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The Great Waterloo Controversy (Hardback)

The Story of the 52nd Foot at History's Greatest Battle

Napoleonic Frontline Books Battle of Waterloo Frontline: 17th-19th Century Frontline: Napoleonic Era Military 19th Century

By Gareth Glover
Frontline Books
Pages: 320
Illustrations: 16 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526788856
Published: 27th October 2020

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As the Battle of Waterloo reached its momentous climax, Napoleon’s Imperial Guard marched towards the Duke of Wellington’s thinning red line. The Imperial Guard had never tasted defeat and nothing, it seemed, could stop it smashing through the British ranks. But it was the Imperial Guard that was sent reeling back in disorder, its columns ravaged by the steady volleys of the British infantry.

The credit for defeating the Imperial Guard went to the 1st Foot Guards, which was consequently honoured for its actions by being renamed the Grenadier Guards. The story did not stop there, however, as the 52nd Foot also contributed to the defeat of the Imperial Guard yet received no comparable recognition.

The controversy of which corps deserved the credit for defeating the Imperial Guard has continued down the decades and has rightly become a highly contentious subject over which much ink has been spilled. But now, thanks to the uncovering of the previously unpublished journal of Charles Holman of the 52nd Foot, Gareth Glover is able to piece together the exact sequence of events in those final, fatal moments of the great battle.

Along with numerous other first-hand accounts, Gareth Glover has been able to understand the most likely sequence of events, the reaction to these events immediately after the battle and how it was seen within the army in the days after the victory. Who did Wellington honour at the time? How did the Foot Guards gain much of the credit in London? Was there an establishment cover-up? Were the 52nd robbed of their glory? Do the recent much-publicised arguments stand up to impartial scrutiny? The Great Waterloo Controversy is the definitive answer to these questions and will finally end this centuries-old conundrum.

We highly recommend this book which, as well as being a jolly good read, is also a lesson in battle history writing.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

This quite possibly my book of the year. It is a forensic examination of the events at the ‘crisis’ of the Battle of Waterloo that delivers much clarity on what happened and to what extent the competing claims of glory by some regiments are justified. At the centre of the story is the role of the 52nd Foot and the extent that its pivot manoeuvre predicated the defeat of the French Imperial Guard and the subsequent advance of the British line. Drawing on excellent sources, Gareth Glover has delivered a very good narrative history of the events and as somebody who has guided Waterloo, I found much value in the information, not least in defining the geography and locations of units during the action. The nuances and details mined by the author really give much greater depth to the battle in general and the final events in particular. The maps are good. Overall a very good book that will find space on any Waterloo enthusiast’s shelf and also a good book for the general reader who wants to get under the skin of the traditional Waterloo narratives.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy
 Gareth Glover

About Gareth Glover

GARETH GLOVER is a 59-year-old, ex Royal Navy officer, who has made a study of the Napoleonic Wars for over forty years. In the last two decades, Gareth has made it his mission to uncover unknown or rare memoirs and correspondence from participants in these wars and his discoveries have changed our understanding of many aspects of the history of the period. To date he has produced over eighty books or monographs and has plans to publish many more in the next decade. Among these works, are the critically acclaimed eight volume Waterloo Archive series, which has become a ‘must’ for any serious student of the Waterloo campaign and four further volumes are planned. He is now regarded as the foremost expert on the archival records of the British military in the Napoleonic wars. Gareth resides in Cardiff with his wife Mary and they have two grown up children Sarah and Michael who are both teachers.

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