Stephen Manning
ARRSE Rating
4 Mushroom Heads
How did technical advances in weaponry alter the battlefield during the reign of Queen Victoria? In 1845, in the first Anglo-Sikh War, the outcome was decided by the bayonet; just over fifty years later, in the second Boer War, the combatants were many miles apart. How did this transformation come about, and what impact did it have on the experience of the soldiers of the period? Stephen Manning, in this meticulously researched and vividly written study, describes the developments in firepower and, using the first-hand accounts of the soldiers, shows how their perception of battle changed. Innovations like the percussion and breech-loading rifle influenced the fighting in the Crimean War of the 1850s and the colonial campaigns of the 1870s and 1880s, in particular in the Anglo-Zulu War and the wars in Egypt and Sudan. The machine gun was used to deadly effect at the Battle of Omdurman in 1898, and equally dramatic advances in artillery took warfare into a new era of tactics and organisation. Stephen Manning's work provides the reader with an accurate and fascinating insight into a key aspect of nineteenth-century military history.

What a little gem , i wasn't too impressed with the layout of the book before I read it, which gives the truth to the old adage "don't judge a book by it's cover". This has self contained Chapters in other words you do not need to read it from cover to cover but can dip in and out as you prefer which made it a marvellous read. Yes, you can start from the Sikh War and end at the First World War, but being a Sapper I had to go to the Zulu war absolutely first; especially as there is such an interest in the Martini-Henry rifle of which many originals have been brought back to blighty by the troops who served in Afghanistan recently. Actually, for me, was the description for the rate of fire as well as the ammunition carried and used in action by the soldiers which surprised me. I wont spoil it for you by going over it now. Included with the text are comments by the soldiers themselves in mini after-action reports. I especially like the selection from a Russian Engineer in his history of the Crimean war regarding the fact that the "British soldiers were full of confidence once they found out the accuracy and immense range of their weapons. Our Infantry with their muskets could not fire at the enemy at ranges greater than 300 paces whilst they were firing at us at 1200" I do like those odds.

Also is a small mention of Alexis Soyers' Field Cooker which is very much ignored these days. It was in use by the British Army from the Crimean War where is played a great part in sustaining the troops and assisted with the logistics chain as well. Someone needs to write up this story especially as this stove was in use officially up to 1982; I bet some of you troops would have used it after that date. All in all a remarkable insight to weaponry, the absolute war winning features of the Maxim Gun, right through to forgotten lessons learned when it came to the First World War. My only niggle is the lack of more illustrations. Four Mushroom heads . A smashing read.

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