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"Walcheren to Waterloo" Topic


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907 hits since 5 Dec 2018
©1994-2018 Bill Armintrout
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Brechtel19805 Dec 2018 3:52 a.m. PST

The subtitle of this volume is The British Army in the Low Countries during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars 1793-1815. The author is Andrew Limm.

I received it yesterday in the mail and while going through (quickly and not thoroughly yet) found a few interesting passages:

'Indeed, such is the proliferation of books on Wellington that students new to the subject might be forgiven for thinking that he, rather than York, was Commander-in-
chief of the Army and that the forces he commanded, in the Iberian Peninsula and at Waterloo, constituted 'the' British army. On the contrary, Wellington did not become Commander-in-Chief until 1842 and neither did he command 'the' British army in the Iberian Peninsula or at Waterloo-these armies were in fact expeditionary forces which were despatched for specific purposes.'

'Moreover, in focusing so much attention on Wellington's Iberian victories, historians have largely ignored the poor recored of the army in other theatres of war over the course of the wider period 1793 to 1815. Unlike their victorious record in Spain and Portugal, the British struggled to achieve success in the Low Countries and were defeated on several occasions over the course of the period. Characteristic failings made by the British in the Low Countries in 1793-1814 included: lack of coherent strategic thinking regarding aims and means; poor military planning; over reliance on unreliable intelligence reports; lack of accurate maps; breakdowns in civil-military relations; disrespect on the part of the British army for the actions and fighting qualities of Allied forces; and the inability of the British officer corps to identify, analyse and learn from past mistakes.' 4-5.

This looks to be an interesting volume

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2018 6:27 a.m. PST

I'm afraid these days I tend to judge books on the Napoleonic Wars by the number of maps they contain--and ONLY 1:60,000 or smaller count. I already know where France, Belgium and the Netherlands are relative to one another.

So far, no one has talked about the good tactical maps in this volume. I'm not buying until someone convinces me it has such.

Brechtel19805 Dec 2018 8:05 a.m. PST

Why don't you look for yourself? It isn't anyone's 'assignment' here to convince you of anything.

Whether or not you buy the book is completely irrelevant.

Maps are a bonus. What the author writes is what is important and how much information he can put into the text. And the notes and bibliography are also of primary importance. If you're that concerned about the maps, buy an atlas.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2018 11:02 a.m. PST

popcorn
beer

23rdFusilier Supporting Member of TMP05 Dec 2018 12:40 p.m. PST

A lack of good maps are a serious handicap for any military history book. No matter how good the material within it. Of course too often how we rate the source material is a reflection of if it reflects our prejudices and opinions. Equaly honest historians given the same material can and will come up with different interpretations of events.

Based on previous posts on this forum concerning the British i think this may reflect those opinions.

fantasque06 Dec 2018 2:15 a.m. PST

Army X (insert pet hate/favourite here) not invincible / useless (delete as applicable).
Shock Horror
Here we go again

Oh, and I completely agree that well executed maps and diagrams greatly aid comprehension – "a picture paints a thousand words"

Personal logo deadhead Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2018 2:19 a.m. PST

Must say it immediately struck me that this seems to be presenting a "different" view of the British Army's record in that era, going beyond the obvious and much lauded successes in the Peninsula. I particularly liked the list of "characteristic failings" that closes the final paragraph above.


I agree with Brechtel that this seems interesting, whether it proves convincing or not. I agree even more that maps are essential and so often omitted. Instead we get the same Victorian Era efforts for illustrations time after time.

Green Tiger06 Dec 2018 3:24 a.m. PST

This is not a campaign history – this is an examination of failings in strategic thinking and the infrastructure of the British Army – not sure it needs any maps… Oh and it's Pen & Sword so there will be maximum of 5…

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2018 12:04 p.m. PST

It finds fault with the British, so it's all good. grin
Do you really need maps for that?

Brechtel19806 Dec 2018 1:54 p.m. PST

Do you believe the British were perfect?

Have you read the book?

It is excellent and brings out some interesting points about the British Army of the period.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP06 Dec 2018 6:30 p.m. PST

Do you believe the British were perfect?

No! But their actual combat record against the French very near was.

Have you read the book?

No! But I can see the agenda-ridden diatribe which is enough to know that it's a 'wooden tops book of spin'.

It is excellent and brings out some interesting points about the British Army of the period.

Excellent? What! how they were crushed by Napoleons fantastic Grand Armee? How the British troops were worse than the Spaniards?

The bloke should stop spinning. What he should say is that the British lost 'almost' exclusively through operational strategy or a breakdown in cooperation, not so much as in combat actions. I suppose he also drags out the Walcheren debacle when it was marshal disease that did for the British army, not the Franco-Dutch one that didn't only suffer its share of the disease but also combat casualties.

Brechtel19807 Dec 2018 6:11 a.m. PST

If you haven't read the book, then I would submit it is intellectually dishonest to render negative comments. It is also ridiculous.

Excellent? What! how they were crushed by Napoleons fantastic Grand Armee? How the British troops were worse than the Spaniards?

That comment is just plain ridiculous and only demonstrates that you haven't read the book and have no idea what is contained in it.

The bottom line is that you cannot stomach any criticism of the British Army of the period no matter what the result is.

And the bottom line is that when Wellington wasn't commanding, the British usually lost.

And the book is well-sourced from a variety of source material-archival, primary, and credible secondary sources.

And Limm's study coincides with the conclusion of John Elting in Swords Around a Throne, Chapter XXV, page 507:


'Wellington's triumphs in Spain were all the more dear to his countrymen because earlier British campaigns-Flanders in 1793-1795; Holland in 1799; Spain and Italy in 1800; Naples and Hanover in 1805; Buenos Aires, the Dardenelles, and Egypt in 1806-1807; Spain and Sweden in 1808; and Holland again in 1809;-were a series of disasters, hasty scuttles, and pratfalls. The only real successes had been the 1801 Anglo-Turkish overwhelming of the isolated French in Egypt and the extrication of the almost equally isolated Junot from Portugal in 1808. And even in those two cases, the French had secured terms that allowed them to go home with some swagger. Add that until 1813 Wellington's position in Spain was frequently precarious, with as many retreats as advances, and that Suchet beat off all British attempts against Eastern Spain, and there is evidence enough why so many Frenchmen still had hope of victory in 1814 and 1815.'


And when the British should have been winning in North America in 1814, they came off badly, losing one battle and fighting to a draw in the two battles on the Niagara peninsula and being badly defeated in the siege of Fort Erie and being forced to withdraw northward. They were also defeated at Plattsburg and were slaughtered at New Orleans.

There is new scholarship besides this volume on the British army of the period and their operations which are all valuable to understand the problems the British faced in Spain and Portugal, as well as Holland. Some of them are:


-Wellington's Guns by Nick Lipscombe.

-Triumphs and Disasters: Eyewitness Accounts of the Netherlands Campaign 1813-1814 by Andrew Bamford.

-The British Invasion of the River Plate 1806-1807 by Ben Hughes.

-Wellington's Eastern Front: The Campaigns on the East Coast of Spain 1810-1814 by Nick Lipscombe

-A Bold and Ambitious Enterprise: The British Army in the Low Countries, 1813-1814 by Andrew Bamford.

-Wellington's Engineers by Mark Thompson.

-Wellington's Worst Scrape: The Burgos Campaign 1812 by Carole Divall.

-Wellington and the Siege of San Sebastian 1813 by Bruce Collins.

-The Lines of Torres Vedras by John Grehan.

I have all of these, and more on the British army of the period, in my personal library and I would highly recommend all of them for study and reflection.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2018 7:57 a.m. PST


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP 06 Dec 2018 12:04 p.m. PST
It finds fault with the British, so it's all good. grin
Do you really need maps for that?

Brechtel198 06 Dec 2018 1:54 p.m. PST
Do you believe the British were perfect?

Have you read the book?

It is excellent and brings out some interesting points about the British Army of the period.


No, I have not read the book. It's not a period I have any interest in.
My admittedly smartass post was a comment on your well known antipathy towards anything British in Napoleonic times. I meant that if it said "bad things about the British", you were sure to like it.
Carry on.

And no. I don't think they were perfect. Which is in any case irrelevant. That's a straw man argument.

Gwydion07 Dec 2018 8:18 a.m. PST

I received it yesterday in the mail and while going through (quickly and not thoroughly yet) found a few interesting passages:

If you haven't read the book, then I would submit it is intellectually dishonest to render negative comments

But presumably not cherry picked positive ones?

Gazzola07 Dec 2018 12:01 p.m. PST

I think comments about anyone mentioning anything negative concerning the British during the Napoleonic period is part of some sort of agenda is just plain silly. No one is denying the successes that the British had but they did have failures. And knowing the failures and reasons for them will not dilute or reduce their incredible record of success. It is just part of history and should not be ignored. In another historical period, such as the war against the Zulus, the British had several victories and defended well against the odds at Rorke's Drift but that does not mean the British defeat at Isandlwana should not be mentioned. Knowing about their defeats or failures, for any nation, does not change history, it just helps everyone understand it more without viewing it through rose tinted spectacles.

Cerdic Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2018 12:18 p.m. PST

To be fair, there were too many less-than-glorious episodes for the British Army during this period.

The basic problem appears to be the fondness of the government of the day to conceive half-arsed ideas, then attempt to do them on the cheap by allocating inadequate resources. They then often put an incompetent in command, like a metaphorical cherry on top!

However, when properly led the British Army demonstrated the ability to beat the opposition.

I will admit I've not read the book. Hopefully it has a balanced view rather than being unnecessarily biased.

In cases of uncalled for criticism of the British I find the best course of action is to channel the unofficial motto of Millwall FC – "Nobody likes us. We don't care"….

ConnaughtRanger07 Dec 2018 1:57 p.m. PST

Oh, how I've missed Brechtel198 and Gazzola in recent weeks. Your guys lost – live with it.

dibble Supporting Member of TMP07 Dec 2018 3:45 p.m. PST

Hello Gaz; good to see that you and Brech'are still posting.

YouTube link

Paul :D

Gazzola10 Dec 2018 9:53 a.m. PST

ConnaughtRanger

'missed' I'm touched, I really am. LOL

'live with it' Oh, how I've missed such comical, if somewhat ignorant remarks, no offense intended, of course.

And I'm pretty sure that Kevin is as well aware as I am on who won in the end. However, that does not mean because one side lost one should only admire the final victors or ignore the achievements and victories of the losers, unless of course, you feel no one should admire Robert E. Lee because he lost or William Wallace or even Hannibal? And I'm sure you (and probably dibble) would not stop admiring the British just because they lost the American War of Independence? They very thought, eh!
History is what it is and nothing can change it, certainly no amount of insults or biased opinions offered here. And winning and losing is all part of the attraction of the period and I've been 'living' with my enjoyment of it for quite a few years now.

Gazzola10 Dec 2018 10:00 a.m. PST

dibble

Good to hear from you to.

Would comment on the linked clip you offered but as you know I will have to wait until I hear from Kevin first, so he can tell me what to put. LOL

von Winterfeldt11 Dec 2018 4:05 a.m. PST

funnily enough the Brits did quite well under other commanders as Wellington, Abercromby for example – in Egypt

Brechtel19811 Dec 2018 6:04 a.m. PST

That's one-any others in particular?

You could have mentioned Brock in Canada, but he was killed in action. Ross also did quite well in American as well until he was killed in action.

Europe and the Mediterranean, not so much.

By the way, wasn't Abercromby killed in action also?

von Winterfeldt11 Dec 2018 9:25 a.m. PST

Maida – comes to mind as well.

Brechtel19811 Dec 2018 10:45 a.m. PST

I meant that if it said "bad things about the British", you were sure to like it.

Then you would be wrong. I prefer accurate history and in many cases Limm gets it right with this one.

Maybe you should read the book…?

Brechtel19811 Dec 2018 10:46 a.m. PST

And what happened after Maida? The British evacuated Calabria and returned to Sicily. Tactical victory and strategic defeat.

Brechtel19811 Dec 2018 10:50 a.m. PST

My admittedly smartass post was a comment on your well known antipathy towards anything British in Napoleonic times.

Being pedestrian is not an asset. My first exposure to the Napoleonic period was the Life article on Waterloo in 1965 which is an excellent presentation and full of period pictures. If you can get a copy of it I would highly recommend it. The author of the text actually did some research.

I was definitely pro-British in my historical outlook then and that was reinforced when my brother sent two volumes of Oates history of the HLI from Kenya.


My opinions began to change when I first read the Esposito/Elting Atlas that same year. If I was an Anglophobe I would not purchase anything on the period on the British and that just isn't the case.

So, you 'judgment' on this issue is both a misrepresentation of my opinions as well presuming something that is way off base.


Nice try, though…

42flanker12 Dec 2018 5:32 a.m. PST

I am curious to know what relevance may attach to the discussion, if any, of a given commander being killed in action? In this era all commanders risked sudden removal from the OB by enemy fire.

FWIW, Abercromby in fact died some days after Alexandria from an inoperable bullet wound sustained in the fighting.
Luckily for General Hutchinson, he proceeded to capture Alexandria and Cairo and emerge unscathed. As did Hill at Arroyo Molinos and Graham at Barrosa.

ConnaughtRanger12 Dec 2018 2:10 p.m. PST

42flanker – you don't seem to have the correct hymn sheet?

42flanker12 Dec 2018 2:40 p.m. PST

My apologies. That's what comes of arriving late and standing at the back.

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