A story of early failures, famous reforms by the Duke of York, and spectacular success. The British have always been nervous of standing armies, leading to poorly funded small armies that face much larger armies of tyrants. – Most Highly Recommended
NAME: Walcheren to Waterloo, The British Army in the Low Countries During The French Revolutionary & Napoleonic Wars FILE: R2867 AUTHOR: Andrew Limm PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword BINDING: hard back PAGES: 237 PRICE: £25.00 GENRE: Non Fiction SUBJECT: Cockpit of Europe, Low Countries, commanders, Duke of York, Army reform, defeats, lessons learned, lessons of war, victories, French Revolution, Napoleon, allies
IMAGE: B2866.jpg BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y2xnapuf LINKS: DESCRIPTION: A story of early failures, famous reforms by the Duke of York, and spectacular success. The British have always been nervous of standing armies, leading to poorly funded small armies that face much larger armies of tyrants. – Most Highly Recommended Once again, a book from a publisher who excels in publishing well-researched and written books about parts of important military history that has been seriously neglected by others. The British have long been nervous about maintaining standing armies. A concern that dates back at least to Magna Carta. Certainly, a powerful military force can be used by a monarch, or a parliament, or a dictator, to enforce unpopular policies and taxes on a civilian population. However there is a serious disadvantage in that when Britain is threatened by a powerful aggressor, its small standing army faces early defeats and painfully corrects the neglect of years to improve its capabilities and win. It is little helped by the old policy of buying soldiers in Europe to fight for Britain, either autonomously or with a small British military alliance. Even today, politicians have not learned the lessons. They are always quick to spend the 'peace dividend' and slow to fund the military expansion to counter a clear and present danger. They depend on the courage of the British soldier, sailor and airman to pay for the neglect with their blood and perform way beyond any reasonable expectations. Even so, early battles go badly, sometimes to the point where total defeat is a very real risk. When the French Revolutionary Wars began, they posed a dual threat to all of their neighbours. They had available large and well-equipped military forces, particularly on land, but they also had some dangerous ideas for the monarchies of Europe. Armies can be confronted and be defeated, ideas are rather more tricky. Revolution in France sent shivers down the spines of the monarchs of Europe. Just keeping French revolutionary forces contained was not enough. This was a battle to the death. The author has provided a very well structured review of the situation in which the British Army found itself. He has looked at the engagements, and the commanders, and the famous reforms of the Duke of York, leading up to the final stellar success at Waterloo that was never-the-less a close run thing. Wellington was one of a number of very capable commanders who emerged in this period and his successes in Portugal and Spain have captured the imagination of historians and novelists, taking attention from the less attractive story of British activities in the Low Countries which were fundamental to the eventual successes. The author has covered this well and also considered how effective the army reforms were. In many respects, the reforms were a major step forward but were never complete and awaited Cardwell's later Army reforms, and the lessons of the Boer Wars, that led to an incredibly successful small standing army, the BEF, when it blunted the massive German thrust, once more through the Low Countries, that threatened the British and French in 1914. The basic difficulty the Duke of York faced was the culture of privilege in British society. The Royal Navy was not immune, but it coped with the conditions much more successfully because, however an officer flourished, he joined as a Midshipman and rose by passing exams. Even a sailor raised from the ranks had received a thorough training and, once commissioned, continued his rise by success and tough training. The Army was a very different story. Few soldiers rose from the ranks and those that did rarely achieved field rank. The officers depended largely on the ability of their families to buy them their positions. Those that rose by merit were often demoted, placed on half pay, or dismissed, because another could purchase their rank and position. Until Cardwell got to grips with the situation some 80 years later, all reform would be limited in its success. This is a part of British military history that should be read by all professionals and enthusiasts and fortunately, here is a book to start with.