such, will delight both the Waterloo buff and the casual reader.

    Frontline Books, 2018
  • Marengo

    T. E. Crowdy
    We have always known the plot of the story of the battle of Marengo reads more like fiction than fact. By 1630hrs on the 14th June 1800 the Austrians had won the battle of Marengo, their Commander in Chief left the battlefield to his deputy. By 2300hrs the Austrians had been routed and the French had won. Here, by the skin of his teeth, the myth of Napoleon’s invincibility was born. The hero triumphs in the end.
    T. E. Crowdy’s Marengo is not a novel but an excellent factual account. However he fills out the facts with detail and evocative descriptions which grip the reader as a good novel should. For example, pg.168, as he writes about Napoleon’s guards he can ‘see’ them and then the reader can too. It is obvious that Crowdy has done a massive amount of research and tried to place it before the reader with integrity and where necessary he has explained his dilemma. His note 4 to chapter 10 should be mandatory in every account of Napoleonic battles.
    The book has 316 pages, 41 appropriate mono or coloured plates, a useful set of end notes and an extensive bibliography. As to the maps, 17 of them, I can only make my usual criticism of the absence of scale for the first six. Also included are five and a half pages of description of the topography of the battle field which gives the third dimension to the maps. Who can see what from where is an important factor on any battlefield.
    This is a book has both story and information it can be both studied and enjoyed. We highly recommend it to all levels of readership

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • Walcheren to Waterloo

    Andrew Limm
    This is not a comfortable read for anyone steeped in British military history. We are used to reading of victories, we are meant to win campaigns. This, on the other hand, is a story of defeats and failures. Andrew Limm tells it how it was, a level of political and military bungling which should have been an embarrassment to all concerned. He expertly describes four expeditions to the Low countries from their political origins to their military failures. He draws out what should have been lessons for the politicians and the generals of the time but which they failed to learn and as a consequence we’re doomed to repeat, and he goes on to explain that great scourge of the army, Walcheren fever, and how it was both known about and not prepared for. The theme running through the whole narrative is of how little evaluation was done and how very modest any army reforms were during the Napoleonic period.
    The huge amount of research undertaken by the author comes out in the text, the supporting notes and the bibliography. This could have resulted in a dry academic tome but although that quality is still there it is most readable. There are a few pertinent illustrations. My only complaint is about the maps. Yet again we see a book published with maps without scales and in the case of the Schedlt Estuary expedition the map does not show the island of Cadsand and yet in the text it’s importance to the expedition is repeatedly emphasised.
    This book is worth reading for the conclusion alone. Not only is it an excellent condensation of the previous chapters but it is a remarkable summation of Wellington as a military leader which captures his essence in a way superior to many more wordy works.
    We recommend this book without reservation.

    Pen & Sword Military, 2018
  • Waterloo, The Truth at Last

    Paul L. Dawson
    In writing this review I am breaking one of our site’s rules. We read all of a book before reviewing it and I did not read all of this book, by the time I reached half way I began to feel it was just too difficult to understand the points being made. The main problem, for me, was the mix of individual detail and the broader conclusions which then became a case of not being able to see the wood for the trees.
    It is clear that a massive amount of research, much in sources not regularly or never previously plundered, has gone into the writing. There is a lot of excellent presentation of data but it is mixed with some rather unacademic, tenuous conclusions.
    As one example of the latter on pages 59 to 61 the author discusses the French grand battery. His evidential base for his ‘myth busting’ are two reports. Each of these state that there were 54 guns as opposed to the 80 of the ‘myth’. The author then produces a list showing that there were 3 sets of 12 plus a set of 32 plus a further 6 and as a total reaches 62. By my reckoning that is in fact 74 and quite close to Napoleon’s 80. To stress his point he claims that 80 is almost double 54 and this is simply sloppy mathematics. He makes no mention of the French howitzers, or the hour that his informants made their counts, neither does he offer any possible explanation as to why Napoleon should have created the ‘myth’.
    What is most probably the case is that by the time the grand battery was fully functioning sufficient units had come into line to make the number of guns 80. Indeed what would have been surprising, given Napoleon’s regular tactics, would have been for him to have used barely a quarter of his guns in his main battery.
    A question raised by the above argument is ‘what is the truth?’ Indeed this is a question we may legitimately ask of the author’s claim in the title that this book is ‘the truth at last’. The stories in this book are each a truth but they are certainly do not amount to the truth.
    This is a large book 547 pages, some rather nice illustrations but is without any maps. It is not for the newcomer to the battle as much depends on the reader being familiar with the layout of the battlefield and the ‘myths’.

    Having enjoyed Paul Dawson’s book ‘Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras’ [reviewed on this site] I was disappointed that this book was not of the same quality. I cannot recommend it as I found a lot wrong with it but for all its faults I will keep it on my bookshelf and dip into it from time to time.

    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2018
  • Russian Eyewitness Accounts of the Campaign of 1814

    Alexander Mikaberidze
    Did you know that when Alexander, Tsar of Russia, during the invasion of France in 1814, gave an Imperial banquet an arc of wood was cut from the table to accommodate the enormous stomach of the King of Württemberg. Furthermore, in 1814, the Swiss did not remove their hats while eating lunch. I was unaware of both of these facts before I read this remarkable book. The author has brought together a massive collection of first hand accounts written by Russians who took part in the 1814 campaign which culminated with the downfall of Napoleon. Some accounts are barely more than one page, others run into many pages. Some are exciting with the cut and thrust of battle. One, not so exciting, is a ‘boring’ daily diary chronicling moving and halting for nine days in the course of which the writer covered 200km forward and back! It really does bring home the reality of Napoleonic soldiering. There are many references to looking for food, fodder and a place to rest indoors if possible because this was January in north-western France with ice floes on the rivers destroying pontoon bridges. In a number of cases there are conflicting views of the same event reinforcing the notion that no two people on the same battlefield see the same battle.
    There are only two maps, a few good illustrations and nearly 300 pages that are well worth reading.
    Thoroughly recommended.

    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • Waterloo. The Campaign of 1815, Volume 2

    John Hussey
    The discerning malt drinker respects the distiller’s craft and savours the whiskey for at least a second for each year it was matured. Having read the first thirty chapters of this book, in volume one, I rationed myself to one chapter a day so that I could prolong the enjoyment. This volume, containing chapters 31 to 54 is just as good as volume one. [see review elsewhere on this site] The pace and the style of the writing match the nature of the events being described and carry the reader along with it. The immense scholarship is just as much in evidence but not stuffily presented but woven into an easily readable narrative.
    Hussey shows respect for the reader in instances of uncertainty – here’s the evidence, -this is what I think, -others differ, -you make up your own mind. He draws out the details which create the big picture. For example, he names Prussian Horse Battery Nr14, which was retreating easterly after Ligny because it was lost, as being the key to the French high command sending Grouchy’s force away from Wavre. Illustrating in passing how the outcome of the big event is determined by the outcomes of many small happenings. The author helps the reader to see that if anything was different then maybe everything else would be different. Although he does not indulge in it himself he shows how this often leads to the fun game of ‘what ifs’.
    Physically this volume is similar to volume one at 50mms thick with a total of 582 pages, a few good illustrations, and sufficient detailed maps. The notes and appendices fill out what is already an extensive text.
    In summary I cannot over state how much I enjoyed this book. What other authors have brought into a spotlight Hussey has brought into the sunlight. Not only do we see an event illuminated we also see the context by which and in which it has relevance.
    If you want to understand Waterloo you have got to read this book.

    Greenhill Books, 2017
  • Waterloo. The Campaign of 1815, Volume I

    John Hussey
    We live in an age of over used superlatives and in that vein this book is superb, excellent, and wonderful. But on a serious plane, suffice it to say that, this book makes a significant contribution to the literature about the Waterloo campaign. It is a work of great scholarship going in depth into the political, military and human factors which, for this volume, culminate at Ligny and Quatre Bras. It could have been a very dry academic tome but is in fact presented in an easy, readable style.
    As an example of this entertaining style at the end of the five page appendix on Bourmont’s full and complex life Hussey concludes ‘Marshall Bourmont died of old age at home in 1846. Who would have thought it?’ This sentiment made me smile. What also pleased me was that Hussey, when he makes a judgement, only ever claims probability based on the evidence available, in doing so he shows endearing modesty after so much scholarship a lesser man would have been more didactic.
    I feel it would be wrong (and difficult) to highlight any particular aspect of the narrative because the scope and depth is so large. From the recording of times of certain happenings, the clarity and speed of communications, to the character of Alexander, Tsar of Russia, and Wilhelm, King of the United Netherlands, all contribute to this fullest understanding of the campaign as it developed. This book answers so many questions for instance why didn’t Wellington pay more attention to the intelligence coming in on the 14th June? That he didn’t is stated in many books but here Hussey lists, with good supporting evidence, the dozen other important tasks the C in C was engaged with on that day. The fairly chaotic response to Napoleon’s advance was because Blucher and Wellington gave little attention to a defensive plan focused, as they were, on an invasion of France. Wellington thought it would be foolish of Napoleon to attack; and Wellington, with a measure of luck, was proved correct.
    Physically it is a large volume, 60 millimetres thick, 584 pages of text, 104 pages of supporting notes and a 22 page index. There are a few illustrations and a large number of good maps placed at the relevant places in the text.
    This volume has set the new gold standard against which to measure books about ‘Waterloo’. I cannot recommend it too highly. Now for volume II, Hurrah!

    Greenhill Books, 2017
  • Waterloo. Myth and Reality

    Gareth Glover
    It is an under statement to say there have been many books written about Waterloo. I have over ninety on my bookshelves; the earliest in my collection was printed in 1896 and there is a steady progression up to the present day. Why read another one? My first reason is that I am a Gareth Glover fan. The second reason, which is what drew me to this book, is the intriguing sub title ‘Myth and Reality’.
    Glover sets out to separate the two by referencing hugh amounts of primary source material; much of which the reader can access for themselves in ‘The Waterloo Archives’ [Edited by Glover and reviewed on this site]
    The author really does succeed in his aim to dispel most of the myths which appear in so many books. He presents cogent arguments in favour of ‘reality’ and for every case he has the supporting evidence. Where there is certainty it is stated with conviction, where there is doubt the balance of evidence is presented. The method employed is to give the appropriate weight to any piece of evidence by asking who wrote it, when and why. He goes on to show how some received wisdom is the result of the uncritical acceptance of records of events written by participants, or long after the event by their supporters, wishing to put down on record the version which shows them in the best light.
    Glover also criticises those historians who base their judgements of commander’s decisions made in the heat of battle, when those decisions were based only on information available to them at that time. The fog of war and the difficulty of clear rapid communication do not cloud hindsight but did hamper all levels of command at that time.
    It is not a large book, only 245 pages, but of well written engaging text. The sixteen pages of illustrations are superb. In such an excellent book it is a shame that my usual criticism of many modern books applies here. The maps are not good, without scale, without the conventional military mapping differences between cavalry and infantry, and a fancy type face which does nothing to aid the reader.
    Maps apart I believe that for every person interested in the battle of Waterloo this book is more than a ‘would like’ it is a ‘must have’.

    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2014
  • Marshal Ney at Quatre Bras

    Paul L. Dawson
    Do we need another book about Waterloo? If they are like this we most certainly do. This book is different because of the primary source material researched to create it. The usual story is not trotted out without a fresh critical analysis. Within the book one chapter stands above all others for me and that is chapter 8. The movements of 1st Corps is a tale of mismanagement and confusion and has been a source of conjecture for all who study Quatre Bras. Paul Dawson makes, as clear as possible, the events of the day carefully weighing the evidence for the ultimate actions of the key players. He makes the confusion clear while bewailing the fact that verbal exchanges which could have played an important part on the day are lost to history.
    This is a book for the Waterloo 'aficionado' written in a way which is easily accessible to the general reader.
    I highly recommend this book and at the time of writing look forward to, the soon to be published, Paul Dawson's 'Waterloo. The Truth at Last'.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2017
  • The Forgotten War against Napoleon

    Gareth Glover
    Initially I was confused. I'm not sure what I expected but it wasn't this. It didn't seem like a Gareth Glover, a writer I admire immensely. It is about conflicts around the Mediterranean which I knew of and were in no way forgotten. The chapters were short and pithy, with a wealth of footnotes. However once I got into the swing of the book, and it does swing along, I found I was greatly enjoying it. In effect it became a Gareth Glover. It is written in a most readable style with loads of well researched information. The book has 56 chapters, the shortest only one page long, 16 illustrations, all contemporary with the events, and 33 maps.
    For me the true value of this book is that it connects events which are most usually only studied in isolation. What the author has demonstrated is the inter-connection between seeming disparate events. The connection coming about because they are on or of the Mediterranean.
    When I finished this book I was sorry it wasn't longer. It is a tour de force and reminded me of areas which I now want to revisit and to read more about in greater detail. It is an excellent overview. The only thing wrong with it is the title.

    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2017
  • Man of War

    Anthony Sullivan
    Having very recently read about the development of the supply system for the Baltic fleet [see Transformation of British Naval Strategy review on this site] I developed an interest in the career of Admiral Saumarez. Quite fortuitously I found Anthony Sullivan's new book on the life of the man himself. The book covers the whole of his life and, as one would expect from the title, gives a lot of information about his naval career. The ships he served on, the ships he commanded, the squadrons and fleets he eventually led, as well as the actions he was in are all there. Saumarez did not fight in the battle of Trafalgar and, to the authors credit, that battle gets only a paragraph in passing. The author has done his research and does not need to pad out the narrative. The book is without illustrations but has a sufficient number of maps and battle plans to support the text.
    Saumarez was a remarkable fighter, a true naval hero, a family man and a man of his time who was not free of some minor blemishes this I know from reading this excellent book.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2017
  • The Transformation of British Naval Strategy

    James Davey
    This is a book aimed more at the specialist rather than the general browser. Having said that it is written in an easy flowing style which makes the subject matter easy to understand. The subject of the book, sub-titled 'seapower and supply in Northern Europe 1808 to 1812' is the logistical problem of keeping a substantial fleet supplied with all its needs far from any base. The story is one of the evolution and development of systems which brought together the different branches of the supply chain to become a very efficient 'machine'. The end user, Admiral Saumarez's fleet, contributed greatly, in terms of the feed back, to the vast improvements made. The text is supported by very few illustrations and maps but with a wealth of tables and graphs.
    A book not to missed by students of Napoleonic naval warfare.
    I warmly recommend a fascinatingly good read.
    The Boydell Press, 2012
  • Waterloo Messenger. The life of Henry Percy Peninsula Soldier and French Prisoner

    William Mahon
    A book more for the general reader than the specialist. Having said that the are some interesting insights into staff work. Also the description of how some prisoners of the French were treated is an eye opener. The book is not a biography but uses the life of Henry Percy as the thread running through some of Moore's and Wellington's campaigns in the Peninsula. That having been said I suspect, largely on the grounds of the author's extensive researches, that there is little more evidence available on Henry Percy's life.
    All in all a good read which doesn't quite give all the title promises.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2017
  • In the Peninsula with a French Hussar

    A J M De Rocca. Intoduction by Philip Haythornthw
    De Rocca's account was first published in English in 1815. This book is the unabridged presentation of that work with a new introduction by Philip Haythornthwaite and additional maps. De Rocca was not involved in any of the major battles in the Peninsula and that is the most valuable part of this book. It is a rich insight into all the other tasks performed by light cavalry in support of an army of occupation. Garrison duties, scouting, escorting and dispatch carrying all feature in the day to day tasks which De Rocca carried out. The underlying theme running through all his duties was finding enough to eat for himself and his horses.
    For the general reader I would recommend this book as a jolly good read maintaining interest from beginning to the end. For the military buff I can recommend this unique insight into the effects of the Spanish Guerrillas on the front-line fighting ability of the French as seen through the eyes of one who was there.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books \ltd., 2017
  • Grouchy's Waterloo

    Andrew W. Field
    Very early on in this book the author endeared himself to me with two statements. On page 6 he expresses his intention not to name any places without including them on a map. As one who hates having to read with a map open by my side I applaud this notion in spite of the fact that he doesn't always succeed in mapping every place all though the book. On page 12 he refers readers elsewhere for the lead up to Waterloo stating that there is to a plethora of fine books on the subject. Again I was both surprised and pleased to find a 'Waterloo' book that did not start with Napoleon's escape from Elba.
    The book is written from a factual rather than a judgmental position with many insertions of contemporary and post event quotations from reports and diaries. However the last chapter 'Analysis and Conclusions' , where he does discuss the key controversies, is particularly worthy of note.
    My overall opinion is that the research has been thorough, the style of writing clear and lucid with many maps and illustrations. A book not to be put down until it is finished. Very highly recommended.
    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword \Books \Ltd., 2017
  • Nelson's Navy

    Brian Lavery
    I am tempted to write a very short review. This book is a masterpiece!
    The author himself says that this book does not exhaust the subject but I defy any reader to ask a question this book does not answer; masses of drawings, photographs and pictures round out the text. The book is big, beautiful and is a must for any Napoleonic historian's and interested general reader's bookshelf.
    Don't just take my word for it Patrick O'Brian, in the introduction, is full of high praise for the author's achievement.
    Conway Maritime Press Ltd., 1989
  • Warships of the Napoleonic Era

    Robert Gardiner
    I happily confess to being a fan of Gardiner's work. His 'Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars' is a favourite of mine. This book follows the same format, a little over twelve inches square, which allows for some stunning illustrations. The content covers ships of Britain, other European powers and the U.S.A although the bulk of the text is of the Royal Navy. The writing is fluid and most readable for both the person who wants it as a reference book and a cover to cover reader like me. All through one feels the authority of the author is based on thorough research, and, for anyone who wants to go further, there is an extensive list of sources. As an aside almost all of the line drawings would allow an experienced boat modeller to create precise replicas.
    This is a superb book which I cannot recommend too highly.
    Seaforth Publishing, Pen & Sword Ltd., 2011
  • The Very Thing

    Jonathan Crook
    The title neatly sums up my opinion of this book it is the very thing for anyone with a keen interest in Napoleonic soldiering. Part of the long military history of the Royal Welch Fusiliers is told through the memoirs of Drummer Richard Bentinck from 1807 to 1823. The story travels from Copenhagen to North America to the Peninsular and finally to Waterloo and the occupation of France. We get a fascinating insight into the life of the ordinary British soldier not all saint and not all sinner
    A thoroughly good read which I cannot recommend too highly.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Ltd., 2011
  • Waterloo 1815 Captain Mercer's Journal

    Bob Carruthers
    Part of the Military History from Primary Sources Series this slim volume [126 pages] is well illustrated with numerous almost contemporary illustrations. As a child I was told you should rise from eating a meal feeling as if you would like more. This book does just that for it is but a selection from the complete journal. It is a wonderfully balanced choice; the wide variety of subject matter in the complete journal is truly reflected here. If one hasn't read the full journal then this book is an excellent introduction - even an enticer to read more. Well written, well presented and therefore recommended.
    Pen & Sword Military, 2012
  • Waterloo Battlefield Guide

    David Buttery
    From the outset this book delivered more than I was expecting. Not only was there a description of the many places relevant to the Waterloo story placed, of course, in their modern setting to make them easy to find; but there was also a narrative of the battle with the troop dispositions and timings as accurate as you will find anywhere else. The maps and illustrations are numerous and good servants to the text. I read the book before my visit to Belgium and, having now used it extensively while there, my advice to the would be visitor is read it before you go and don't go without it. Highly recommended.
    Pen & Sword Family Military, 2013
  • Waterloo Archive Volume VI: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    The last volume of this superb series by no means appears to 'scape the barrel' indeed it almost appears as if Gareth Glover has saved some of the best bits to the end. The illustrations are beautifully reproduced.
    The series as a whole is a must for anyone who aspires to understand the battle and its context, the men, their families and the times they lived and died in.
    It would be wrong to single out any particular volume, each is as good as another and having read one I am sure one would want to read them all. If we are really lucky perhaps Gareth Glover will find material enough for another volume.
    Highly recommended.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2014
  • Waterloo Archive Volume IV: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    Another superb collection of original material not only from front line troops but also from reserve and support services. See review of Volume VI for an overview of the series.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012
  • Waterloo Archive Volume V: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    Another superb book in this series. This one has tapped a very rich seam of material hitherto inaccessible to anyone unable to read German. Though the whole book is most interesting Appendix 2 in particular appealed to me. It records some of the 'Glorious Feats' performed by men of the KGL and Hanoverian Army. There are also some excellent reproductions of original illustrations of uniforms and 'battle' scenes. See review of Volume VI for comment on the whole series.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • Waterloo Archive Volume III: British Sources

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    Just like the first two volumes another fascinating read. There are many many books which give one the strategy, and an over view of the action in the battle, some excellent in their way. But these volumes tell us, or more correctly the men themselves tell us, about real lives of real individuals who were involved in that momentous event. If you want to know who fought Quatre-Bras and Waterloo then these volumes tell you of some of the men. We can guess that most of the others, whose voices are not recorded, had similar varied lives. Also in the three British sourced volumes there are eight superb illustrations reproduced from William Mudford's history of Waterloo published in 1817.
    If you want to know the men read these books.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2011
  • The Waterloo Archive. Volume II

    Gareth Glover [Ed]
    The second volume of this six volume series is a collection from German sources. Like the first vol. it is full of amazing, vivid first hand accounts which give insights into the many personal battles which made up Waterloo. These accounts are written by men of the King's German Legion, the Hanoverian and Nassau regiments and others. The translations manage to convey what I am sure were the facts and feeling of the original texts. The fog of war made real as 'We didn't see the enemy at all. We just loaded and fired at their musket smoke.' And the horror of the aftermath described 'the next day we marched passed a barn, outside was a huge pile of amputated limbs, some with uniforms still on. Inside the surgeons were still hard at work.'
    Gareth Glover has brought together a mass of rare and previously unpublished work and presented it in a readily accessible form.
    We cannot recommend it too highly.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2010
  • The Waterloo Archive. Volume I

    Gareth Glover [Ed.]
    This book is a collection of previously unpublished first-hand material on the Battle of Waterloo. The letters, journals and reports were held in both the private and public domains. I own over thirty books which are wholly or largely about the Waterloo Campaign and this book was still an eye opener. Not only does it enrich one's understanding but also moves one's emotions. It also makes clear that anyone who was in the battle didn't know what was happening outside his own sound and smoke bound view. Further the material shows how some of the long held myths and beliefs came to gain purchase on the original historical writers and shows many to be ill founded and false. This is the first of six volumes and I am looking forward to reading the remaining five well before my visit to the battlefield on the 200th Anniversary. I recommend you do the same.
    Frontline Books. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2010
  • Salamanca 1812. Wellington's Year of Victories.

    Peter Edwards
    A high level of research is presented in a most readable way. The book has a pervading quality in its insights which can only come from an experienced 'military mind'. Throughout the author uses appropriate and varied selection of original text providing both colour and veracity. The maps are few and lacking in detail, in Further Reading the author recommends Ian Robertson's Atlas of the Peninsular War which I would have found most useful in this case. That said however this book is difficult to put down once started and thoroughly recommended.
    The Praetorian Press, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • Galloping at Everything.

    Ian Fletcher
    Sub Titled:-The British Cavalry in the Peninsular War and at Waterloo 1805-1815, A reappraisal. This book, without being a whitewash, goes a long way to correct the misrepresentation of the value and effectiveness of the cavalry arm under Wellington. The descriptions of the engagements and activities of the cavalry are excellent as is the appraisal of their true value. Balance is maintained with both successes and failures included.
    Well illustrated and a jolly good read.
    Spellmount Ltd., NPI Media Group, 2008
  • Into Battle with Napoleon 1812. The Journal of Jakob Walter

    Jakob Walter. Edited & Annotated by Bob Carruthers
    This is a re-presentation of the jounal which was first translated and published in America in 1938. Bob Carruthers has done a really good job in bringing this wonderful work up to date. His inspired selection and inclusion of the watercolours of Albrecht Adam, who witnessed many of the same events as Jakob Walter, makes the book even more enjoyable. That is if the brutal reporting of such a train of harrowing events can ever be enjoyed. The reader is left with an understanding of the life of a soldier in Russia in 1812 and thankfulness that Jakob kept a jounal. A must read.
    Pen & Sword Military, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2013
  • With Napoleon’s Guard in Russia - The Memoirs of Major Vionnet 1812

    Louis Joseph Vionnet. Translated & Edited Jonathan
    A book I finished reading wanting more of the same. I suspect desperate hunger, numbing cold and the struggle to keep his troops together caused Major Vionnet to make few notes from which these memoirs were constructed. Jonathan North has written an excellent introduction, especially the Peninsular War background to the regiment, and there is an appropriate selection of maps and illustrations to support the text. He has also used other personal accounts to broaden the perspective and add detail. My one minor complaint is that the many footnotes are gathered at the end of the book. If, like me, you always read footnotes, and these are most helpful, then having them on the relevant page is so much more convenient. This book is about detail having a broad overview of the Russian campaign, while not essential, is most useful.
    With only a little imagination the reader will gain insights into the hell which engulfed and killed so many of Napoleon’s troops in the retreat from Moscow. And crucially how some of the survivors survived.

    Pen & Sword Military. Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012
  • 1812 Napoleon in Moscow

    Paul Britten Austin
    It is difficult to evaluate this book which has a confusing conflict between style and content. As a style the author has adopted the appalling affectation of the use of the present tense to describe the past. This in parts makes gaining a clear understanding more difficult than it needs to be. The content is well researched and appropriately selected giving real insights into the French in Moscow. The real quality of the book is that we get to see the big event from many personal perspectives. In the introduction the author apologizes, and so he should, for his 'syntactic and grammatical deviations' for these in part make difficult reading of what otherwise would be a very good book.
    Frontline Books, Pen & Sword Books Ltd., 2012
  • Napoleonic Wars Data Book

    Smith Digby
    Simply masses of data with sources stated. As pure information without opinion can't be faulted. Highly recommended.
    Greenhill Books, 1998
  • The Age of Elegance 1812 - 1822

    Bryant, Arthur
    Covers the Peninsular campaign and the Hundred Days plus lots of interesting background.
    Book Club Associates, 1975
  • Waterloo. Battle of Three Armies.

    Chalfont. Lord. Ed.
    Three distinguished historians each presents a view of the battle from their own national viewpoint. Lord Chalfont provides the introduction and conclusion. A most readable illuminating approach to this fascinating battle.
    Book Club Associates, 1979
  • Waterloo: The Hundred Days

    Chandler, David
    Breadth of vision, wealth of detail in a most readable package. It would be difficult to find a better book than this on Napoleon's 'last great gamble'.
    Osprey Publishing Ltd., 1987
  • Fighting Ships of the line 1793 - 1815

    Davies, David
    A general overview of the ships and the men and the actions they fought in.
    Constable and Company Ltd., 1996
  • Borodino and the War of 1812

    Duffy, Christopher
    A most readable account of Napoleon's abortive attempt to defeat Russia. The maps and illustrations are supportive of the text and very helpful to the reader.
    The Military Book Society, 1973
  • A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars.

    Esposito, Brigadier General Vincent. & Elting, Col
    A truly comprehensive overview of Napoleon's campaigns presented in the form of an atlas. Some of the situation maps are only a matter of hours apart, some cover the whole campaign area while the majority deal with particular battles. A great help to the understanding.
    Greenhill Books, 1999
  • Napoleon's Lost Fleet

    Foreman, Laura & Phillips, Ellen
    The story of the Battle of the Nile. The illustrations are many and superb and the whole is brought up to date with accounts of the underwater archeology of the site.
    Discovery Books, 1999
  • Frigates of the Napoleonic Wars

    Gardiner, Robert
    Masses of detail of design, construction and equiping of frigates as well as the uses to which they were put. Superbly illustrated.
    Chatham Publishing, 2000
  • The Naval War of 1812

    Gardiner, Robert Ed.
    Incredible amount of detail, a must have book.
    Chatham Publishing, 1998
  • The Campaign of Trafalgar 1803 - 1805

    Gardiner, Robert Ed.
    Learned text , superb illustrations and maps. Trafalgar placed in the context of the men and the times.
    Chatham Publishing, 1997
  • Nelson against Napoleon. From the Nile to Copenhagen. 1798 - 1801

    Gardiner, Robert Ed.
    Lavishly illustrated, fully researched text. A great book.
    Chatham Publishing, 1997
  • The Peninsular War 1807-1814, A Concise Military History

    Glover, Michael
    A most readable and informative overview of the Peninsular War both a book to be read from cover to cover or as an additional source of reference. Useful maps, appendices and index.
    Pengiun Classic Military History, 2001
  • Die Hard; Famous Napoleonic Battles

    Haythornthwaite, Philip J.
    All or part of ten Napoleonic battles linked by the determination of attackers or defenders are beautifully written about. The research was extensive, and it shows.
    Cassell Military Classics, 1999
  • A Near Run Thing

    Howarth. David,
    Written from the recollections of the men who were there this book puts any reader with a little imagination on the bloody field of Waterloo.
    The Literary Guild, 1968
  • Nelson and His Captains

    Kennedy, Ludovic
    One of the best insights into Nelson's success as a leader of men.
    William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd., 1975
  • Every Man Will Do His Duty; an Anthology of First-hand Accounts from the Age of Nelson.

    King, Dean & Hattendorf, John. Ed.
    More exciting and interesting than fiction. A balanced selection from 1793 to 1815.
    BCA, 1998
  • The Letters Of Private Wheeler 1809-1828

    Liddell Hart, B.H. (Ed)
    The diary of a private soldier in the 51st regiment covering both the Walcheren campaign and his involvement in the battle of Waterloo and the occupation of France.
    Michael Joseph, London, 1951
  • The Exploits of Baron de Marbot

    Marbot, Jean-Baptiste Baron de
    The flamboyant memoirs of a cavalry officer during the Napoleonic wars. First published in English in 1892 as a three volume work, this edition was edited by Christopher Summerville and abridged into a single volume to aid its readability. The inspiration for Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gerard it gives an excellent picture of what it must have been like to be one of the 'chosen ones' in Napoleons court. Can be compared with other memoirs of men in the ranks, like Sgt Bourgogne or Jakob Walter to see the difference.
    Constable, London, 2000
  • Napoleon as Military Commander

    Marshall-Cornwall. General Sir James,

    Penguin Classic 2002, 1967
  • The 100 Gun Ship Victory

    McKay, John
    Every plank and every rope illustrated in scale drawings. Supporting text to put Victory in her context. Fascinating with more information than most people will ever need to know.
    Conway Maritime Press, 2000
  • The Peninsular War 1807 - 1814

    Michael Glover
    In total 431 pages. Excellent overview of the whole campaign with sufficient references to place it in the wider Napoleonic scene. Appropriate maps and illustrations plus some useful Appenixes.
    Highly recommended.
    Penguin Classic Military History, 2001
  • 1815 The Armies at Waterloo

    Pericoli. Ugo,
    An excellent reference work. Superb colour plates supported by readable well researched text. Leaves one amazed that they really did go into battle dressed like that....
    Spere Books, 1973
  • Life in Nelson's Navy

    Pope, Dudley
    Written as if Pope had been alive at the time but yet had the benfit of hindsight. Most readable.
    Chatham Publishing, 1997
  • The Cassell Dictionary of the Napoleonic Wars

    Pope, Stephen
    Good, detailed reference work on the period 1792 - 1815. Includes battles, campaigns, tactics, weapons etc. with cross-referencing
    Cassell, 1999
  • Borodino

    Smith, Digby

    The Windrush Press, 1998
  • March of Death, Sir John Moore's Retreat to Corunna 1808 - 09

    Summerville, Christopher
    A harrowing account of the retreat, the more so when so much of the narrative comes from the diaries, journals and memoirs of the men who were there. Brilliant.
    Greenhill Books, 2003
  • Cochrane. Britannia's Sea Wolf

    Thomas Donald
    If this story were the life of a fictional character it would strech credulity beyond a reasonable limit. But Chochrane was an amazing man whose factual story has been well researched and beautifully written.
    Highly recommended.
    Cassell & Co, 2004
  • Armies of 1812. Volume One

    von Pivka. Otto,
    Packed full of information a most detailed background to the campaign. The most telling presentation of the facts are the graphical representaions of the losses suffered over time by the various corps of the Grand Arm
    Patrick Stephens Ltd., 1977
  • The Diary of a Napoleonic Foot Soldier

    Walter, Jakob
    The plain diary of a simple Wurtemburger soldier conscripted into Napoleon's ranks and sent on, among other campaigns, the 1812 Russian Campaign. A grim but fascinating portrait of what it would have been like to be an ordinary soldier in the Grand
    Windrush Press, 1991
  • Trafalgar

    Warner, Oliver
    An accessible overview of the battle.
    Pan Books Ltd., 1966