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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Tribute to The Author's Life Work
When Professor Richard Holmes left us prematurely at the end of April 2011, he had - as he put it - several books in 'holding pattern' that he was trying to complete. I gather now (from his wife's Acknowledgements on the final pages) that he knew his days were numbered and therefore put his remaining energy into 'Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties From Redcoats to Dusty...
Published on 8 May 2012 by Dr. Peter Caddick-adams

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Ultimately disappointing
Despite proclaiming to be a finished work, this book feels incomplete. The chapters are randomly ordered, repetitive, inconsistent and at times there is no logic sequence to the information. Furthermore the timeframe advertised in the subtitle is incorrect. There is plenty of history but very little on the modern soldier. It seems that modern soldiering involves the PWRR...
Published 18 months ago by Random


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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fitting Tribute to The Author's Life Work, 8 May 2012
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
When Professor Richard Holmes left us prematurely at the end of April 2011, he had - as he put it - several books in 'holding pattern' that he was trying to complete. I gather now (from his wife's Acknowledgements on the final pages) that he knew his days were numbered and therefore put his remaining energy into 'Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties From Redcoats to Dusty Warriors'.
We should be enormously grateful that he did, as he literally wrote from his sick bed, and 'was allowed out of hospital twice by his cancer specialist to work on the book', which (one suspects) contributed to his early death. One needs to remember this when reading 'Soldiers', for it does admittedly contain a few irritating repetitions, its structure is occasionally loose, and some chapters are more rounded than others, but these are minor niggles that a medically fit Holmes would no doubt have polished to his customary very high standard.
The volume's sub-title tells us much about the contents, as the 65 year-old Holmes was drawing on his earlier corpus of writing on the British soldier, including his Redcoat (2001), Tommy (2004), Sahib (2005) and Dusty Warriors (2006). The years of publication give an idea of his prodigious output - one and sometimes two very good books in most years, totalling over 35 volumes, written over a 40 year period.
What of 'Soldiers'? This is no less than an expression of Richard Holmes' love affair with the British soldier - Thomas Atkins - warts and all, about whom he spent most of his working life observing and writing. As Professor Holmes, he was an academic lecturer at Sandhurst, the Army Staff College and later the Defence Academy, Shrivenham, teaching officers their trade throughout his adult life. But he was much more than that; as Brigadier Holmes CBE, he served from private to brigadier in Britain's reserve forces, which he commanded in the late 1990s. In retirement, he was Honorary Colonel of the Princess of Wales' Royal Regiment (PWRR), whose dramatic 2004 tour in Iraq, resulting in Johnson Beharry's VC, he described memorably in Dusty Warriors (2006). Additionally, as a Justice of the Peace (part-time magistrate), Holmes occasionally had to lock-up wayward soldiers. Few, therefore, have been better qualified to write objectively on the British soldier than Holmes with these awesome credentials.
Drawing on his earlier writing about battlefields or men in and out of combat (Firing Line, 1986), and his biographies of Oliver Comwell (2002), the Dukes of Marlborough (2008) and Wellington (2002), Field Marshal Sir John French (1981) and Winston Churchill (2005), Holmes takes us through the origins of the rank structures, the uniforms and the history of the land force.
Most chapters are a self-contained delight of anecdotes and hard analysis, each a miniature doctorate, for dipping into over a quiet afternoon or evening. Examining the regulars and reserves (from the early militias to today's Territorial Army), 'Soldiers' then moves us on by way of boy soldiers, conscripts, foreign levies (like the King's German Legion or the Gurkhas) and women soldiers, to look at 'Tribes and Totems', his overview of military custom, tradition and martial music, from the happy and moving to the ugliness of punishment and execution. We finish with soldiers' habitats - from being quartered in Georgian pubs to Victorian barrack blocks and Edwardian messes - even soldiers' wives (or partners in today's world) make their presence felt.
Four points will strike the reader about 'Soldiers'.
First, no matter how well you thought you knew your military history (and I count myself a serious student), Holmes unearthed plenty of new material, which he deployed to good effect: even recent academic research at universities around the world is included in the mix.
Second, Holmes could WRITE. Though 600 pages long, this is NOT a dense book, or a difficult read. His prose sparkles on every page; there is wit aplenty, puns, and you can certainly hear echoes of the Professor who entertained the nation for many years with his 'War Walks' and other TV series. This is a man who enjoyed communicating and wrote to a very high standard indeed.
Third is the sheer range of historical examples his uses, from the Restoration period to the present day. And 'Soldiers' is very current: he discusses the merits of women soldiers in combat, the arrival of gay soldiers, and analyses the regimental amalgamations, mergers and disbandments of recent years that caused so much anguish in Scotland and elsewhere. His source material comes from old diaries, letters, memoires and newspapers, but also interviews and current internet chatrooms and blogs.
Finally, for those familiar with Holmes' other work, this is NOT a rehash of his writing to date. This book is a feast, and value for money. Writing against the clock, aware of an impending appointment with the Grim Reaper, Richard Holmes had given us a superb valedictory, an important interpretation of his own life's work and a fitting climax to his career of watching and understanding the British soldier, as no other.
Dr Peter Caddick-Adams, Cranfield University.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Crowning achievement, 29 Aug 2012
This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
This is a thematic study of the British Army, taking in regiments, recruitment, barrack life, army wives and a whole lot more. Holmes tells it all in a similar manner to his other books, especially Tommy and Sahib - he uses anecdotes and stories to get his points across, with lots of interesting snippets and details. There may be the occasional error, though they escaped my attention - the untimely and early death of the author meant that the book went to press largely as he left it, although it was mostly complete. Even so, this is a great summary of the army, and a suitable crowning achievement of the author's career as a military historian.
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly informative and entertaining..., 20 Sep 2011
By 
S. MOHAMADI (London,SW) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
I am amazed nobody has reviewed this magnificent book yet. Another great book from the great historian Richard Holmes who sadly passed away only quite recently. This is another treasure to add to your warfare history books section and admire the extensive research undertaken to form this fascinating book. Highly informative, entertaining and a sure way to get to know the British soldier over recent centuries and find out more about their hope and aspiration, and outlook on life and death firsthand.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Soldier's Life, 15 Oct 2011
By 
Philip Burt (Edinburgh. Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
As a former soldier in a Highland Regiment, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's written from a soldier's perspective and I found my own experiences resonating with those of who served down the ages.
It's a book for the soldier but will also be enjoyed by those who have connections with the army.
Richard Holmes was a fine historian and a great storyteller and will be sorely missed.
The Oxford Companion to Military History
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soldiers: another great book by Richard Holmes, but sadly his last one...., 13 Mar 2013
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S. A. Kuipers (Groningen, Netherlands) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
Professor Holmes truly went out with a bow. This book is his own personal tribute to the British army, its history, its customs, traditions, lore and pageantry, its idiosyncrasies, its present role and its future in this volatile world. It's a book about the men and women who were part of the 350-odd years of history of this remarkable institution. I'll stop here. The book has been extensively reviewed and highly praised and adding my two cents would only overegg the pudding.

It is sad to think there won't be any more books by Richard Holmes who wrote so eloquently and elegantly on the subjects he tackled.
And always firmly in command of these subjects, let us not forget that. He knew his stuff and had very interesting things to say about it. His books are always entertaining, poignant, insightful and contain precisely the right dose of emotion: he could be humorous and sometimes very moving. Never twee, no cheap effects or tricks, no page filling drivel. One took note of his opinions and conclusions which almost always were spot on. Mrs. Holmes and family: I'm sorry for your loss.

It is now almost two years ago that he died, age 65. In this time I sent some 5 or 6 messages to the BBC asking when the television documentaries that Richard Holmes wrote and presented will be released on dvd. I have yet to receive a decent answer other than "dear sir we acknowledge receipt of your message and so on and bladiblah, not our department, maybe in future....etcetera etcetera let us know if you like other programmes..."

Maybe if more of us who enjoy reading professor Holmes' books made known our wish for a dvd release of (preferably all) his television work (War Walks, Wellington, Battlefields, the Western Front, In the footsteps of Churchill) we could achieve something.....just a thought.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great investment for any historian, 24 Jan 2013
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While the book is incredibly long, there is very little I can qrite about it, at least with authority. As a reader with just superficial knowledge of the subject I can say that I found Richard Holmes' book both highly informative and highly enjoyable. Sure, there are some tedious parts, that could benefit from editing, but their presence is understandable due to the author's sudden death, which obviously prevented him from applying the finishing touches.

I bought 'Soldiers' as a historian whose field of interest just marginally overlaps with the book. I am very satisfied with the purchase. It covers a wide range of what one may call the social history of the British Army. You will learn about the punishments and penalties to which the soldiers could be subjected, about the political involvement of the army, the evolution of ranks and many, many more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soldiers, 4 Mar 2014
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
Yet another superb book from one of our finest military historians, now sadly departed. His deep understanding of the British soldier was similar to the insight that Rudyard Kipling had, as well as the deep affection for the Army and its institutions.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book, 23 April 2014
By 
Bob Shortis (Hertford, Britian) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
I am a fan of the late Richard Holmes and this book does nothing to dispel that. A fine read in his inimitable style he tells the story of the British Soldier through the ages. Entertaining and informative.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Soldiers, 8 Feb 2013
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This was an excellent history of the British Army. It deals with soldiers and does not get bogged down in descriptions of battles
A superb book. Richard Holmes is sadly missed
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very good book., 13 April 2014
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Mrs. Mary Carter (Plymouth, England) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Soldiers: Army Lives and Loyalties from Redcoats to Dusty Warriors (Hardcover)
Richard Holmes always writes well and it was a pleasure to read this book, which dealt with lots of aspects of different wars.
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