Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters
of the most famous British units to emerge from the Peninsular
War was the 95th Rifles, a regiment of hard-fighting soldiers
with a record second to none.
have been immortalised in books by Bernard Cornwell - the Sharpe
series - and in the television productions of those books.
95th was part of the Light Division and was responsible through
their successes to a marked change in the British army whereby
individual skills began to count for more than massed ranks and
firing in unison.
Rifles: Six Years with Wellington's Legendary Sharpshooters,
author Mark Urban looks at the 95th and does so in a warts-and-all
way that may draw some fire from his own side.
in Rifles Urban looks at the myth of Robert 'Black Bob'
Craufurd, the general who has been highly esteemed in military
histories and fair turns his reputation on its head.
known as a brutal disciplinarian, Urban also shows Craufurd to
be a bullying, attention-seeking, general whose need to prove
himself on the battlefield endangered his men and earned the undying
hatred of his fellow officers and troops.
have to say the venomous words used against Craufurd from contemporary
accounts stunned me and even more surprising was the fact that
he was so close to be sacked and sent home in disgrace other than
for Wellington's belief in him.
man Urban rates as being the true leader of the 95th was General
Sydney Beckwith and following him General Andrew Barnard.
good leadership these men won the faith of their men and inspired
them to amazing feats of arms.
Urban doesn't just dwell on the good points of the 95th in Rifles,
he looks at the regiment's strength, weaknesses and doesn't avoid
murders, desertions and wicked deeds done by men in rifle green.
covers the clashes and battles the 95th found themselves in and
as you would expect from Urban, the campaigns and actions are
described in a wonderfully clear manner.
clash of the Coa is - where the Light Division could have been
destroyed by Craufurd's wilful incompetence - is page-turning
stuff and the horrors of the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz
have you on the walls themselves.
heroes of Rifles include Lieutenant George Simmons, Captain
Peter O'Hare, Private Robert Fairfoot, Ned Costello, Corporal
William Brotherwood. Not all survived but all make up Urban's
striking tapestry of individuals who fought for each other between
1808 and 1815.
all the Napoleonic authors running around at the moment I would
pick up a title from Mark Urban before any others.
is history explained at its best.