Of Liv­ing Val­our: The Story of the Sol­diers of Water­loo

Who Do You Think You Are? Magazine - - THE GUIDE -

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

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