Sir John Fortescue, the great historian of the British Army, argued that it is impossible to understand the Waterloo campaign of June 1815 without a knowledge of Sir Thomas Graham's ill-fated expedition to Holland in the winter of 1813-14. Dr Bamford's thoroughly researched study of this little-known campaign (as far as I know the first since Fortescue'a own account) ably fills the gap. With massive Allied armies closing in on Napoleon's crumbling empire, the British Government hoped that the despatch of a substantial force to the main theatre of war would give them more leverage in the peace negotiations following the defeat of Napoleon. It was also hoped to assist the Dutch in their rebellion against French rule and to seize Antwerp, which had long been a British war-aim. Alas, with Britain's land forces already heavily committed in the Peninsula and North America, Graham's army was badly trained, poorly equipped and inadequate for purpose. Matters were not helped by difficulties with the Prussians and the unhelpful attitude of the theatre commander, the Crown Prince of Sweden (the former Marshal Bernadotte). After failing to take Antwerp, Graham decided to attack Bergen-op-Zoom, but the attempt to capture the fortress by storm was repulsed with heavy losses and the campaign petered out. Dr Bamford's vivid account of this action, enlivened by anecdotal testimony from participants, proved useful during a recent visit to the town.
To return to Fortescue's point, the campaign highlighted the problems of coalition warfare that Wellington was to experience a year later, while several British units that took part would form the core of the Duke's "infamous army" at Waterloo.