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on 18 November 2013
The text for the book I ordered was in English and, as usual with the titles from this wonderful series, it is full of maps, uniform plates, flags, battle imagery and photographs, one of which is a panorama strip of the Ocana battlefield that stretches across six pages, making it ideal for wargamers. Although some of the prints can be found in one of their previous publications, Soldiers and Uniforms of Napoleonic Wars, the majority, as far as I am aware, are new. The title also contains a detailed Orders of Battle but, as with all books, the Orders of Battle differs in troop numbers and units present and should be compared with OOB's given in other accounts. The narrative is lively and contains some despatches and letters, including one by the Spanish commander Marquis de Zayas and one by the French Major-General Dessoles. It is very rare to find a single book that concentrates solely on one action between the French the Spanish during the Napoleonic wars, so this book is certainly a welcome addition to the Histoire & Collections series.
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on 14 March 2014
As ever with this series, the book is beautiful, and the artwork and uniform plates splendid. Also as ever with this series, the English translated edition is a disgrace - it's not just the odd mistake of language - factual information is lost, changed, transposed, distorted - too many examples to list. If any proof-reading at all is carried out (which I doubt) then it was done by someone who had so little understanding of the subject matter that the whole production is badly compromised. I have a number of books from this series - Wagram, 1814 campaign and a couple of others - in each case, the French editions are vastly superior.

The good news is that this book covers a rare subject, and covers it well (if you double check the translated English - the translator, for example, cannot distinguish between a division, a regiment or a battalion) - buy it, and enjoy it, but be warned!
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on 22 February 2014
This book has been on my radar for some time. But it’s been several years in the publishing, so to say I was excited when it arrived in the post was understating the case. That it turned out to be something of a curate’s egg may simply be over-expectation on my part.

The problem with battles fought solely between French and Spanish armies is that accounts of them in English are rare. And this one’s a biggie, because Ocana is chiefly memorable for the largest cavalry action, in terms of the total number of combatants, during the entire Peninsular war. Yet one Spanish monograph apart, little has been written about the affair.

I suppose that’s understandable to a degree. Despite it being a great French victory, the war in Iberia was ultimately considered a pretty futile sideshow to cataclysmic events elsewhere in Napoleonic Europe. British historians never really took an interest because Wellington’s small army was not involved and for the Spanish, Ocana was a huge disaster so best swept quietly under the carpet.

What made it all the more interesting for me was the Spanish outnumbered the French, especially in cavalry, so there seemed no good reason why they should have lost. And if they had beaten Marshal Soult, in command at that time, they could have marched on the Spanish capital Madrid, seat of Napoleon’s brother King Joseph. Who knows what might have happened then?

But the French triumphed and gave the book it’s slightly confusing subtitle. The Spanish army was called the Army of the Centre, in case you were wondering, because they did have more than one.

The first two-thirds of the book is given over to a brief introduction of what had gone before, the reasons the Spanish decided to march on Madrid without British help, and the better known ‘personalities’ involved. The author’s description of both armies’ manoeuvres prior to the battle is fairly brief and I would have preferred more background, particularly from the Spanish viewpoint, but hey – maybe there’s no accessible archive material available.

In what I guess is a nod in Osprey’s direction, the book is full (some might say over-full) of very good illustrations and this particular section is a wargamer’s dream. Every regiment that took part is listed, within its Division, and in the majority of cases with its commander. But most importantly, specially commissioned colour illustrations show their uniforms in great detail, along with examples of the standards individual regiments carried.

The last third concentrates on the battle itself. The author provides more detail than I’ve come across before - there are a number of decent maps - and of particular interest are translated despatches from French generals Sebastiani, Soult and Mortier, which I’ve not seen previously, together with Spanish commander General Ariezaga’s report on the outcome and General Zayas’ despatch explaining how the Spanish right wing was routed. This section also includes a number of short inserts, mostly from a French viewpoint, on the use of ambulances at the battle, casualty returns, subsequent recommendations for honours etc, all based on letters and despatches written at the time and the inclusion of which adds interest to the narrative.

Juhel's patriotism shows. That’s not a problem - British historians are (mostly) the same - but there’s far less information presented on the Spanish army than I would have liked. My other minor gripe is the text itself is in a pretty small font given the book’s large format, which makes it a difficult read in poor light. Anyone who’s struggled with the paperback version of Charles Esdaile’s otherwise excellent ‘The Peninsular War’ will know what I mean!

So it was an okay book - 3.5 to 4 stars. As the battle is so rarely written about, if I were a Grande Armee fanatic I’d probably give it a 5. And it’s likely an essential if you’re either a keen wargamer or interested in period Spanish army strategy but can’t read the language.

It just left me with the feeling I’d missed something, though.
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on 29 July 2014
These books are becoming the industry standard. You get an excellent account of the battle and superb uniform details. The uniform details are amazing and unlike their competitors they provide details on troopers, NCO, standards, officers and rank insignia. Excellent!
Mike B
Cardiff
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on 2 December 2013
The latest in this series is as good as ever. The uniform plates are now by Peter Bunde and are still at a brilliant standard. Lots of other good illustrations. The text is good but don't look to these books for the depth research you would find in more academic publications..
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on 11 February 2014
Ideal for wargamers and those interested in the Spanish army. Not certain that all the organisation details on the Spanish are correct, but well worth the read if you are interested in the war in the penninsular.
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on 20 May 2015
I have all the H&C Napoleonic books-As with all the other books excellent item, good pictures.
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on 28 December 2013
Another in the series of Great Battles of the Napoleonic Wars.Following the death of Hourtoulle,I thought that this would end,but Histoire & Collections have stuck by their loyal customers.This book deals with a little known element of the Peninsular War,before Wellington and the British army moved in to steal all the headlines.
Excellent uniform illustrations,as always,and a host of prints and colour pictures complete the informative text.Well worth adding to your collection.Now,with 2015 coming up,how about the Waterloo campaign?!!!
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on 3 January 2014
This is an attractive and lavishly illustrated book in keeping with the rest of the series. I was unaware of the battle so this was a welcome addition but I have a few reservations. Firtsly the Orders of Battle could hav ebeen presented in a more compact and readable form and secondly there is (as with others in the series) a distinctly pro French bias which would lead me to only read the account in conjunction with other sources.
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on 28 May 2015
Excellent value
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