The Light Division in the Peninsular War, 1811-1814

...from Pen & Sword

Title: The Light Division in the Peninsular War 1811-1814
Author: Tim Saunders & Rob Yuill
Publisher: Pen & Sword
ISBN: 978-1-52677-013-4

This was a book I was keen to read to expand my knowledge and understanding of a subject I knew virtually nothing about beforehand. I suspect I am not the only one whose knowledge of the Peninsular War didn't extend much beyond watching the TV episodes of Sharpe. For those fans, the extra attraction is of course that this features the contribution of the green jacketed 95th Rifles.
The book is arranged in a chronological sequence of events and over the course of the events includes both advances and retreats. The first chapter outlines events from the earlier period, 1808 to 1812 but this book concentrates on the years 1811-14. Accounts of the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz and battles such as Salamanca and Vitoria are among them, as well as the Allied armies crossing the Pyrenees to take the war into France, and finally out of the Iberian peninsular. The Light Division was involved throughout, and even had to manage changes in their commanders at many levels, as fighting took its' toll. The French army in Spain was affected by Napoleon trying to manage things from Paris rather than being on the battlefield, and his invasion of Russia took experienced troops from Spain. There are plenty of illustrations throughout the book, with maps, portraits of commanders and images of modern re-enactors in period uniforms, but of course no archive photos from this time, so unlike more modern conflicts. The events are amply illustrated thanks to the many accounts from diaries and records which record so many individuals' experiences. Wellington kept the good will of the Spanish & Iberian populations by feeding his army, and ensuring they paid for anything they acquired from local populations, quite different to the French just taking it.
An interesting read which tells us so much about the Peninsular war and tells us so much about what life was like for the soldiers in the Light Division at the time. Even down to the tale of one sentry who held the rifle for his French opposite number one night while he went off to get some brandy for them both! An enjoyable and interesting read I thought.
Thanks to Pen & Sword for our review copy.