I have just finished Julian Spilsbury's "The Thin Red Line" and it was fantastic. I was introduced to Spilsbury's work through reading "The Indian Mutiny" (another fine work and highly recommended!)
The book covers the British engagement during the Crimean War. It is, as expected, well written, fluid in its narrative and so expressive that you swear you could almost smell the gunpowder and feel the shot and shell whizz past you. He combines this amazing narrative with extracts from the diaries and letters of the soldiers serving during this war and he allows the wit, wisdom and emotion of these documents to tell their own tale. He allows you to feel a connection to the soldiers through his exquisite narration.
The Crimean War is known mostly for the emergence of Florence Nightingale and the Charge of the Light Brigade, but it is much more than that. He starts the book by explaining the political situation at the time and what it was that drew us into the conflict. He then details each major battle and engagement, in chronological order, for you to follow. His accounts are breathtaking as he takes you through the Alma, the charge, the battle of Inkerman and then the siege of Sebestapol.
He also takes a fair look at the situation, presenting no obvious bias. When you mention the Crimean War, the normal reaction is that Lord Raglan was totally incompetent, and while he may have had flashes of incompetence, the overall opinion is that he was popular with his troops and he did (for the most part) know what he was doing. The book does highlight the fact that the Government of the day was not prepared for the casualties, there were no ambulances and a distinct lack of anything in the way of medical support.
The book is aimed at a wide audience and does not make the assumption that the reader has an in-depth knowledge of this subject. However, the book is intelligent and you do not get the feeling that you, as the reader, are being patronised. In conclusion, I would heartily recommend this book, it will teach you so much and it will be a lesson that will be a pleasure to learn. Moreover it will help the reader to understand the courage and fortitude of the soldiers that fought, died and survived this most appalling war. This is a must read and I would heartily recommend this to everyone. Well done Mr Spilsbury
This is the most enjoyable I have read of the numerous books on this war. It contains large sections which are first hand accounts of the events, and gruesome they are on occasions. The maps are pretty clear and useful though, im the odd case, naming on a map of more of the particular features mentione in the text relating to an action in the area shown would have helped. I certainly wish I had owned this book when I visited Sevastopol and Balaclava some years ago and will certainly have it with me when I try to see more of the battle sites there this year. There is now also a monument to the Light Brigade charge erected since my last trip so that should, I hope,help too. As it was last visit, monuments to tank battles of WWII in the area were the more prominent Crimea features (interesting in themselves)
This is a typical example of the new generation of eyewitness histories. Julian Spilsbury combines a narrative that reads like a novel with extracts from letters and diaries that are absolutely perfect. There is nothing suprfluous in this book and it is ideal for anyone who is interested in, but new to the subject.
Every bit as good as Mark Urban's "Rifles". Believe the plaudits.