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The Tigress of Mysore

The Tigress of Mysore

Allan Mallinson
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
This book is the fourteenth in the Matthew Hervey series which charts the career of a cavalry officer in the Napoleonic and post Napoleonic era. This one finds Matthew commanding his regiment, the 6th Light Dragoons, in India in 1834. That itself is an interesting historical period as the East India Company – with increasing support of and control by the Crown – creates the Raj. This involves establishing Company (or British) authority over the existing rulers. It remains one of the most astonishing feats of conquest and is fertile ground for the skilled historical author.

The tale moves along nicely;, with layers of intrigue overlaying Hervey’s mission. Readers of the rest of the series will recognise many of the characters who have made the journey to India from Waterloo with Hervey and the author does a wonderful job of painting an accurate picture of how regimental life works – not surprising as the author commanded the 13th/18th Hussars and knows whereof he writes.

This is most apparent in the description of the pressures on a commanding officer; will his soldiers deliver; will the plan work; is this morally justified; will it impact on his own career; what about his family and is there anything that he can do now to influence the outcome? And if not, and quite a lot of time there is not – alea jacta est – what should he do? Of all the historical military novels the Hervey series is the one that best brings to life the loneliness of command. A little cheekily, the core operation is described as “not a job for soldiers, but one only soldiers can do” (a phrase coined by UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld 150 years later). But then so much of the reality of land warfare remains constant.

This is an excellent novel and a vivid vignette of one of the most interesting times in British, Indian and perhaps world history. If you have not read the other 13 Hervey books this one will tempt you to try them - which means that your Christmas list is sorted.

Five Mushroom-heads.
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