Disputed Victory

By Quintin Barry.

As I write these lines, Disputed Victory is the latest of my books to be published by Helion, but it will very shortly be overtaken by the next, which is a study of the campaign in eastern France in 1870 – 1871 entitled The Last Throw of the Dice. After that I go back to sea with a visit to the third Anglo Dutch war.

However, I do welcome the opportunity to explain how and why I came to write Disputed Victory. It tells the story of a bitter controversy that split the United States Navy after the Spanish American war of 1898. The American literature dealing with the war is huge, but little of it has focused on what for me was the most absorbing aspect of it. The dispute arose between Rear Admiral William Sampson and Commodore Winfield Scott Schley, and more especially between their respective supporters, and it was over the question of who deserved the credit for the American victory at the battle of Santiago. The Spanish Admiral Cervera had been blockaded in the port of Santiago de Cuba by the US fleet under the overall command of Sampson; but when the Spanish squadron emerged, Sampson had left his station for a conference with the military commander, the inept General Shafter, and it was left to Schley to conduct the ensuing battle.

Sampson’s adherents, among whom were the US Navy Secretary John D Long and the famous naval historian Alfred Mahan, levelled bitter criticism at Schley. When a libellous book was published, accusing him among other things of cowardice, he sought a court martial. The subsequent Court of Inquiry, presided over by the American naval icon Admiral George Dewey, lasted more than 40 days. And here, for me, lay the real fascination in the story, because one of the key sources for my book was the verbatim record of the trial. In the course of it, the lawyers on each side battled to assert their view of the controversy. Perhaps the real hero of my book is the redoubtable Isidor Rayner, the lawyer who represented Schley. His performance was one of the most remarkabl in American legal history, and as a lawyer I enjoyed it enormously. At the end of the hearing the majority of the court found against Schley, but Dewey delivered a minority judgment that in the eyes of the American press and public carried much more weight, and justified Schley’s insistence on the court martial. It took many years for the bitterness aroused by the controversy to disperse. Perhaps the only trial in naval history to compare with it was that of the English Admiral Keppel in 1779 after the battle of Ushant; maybe I will be tempted one day to write a book about that, too.

Disputed Victory: Schley, Sampson and the Spanish-American War of 1898 is now available to order here.

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By Simon Batten

Since 1985 I have taught History at Bloxham, a boarding school in rural Oxfordshire. After so long at one school, culminating in nine years as a Housemaster, I decided in 2013 in the interests of setting myself a new challenge, I would write a book on my first love, military history; I had already written a history of Bloxham School in 2010 to mark the school’s sesquicentenary. As the son of an army officer, I’ve long had an interest in military history, and this was only increased by studying under two outstanding exponents, Piers Mackesy and Sir Michael Howard, when I was at Oxford.

Winston Churchill and Sir John French at the 1910 manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain (Soldiers of Oxfordshire Museum)

As well as teaching history, I have been coaching schoolboy rugby for 33 years, most recently as assistant coach of the school’s 1st XV, and I have long been interested by the question of how one can most effectively prepare a team for a match on Saturday. A rugby side typically has an unopposed practice on a Friday, running through its moves without opponents to get in the way and invariably looking slick and assured in the process, only for things to go awry on match day when confronted with opponents who tackle them and with situations which develop unpredictably. Under the pressure of competition, mistakes are made and things which worked well in the practice go badly wrong. This made me question how armies practice for war, and whether the circumstances of exercises which inevitably do not involved the use of live ammunition can possibly provide any worthwhile preparation for real combat. The comparison between sport and warfare is a familiar and, in the case of the Great War, an over-used one – there’s obviously an enormous difference between being tackled in rugby and being shot at in combat – but the point about the gap between practice and reality is surely a valid one with application in a number of other areas.

Trench digging at Horseheath, September 1912. (Saanich Archives)

In posing questions about the preparations undertaken by the British Army generally seen as likely if not inevitable for a decade before it happened, I found myself assessing the actions and abilities commanders that were already familiar to me from their later war-time performance, notably Haig, French, Allenby, Rawlinson, Robertson, Wilson and Plumer, as well as engaging with familiar historiographical debates over British generalship in the Great War  and the so-called ‘learning curve’ the BEF experienced between 1914 and 1918. Among the many historians who helped me, I would like to single out two for especial thanks: Dr Spencer Jones, whose own work on the reforms of the British Army after the Boer War was my starting point, and John Hussey, whose vast knowledge of the subject guided me and pointed out some of the pitfalls, not least the danger of putting too much trust in what Edmonds and Liddell Hart had to say about generals of the

My focus was on the 10 sets of Army Manoeuvres carried out every September (except for 1911) between the end of the Boer War in 1902 and the outbreak of war in August 1914. Most took place on or near the army’s training ground on Salisbury Plain, but I was chiefly interested in the three sets of manoeuvres in Essex (1904), East Anglia (1912) and Buckinghamshire and Northamptonshire (1913), as each took place in terrain closer to what they might face in the event of a continental war and each posed a different challenge – an amphibious landing, an encounter battle and a fighting retreat – which would confront the British in 1914 and 1915.

The 11th Hussars on the road from Streetly End to West Wickham (Hildersham History Recorders)

One of the most enjoyable parts of my research was the trips I undertook to these areas. I stood on the beach at Clacton just as the men of the 2nd Royal Fusiliers had in September 1904 after clambering ashore from their landing craft (some of these men would do the same thing, this time under Turkish fire, on X Beach at Gallipoli 11 years later).  I walked the country lanes of Northamptonshire and stood where the Scots Greys watered their horses in Brackley’s Market Square  during the 1913 manoeuvres. Most memorably, I travelled around the countryside south of Cambridge and visited Linton, Haverhill and Horseheath where nearly 50,000 troops clashed in the climactic ‘battle’ of the 1912 manoeuvres. I am firmly convinced that one cannot understand a battle until one has walked the battlefield, and one of the most valuable lessons of my visit to south Cambridgeshire was that the terrain was not the flat, open land I was familiar with from the area around Cambridge and Newmarket, but wooded, undulating farmland.

I very much enjoyed writing this book and feel that it has made me a better History teacher by taking me back to what made me love the subject in the first place. ‘Futile Exercise?’ was published in May 2018 and I am now working on my next project with Helion. This is a book, written jointly with one of my former pupils, Matt Dixon, which will explore the stories of the men of Bloxham School – former pupils, masters and other employees – who fought and died in the Great War. While Matt has already done much of the groundwork through the many years he has spent tracking down and photographing the graves and memorials of each one of these men and through his use of war diaries and service records to create a website on the subject (http://bloxhamschoolwardead.co.uk/),  I am focusing on their stories while at school and the question of how the school responded to the war and to the loss of so many members of its community, both at the time and since.

Futile Exercise? The British Army’s Preparations for War 1902-1914 is available to order here.

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‘For Orange and the States. The Army of the Dutch Republic, Part I: Infantry.’ It sounds familiar, but…

By Marc Geerdink-Schaftenaar.

You probably heard of the battle of Fontenoy. If you have, you probably heard of the British and French officers greeting each other and inviting the other to open fire first. You might be able to mention other events that happened at that battle. And you may even remember that there were Dutch troops present as well. But what was their role in that battle? What was their role at all in the War of the Austrian Succession? Now that you mention it: what did the Dutch do in the 18th century anyway?

The army of the Dutch Republic sounds familiar, and it should: we are talking about one of the major European powers of the 18th century. Or well, at least it was still during the WAS. I mean: any country with a mere three million inhabitants that can bring 100,000 troops in the field, that’s quite something. But when you look for books on uniforms, uniform plates, or just a painting, you’re not going to find much.

I’ve written more articles in the past, and given several lectures, all for a select audience. I’m an active re-enactor and living history enthusiast, and my idea has always been that information should be shared. So I’ve written several documents on diverse topics that are easily available for everyone. Several years ago, I wrote an article on the Scots Brigade of the Dutch Republic for Skirmish Magazine. It was because of that article that I was contacted through Facebook, and asked if I wanted to write for Helion and Company. That was an offer I could not refuse. The subject I immediately had in mind was the army of the Dutch Republic, and specifically between 1713 and 1772. It’s a subject of which there is little to find. There are several reasons for that, which I go over in my book, and that’s too bad really, because the 18th century is a turbulent episode in the history of the Republic: it was a time when the country was deeply divided between Orangist and Republican factions, it lost its position as a leading European power, there was social unrest… and there was an army. And an interesting one at that!

So I started doing research, caught up on my reading, and sought paintings and illustrations to accompany the text. Not an easy task, also because I am married, have four kids and a fulltime job as a teaching assistant. Deadlines were missed, emails were sent… But once my writing gained momentum, the manuscript for part one, about the infantry, was ready, and I’m proud that my book is now available: For Orange and the States. The Army of the Dutch Republic, Part I: Infantry. As you can see, the title explains immediately what the book is about.

Copyright: Erny van Wijk.

Part II by the way, on cavalry, artillery and specialist troops, is well under way. Although I believe these books will fill a hiatus, I must stress that this is a well-intended attempt at bringing to light information on the uniforms of the States’ army in the 18th century for the first time. I don’t pretend to have written the definitive work on Dutch 18th century uniforms, but I do hope it will inspire others to either do more research themselves, or the works on Dutch military history, such as the books of Dr O. Van Nimwegen, will be translated for an international audience.

About my book: I’ve written the book, keeping in mind that most readers will have at least some knowledge about 18th century military history. Therefore, there are no elaborate descriptions of battles, except for the specific roles the Dutch troops played in them (like at Fontenoy). Nor will several military terms be explained. But for the history buff, there is a lot to find, such as eyewitness accounts and previously unseen images and information.

In the future, I plan to write more on the Dutch army of the 18th century and the Napoleonic era, and, if I can find the time, begin making uniform illustrations again. I hope you enjoy the book, and be sure to look out for Part II, which is planned to be published next December.

Order your copy of For Orange and the States. The Army of the Dutch Republic, Part I: Infantry here.

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Bill Braham Memorial Essay Writing Competition

The annual Bill Braham Memorial Essay Writing Competition is run by the Pike and Shot Society in conjunction with Helion and Company, the prominent military history publishing company and sponsors of the competition.

The Pike and Shot Society is an international organisation promoting the study of the military history of the Renaissance and Early Modern world. For The Pike and Shot Society this period covers the years between 1400 and 1721, a time-span that covers approximately from the introduction of early firearms to the abandonment of the pike as a front-line battlefield weapon – the time of pike and shot. The society is run entirely by, and for the benefit of, its members.

The society’s coverage includes the Wars of the Roses, the Italian Wars, the Wars of Religion, the Thirty Years War, the English Civil War and the War of the Spanish Succession. Outside Europe the Spanish conquest of the Americas, the Samurai of Japan and the armies of the Persians and Moghul Indians all come within the Society’s ambit, as do naval clashes such as the Spanish Armada, the Anglo-Dutch Wars and the Mediterranean conflicts between the Christians and the Ottomans.

As sponsors, Helion and Company will be providing a first prize of £100.00 worth of Helion Publications and the P&SS will provide a one year subscription to the Society. Second prize will be a one year subscription to the P&SS.

Competition Rules.

  1. All essays should be on a military topic within the defined boundaries of the Society’s research period, which is 1400 to 1721.
  2. Any essays outside this period will be rejected.
  3. The closing date for the essay will be 31 December 2018 and any entries received after this date will be entered into the next year’s competition.
  4. The result will be announced on 31 March 2019.
  5. The essay must be written and submitted on Microsoft Word.
  6. The essay must be written in English.
  7. All essays must be between 2500 and 3000 words long excluding references, bibliography, notes and a word count must be provided with each entry, and all pages should be numbered.
  8. Any essay longer than 3000 words will be rejected for the competition.
  9. Where a quotation is used, or author referenced, it should be marked in the text by a superscript number and these can either be referenced in end page notes or a full set of notes at the end of the essay. Notes are excluded from the word count.
  10. A list of all reference sources (book, article or online) must be provided at the end of the essay.
  11. Any evidence of plagiarism will result in the essay being disqualified from the competition.
  12. The decision of the judges will be final.
  13. The Judges will not be allowed to submit any essay.
  14. On submitting the essay, the writer automatically gives permission to the Pike and Shot Society to publish the essay in the Society’s magazine (first publication rights only).
  15. On submitting the essay the writer automatically gives permission for their contact details to be passed to Helion and Company.

In judging the competition weight will be given to primary research and originality, but other judging criteria will include a structured approach, good grammar and syntax, as well as fluency and the ability to engage the reader.

Entries should be sent to the following email address: PSSMemorialEssay@gmail.com with full contact details for the author.

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Next to Wellington: General Sir George Murray. The Story of a Scottish Soldier and Statesman, Wellington’s Quartermaster General

By John Harding-Edgar

Every now and then, but increasingly rarely, at least as far as Napoleonic history is concerned, an opportunity arises to bring to the surface the story of a man whose role was of significant, but thus far overlooked, importance. As Quartermaster General in the campaigns against Bonaparte, General Sir George Murray has long been recognized by military historians as perhaps the most trusted and valued of Wellington’s senior officers. But his own extraordinary life and sensitive personality has never been explored.

One of the duties of a QMG was to report on a regular basis back to Horse Guards, Britain’s military HQ, on the actions and progress of a campaign. Accompanying Murray’s official reports and his seemingly endless correspondence with Allied Generals, were letters to his politician brother and socialite sister, each one focusing on the elements of his life that were of interest to them; in his brother’s case, the political background to what was happening all over Europe and the seeming impossibility of defeating an enemy vastly superior in numbers, and in his sister’s the descriptions of the places through which the army was passing and philosophical musings on the destructive forces that were ruining the lives of the local populations.

Murray, by Heaphy 1813. (National Portrait Gallery)

Such are the primary sources which underpin the military period in the life story of Murray, Wellington’s effective Chief of Staff in the Peninsular War. More notebooks, letters and political papers, and contemporary newspaper reports provided the material for the continuation of his life after Napoleon’s defeat.

I came to write the story of Murray, my four greats Uncle, initially as a small project to amuse the family. It was at the last Wellington Congress at Southampton University that I was encouraged to bring the story to a wider audience. My family had always maintained that Murray was not just a hugely successful soldier, the most decorated of his generation after Wellington himself, but for forty years was his best friend and the only man received into his full confidence.

My research into the Murray Papers at the National Library of Scotland and other libraries enabled me to access the full story of Murray’s life, building on his military service in Ireland, The Low Countries, Egypt, and the West Indies, up to the moment when the Wellington / Murray partnership really commenced at Copenhagen in 1807. Murray was more than a successful and indefatigable soldier; he was a modern military thinker and politician who served Wellington as his Colonial Secretary. It is the story of a fascinating life of military, diplomatic and political and personal experiences played out against the backdrop of the Napoleonic threat.

Wellington, by Heaphy 1813. (National Portrait Gallery)

Lady Louisa Erskine’s risky flirtation (perhaps adulterous, we shall never know), with Murray in Paris after Napoleon’s defeat led to years of social difficulties, court actions, and costly damages. It shaped the rest of his life. His sensitive loyalty to her never wavered as he stood by her through more than 5 years of living a double life, fathering an illegitimate daughter and ultimately marrying and supporting Lady Louisa through recurrent illnesses.

Murray stood to shoulder to shoulder with Wellington from the bombardment of Copenhagen, through the Peninsular War, in the Occupation of France after Waterloo, in the House of Commons, and as Master General of the Ordnance. The two men remained totally loyal to one another throughout 40 years of immense upheaval.

The challenge for me was to produce something for two differing sets of readers. In my research I tried to steer a path between the detailed requirements of academics and military historians who may look to the book for new material on the challenges faced by Murray in his QMG role, and his part in the numerous military actions in which he was involved, and the more general and personal biography that was crying out to be written for a more general reader. The military historians have always been interested in Murray as a general who had a unique ability to read Wellington’s mind and put his plans quietly and effectively into operation, and who developed the QMG role into something never seen before in the British Army. They have used the material in the Murray Papers to illustrate and support views on military actions. Nobody, other than the military historian SGP Ward whose unpublished research recognised Murray’s importance, has worked with the more personal material of equal interest which together with the military papers gives us the full story of the life of Murray.

The more closely I researched the events in which Murray and Wellington were involved throughout their 40 year friendship, the more it became apparent that the fit between the two men gave the Peninsular Army the edge that eventually enabled it to expel the French from Spain and Portugal. This in turn resulted in a mutual loyalty that lasted throughout some eventful political years, into old age, when they were still discussing how best to defend these islands. They knew it was impossible to hide their frailties from one another, and disagreed on some fundamental issues, but that never dimmed the mutual respect and loyal friendship each had for the other. There was a recognition that, as a pair, they could take on enemies and opponents with a good chance of success, even when the odds seemed stacked against them.

Next to Wellington: General Sir George Murray. The Story of a Scottish Soldier and Statesman, Wellington’s Quartermaster General is now available here.

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Tigers at War: The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. 25 Years in Front-Line Modern Conflict

By Michael Scott

Tigers at War is the remarkable story of the infantrymen of the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, the Tigers by nickname, who, since the end of the Cold War and fall of the Iron Curtain, have served on the front line in Northern Ireland, the Balkans, Iraq, and Afghanistan, as well as the many small wars and brush fires across Africa, Asia, and Europe. The Regiment’s unstinting and courageous service around the globe reflects Britain’s political and military engagement on the world stage over the last quarter-century, and the Tigers emerged from the Second Gulf War (2003-09) with the distinction of having won more gallantry decorations for valour than any other regiment in the British Army.

Michael Scott, himself a Colonel in the Tigers, has had exclusive access to draw upon the personal testimonies and photographs of the infantrymen in his Regiment to vividly capture their day-to-day experiences of modern warfare. In gathering reminiscences with which to illustrate the narrative, it was requested only that individual officers and soldiers should record what they remembered as being ‘particularly memorable about their operational experiences’, so as not to unduly steer or encourage any to focus upon matters that did not naturally come to mind. The basis of this approach was to seek to collect as broad a base of reminiscences, as objective and uninfluenced, as possible.

Drawing thus upon the testimonies of the Tigers, Michael Scott captures in vivid detail the infantrymen’s day-to-day experiences of war. Embroiled in conflicts often too dangerous or sensitive for reporters to cover, these soldiers – most of them young, many without any previous experience of warfare – have kept ongoing records of the drudgery, excitement, anxiety and horror involved in fighting violent and often unpopular wars against ruthless and resourceful enemies. All have risked their lives, and many have died. Others have been recognised and awarded for their courage, resourcefulness and gallantry – in Iraq Private Johnson Beharry became the first man to be awarded the Victoria Cross in 23 years. With these intimate and revealing glimpses of life in the modern army, the author paints a sweeping portrait of a new generation of soldiers – grunts, gallants and heroes – and the sacrifices made.

This work is thus essentially a contemporary history of British military intervention, in the quarter-century, post-Cold War, viewed through the unique perspective of a single infantry fighting regiment, the Tigers, and the narrative is richly illustrated with the personal reminiscences of the officers and soldiers involved. Despite 24-hour rolling media coverage of modern conflict few understand what is demanded of the contemporary infantryman – what it’s like when one’s day job includes grenades, bayonets and night operations. Now, in Tigers at War, we have an expert insider’s compelling, exciting, sometimes terrifying picture of real life in the modern British infantry.

However, Tigers at War is not just the story of a battle-hardened regiment, but something more extraordinary, the triumph of men against long odds, in near-impossible circumstances. Writing as a serving, senior officer and from a position of exclusive access to the soldiers whose tales of courage, restraint and fortitude provide an unforgettable portrait of one of Britain’s finest fighting regiments, Michael Scott paints a picture of a remarkable band of warriors. Thought-provoking and profoundly perceptive, as a piece of contemporary military history this book, in its inspiring story of courage, discipline and selfless comradeship, will open eyes to the stirring realities of life at the tip of the bayonet.

A compelling and absorbing narrative, the book serves also to mark the 25th Anniversary of the formation of the latest incarnation of this remarkable, and quintessentially English infantry regiment, which reaches back over 445 years of unbroken regimental soldiering in the service of the crown, and spanning the reigns of Queen Elizabeth I to Queen Elizabeth II.

Tigers at War: The Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment. 25 Years in Front-Line Modern Conflict is available to order here.

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From Reason to Revolution Conference, 29 April 2018

By Andrew Bamford.

The inaugural From Reason to Revolution series conference took place on Sunday 29 April at York Army Museum. Fans of Century of the Soldier will know that the conference tied to that series has become an eagerly-anticipated annual fixture, and after an opening event attended by over 40 people it seems as if its eighteenth century equivalent is set to follow suit.

For anyone not familiar with the York Army Museum (http://www.yorkarmymuseum.co.uk/), it’s worth including a word about our hosts. Housing the regimental museums of the Yorkshire Regiment and the Royal Dragoon Guards, the museum occupies a purpose-designed underground space in the centre of York and is a perfect example of a modern museum that still retains a traditional collections-driven ethos. Perfect for fans of the From Reason to Revolution series, the collection is heavy on items from the eighteenth century and the Napoleonic Wars, with artefacts relating to campaigns stretching from Dettingen to Waterloo. The main museum gallery also houses an area for talks and lectures, which was taken over for the conference, and a mess table from which our buffet lunch was served, so that the whole event could take place in one room.

Our theme for the conference was ‘Command and Leadership’, which was explored in a variety of different ways by eight speakers whose papers took in the armies of France, Austria, Portugal, and Britain (and touched in passing on those of Prussia and the Netherlands too), and whose geographical remit encompassed North America, Europe, and Africa. Our speakers themselves were an international bunch, with Yves Martin joining us from France and German scholar Tobias Roeder making the slightly shorter trip from his current position at Clare College, Cambridge.

We began with a panel looking at lower-level leadership, with a focus on ideas of expertise and professionalism. Will Raffle’s paper on New France explored the tensions between local expert knowledge and professional officers from the mother country, taking as its case study the campaign for Oswego in 1756. Tobias Roeder looked at the Habsburg officer corps during the eighteenth century and the tensions between the dictates imposed by the profession of arms on the one hand and the social expectations of a gentleman on the other. Lastly, Mark Thompson looked at a little-known body of men from the Peninsular War in the shape of the Portuguese Army’s corps of engineers. Although larger than the British Royal Engineers when the war began, the role of this corps has been largely overlooked by Anglo-centric historians.

After a buffet lunch and the chance for a guided tour of the museum, proceedings resumed in the afternoon with the first of two panels with a more specific chronological focus. This consisted of two papers looking at the opposing commanders in the Jacobite Rising of 1745, which threw up some interesting parallels between two young royals who were both obliged to rely on their own charisma and force of character to address difficult and complex military situations. For Charles Edward Stuart, Jacobite Prince of Wales, the challenge was to create an army from scratch out of a collection of self-willed and self-opinionated individuals. Arran Johnston’s paper looked at how he did this, but also at the tensions that were inherent in the Jacobite command structure. Conversely, Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, inherited command of an army of regular troops but one which had its morale at rock bottom after defeat at Falkirk. Jonathan Oates looked at how Cumberland was able to restore order and self-respect to his command, and take it on to victory at Culloden.

Our final panel jumped forwards by a half-century, to look at the events of the French Revolutionary Wars. Carole Divall began by looking at the Flanders campaigns of 1793-1795, considering the problems faced by generals on both sides and concluding that all would have been far better off had their respective political masters left them to it. Jacqueline Reiter, by contrast, looked at someone who was both general and politician in the shape of John Pitt, 2nd Earl of Chatham, and her paper on his role in the 1799 Helder Campaign both restored a reputation as a brigadier unfairly sullied by Sir John Fortescue but also considered the tensions caused by his dual role as subordinate general on the one hand and senior cabinet minister on the other. Finally, Yves Martin looked at the three very different personalities who successively commanded the French Army of the Orient in Egypt, providing very illuminating pen-portraits of three larger-than-life characters each with pronounced strengths and weaknesses.

The proceedings of the conference will be published next year, and it is hoped to launch them at a second conference which, in contrast to this one, is planned to take a look at the armies of the era from the bottom up showcase new work on the lives of ordinary soldiers.

In closing, it is necessary to thank again our hosts at York Army Musuem who did everything they could to make us welcome, to the Society for Army Historical Research (http://www.sahr.org.uk/), which generously sponsored the event, to the chairs of the three panels, and to all eight speakers.

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Helion at Salute, London Excel 14 April 2018

Plenty of books for browsing!

Friday 13 April dawned chilly and cloudy, but after a tremendous effort from our events manager, Andy Miles, we had the van loaded virtually to its roof with lots of goodies for Salute, including three ranges of wargames figures. As some of you who visit us on the show circuit will be aware, we now carry not only a large range of our books to the shows, but also a number of figure ranges, including Bicorne (28mm English Civil War), Boot Hill (28mm Alamo/Texan War of Independence), Company D (28mm American Civil War) and Warfare Miniatures (28mm late C17th/Great Northern War). With Bicorne already attending Salute, we have the other three ranges ready to go plus as big a selection of books as we could manage.

Some of the goodies on display at the Victrix stand.

Some of the goodies on display at the Victrix stand.

The journey down to London Docklands went like a dream, and we were setting up by early afternoon. We were helped by a special guest, none other than Tom Cooper, who edits our acclaimed @War series of books. The challenge is always working out how best to fit a van full of goods into the space available for maximum effect, particularly as we sometimes vary what we take to a particular show. For example, we want to make sure we had plenty visibility for the wargames figures for Salute, which has a particularly international range of visitors.

Happy browsing!

The system at Excel worked really well, with us able to drive the van right up to our allotted display space. So, by 3:30 PM, we were done and dusted, ready for a rest, and then in the evening a spot of dinner with Tom to talk about a huge range of interesting projects he has lined up for the @War series in the next few years!

Our new wargames display headers making for a professional and colourful display.

After a good breakfast at the hotel, Andy and I were on the stand for 8:30 AM, joined soon after by Tom, and our colleagues Charles Singleton (editor, Century of the Soldier series) and Andrew Bamford (editor, From Reason to Revolution series). Primed for what we hoped would be a throng of visitors, we were not disappointed. Soon after 10 AM, the opening of the show, the stand was full of visitors, and this didn’t really slow down until the middle of the afternoon.

Plenty of books for browsing!

It was great to see lots of old friends at the show, including Peter Dennis and Andy Callan running a paper soldiers game showcasing the forthcoming War of the Spanish Succession figures, which we will be publishing for this autumn.

Perry Miniatures previewed their Agincourt cavalry ‘three-ups’. Marvellous sculpting!

Peter also premiered some of the 2019 paper soldier projects on our stand, which created a huge amount of interest. These include 16th Century Italian Wars, Zulus and the Napoleonic Peninsula range – Napoleonics are probably our most requested paper soldiers! Mark Allen, figure painter and illustrator extraordinaire, was also on hand, passing over artwork for the forthcoming book on the Battle of the White Mountain, for the Century of the Soldier series.

Some of the goodies on display at the Victrix stand.

Visiting the shows gives us a great opportunity to talk directly with the people who read and use our books, and it’s always wonderful to discuss ideas, and get feedback on our publications.

Our new ‘donut stand’ featuring various painted display figures and paper soldier previews. It attracted plenty of attention!





The figure ranges created lots of interest, and it was nice to link up with Nick Futter, owner of Boot Hill, and Barry Hilton of Warfare Miniatures, too.

With the team working hard, each of us also had enough time to be able to take a look at the show. Plenty of fantastic games, and also some eye-catching figure displays, particularly (and purely biased, due to my own interests!) the Victrix stand with some of their beautifully painted 28mm plastic Ancients, and the Perrys previewing their 28mm Agincourt mounted knights in ‘three-up’ format. Amazing!

All in all we had a superb day, met many old friends and made lots of new ones, and look forward to Salute 2019!

Some of the forthcoming War of the Spanish Succession paper soldiers in action.

Italian Wars paper soldiers, due to be released in 2019.

Peninsular War paper soldiers, due out in 2019.

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Thomas Jackson’s Eventful Life

By Eamonn O’Keeffe

Son of a Walsall bucklemaker, Thomas Jackson (1785/6-1859) guarded King George III at Windsor Castle and Weymouth while serving in the Staffordshire Militia before losing a leg as a Coldstream sergeant during the 1814 storming of Bergen-op-Zoom.

Forced to retire from his trade as a plater due to old age and ill health, Jackson composed an account of his military adventures in 1846, intending to leave ‘a record of my history’ for the benefit of his children and their descendants. However, with the assistance of a local Yeomanry officer and the financial generosity of his ‘fellow townsmen’, Jackson was able to publish his Narrative the following year.

‘The Attack on Bergen-op-Zoom’. From James Grant, British Battles on Land and Sea, Vol. II. (London: Cassell, Petter & Galpin, 1873)

The result is a remarkable but largely unknown account of life in the Napoleonic-era British army. Indeed, until now, the Narrativehas never been reissued since its initial printing 170 years ago; only a handful of original copies survive in university and research libraries in the United Kingdom and North America.

Yet despite its relative inaccessibility, numerous past historians have recognised the Narrative’s value; excerpts of Jackson’s prose, including his evocative descriptions of barrack-room life, have frequently been quoted in histories of the Napoleonic-era British Army. Australian scholar Neil Ramsey, who examined scores of British soldiers’ narratives in a recent monograph on military memoirs, singled out Jackson’s story as meriting ‘far wider attention as one of the most harrowing accounts of war’s miseries to be written in the nineteenth century’.

My interest sparked by scattered quotations in secondary works, I perused the Narrative during a visit to the British Library and soon chanced on Jackson’s fulsome description of John Lyster, the Staffordshire Militia’s veteran drum-major. Owing to my longstanding interest in military music, I immediately connected this detailed pen-portrait with a painting held by the National Army Museum in Chelsea, ‘The Staffordshire Militia on parade at Windsor Castle’ – the same image which now graces the book’s cover. Pleased though I was to have identified the drum-major featured in the painting, I could not help but conclude as I perused the memoir that Jackson’s lively account of his ‘eventful life’ deserved a far wider audience.

Although he played no part in the more famous Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns, Jackson’s memoir has much to offer students of military and social history, offering rare insight into militia service, military medicine, and life as a Chelsea pensioner. Indeed, Jackson provides one of the most detailed personal accounts available of the post-war experiences of a Napoleonic-era British veteran. While most military memoirs end with news of peace or discharge, Jackson goes on to chronicle his subsequent work as a coal merchant’s clerk, schoolteacher and plater in Walsall, describing his struggles raising a family amidst economic turmoil and cholera outbreaks.

‘The halt, c. 1815’ depicting the Coldstream Guards. Watercolour by Orlando Norie, 1854. (Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection)

Editing and annotating Jackson’s Narrative was a challenging yet rewarding task, requiring both command of the historiography of the relevant regiments and campaigns as well as detailed primary research. Recourse to the Staffordshire Militia and Coldstream muster rolls held at the National Archives in London enabled me to trace Jackson’s military career, while church records, censuses and local directories afforded insight into the author’s family and civilian life. This new edition of Jackson’s Narrativeincludes annotations throughout to correct errors, clarify unfamiliar terms, and identify the people and places mentioned in the text. Extensive footnotes also provide supplementary information to place the account in its proper context, unravelling the intricacies of the English militia system and the vicissitudes of the 1813-14 Low Countries campaign. Carefully chosen illustrations complement the Narrative‘s text while a series of maps helps readers follow Jackson’s home service, his experiences abroad in the Low Countries, and the 1814 storming of Bergen-op-Zoom.

‘The Upper Ward – Windsor Castle’. Print from W.H. Pyne, The History of the Royal Residences, Vol. I. (London: Dry, 1819)

Thomas Jackson’s account offers fresh and often sharply critical insight into life in the ranks. While many other soldier-memoirists recounted their wartime adventures with pride, his Narrative is tinged with bitterness and disillusionment. Despite glamorous descriptions of pomp and circumstance at Windsor Castle, the Narrative soon takes a darker turn, offering gut-wrenching descriptions of the bungled assault on Bergen-op-Zoom, the amputation of Jackson’s right leg and his subsequent year-long convalescence.  Embittered by the loss of a limb, the veteran ultimately felt degraded for having been a soldier, convinced he had been cast off by an ungrateful nation with a pittance for a pension. He recounts with obvious indignation the callous insults that greeted him on his return to Walsall in 1815. ‘Serves him right’, cackled a group of idling locals as they gaped at the homecoming soldier, limping along with his new wooden leg. In their eyes, Jackson was a fool to have ‘gone for a soldier’ in the first place.

Jackson’s account, often charming and enlightening, is an invaluable historical source and an eminently worthy addition to the canon of Napoleonic-era rankers’ memoirs. But ultimately the Narrative is one war amputee’s intensely personal tale of suffering and survival – a sobering reminder of the brutality of war and the human costs of conflict.

Narrative of the Eventful Life of Thomas Jackson: Militiaman and Coldstream Sergeant, 1803-15 (From Reason to Revolution) is available to order here.

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The Russian Army in the Great Northern War 1700-21: Uniforms, Organization, Materiel, Training and Combat Experience

By Boris Megorsky.

My friends and I started our group ‘Preobrazhensky Life Guard regiment, 1709’ back in 2003; we had done the same regiment in the Napoleonic period and now wanted something new that had been missing then. Despite Peter the Great being one of the most notorious figures of the Russian history, his times never attracted as many reenactors as early 19th century or Second World War or Medieval (same in the miniatures world). So we thought we’d step in and do something in a different way, compared to what we had done in Napoleonics.

Join your right hand to you muskets!

First, we aimed to study and then represent the drill strictly according to the period manuals and instructions at least at a platoon level. That meant manoeuvring and firing in four- or even six-rank formation; there are many aspects in Petrine tactics that inherited from the 17th century and that faded out by 1800s. Then, we concentrated on events in fortresses and castles and on naval battles – a pleasure that Napoleonic re-enactors rarely have. We did some historical tracking and 24 hour tacticals too. And we did our best to not to become a ‘classic’ re-enactment group consisting of a Colonel, Captain, NCO, flag bearer and a drummer with couple privates. We all were rank and files when we started and at certain moment friend of mine and myself were promoted to NCOs – these are still the highest ranks in our group; we dreamt of doing a full scale company however challenging it sounded and still sounds. Numbers are the issue, so we adopted an umbrella approach where

Admittedly, the GNW Russian foot unlikely formed pike blocks like this, but the photo went out nice. Photo by Stepan Sochivko, 2009.

we invite friendly groups from various locations who may not necessarily represent Preobrazhensky but who are willing to wear green and red coats (not the only possible but still typical colour for Petrine foot). Thus our formation at bigger events amounts to 20-40 uniform men from St. Petersburg, Moscow, Narva, Riga and other places. And we have pleasure to ‘fight’ our like-minded friends from Sweden and Finland who re-enact GNW Caroleans.

As a re-enactor I of course was first interested in uniforms, then in tactics. This interest eventually led me to more academic studies of Petrine siege warfare – the theme in which I now specialise. Two books and dozen articles have been published. I also became rather aware of source materials and studies on the GNW Russian military, both old and new. This is why I thought it was worth writing an overview book in English that would encompass recent results of various Russian scholars. A lot of new data was retrieved and printed in Russian after Angus Costam’s Army of Peter the Great (1993) or Hoglund’s, Salnas and Bespalov’s GNW Sweden’s allies and enemies. Colors and uniforms (2006) were published in English! Naturally, language barrier won’t allow the worldwide army of 1700s period lovers to read it all in Tsar Peter’s native language, so I hope my book will help.

What is special about the book? The reenactor in me wanted to describe in detail all pieces of uniform, equipment and weapons that were in use in the army, and to cover often overlooked evolution of uniforms and answer odd questions like: how did the fashion for grenadier caps evolve? Did they wear waist coats without coats and vice versa? Why is it inaccurate to illustrate scalloped pocket flaps? There is, of course, a voluminous appendix describing known regimental uniform colours.

Members of several societies under the flag of 2nd Company, Preobrazhensky Life Guards, on the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the battle of Poltava.

The scholar in me felt it was interesting to compare how tactical instructions and manuals were followed (or not). The combat experiences I gathered include not only conventional field battles but also sieges, small war and naval fights. Another appendix provides timeline of the war with (nearly) all possible combats where the Russians took part between 1700 and 1721.

The reader in me wanted to share what is now the modern view on Peter’s army organisation, of Russia’s pre-reform troops and of her efforts to raise new army and the navy. The bibliography of over hundred titles gives enough reference for further in-depth reading. By the way, many of those titles are available in downloadable copies (free and legal), so I can share them if you ask.

The Russian Army in the Great Northern War 1700-21: Uniforms, Organization, Materiel, Training and Combat Experience (Century of the Soldier) is available to order here.

‘Preobrazhensky Life Guard regiment, 1709’ website: http://peter.petrobrigada.ru/index_e.htm and Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/lgpp1709/

My articles on Academia: https://independent.academia.edu/BorisMegorsky

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