HEADLINE: April 1823, the French invade Spain again!

By Ralph Weaver

During the Napoleonic wars a French army had been tied down on the Iberian Peninsula, costing the French Imperial treasury vast amounts in money and also men and a loss of

One version of a contemporary print depicting the French Guard assaulting the Trocadero fortifications.

prestige. And to little avail, Spanish armies and guerrilla bands had roamed the country chased by the French, who generally defeated the armies, lost sight of the guerrillas, but without actually became masters of the kingdom. With the active assistance of British and Portuguese regular forces the French were eventually pushed back over the Pyrenees.

By 1823 the political situation had changed completely. France was now ruled again by the Bourbon dynasty, the king a brother of the ill-fated monarch who had lost his head on the guillotine during the Revolution. Spain, long an absolute monarchy,

Grenadier of the 6th Regiment of the French Guards (yellow facings). The voltigeurs of the same regiment had the bearskin without the front plate and the centre company guardsmen had the bearskin without the plate or the white cords (i.e. just the plume rising from a white cockade).

had its own revolution in 1820 which reduced the king to a figure-head and established the Spanish parliament, the Cortes, as the real ruler. The guiding hand of the Austrian chancellor, Prince Metternich, who pulled the strings behind most of Europe’s monarchies, decided that this state of affairs could not continue and France undertook to re-instate the Spanish king to his ancient privileges.

Whilst studying post Napoleonic conflicts in Europe, as editor of the Foreign Correspondent, the journal of the Continental Wars Society for the past 29 years, I stumbled across references to the French campaign in 1823 and was intrigued by the little that had been published since. This was no minor expedition; almost 100,000 French troops took part, against a greater number of Spaniards.

History we know is written by the victors, so the obvious place to start was the French National Library. This resource, containing over four million documents, is available to researchers through its digital library.  To my delight a search revealed a considerable number of works describing the campaign. However, it soon became apparent that many of them were based on a single source, phrases, misspelt names and battle descriptions were duplicated almost word for word.  Apart from a single book, translated into English, all the others were in French. A word of warning, always check the title page of your sources.  If it states that it was written by a ‘royalist officer’, or is dedicated to the king, or glorifies the feats of the French army, it will not be a balanced

Corporal of fusiliers of a French line regiment (the red chevron is a long service award).


Searching further, the internet will give you a vast number of ‘hits’, the disadvantage being that you have to check them all, there may be a gem among the false leads. The French army marched through the Spanish Basque region and one reference led to the Basque digital library which contains a contemporary book set out as a diary of the campaign detailing people, places and engagements and as a bonus an order of battle of the French navy.

In my book accounts of battles, sieges and manoeuvres are readily found, set out in easy to understand sections, but for students of tactics more can be discerned behind the text.  A contemporary account of a French attack on a Spanish strongpoint, intended no doubt to glorify the deeds of the soldiers of French, lists the troops engaged, platoons of grenadiers, voltigeurs and Light Infantry, maybe numbering no more than a couple of hundred, attacking the face and flanks of enemy troops. Clearly the ‘elite’ companies did most of the work, the ‘centre companies’ of fusiliers were used to follow up a successful attack or act as supports if needed.

Spanish guerrilla, taken from a contemporary illustration.

I was advised many years ago that the ability to wage war depends on money.  Not just to buy the hardware, but to put into the pockets of the rank and file. I found out that one French column had to hold up its advance in central Spain as the division’s paymaster with his treasure chest had been held up due to the appalling condition of the road. This confirmed the French commander’s strict instructions that everything his troops needed or took from the population had to be paid for – in cash.

The French army, under Napoleon, wore a distinctive and recognisable uniform. With the return of the Bourbons the army was comprehensibly re-organised, personnel, structure, and style of dress. French aristocrats, some of whom had actually fought against the Imperial regime, now became generals with authority over experienced officers. Everything authorised by Napoleon became politically tainted, even new models of artillery material were cancelled and older varieties re-introduced. New uniforms were designed, firstly a basic white coatee for the departmental legions, which replaced Napoleonic regiments and then a blue single breasted coat for the newly raised royal regiments. I was surprised by the large amount of textural and illustrative material available depicting the new French army but not so by the small numbers of sources for the Spanish.

‘The Hundred Thousand Sons of St Louis. The French Campaign in Spain April to October 1823’ is now available to order here.

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Stow on the Wold 1646

By John Barrett

There is still a tendency to regard the battle of Naseby as the fatal blow to the Royalist cause First Civil War, dooming the king to inevitable defeat. Indeed with hindsight this is an accurate conclusion.

But neither King nor Parliament saw it in that light at the time. Montrose was still winning his series of victories in Scotland, there were substantial Royalist forces in the West of England, and the King hoped to raise a new army in the Royalist heartlands of Wales and the Marches and yet obtain military support from the Irish Confederates.

Parliament still regarded the Royalist threat as still extremely dangerous.

Royalist Cavalryman

The summer and autumn of 1645 saw, of course, a steady decline in the Royalist situation, but defeat at Langport and Montrose’s reverses in Scotland did not extinguish admittedly increasingly desperate Royalist hopes. Many garrisons, including Chester, vital landing place for any reinforcement from Ireland, still held out, and there was the prospect that the veteran Jacob Lord Astly could raise a last field army in the Welsh Marches to enable King Charles to make a final desperate bid to reverse the tide of defeat.

Living as I have in both the Cotswolds and the Welsh Marches I have been interested in these often neglected final stages of the war for many years,. The Stow on the Wold campaign in March 1646 tends to be fairly summarily dismissed as doomed to failure from its conception, and to be treated in isolation rather than set in context in the final fiercely contested struggle for the Welsh Marches, and its place in the King’s increasingly desperate strategy.

Sources for most Civil War battles tend to be scarce and incomplete, and Stow is a prime example. Though we have the despatches and accounts of the Parliamentarian victors, there appears to be no similarly detailed Royalist report. News of the defeat was given verbally in Royalist Oxford by fugitives from the battle, and with Astley and his second in command Sir Charles Lucas, both captives of the enemy, they research had no opportunity to provide their own accounts.

Royalist Dragoon

This scarcity of sources makes an examination of the battle on the ground, and use of research into the 17th century topography of the area especially vital. Making use of these, as well as the contemporary accounts, led me to question some hitherto accepted versions of the battle, in particular its location.  So far archaeology has not provided any clear information on the location of the battle, though it is to be hoped that it eventually will do so.

In brief I concluded that the battle was fought much closer to Stow than the traditional location near the village of Donnington, which is marked by the monument to the battle. Indeed, I suggested, not entirely tongue in cheek, that it might be more appropriately located in the car park of the Tesco store on the outskirts of Stow!

Studying the campaign in its wider context also provided an opportunity to look again at some of the colourful episodes and personalities involved in the final desperate months of the Civil War in the Welsh Marches. The Siege of Chester, fought to the bitter end by fiercely Royalist Lord John Byron, against coldly and methodical Sir William Brereton, and the surprise of Hereford by the highly pragmatic John Birch, the ruthless operations of the disorderly horse of Sir William Vaughan, and the deal struck between Birch and Sir Michael Woodhouse for the surrender of Ludlow, are just some of the episodes and characters worthy of re-examination.

These less well-known closing days of the Civil War will appeal to anyone – student, historian, re-enactor – with an interest in this period.

“The Last Battle” I think, brings my total of books on the Civil war period up to around a dozen. And I haven’t finished yet 🙂 In preparation for Helion are books on the impact on the war of troops from Ireland, and contributions to a forthcoming book on the Royalist Oxford Army. And after that, who knows? Maybe I’ll even get around to that edition of Prince Rupert’s Correspondence I have been thinking about for years!

The Last Army. The Battle of Stow-on-the-Wold and the end of the Civil War in the Welsh Marches 1646 is available to order here.

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Mexicans at War. Mexican Military Aviation in the Second World War 1941-1945

By Santiago A. Flores

During the Second World War, Mexican military aviation took a quantum leap in its development from flying general purpose biplanes not suited for coastal and antisubmarine patrols, to flying the latest fighter bombers in combat operations by the end of the war.

Republic P-47D-30-RA 44-33722 No.20 of the 201st Mexican fighter squadron of the Mexican Expeditionary Air Force probably at Clark field P.I. after August 1945

Not too many people know, that Mexico participated in Second World War, being one of the unknown allies from Latin America. For the first time in its history Mexico and the United States in their common interest, had to work together to overcome decades of distrusts, wars, invasions, lost territories and disputes.

The Mexican American military relationship started with a difficult start because Mexico was cautious to avoid US troops stationed in the country, doing a delicate balancing act between the Mexican government and its people. Mexico was portraying the government of General de Division Manuel Avila Camacho as able to defend the country with its own manpower, resources and training that was given to the Mexican military by the United States.

Mexico’s contribution to the allied war effort, has not received much attention by researchers and historians. The political and economic aspect has only been covered, leaving aside the actual combat operations, so it is time for this aspect to be told. This effort was accomplished by many years of research, consulting many archives in the United States and Mexico and talking to a lot of people that have been of great help in putting this story together.

But before we start this story, we need to go back when aviation started in 1910 and how it came along during a number of rebellions that rocked Mexico in the last century.

I don’t expect to cover everything, but my hope is to open the door to other researchers, historians, modelers and enthusiasts to continue to research this unknown subject that many people, even in Mexico don’t know.

Two Mexican AT-6 armed and ready for any emergencies on Coastal patrol duties in the Gulf of Mexico circa 1943. This type of aircraft even protected American troop convoy on their way to the Panama Canal.

What is generally known about this subject is basically that the German U- Boats sunk Mexican Merchant shipping and that Mexico declared a state of war to the axis powers and sent a fighter squadron to fight in the Pacific war.

But in my research I found more things that have not been yet mentioned or covered, that will be a surprise to some.

From the beginning, Mexican pilots were engaged in the defense of both Pacific and Golf coasts. Pilots and personnel were sent for training in the USA. British citizens, living in Mexico, contributed to the Spitfire fund, delivering four Spitfires to the RAF, ending one of them, in the famous US Eagle squadron.

Mexican citizens and those of dual nationality, were volunteering for the Allied air forces. The majority, went to the US military and others to the allied air forces. Their stories are quite interesting. One Mexican ended up in the famous 1st AVG flying Tigers. I assume some of you will be surprised to learn this.

The first five Mexican that trained as pilots at the Moisant Aviation School at Hempstead Long Island New York, from left to Right Alberto Salinas Carranza, Gustavo Salinas Camina, Juan Pablo Aldaroso Juarez, Horacio Ruiz Gavino and Eduardo Aldaroso Juarez

Mexico experienced a rapid development of Military aviation that affected all aspects as Lend Lease aircraft arrived. This event changed training methods, doctrine, maintenance procedures among many other things. Also, at this time, the official birth of naval aviation and its first naval aviation units, were deployed to the Gulf of Mexico.

I’ve been researching Mexican military aviation for a long time, and I consider this to be a very important chapter in the history of Mexican Air Force, to which the effects and consequences are still present in its actual organization today.

My next book project will cover the period of the rebellions from the 1920’s to the 1940’s, where aviation was used for internal security and some of its veteran pilots would play an important role in the Second World War.

I’ve been really busy with researching and writing subjects about Mexican military history since I retired from the federal service and I run a household (wife, kids and pet included) at the same time.

I hope this book will spark an interest in aviation south of the border, where a lot has not been covered yet.

Thank you in advance.

You are in for a treat!

Mexicans at War. Mexican Military Aviation in the Second World War 1941-1945 will be available to order here.

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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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