Book Review: Charge The Guns! Wellington’s cavalry at Waterloo

•July 24, 2015 • Leave a Comment

charge the guns

A great re-examination of the Allied cavalry at probably the most famous battle in history!

Amazon Review

Wonderful, wonderful, Copenhagen. Or something like that.

•April 8, 2015 • 1 Comment

With the 200th anniversary of Waterloo approaching, here’s a horse-themed post on the Duke of Wellington’s most famous charger.

Copenhagen’s Last Charge

If Only You Could Talk…

•February 25, 2015 • 3 Comments

I often say this to equines. Along with such things as ‘Where’s the sore spot, then?’ ‘Is that too tight now?’ ‘Will that sit too low when someone climbs on board?’

They never answer, though. Saddle-fit customers must think I’m talking to myself, and I suppose I am. You have to be slightly mad to believe you can engineer the perfect interface between horse-back and rider-backside.

But if horses could talk, maybe they’d have conversations like this one, between a well-bred cavalry horse and a common draught during the English Civil War 😀

Talking Horses

A Well-Matched Pair. Two Cavalry Treatises

•February 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment

It’s not very often that a new book is released specifically about Wellington’s cavalry, so to find two come along almost at the same time is a rare treat. And even better, these are not simply regurgitations of relatively well-known cavalry campaigning with a few newly-unearthed facts added – both books are far more important than that.

Gallantry and Discipline: The 12th Light Dragoons At War With Wellington by Andrew Bamford

105181[1] Bamford’s monograph is unusual in that unlike most regimental histories it concentrates on a relatively short period, from 1791 to 1815, and is based largely on the volume of paperwork left by its colonel during this period, Sir James Steuart. Although this might appear a weakness, it is, in fact, its great strength, providing a consistent and well-documented viewpoint of the 12th’s internal workings through a period of great change within the British army as a whole.
Sourced from written orders and Steuart’s letters, the first half of the book concentrates on regimental procedures and how they worked in practice. Surprising as it may seem, this type of information is well-nigh impossible to find elsewhere at this level of detail, and in digging it up Bamford has shed new light on how other British cavalry regiments of the time must have worked.

The second half covers the 12th’s deployment to the Peninsula in 1811 and their campaigning until 1814 and thereafter at Waterloo. I confess this section held less interest for me than the preceding nitty-gritty, though I understand I’ll probably be in a minority because there’s far more detail here than is found in most general Peninsula histories. And enough new information to satisfy most cavalry action buffs, I’d have thought.

The author’s style encourages quick reading – a major compliment from a self-confessed non-fiction hater. Well, I don’t hate it all, just the drearily-written tomes I frequently come up against, and this ain’t one! My only gripe is the font used in my hardback copy could have been a bit larger. Blame the publisher for trying to keep the page count down.

All in all an excellent addition for any Napoleonic library. 5 Stars.


Boots and Saddles! Horses and Riders of Wellington’s Army by Paul L Dawson

5192Z5n9nHL[1]This companion volume to the author’s Au Galop! Horses and Riders of Napoleon’s Army follows the same format as its predecessor, concentrating on the way British cavalry of the period operated in terms of recruitment and training of both men and horses. As such, it is now far easier to compare and contrast the military equestrian systems of France and Britain than has hitherto been possible.

Major differences in horse procurement methods, the lack of centrally mandated training systems for horse and rider, widely variable abilities of regimental officers and a seeming haphazard feeding regime all contributed the British cavalry’s performance (or lack of it) in the field. This book also discusses cavalry shoeing and veterinary care, saddlery and the levels of equine attrition on campaign.

Dawson’s intention – to show reasons for the differences in approach and effects of each country’s systems – means you ideally need both volumes, but comparisons are often noted in the text of Boots and Saddles! so it’s not absolutely necessary. What is important is to understand what went on behind the scenes: what made it practically possible for two sets of horsemen to meet on the battlefields of Portugal and Spain, and this book provides answers.

Boots and Saddles! is one for the specialist, but essential reading if you have a deep interest in British cavalry of the period. You won’t find this level of detail, all in one place, anywhere else, and even those who are well-read will find a lot of source material that’s new.  5 Stars

History Repeats Itself…Again

•February 1, 2015 • 1 Comment


Imagine these guys, 130 years earlier, in Napoleonic period uniform. Actually, Bill Murray might look okay as Andre Massena, but I digress.

Just to prove there’s nothing new under the sun, read this great post from Adventures in Historyland 😀

Monuments Men – 1815

Spoils of War?

•January 25, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The National Army Museum hold some great stuff. Here’s another relevant item – thanks to Keith Redfern for the heads-up.

General Lefebvre-Desnouettes’ sabretache.


Kindle Price Increase. Thanks, Mr VATman – not.

•January 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

I voted to stay out of Europe, so this is nothing to do with me.woj front cover

From 1st January all Kindle books will have VAT added at the rate prevalent in their country of purchase, rather than the one Amazon despatches them from. That means UK Kindle books will rise in price. Great (not).

But at the mo, prices haven’t risen. Well, mine haven’t. Yet.

So you can still get Walls of Jericho for the ridiculously cheap price of £1.79.

Might be worth a punt if you’re missing Mr Sharpe and fancy something a bit different from the same period 🙂

Historical Novel Society Review

•November 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Leopardkill cover v4_Layout 1-page-001




Here’s what the HNS made of Leopardkill  🙂

HNS Review


Book Review: Caveat emptor

•July 12, 2014 • Leave a Comment


From Corunna to Waterloo: With the Hussars 1808 to 1815 by John Mollo


Ever been conned and realised you have only yourself to blame? Welcome to the club.

When this book came out I was quite excited because John Mollo is an excellent writer and I’d enjoyed his earlier hussar treatise, The Prince’s Dolls. Warning bells rang, however, when I read that its dedication was to the same individual. But it’s not so unusual, frankly, and try as I might I couldn’t find indications anywhere to refute the assertion this was anything other than a new book about British Napoleonic Hussars. Assumptions, assumptions.

Because it’s not. It’s an unabridged re-print of The Princes Dolls. Identical text, illustrations and maps. Not even the ghost of a subtitle to advise the reader it was ‘Previously Published as…’ Now I realise a number of out-of-print period histories have been re-published under different titles, but these are generally hard to find individual diaries and I’m always very careful buying those. But this is a book first issued only in 1997.

So why would Pen & Sword, who published the original, bring out this new version under almost the same title as the also very good From Corunna to Waterloo by Gareth Glover, the story of two officers of the 15th Hussars?

I suspect it’s the 2015 Anniversary thing. Ergo, money. Not really on, though, is it?

Eh? The review? Oh – well if you’ve never read Prince’s Dolls I recommend the book wholeheartedly. 5 stars. More, probably.

But if you’ve already got the original you’ll just be wasting your money, as I did.

As for P&S, I’m almost so angry I could throw the phone down… 😉

Book Review: Bitter Glory – a French Cavalry tale

•June 22, 2014 • 1 Comment

Cavalry stories set in this period don’t appear very often, and I tend not to read them anyway. It would be too easy to inadvertently transpose a scene to one of mine. That’s my excuse, anyway.

But when I happened on this new Kindle book my resolve weakened. I bought it, mainly because (a) its main character is a French chasseur and (b) it’s set in 1800, five years earlier than my start point. Less of a danger, then. Plus it’s VERY cheap, an ideal read for a skinflint like me.

But was it any good?

bitter glory


Bitter Glory by David Swatton

Antoine Chauvelle, a captain in the 21st Chasseurs a Cheval, returns to duty after recovering from a battlefield wound to find an old friend has been killed in a pointless duel with a sadistic hussar well-known for picking fights. But while still unsure how best to take his revenge he is caught up in the French Army of the Reserve’s march through Switzerland – First Consul Bonaparte has determined on crossing the Alps to launch a surprise attack on Austrians who have besieged Andre Massena’s army in the coastal city of Genoa.

Chauvelle is an aristocrat, not well liked by many of his less affluent Republican superiors. It is only when his latent abilities are recognised by the future Marshal Lannes that his career takes a turn for the better. Or maybe not.

Swatton’s character, thankfully, has his faults. Chauvelle can be arrogant at times, he suffers fear and disgust on the battlefield like any normal soldier, and also picks up a couple of minor wounds. The author has written his story more from a campaign point of view than that of the characters, something increasingly common in fiction of this period and, I suppose, useful if the reader is in unfamiliar territory. And though once again it’s an ‘officer-plus-enlisted-man-sidekick’ plot I can’t really see how this device can be avoided in military fiction: in real life one could not operate without the other.

The book trundles along at a pretty good lick, though the second quarter was slowed for me by the author’s  determination to include chunks of the backstory of several secondary characters. Then it picks up again and continues in this vein, which meant I read the second half twice as quickly as the first. Cavalry actions are difficult to write since they happen so fast and are over so quickly when compared to infantry fights, but I think Swatton manages to strike the right balance.

Grumbles are minor. A tighter edit would benefit the pace generally and my inner pedant ground its teeth at some of the punctuation, mostly in slower passages where it was more noticeable. I shall leave purists to decide on the cover picture.

The author has left a couple of plot threads untied, so I suspect a sequel is planned, which I’ll definitely read. All in all a decent addition to the genre, though since it’s a cavalry story I am slightly biased 🙂