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The Napoleon Series > Book Reviews > Memoirs

The Journal of James Hale, late Serjeant in the Ninth Regiment of Foot

By the late James Hale
Transcribed by Peter Catley, Ninth Regiment of Foot

There can not be enough published memoirs and journals of men who lived and fought in the Napoleonic Wars as far as I am concerned. If we put these journals and memoirs in their right context, strip them of their national bias and arm ourselves with a solid background on the events described in them, they can be an invaluable source of information. Especially useful are the memoirs and journals of simple soldiers, men who only saw and experienced what happened to them or right in front of them, because they give us an insight in how it really was.

One of those simple soldiers was James Hale. In 1803 he enlisted in the Royal North Gloucester Regiment of Militia as so many other young men did in those days. After 4 "easy" years in garrison, doing the "Kings Work" as he calls it, he volunteered for the regular Army. He was enlisted in His Majesty's Ninth Regiment of Foot for a duration of 7 years. In 1808 Hale's Regiment sailed for Portugal. After the retreat to Corunna, which he vividly describes the 9th was returned to England to participate in the Walcheren Expedition of the same year. 1810 saw the 9th back in Portugal and Hale participated in well known battles such as Torres Vedras, Almeida, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and Vitoria among several smaller skirmishes and encounters which he all describes in detail from a soldier's point of view. In 1813, still in the Peninsula with Wellington's victorious army, he was severely wounded in the arm and sent back to England where he was admitted as an out-pensioner of Chelsea Hospital in 1814. Thus ended the military career of James Hale, Serjeant in his Most Britannic Majesty's Ninth Regiment of Foot.

His journal was first published in 1826, probably in one edition only, by a provincial publisher named Philip Watkins of Cirencester;. It would probably have remained unavailable to most of us if it was not for M. Peter Catley, Sapper in the recreated Ninth Regiment of Foot. He patiently transcribed the journal and privately published it in 1997 with the help of his Regiment. It can now be obtained through him for a modest cover price.

Peter himself admits that Hale's journal is not of the quality of the Letters of Private Wheeler, or a soldier of the Seventy-First, but it is an important work because it was written contemporaneously and because it covers almost the entire period the 9th was in the Peninsula.

I for one am glad that Peter undertook this major work and I highly recommend Hale's Journal to everybody with an interest in the Peninsular war.

The Journal can be obtained from for the low price of $15, postage and packaging included.

Reviewed by Fons Libert


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