Book Review:
Wellington's Army in the Peninsula, 1809-14

By Stuart Reid


With so many resources being used by Britain to build up and maintain the Wooden Walls of the Royal navy, the British army was very much a poor cousin.

And yet, under the careful and strict hand of Sir Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington, Britain's infamous army became a fighting force with no contemporary equal.

It has been argued that it may well be the finest ground force ever at the disposal of a British government.

In his excellent book Wellington's Army in the Peninsula, 1808-14, Stuart Reid has a detailed look at the organization, training and command control of the Peninsular army.

Reid explains the set-up of Britain's divisions - a new structure - brigades and battalions.

There were between two and four brigades of two battalions in each division and they included Portuguese units that went on to become integral and valued parts of Wellington's army.

In charge of the force was Wellington and those responsible for the feeding, training, supplying and disciplining of the troops - the Quartermaster General, the Adjutant General and the Commissary General.

The QMG's men not only looked after housing and transporting the troops, but also intelligence gathering and making sure routes of march were good enough to cope with the heavy traffic of an army. He also had the Royal Staff Corps and a Corps of Guides.

The AG's responsibilities were of discipline and communications while the CG had to organize food - for both men and horses - and non-military stores and transport.

After examining who ran the army, Reid then looks at the infantry's tactics and training and has some excellent graphics detailing drills.

Each British divisional formation is gone into in depth - its nicknames, where it fought, its organization, which regiments were put into it and who commanded.

In Wellington's Army in the Peninsula, 1808-14 there are some excellent potted biographies of divisional commanders, including the actions they were in and their rise through staff ranks.

The organization of the British artillery is particularly interesting when you see graphics of how many men and beasts were used to serve an artillery brigade.

Serving the six guns were 145 gunners, 100 drivers, 204 horses, eight ammunition wagons, three baggage wagons, a field forge and a wagon of spare wheels.

Wellington's Army in the Peninsula, 1808-14 contains much info than a review can cover and this volume in the Battle Orders Series from Osprey will be a boon to anyone wanting to know how Wellington's forces operated.

- Richard Moore


Osprey Website
Osprey PO Box 140,
NN8 2FA, UK.

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