Reviews: Military Books


The British Army Against Napoleon: Facts, Lists and Trivia, 1805-1815

Burnham, Robert and Ron McGuigan. The British Army Against Napoleon: Facts, Lists and Trivia, 1805-1815. Barnsley, UK : Frontline Books, 2010. 326 pages. 30 black-and-white illustrations, hundreds of tables, a six-page bibliography and an index. ISBN# 9781848325623. Hardcover. £25.

As with Alexander Mikaberdze’s Borodino, which I recently reviewed, the price of this book in no way relates to the amount of hard research and painstaking effort that the two authors have invested in the project. This is an amazing collection of data on the British army from 1805 to 1815. Included are lists of seniority of officers on various expeditions, comparative tables of regimental casualties, battle honours awarded, bounties paid for recruits, recruiting expenses, rations issued to the men, allowances paid for various aspects of service, mortality rates, chances of being killed or wounded by regiment, the social composition of the officer corps, the prices to be paid for commissions in various regiments and any number of other aspects of army life. There is a table of regimental facings, buttons and men’s buttonhole laces, a listing of the regimental nicknames, with explanations and several states of the locations of regiments at various times throughout the period.

Items of the trivia of military life are scattered throughout the book, many of them bordering on the incredulous. The scales of prize money to be awarded, according to rank, were an eye-opener, as were many of the other facets of military life, covered in this work, including the fact that many of the flogging sentences awarded by the military courts were only partially carried out. There was also a well-defined system of disability pensions, payable to officers and men, as well as pensions for long service. It reflects a military system which was surprisingly sophisticated, resulting in conditions of service which compared very favourably with the lot of many civilians of those days.

This is a book, which has the power to surprise, amuse and amaze, pretty much wherever and whenever one dips into it. I recommend it wholeheartedly.

 

Review by Digby Smith.
Placed on the Napoleon Series: March 2011

 

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