I recently finished reading the second of the two Mark Urban books on the early history and development of British army tactics and the modern British soldier. Having read ‘Fusilier’ several months ago I managed to buy a copy of his book ‘Rifles’ too.
Urban writes in an eminently readable style, using primary source material to build his case. As with the earlier book ‘Fusiliers’ he has accessed primary source material that has possibly not seen the light of day before, and describes the progress of the 95th Rifles through the ‘Peninsular’ campaign to Waterloo. This is not a history of the campaign itself, and so Urban provides only general information on facets of the campaign that did not involve the 95th Rifles.
From his Preface to the book:
‘In recounting the six year journey to Waterloo with them it is also my aim to give the reader a great deal of information about the realities of life in Wellington’s army and to establish the 95th’s pivotal role in creating what we might now recognize as a modern British soldier. It is not a general history of the Iron Duke’s campaigns nor of soldiering in the Napoleonic era, so the wider themes are always tackled through the experience of soldiers of the 95th Rifles. I make no apologies for dispatching the Battle of Salamanca, perhaps Wellington’s greatest battle, in a few short sentences, since the 1st/95th played almost no part in it.’
I can do little better than to quote several of the review quotes form the back cover.
‘If you like Sharpe, then this book is a must.’ Bernard Cornwell.
‘War unplugged – vicious, chaotic and raw.’ Gerard DeGroot, Scotland on Sunday.
‘As dashing and unconventional as the legendary unit itself.’ Andrew Roberts, Literary Review.
As with the earlier book, if you have any interest at all in the development of tactics in the Napoleonic wars, then this is a "must read".