Book Review:
The Lines of Torres Vedras,
1809 - 1811

By Ian Fletcher
Artwork by Bill Younghusband


Torres Vedras, the extensive defensive line that helped save Portugal from being successfully invaded by the French, has won fame for its almost battle-less victory.

So imposing were the works that Marshal Massena is reported to have been so awed that he never seriously tested them and gave the British a seemingly bloodless strategic win.

But in The Lines of Torres Vedras, Ian Fletcher reminds us of the fact that between 40,000 and 50,000 Portuguese died as a result of the French blockade and the Duke of Wellington's militarily successful scorched-earth policy.

The Lines of Torres Vedras is one of the Fortress series from Osprey and will satisfy those interested in general Peninsular War history, as well as those who like more meat to their reading.

Fletcher has tackled this complex subject and provides, in an easy-to-understand way, everything Peninsular War buffs need to know about the fortifications.

They were built in secret and made the most of the hills surrounding Lisbon, which were a natural obstacle in themselves.

The idea was seriously worked on by a Portuguese officer, Major Jose neves Costa, and then adopted by Wellington and the British.

Most of the works were completed by the Portuguese under the supervision of a handful of engineering officers. One thing that surprised me was that many of the slopes leading up to the fortifications were blown up to make an enemy's ascent even steeper - if not impossible.

The main chapters within The Lines of Torres Vedras include Design and Development, Wellington's Method of Defence, the Forts and Life Within the Lines. There is also how the lines are today and an excellent glossary of key engineering terms.

In a slight departure from the usual Osprey title, the modern-day photos of the lines far outnumber historical drawings and graphics.

In addition The Lines of Torres Vedras includes maps showing where the fortifcations ran, where the troops were based, cutaway artwork of the fortifications and excellent plans of Napoleonic forts.

This is an important work if you want to understand just why the Lines of Torres Vedras were so vital in the eventual victory over France.

- Richard Moore


Osprey Website
PO Box 140,
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