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on 29 June 2015
Books on the artillery of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars are few and far between, and when one comes along, no matter which artillery service it details, it is both a benefit and a treat. That certainly goes for this volume and anyone interested in the artillery of the period should have this volume on their bookshelf.

The author covers the Royal Artillery from Portugal and Spain to Belgium and covers the arm from muzzle to butt plate. There is enough artillery technical data supplied to use for reference for other works, but the narrative itself is clearly outstanding and tells the tale of a superb artillery arm that distinguished itself in action on many fields and of the officers and other ranks who manned and fought their guns in a proud tradition that endures to this day.

The Royal Artillery was slowly built up in the field in Portugal and Spain. There was never enough of it, and the excellent Portuguese artillery arm was trained and equipped by the British to a state of efficiency that reinforced and supplemented their British allies through the Peninsular campaigns. The two outstanding senior British artillery officers, Alexander Dickson and Augustus Frazer, were skilled artillery officers who could 'make bricks without straw' and they labored mightily to ensure that the artillery arm ably supported the infantry and cavalry.

It should also be noted that the three most interesting and valuable artillery technical innovations were introduced by the Royal Artillery during the period. The block trail gun carriage, that was superior to all other gun carriages of the period, and greatly admired by the French (who would later introduce it to their own artillery arm ca 1829), was introduced first with the Royal Horse Artillery and later with the Foot Artillery. The Congreve rocket, teething troubles and all, was also introduced and later copied by the Continental armies of France, Denmark and Austria. Lastly, and probably most importantly, spherical case shot, commonly called shrapnel after its inventor, Henry Shrapnel, was the British secret weapon of the period, was an excellent anti-personnel round, and was not copied by any other belligerent until well after 1815.

This volume is highly recommended and it rounds out the study of Wellington's Peninsular army as well as the army commanded by him in Belgium in 1815.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 May 2015
The Napoleonic Wars are well-documented, so why another book on them? This book takes a look at the battles, especially in the Peninsula, from a different perspective: namely, how artillery formed a vital part of Wellington's army. The author's contention is that Wellington was insufficiently appreciative of the gunners' contribution. In setting out his evidence, he provides vivid descriptions of not just the battles but the preparation for them - in an age of poor (or no) roads, and horses as a source of motive power, how do you get heavy guns and ammunition into the right place, and what do you do to defend them if they come under attack?

Perhaps a little specialised for the general reader, this will be a rewarding read for those who are already reasonably familiar with a pivotal period in history.
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VINE VOICEon 16 September 2013
The depth of research and the style of combining historical records into a narrative make this an excellent addition to the bookshelf of historians, militarists and enthusiast of the Napoleonic era. One might not have realised what it took to get artillery to a battlefield, the logistics of moving guns and ammunition along country roads, but it is soon revealed here. Plus the politicking of the Army Leaders. Fascinating to read journal extracts and letters home. This book has been long overdue and now serious gap in the historical literature has been filled.
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on 8 June 2015
This is a thoroughly well researched and written book highlighting the artillery contribution to Wellington's campaign; a rare viewpoint usually neglected in favour of the infantry and cavalry. Given the importance of the guns, and the interesting relationship between Wellington and his artillery generals, this is an important, entertaining historical study,
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on 12 September 2013
Given the interest generated by the Peninsular War and the Battle of Waterloo over the past two hundred years, it is astonishing that no one has produced a definitive history of the part played by the Royal Regiment of Artillery during those turbulent years from 1808 to 1815. That is what Colonel Nick Lipscombe has now achieved and he has made a huge success of it. It is an important book on a significant period in the Regiment's history and deserves a wide readership.

The colourful story is based upon an enormous amount of contemporary material by participants ranging from private soldiers to Wellington himself and backed by archives of political material, the records of the Board of Ordnance and family collections. Not only is it a comprehensive account of the activities of one of Wellington's prime assets, his artillery, but the story of the campaign overall as seen from an artillery point of view.

The author quotes verbatim from an enormous amount of that contemporary material, bringing the story to life as the reader begins to recognise the individuals and hear their accounts. These include the detail of the daily life of artillerymen as well as gripping accounts of the battles. The hardships they endured were often as much due to logistic failures as to enemy action or the harsh climate in the Peninsula, and they are often frank in their opinions of poor management by their seniors.

In particular, Lipscombe has brought to light the difficult relationship between Wellington and his Gunners. This element of the campaign has long been a bone of contention, not least because so few historians have delved deeply enough to understand the depth of hurt among the Gunners who had helped him to victory. The gap that opened between the two sides reveals an aspect of the commander that does him little credit. His negative attitude is explained, but he clearly failed to differentiate between the failures of the Board of Ordnance and the splendid performance of the Gunners who supported him in the field, a failure which shows a lack of humanity as well as a deficiency in man-management.

The book is packed with information which can only be obtained elsewhere by extensive reading and patient research. Lipscombe's bibliography is impressive and there is no other book on this subject which equals its depth of material. The book has 456 pages, complete with footnotes, maps, illustrations and an index. It is printed in a rather small font size, suggesting that he would have liked to write more but was limited by space. Nonetheless, it makes fascinating reading and I strongly recommend it, not only for historians but for all members of the Regiment.
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on 9 May 2015
A heavyweight work. If you're looking for a general review of the Peninsula Campaign, this isn't the place to start. But if you have a working knowledge of the events in Portugal and Spain, and the progress of the British army towards the passes of the Pyrenees, then it's fascinating background material.
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on 5 November 2013
This book fills a longstanding gap in research on the Napoleonic Wars, in that little had been printed regarding artillery. Not only was I pleased to find such a comprehensive work on this subject, but the more I read, the more I appreciated the fact that Nick Lipscombe has also provided an extremely readable condensed history of the Peninsular War and Waterloo, which runs a close third behind Oman and Napier in terms of facts, tactics, detail and maps.
Nick Lipscombe has commendably undertaken a massive amount of research. Amongst miriads of examples, I, for one, now know that shrapnel was first used at the battle of Roliça, and not at Vimeiro, as I had previously thought. I also have learned the origins of the single transom for British artillery, as opposed to the split one used by the French.
All in all, Wellington's Guns is an essential addition to one's library on this period of military history, as well as being an extremely attractive book in terms of presentation and illustrations. I would have preferred a larger print size .. but then the sheer volume of information probably would have warranted two books!
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on 27 February 2014
At last a book that covers the artillery during the Napoleonic wars. Most other Napoleonic titles tend to ignore the roll played by the gunners and focus more on the foot regiments and cavalry. My ancestor was a gunner in Roger's company at Waterloo and Quatre Bras as well as earlier campaigns. This book really has been an eye opener, giving me so much more information than I've ever been able to gather before. Fantastic read!!!
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on 21 September 2013
There has been a long-standing gap in the bibliography of the Peninsular War and Waterloo; first the immense contribution of the Royal Regiment of Artillery to these successful campaigns and secondly the relationship between their General and his Gunners.
Colonel Nick Lipscombe, with his career as an Artillery Officer, his access to Royal Artillery archives and his thorough knowledge of the fields of battle, is in a unique position to fill this gap.
He has done so brilliantly. His Wellington's Guns has been deeply researched, goes into great detail of the Gunners; the men, their officers, their leaders and their equipment. The maps he uses are from his award-winning Peninsular War Atlas and do much to aid the understanding of the battles.
Wellington's Guns is an outstanding and long overdue history of Wellington's Gunners.
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on 9 November 2013
Gunners, often forgotten by History, will be delighted, Soldiers will listen to a story narrated by a true soldier who has stepped on all the battlefields he is describing, Historians will be hit by the meticulous research work undertaken. What about the rest of the audience?...Well, follow Nick through this travel along one of the most stormy period of our history, you cannot be disappointed. The story ends up with the most famous European battle, Napoleon duelling with Wellington. Nick has taken an angle of story telling nobody dared before! The book is a must in your library.

Les lecteurs français avisés, qu'ils soient experts de la période napoléonienne, artilleurs de métier ou friands de travaux de précision sauront apprécier le travail remarquable du colonel Lipscombe. Cerise sur le gâteau, cet officier britannique de très grande classe sait conserver une objectivité à toute épreuve vis à vis des adversaires français et sortir des poncifs habituels de la littérature militaire anglo-saxonne. A apprécier sans modération!
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