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Of Living Valour. By Barney White-spunner

Barney White-Spunner
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
The sub title of this book is “The Story of the Soldiers of Waterloo“, it is more than that I feel. Not only is this book a social history of the British/Allied Army of the time, but it weaves their stories into the story of the battle in a fantastically readable way.

We are led from the end of the Peninsula campaign and a Country just feeling its way into peace for the first time in hundreds of years, to the shocking escape and return of Napoleon to power in France. The actions of the government at the time had been (and here is a lesson David) to slash the Army so brutally that Wellingtons battle forged, efficient, and highly proficient war machine of the last war almost disappeared overnight.
The joy that the news of war bought to those units that remained on the Armies strength was one of joy, it seems that non of us enjoy barrack soldiering. The author covers in detail the arms, and men making up these units bringing them to life using letters and diaries, of the men serving at the time. Not the generals and politicians but the Troop Leaders, Ensigns, Privates, Troopers, and Riflemen.
I am not going to lie I found the book fascinating, wonderfully written, and researched. The author writes with a Soldiers eye for ground and detail, and with a degree of humour that dusty old historians lack. There are plenty of barrack tales of young men soon to face death or worse mutilation and they are told in a warm and human fashion.
This year sees the two hundredth anniversary of this crucial battle, one which changed the face of Europe forever and that was very nearly lost. I have walked the battlefield and this book brings the claustrophobic size of it into stark relief crammed as it was with hundreds of thousands of men, and horses locked in combat.
If you have never read a single account of the battle and would like to know more about it in the lead up to this years centenary then I highly recommend that you make this book your holiday reading, if you have read many accounts of the battle and are curious to see it from a fresh angle, then again I highly recommend Of Living Valour. I say all of this with the rider that the author was my last Commanding Officer and promoted me to Corporal of Horse before I left. I can only encourage you to read the book, you will see that I am not being overly biased.
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