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The Light Division in the Peninsular War, 1808–1811 (Hardback)

Napoleonic Peninsular War Military 19th Century

By Tim Saunders, Rob Yuill
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 312
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations & 15 black and white maps
ISBN: 9781526757326
Published: 16th April 2020

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Histories of the Light Division have tended to be incomplete, being based on memoirs of a few well known diarists, principally from the 95th Rifles. The authors of this book, the first volume of two, have sought memoirs from across the division, including the artillery, the King’s German Hussars and others to complete a broader history of Wellington’s elite division.

Light infantry was not new a concept in 1803, but at Shorncliffe Camp Sir John Moore developed a progressive ethos, set of tactics and training for the newly converted light infantry regiments. With the 95th Rifles they were melded into a brigade that was to form the basis of the incomparable Light Division.

From the outset of the Peninsular campaigns in 1808 they delivered results way beyond their scant numbers, but it was during the epic winter retreat to La Corunna that they showed their metal. Returning to the Peninsular months later, the irascible Brigadier Craufurd led the Light Brigade in terrible march to reach Wellington at Talavera; heavily laden and in the heat of summer.

Over the winter of 1809/10, Craufurd,s battalions, now elevated to the status of a division, provided the army’s outposts. This was work that Craufurd excelled in and actions abounded, including the Combat on the Côa, where the division fought hard to escape Marshal Ney’s trap.

In 1810, with Wellington withdrawing to the Lines of Torres Vedra, the Light Division played a significant part in the battle of Buçaco Ridge, while the following year they drove Marshal Masséna’s army back into Spain having fought almost daily actions en route.

This history of the Light Division is not simply a series of set piece battles but provides a wider picture of campaigning and what it was to be a light infantry soldier.

It does a very good job telling the story of the multitude of small actions and the sometimes repetitive experience of the light troops, infantry cavalry and gunners, that screened the British Armies in the Peninsular.

Read the full review here

Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Our opinion of this book is best summed up by imploring the authors, Tim Saunders and Bob Yuill, to let us have volume two as soon as possible. This book about the Light Division is well focused and doesn’t drift off into writing about the wider campaign more than is necessary to tell the Division’s story. Of particular interest are the many insights into the lives of the officers and ordinary infantry soldiers between the battles. The story flows easily along the timeline from the Division’s inception to its fruition.
There are a large number of maps and photographs interspersed throughout the text. Many photographs are of the locations today which would be a big help to anyone visiting the battlefields and marching routes.
We highly recommend this book and look forward to volume two.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

As would be expected in any work involving Tim Saunders, this account of the Light Division between 1808-1811 is quite excellent and delivers both an overview and detail. It is supported by well curated maps and images, particularly those images that define the landscape so well. This volume is highly recommended and I am looking forward to its companion volume covering 1811-1814.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Tim Saunders

Tim Saunders is a former Army officer and author of thirteen Battleground titles on a wide range of Second World War battles. Tim is now also a script writer, programme maker and presenter for Battleground History TV.

In addition he regularly leads battlefield tours, including to the scene of Glider Pilot actions in Sicily, Normandy. Arnhem and the Rhine.


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