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Osprey Trade Editions : Queen Victoria's Commanders

The leaders of Queen Victoria's armies during the British Empire's greatest years were trained for war from their teenage years. Some had fought under Wellington, and in the Crimea, most rose from junior regimental rank to senior command through a series of hard campaigns in India and elsewhere. To make a mark in Victoria's army demanded personal courage, tough-minded confidence, and unswerving obedience to duty. This book concisely covers the careers and often-colourful personalities of more than 20 generals and colonels, and includes a few distinguished junior officers and NCOs who represent the breed of men whom they commanded in battle.

This book details some of the conflicts of the British Empire during the reign of Queen Victoria 1837-1902. The book starts each period by providing brief campaign outlines, India 1837-56, The Mutiny 1857-1860, The Post Mutiny Period 1861-1898, and Africa 1837-1898. It then discusses the major commanders or military personal of note in each period. The biographies included are those of Charles Napier, Hugh Gough, Harry Smith, Lacy Yea, James Scarlett, George Cathcart, Fitzroy Somerset (Lord Raglan), John Pennefather, Frederick Haines, John Nicholson, Henry Havelock, Hope Grant, Colin Campbell, John Ewart, Roger Roberts, Walter Hamilton, Haldane Rattray, Frederick Roberts, Francis Brownlow, Robert Napier, Garnet Wolseley, Herbert Stewart, Evelyn Wood, Redvers Buller, Hector Macdonald, and Herbert Kitchener.

I found the book interesting and one to wet the appetite but I also felt that it could have been made better by the inclusion of simple material to aid the novice. I felt the book would have benefited greatly by the inclusion of general maps, so as to give the novice an outline of the geography, cities, battles, lines of march and the areas over which the conflicts where fought. The book also assumes some knowledge of the conflicts and period. For example, in the Crimea section, the Battle of Balaclava with Lord's Lucan and Cardigan is glossed over with the words, "enough has been written elsewhere". I would have liked to have seen at least a couple of paragraphs on them and the battle itself.

Further I was expecting to find something on the conflicts in China. There are the Opium wars of 1839-1843 & 1856-1860, the Taiping Rebellion 1851-1864, and the Boxer Rebellion 1896-1901. I was also expecting to find a history of General Charles Gordon (nicknamed 'Chinese' Gordon) 1833-1885. I was disappointed, there is only passing mention made of Gordon and the China conflicts. Gordon is regarded by some historians as one of Britain's greatest military leaders, and by others as charismatic, yet quixotic and impulsive. This book does give the history of Garnet Wolseley and Herbert Stewart who were part of the Gordon Relief Expedition in 1884-1885.

General Gordon had served with distinction in the Crimea 1853-1856. He saw action in the Second Opium War 1856-1860 which included the seizure of Beijing. Gordon commanded a force known as the Ever-Victorious Army during the Taiping Rebellion 1851-1864. With them, he recaptured the rebel capital, Nanking (now Nanjing) in 1864 and completely suppressed the rebellion. Gordon served in various diplomatic and military posts through 1864-1874, before serving as Governor of a Sudanese province from 1874. A revolt occurred in Sudan in 1883 and Gordon was tasked with evacuating Khartoum. The evacuation was partially successful, 2500 women and children escaped. A ten month siege of Khartoum followed with Khartoum falling on 26 January 1885. Gordon along with his entire garrison were massacred. Two days later the expeditionary force, dispatched by Gladstone, finally arrived.

Overall I found the book interesting and wet the appetite, but it could have been made much better by the inclusion of maps and a number of other biographies.

Text by Michael Barthorp with illustrations by Douglas N. Anderson.

 

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