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The Light Division in the Peninsular War, 1811–1814 (Hardback)

Napoleonic Peninsular War Military 19th Century

By Tim Saunders, Rob Yuill
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Peninsular War Battlefield Companion
Pages: 360
Illustrations: 30 black and white illustrations & 15 black and white maps
ISBN: 9781526770134
Published: 17th September 2020



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By the middle of 1811, Brigadier General Robert Craufurd’s Light Division was emerging as the elite of the Peninsular Army and Wellington was seeking opportunities to go over to the offensive, following the expulsion of Marshal Masséna from Portugal.

After a period of outpost duty for the Light Division on the familiar ground of the Spanish borders, Wellington seized ‘the keys to Spain’ in the epic sieges of Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. Still reeling from the loss of General Craufurd, ‘The Division’ led the army against Marshal Marmont and after a protracted period of marching and counter marching, the French were finally brought to battle at Salamanca. As a result of King Joseph being driven out of Madrid, the French marshals united and in the autumn of 1812, the British were driven back to Ciudad Rodrigo in another gruelling retreat.

With news of Napoleon’s disaster in Russia and with reinforcements from Britain, Wellington prepared his army to drive the French from the Peninsular. A lightening march across Spain to cut the Great Road found King Joseph and Marshal Jourdan at Vitoria and the resulting battle, in which the Light Division fought their way into the heart of the French position, was a triumph of arms for Wellington’s light troops.

The pursuit into the Pyrenees, had a sting in the tail when Marshal Soult mounted counter offensives in an attempt to relieve San Sebastian and Pamplona. Having thrown the French back and with the Sixth Coalition intact, the Light Division fought their way through the mountains and into Napoleon’s France.

With the allies closing in on all sides, the French fought on into 1814 and the Light Bobs had further fighting before the spoils of peace in a war-weary France could be enjoyed.

Editor's Choice

... a fascinating account of the Light Division at War.

The Armourer, October 2021

I preferred this book over the other book (1808-1811) on the same subject matter. I found this a much easier book to read, it’s a book that you can sit down on a Sunday afternoon and blitz through a few chapters with ease.

Irregular magazine, Issue 16 Volume 2 / Summer 2021 - review by Jason Hubbard

With this second book we have an accurate documentation and a powerful tool for consultation on one of the most famous Corps of Wellington during its performance in the Peninsular War.

Read the full Spanish review here

Miniaturas JM

The key strength of this book are of course those eyewitness accounts... The result is a useful account of the Light Division’s role in the second half of the Peninsular War.

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History of War

"...this is an excellent partner to the original volume, very well presented by experienced military men, with a clear tactical eye and it is extremely well illustrated. It comes highly recommended."

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The Napoleon Series

Review by Gareth Glover

... overall, this is an excellent partner to the original volume, very well presented by experienced military men, with a clear tactical eye and it is extremely well illustrated. It comes highly recommended.

Click here for the full review

The Waterloo Association

An interesting read which tells us so much about the Peninsular war and tells us so much about what life was like for the soldiers in the Light Division at the time. Even down to the tale of one sentry who held the rifle for his French opposite number one night while he went off to get some brandy for them both! An enjoyable and interesting read I thought.

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Military Model Scene, Robin Buckland

By contrast to old fashioned formation histories, it uses individual testimony from officers and soldiers to provide insight into the human experience in this long arduous campaign. The author's experience as re-enactors is evident in some of the detail, and in their presence in some of the photographs.

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Army Rumour Service (ARRSE)

Tim Saunders and Bob Yuill have done it again and given us a superb book. After the Light Division 1808-1811 [reviewed on this site] we had high expectations of the second part to take us from 1811 to 1814 and we have not been disappointed. Again the text is well focussed and doesn’t drift off into writing about the wider campaign more than is necessary to tell the Division’s story. This volume seemed to have even more insights into the lives of the officers and ordinary infantry soldiers both in and between the battles. Lots of snippets stick in the mind such as hunting with foxhounds, shooting woodcock and marching whole battalions out of the line to re-uniform. The skirmishes and battles are well described and given colour by the personal reports of both officers and men. The story is not all glory but includes the lows and the dark passages of the division. This is the story of the ‘incomparable Light Division’ accurately and engagingly told.
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 you read The Light Division1808-1811 first then you will find this book a ‘must read’.

Read the full review here

Clash of Steel

Having looked forward to receiving this volume it does not disappoint. It continues the style of its predecessor that covered the period 1808-1811 and delivers as good a narrative history as you could want. It is supported by all the technical details on weapons, uniforms and unit structure and deployment. The narrative is well supported by detailed maps, a variety of images and best of all plenty of eyewitness accounts that really bring home the brutality of war. The account by Hendall of the scene after the battle of the breach at Badajoz is sobering. Altogether an excellent book that together with its partner gives a complete account of the Light Division in the Peninsular. Highly recommended and well done gentlemen.

Michael McCarthy. Battlefield Guide

Michael McCarthy

About Tim Saunders

TIM SAUNDERS served as an infantry officer with the British Army for thirty years, during which time he took the opportunity to visit campaigns far and wide, from ancient to modern. Since leaving the Army he has become a full time military historian and has made nearly fifty full documentary films with Battlefield History and Pen & Sword. He is an active guide and accredited member of the Guild of Battlefield Guides.

Perfect Partner

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

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…

By Tim Saunders, Rob Yuill

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