Book Review:
British Rifleman

By Phillip Haythornthwaite
Artwork by Christa Hook


The Rifle Brigade was arguably the most glamourous British military unit to emerge from the Napoleonic Wars and its exploits have spawned countless books and TV series.

Few will not have heard of the 95th Rifles, the men the French fearfully called the grasshoppers because of their green uniforms, or their lesser known cousins the 60th Rifles.

The regiments were armed with the Baker Rifle and were trained to a very high degree in light-infantry tactics.

Together with a fighting spirit second to none, the British riflemen gave Napoleon Bonaparte and his marshals plenty of headaches between 1808 and 1815.

But the story of riflemen goes back before that and eminent historian Philip Haythornthwaite traces back the idea of having soldiers use the more civilian rifle in this highly detailed examination of the men in green.

As you would expect, the actual weapon used by the 95th and 60th features prominently with not only its physical characteristics being carefully described - including its partner the sword bayonet - but also its killing power on the battlefield.

The author also goes into the other equipment carried by the Rifles and their distinctive uniforms.

Other areas of interest highlighted in British Rifleman 1797-1815 are recruiting, training, discipline, a very large section on tactics, and the campaigns fought by the Rifle Corps.

Not only is there an absolute treasure trove of information in this book for fans of the Rifles, there are more than 50 black-and-white images of unfiroms, equipment, officers and incdieernts from battle.

In addition, artist Christa Hook has 10 pages of colour plates that bring to life the men of the Rifles and show their tactics and fighting style in terrific environmental portraits.

- Richard Moore


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