Émigré & Foreign Troops in British Service (1): 1793-1802.
René Chartrand and Patrice Courcelle
(Men At Arms series: no. 328).
The Osprey series of booklets have provided over the years both the best and worst in terms of information. Some of our distinguished Napoleon Series Forum participants have written volumes for it (Otto von Pivka, a.k.a. Digby Smith and Peter Hofschröer) and I see it as a late 20th century version of the Grosse Uniformenkunde. As time goes on, relatively obscure topics have started to be covered, and this usually with both depth and gusto. This title falls squarely in this category and I hasten to say it does an excellent job in bringing to the general public some very scarce information.
René Chartrand has been of late a prolific writer for Osprey and I do confess I eagerly wait for each new title he brings out. They all follow the same pattern: A small body of historical background followed by concise yet thorough and precise listings of units along with history and uniform details. There's a lot more information in there than just the 8 color plates which are at the center and a careful reader will come out of this book with much, much more as in addition to text, period illustrations are numerous and extremely well chosen. My one criticism is that, contrarily to Grouvel's massive study, this covers only the troops in (or passed into) British service. I would have liked to see resurrected the remaining body of information that is so hard to get hold of.
The real treats of course, are the color plates. Osprey has (finally) concluded that there is talent beyond the Anglo-Saxon world and we've seen over the past couple of years an increasing involvement of continental artists. Courcelle has, in this case, outdone himself. The illustrations are exceptionally "fine" and his mastery of color is apparent. Just check out the officer and men on the cover. The difference between scarlet officer coatee and enlisted menšs red-brick jackets is, for once strikingly visible, yet with no exaggeration.
The icing on the cake is, of course, the price, which puts it within the range of any individual (under $20 in France). With some of these units having been the topic of questions on the Napoleon Series Forum and the general interest displayed by the Forum participants about the Revolutionary period, I cannot but recommend this one.
The next volume will deal with Napoleonic period units, and, in the meantime, René Chartrand will probably come out with other titles in his "Spanish" series. Osprey is really spoiling us lately...
Reviewed by Yves Martin
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