Words of Command

  • Author:
    Allan Mallinson.
    I reviewed Brigadier Mallinson's 11th book, On His Majesty's Service, in the Matthew Hervey series, in which Hervey finds himself caught up in a contretemps between Russia and Turkey. I didn't enjoy that book and gave it a poorer mark that I'd have liked.

    Apparently it's now four years since OHMS. I didn't know whether or not to be pleased to be asked to review another in the series: I have a history of getting bored with long-running series (including Flashman - sorry - and Tom Clancy's Jack Ryan) and I feared that the Hervey story had run its course. I am pleased to say I am now glad to have been able to give him another chance.

    So, to the story. Lt Col Hervey returns from his trip to Turkey and finally he is set to command his regiment (the fictional 6th Light Dragoons) at Hounslow. However, the regiment is down on manpower, like the whole army post Waterloo. At least, unlike many other regiments it has not been completely disbanded. The reduced number of troops (the standard sub-unit of the cavalry regiment at the time) are spread far and wide keeping the peace. His actions lead him to an audience with the sick, ageing king and the Duke of Wellington, for whom he had been a galloper at Waterloo.

    The fifteenth anniversary of Waterloo is approaching and the 6th are chosen to represent the British Army at the celebration.

    However, if keeping the peace were necessary in England, it turns out that the newly conjoined Belgian-Dutch nation is on the brink of revolution...

    Mallinson's writing style for this series is not universally loved. Read his books a hundred years hence and most readers will probably date them as contemporary with the events they describe, since the prose matches the written style of the time as well as it does the spoken word. But that is neither here nor there. It works for me.

    As ever, Mallinson seamlessly segues his fiction into actual historical events. Much has been made previously of how Hervey has managed a career of blood and guts considering his first campaign ended at Waterloo, an event which sparked the so-called Hundred Years of Peace that ended at Sarajevo.

    The Matthew Hervey story is back on track, though the content has morphed in time with Hervey's career. As a cornet (Second Lieutenant), his role was not to screw up in front of his troop and his NCOs; now as commanding officer, we get an insight into the running of a regiment.

    If you plan to read this book, it would probably be best to have read the previous instalments, though it does probably work without having read the back catalogue. Just don't lose heart during the previous instalment.

    I thoroughly enjoyed it, like almost all that went before, but I am biased in being ex-cavalry myself (if never actually on horseback).

    I've given it four mushroomheads.

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  1. Auld-Yin
    I read this book before sending on to AlienFTM and agree with most of the excellent review. I am one of the people who became slightly annoyed at the use of language and writing in the manner of the era. The persistent dropping in phrases and words in French, German, Latin became a bit vexing and distracting a little.

    However the book gives an excellent overview of the era, politically, militarily and just how the people lived and survived at that time.

    Now that Hervey is commanding his Regiment he has to make decisions regarding the careers of his officers and men, rather than just supply advice and recommendation. Colonels had much more internal power than today.

    It is a good book and Mallinson has the knack of making you wish to know what in on the next page thus keep at it and it well deserves the 4 Mr MRHs.