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News from a wargamer with a special interest in the military history of the Balkans. It mainly covers my current reading and wargaming projects. For more detail you can visit the web sites I edit - Balkan Military History and Glasgow & District Wargaming Society. Or follow me on Twitter @Balkan_Dave
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Thursday 19 December 2019

True Soldier Gentlemen

Since the end of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe books, I have missed a good series of Napoleonic historical fiction.

It is now 13 years since the last in the series, and although Bernard is still churning out great books, it doesn't look as if Richard Sharpe is going to make a comeback. I still have a vain hope that he might turn up, as many of his riflemen comrades did, with Bolivar in the South American Wars of Liberation.

It is a tough act to follow, but I had missed Adrian Goldsworthy's series, which starts with 'True Soldier Gentlemen'. I associate this author with the Roman army and have several of his non-fiction books on that subject. He has published six in what he said was a planned 12 books, culminating in Waterloo. The first six came out at a very steady pace, but there hasn't been one since 2015.

Unlike the Sharpe books, which are focused on one character, this series has a range of characters serving in the fictional 106th Regiment of Foot. The author explains that he has largely mirrored the actions of the 29th. We also get a bit of context with occasional diversions into the activities of Wellesley and his French opponents.

The story starts in 1808 as the regiment prepares for service abroad. The focus is on a group of junior officers in the regiment and one gentleman volunteer. The first half of the book introduces the reader to regimental life in Britain and the struggles of the typical officers, who were not wealthy enough to purchase a commission. While I accept the necessity to establish the characters and the storyline, this did drag on a bit.

The regiment is included in the expedition to Portugal and the second half of the book covers the battles of Rolica and Vimeiro, which established Wellesley as a commander in the European theatre of operations. The military establishment at the time didn't really count his victories in India.

There are a couple of side stories, which have Sharpe like features to them. However, otherwise, this is the story of a conventional line regiment. And none the worse for that.

Despite the slow start, I enjoyed this book and will read more.

I might even dust down my Peninsular War armies for some tabletop action.

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