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on 7 November 2017
Urban has produced an easy-to-read synthesis of the many contemporary accounts left by members of Wellington's 95th Regiment, aimed at readers who have enjoyed 'Sharpe'. His style is engaging and the authorial device of concentrating on four main characters helps to maintain the reader's interest. The book does, however, suffer from inadequate citing of sources. He claims that the rifleman could fire one shot per minute while most authorities claim two shots per minute, and more if the men treated the rifle as a smooth bore by using the paper cartridge and dispensing with the leather patches that helped the ball grip the rifling. Since this is at variance with the usual opinion it would have been helpful if he had given his source. Nor did he cite Rory Muir's online notes to Chapter 27 of 'Wellington, The Path to Victory' for the variant reading of Harry Smith's relationship with Juana Dolores de Leon.

Other reviewers have commented on the absence of useful maps; while it is interesting to see Lieut. Thomas Mitchell's maps, since they show what Wellington had to work from, the general reader who doesn't have access to modern Peninsular War maps, such as those of Col. Nick Lipscombe, needs more than Urban supplies to make sense of the battle scenes.

Overall the book was an interesting introduction to this fascinating period of the 95th's history, and the integration of original accounts may encourage readers to look at these eye-witness recollections more closely as many of them are freely available online.
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on 5 April 2012
I don't think I'll tell you what this book is about. Read other reviews which summarise the content. Or better still, read the book!

I knew a bit about the Peninsular Wars, But the dry facts are brought to life here. Other reviewers have likened it to "Band of Brothers" and that's certainly a good comparison. It tells you that soldiers are pretty much the same, whatever period they're from and wherever they fought. There are heroes, cowards, lucky and unlucky people and everything in between. Researching individuals and relating their stories throughout the chronological story of the campaigns is absolutely fascinating. The two hundred years between then and now are successfully spanned and you can imagine yourself there. Could you be one of the first through a breach during a siege? Could you stand with your colleagues exchanging fire with an enemy half a football field away? Would you stand or run as canister shot bursts around you, decimating those there?

It's informative about The Rifles and the war. But it's entertainment as well and doing both I suspect makes the knowledge and the enjoyment go further. A winning formula!
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on 28 April 2014
This is the history behind the Sharpe books; as others have said, it's like the book "Band of Brothers" by Ambrose, about 'E' Company of the US 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment in WWII, but the author is working from much more limited sources in describing events and personalities from two hundred years ago, now.

That he does it so well is a triumph. The main aspect that deserves greater attention is 'the hook' (why is the 95th Regiment particularly interesting?)... we can see that they fought as Infantry in a relatively modern way, but did they become the model for the British Army, or are we only seeing that now, with hindsight? I'd like to know.

Beyond that, the book also addresses aspects of social history; whilst the distinctions and tensions between the types of officer are treated in some detail, there are also brief glimpses of the English, Scots and Irish 'other ranks' being segregated, which begs for more attention/explanation.

Don't let me put you off; this is a really good book... not least because, like all the best History, it gives you information and reasons to ask more questions.
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on 18 May 2014
My knowledge of the Penisular War was limited to the odd episode of "Sharpe" (sorry historians). The description of the privations of warfare in this era and the development of new tactical approaches and how these related to class structure and how the British and the French perceived their national character were revealing and though provoking. One slight criticism was that the central idea that the methods of the British riflemen was new and revolutionary was repeated several times too many- I got it from the off. It was refreshing to read about this period, we hear so much about the Victorians.
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on 16 November 2014
Superb book telling the story of the Rifles, how they came to be and how they fared in the Peninsula War. Urban writes as if he is telling a story and makes you feel as if you are alongside the men he is writing about. He chooses his main combatants carefully to represent the different ranks and attitudes prevalent at the time. This is excellent writing about a turbulent time and portrays how the Rifles came to be a successful unit despite entrenched opposition. A first class read.
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on 24 March 2012
I am only halfway through this book and it is so well written, I can actually feel I am in with the men of the 95th, the reality of how they coped with the sometimes horrendous conditions.
This is a must for sharpe fans, but not for the squemish this is about a TOUGH regiment, Tough in more ways than one and all told in such a way ( once you get into the book )that I defy anyone to be able to put it down.
You are there in with the men all the time with descriptions that drag you into the action, and comments from various soldiers of the 95th, the victories and the blind faliures due to the odd incompetant officer, this is war in the raw.
A must read and should be made into a series like sharpe.

Well done Mark Urban 150% BOOK
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on 27 September 2011
Mark Urban gives us an incite-full look at the now legendary riflemen of the 95th. Set largely during the Peninsula Campaign, he draws on many sources of information and gives a well balanced account. We hear in detail of the long marches and hard fought battles as well as the unusual and forward thinking battle tactics used by the regiment. We are also told of the less glorious pillaging, desertions and punishments.

Urban puts exerts taken from memoirs and diaries to good use, we really get a feeling of what these men endured and experienced. He also uses material taken from French sources giving us the Rifles reputation from the other side of the coin.

The maps included in this book where a little unhelpful and could have used further work. Overall an informative and interesting read for anyone into the Napoleonic era.
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on 14 August 2013
For anyone who has the slightest interest in the Peninsula War, this book will fill in all the gaps about one of the most iconic of Wellington's crack fighting regiments. I thoroughly enjoyed the personal angle given to the accounts of each battle, and was very interested to read of the lives of some of the soldiers after Waterloo - most authors don't bother. I would recommend it to anyone interested in the development of tactical warfare before the age of mechanical aids. A great read.
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on 6 April 2015
An antidote to C.S. Forester's The Gun? What do I mean? Well, The Gun is a smashing yarn of the peninsular confict but, possibly, it romanticises some aspects of the campaign, from the guerillas' perspective. This book presents very clearly what it was like to be a British soldier. The detail is excellent and I appreciated it the more so having recently finished The Gun.
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on 18 October 2016
A classic tale of a soldier in the Rifle Battalions in the Peninsular war and on to Waterloo. Gives a frank and often very full commentary on the officers and rankers, their lives, loves and their actions both on and off the field of battle.
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