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The British Cheer (ePub)

Psychological Warfare in the Napoleonic Era

Military > Pre-WWI > Napoleonic

By Mr Paul Thompson
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 24.2 MB (.epub)
Pages: 296
Illustrations: 12 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399048453
Published: 4th October 2023


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This is a bold, painstakingly researched and wide-ranging assessment of the British Cheer in the Napoleonic era. Reference to the Cheer in accounts of the time is virtually ubiquitous and repeatedly the claim was made for cheering as an integral part of British offensive operations. However, more recent historians have tended to overlook this evidence.

Based upon a vast range of contemporary sources, this book suggests that the Cheer wielded genuine power as a true 'weapon of war'. This book first surveys the history of acclamations in battle worldwide and British battle-cries from all periods, before addressing the question of what the British Cheer actually sounded like. Issues of acoustics, physics and the psychology of battlefield morale are considered, along with commentaries from significant military scholars throughout history. Examination of the Napoleonic-era Cheer then reveals the practically invincible 'recipe' of volley-cheer-charge that propelled the British Army to victory upon victory. Comparison is drawn with French and other national patterns of vocalizing, along with analysis of those occasions when the Cheer might be suppressed. Finally, the attitude of the Duke of Wellington towards cheering is reconsidered, with surprising results.

This study encompasses a vast canvas of place and time in pursuit of the elusive yet galvanizing Cheer: from the Mahratta wars in India, through campaigns in Egypt, the Mediterranean, Flanders, the Caribbean and South America, as well as the war of 1812. The Peninsular and Waterloo campaigns feature prominently as the Cheer is heard thrillingly from Vimeiro to Talavera, Salamanca to Vitoria, Orthez to Toulouse and the shocking siege of Badajoz to the charge of the Scots Greys on the ridge of Mont Saint Jean. Anyone interested in the wars of Revolutionary France and Napoleon, the British army, the career of the Duke of Wellington, or indeed the wider questions of the psychological motivations of combat will find this book illuminating and thought-provoking.

Article feature

Highlight: 'Generations of military historians have overlooked the importance of the “British cheer” in the victory against the French during the Napoleonic wars, according to a new book.
Author Paul Thompson’s evidence suggests that the British Army’s cheer was a valuable psychological weapon.
Soldiers yelled in unison a variety of words during battle including “hurrah” and “huzza”, as well as many similar terms such as “hooray”, “hussaw” and “huzzay”.'

The Telegraph

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A refreshing book on the subject of a somewhat unique British battlefield innovation – The British Cheer.
Based on the time period of the Peninsular and Napoleonic Wars of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, it identifies the individual cases of the use by units of the British Army raising a cheer at critical moments of battle and making a significant difference during battle. The author has undertaken extensive research from regimental and personal recollections, to collate a pattern of the use of the Cheer as, in modern day parlance, a ‘force multiplier’. This would appear, as one reads through the various accounts, of being an effective weapon against the French forces throughout the period and up to and including the Battle of Waterloo.
A thrilling read for all.

NetGalley, Sandra Miller

I love this book. It is written in such a witty way that you just want to keep reading! The block quotes make reading the book much more accessible. This book is well researched and fun at the same time! I recommend this book to people who love British humor and history. This is one of my favorite reads of the year!

NetGalley, Katherine Schmaltz

About Mr Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson was born in Altrincham, Cheshire in 1960. Educated at St. Bede's College in Manchester, the London College of Music and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he has taught in the Department of Music at Southeast Missouri State University for more than three decades. Previously he taught at the Lady Eleanor Holles and Forest Schools in London, England, Colgate University in New York and Murray State University in Kentucky. With a life-long interest in British military history, he has recently had articles dealing with aspects of the Napoleonic Wars published in the Waterloo Association Journal, the Napoleon Series and the Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research.

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