Wellington’s Infantry, British Foot Regiments 1800-1815
Pen & Sword Books (2021)
Illustrations: 50 colour
Frustratingly, both the title and subtitle of this book unfortunately do not do this book real justice, Wellington’s Infantry suggesting a study of the specific regiments fighting with Wellington, which has already been ably covered by Ian Fletcher a decade ago and British Foot Regiments 1800-1815 appearing to limit the work to British line regiments in that period. In fact, it covers the entire period 1793-1815 and some much more obscure theatres where Wellington’s boots never trod; the greatest strength of this book is therefore not reflected in the title at all.
The book begins with an overview of the well-trodden path with a description of the British Guards, Line infantry, Scots Regiments and Light Infantry, bringing little new to our knowledge. It then begins with further chapters dealing with less well-known regiments, including chapters on the Royal Veteran Battalions and their deployment during the wars, the Fencible Regiments (1799-1802), although the list is not complete and it misses many out such as the Loyal Inverness Regiment, Strathspey Regiment and Scilly Fencibles. It also perpetuates the oft repeated error that the Loyal Tarbert (shown as Tarbent) Fencibles were Scottish, whereas it was in fact an Irish unit. It does not cover the militia or volunteer regiments in Britain at all. This distinction is probably because Fencible regiments were officered by serving army officers with a full commission, whereas the others did not, but this is not explained, nor consistently followed as will be seen.
Where the book does better is in dealing with Foreign units in the British army although again the list is not complete. The troops in Canada are covered in some detail down to Fencible regiments and inconsistently also covers volunteers here. Another chapter covers troops in the West Indies down to the level of militia units, while another covers Africa and Australia and yet another covers India but in very brief detail, not covering the Honourable East India Company regiments at all. Other chapters of course cover the KGL and several Foreign European regiments in good detail including the Italian levies, Greek Light Infantry and the Malta regiments. The final chapter covers the uniform and equipment in brief detail.
The images produced are large and in full colour and do enhance the book, but unfortunately the great majority are well known and largely cover the Guard and British line regiments and the KGL, but it would have been so much better if images of the lesser-known corps could have been used.
Overall, the book is an attractive yet thin volume, it provides a good overview of the British army but as has been shown is far from exhaustive or complete. It provides some further depth on the troops in Canada, Africa, and Australia, but beyond this, it is very much aimed at the reader new to the subject, bringing little new to readers who have read previously on the period.