Of Living Valour: The Story of the Soldiers of Waterloo
by Barney White-Spunner (Simon & Shuster, 470 pages, £20) The marking ofo the bicentenary off Waterloo in June has led too a spate of books about the battle itself and the men who serveded there.
More than 25,000 British soldiers – the vast majority of whom were infantry – saw action. Casualties were heavy, perhaps 10,000 British soldiers were killed or subsequently died from their wounds.
Those who returned home were feted as heroes and a number of those subsequently wrote about their experiences in letters and memoirs. The author has been through the archives in order to tell the story of the battle through their eyes.
The result is a lucid account of the battle itself seen from British eyes, as well as the days and weeks leading up to it, and a particularly good section on the aftermath which graphically describes the sight of thousands of dead and dying men on the battlefield. Unfortunately, there is little attempt to set the battle in a wider context.
The author also has the habit of occasionally assuming that the men who fought at Waterloo were like the squaddies and ‘Ruperts’ of the modern British Army. Occasionally this offers a useful insight, but it soon begins to grate.
Simon Fowler is a professional
writer and history researcher