Reviews: Military Books

Inside the Regiment: the Officers and Men of the 30th Regiment during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars

Divall, Carole. Inside the Regiment: the Officers and Men of the 30th Regiment during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Barnsley: Pen and Sword, 2011. 236 pages. ISBN# 9781848844537 £20

When I first saw the book, I was a bit puzzled.  I had thought the author had covered the 30th Foot quite extensively in Redcoats against Napoleon and was not sure what the new book could contain.  I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered that it focused not on the battles and campaigns of the regiment, but its internal operations from 1790 to 1829, when the regiment departed from India.  During the period, the regiment’s 1st Battalion spent most of its time in India, while the 2nd Battalion would fight in the Peninsular War and the Waterloo Campaign. 

Each chapter provides incredible detail on a variety of topics ranging from the commanding officers and their different style of command, to an overview of the backgrounds of the company officers, the non-commissioned officers and the soldiers.  Ms. Divall devotes three chapters to discipline within the regiment and draws on courts-martial records to show who was court-martialed (including officers), why they were court-martialed, and the punishment that was doled out.  One of the chapters goes into great detailed on flogging, including who was flogged, the most common offenses that led to a court-martial, and how often the sentence was carried out. Inside the Regiment also looks at disease and death in the regiment, wives and children, and religion (a large percent of the regiment was Irish and Catholic services were held). 

The author takes a unique approach to presenting the information.  Instead of looking at the regiment as a single entity, Ms. Divall takes the data and shows how the two battalions were different, especially in regards to discipline and deaths.  From 1813 to 1816, the 1st Battalion held over 600 court-martials, compared to 113 for the 2nd Battalion.  This was an average of 42 trials per month for the 1st Battalion, while the 2nd Battalion averaged three.  Half the trials for the 1st Battalion involved drunkenness, while only 20% of the trials in the 2nd Battalion were for the same charge.  Interestingly, a soldier from the 2nd Battalion stood a 20% greater chance of being flogged if convicted than a soldier from the 1st Battalion.  Ms. Divall addresses why this occurred, however you will have to read the book to find out!

One of most fascinating chapters for me was the book’s first chapter “Portrait of a Regiment”. Ms. Divall draws on the regimental records to paint a picture of the average soldier in the regiment.  For example, despite years of service in Ireland, it was not an Irish regiment only one-third of the soldiers were Irish, however over half of the 2nd Battalion was Irish.  The soldiers were not particularly tall, with over 70% of the regiment were no taller than 5 foot 7 inches. Sixty percent of the soldiers were between the ages of 20 and 34, yet this is where the difference between the two battalions is quite apparent.  The 1st Battalion in India had the majority of the older soldiers, while over fifty percent of the soldiers of the 2nd Battalion at Waterloo were younger than 25.  The difference in the years of service was also quite apparent – with the 1st Battalion having 66% of the soldiers with ten years or more of service, but less than 10% with less than six years.  Yet 25% of the soldiers in the 2nd Battalion at Waterloo had less than three years in the regiment!

Once again Ms. Divall has written a highly readable regimental history that will hold the attention of both the casual reader and the dedicated scholar. I strongly recommend this book for anyone with an interest in the British Army, the Peninsular War, or a soldier’s life in India during the early 19th Century.

 

Reviewed by Robert Burnham, FINS
Placed on the Napoleon Series: May 2011

 

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