Wellington's Guns: The Untold Story of Wellington and his artillery in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, Nick Lipscombe

Wellington's Guns: The Untold Story of Wellington and his artillery in the Peninsula and at Waterloo, Nick Lipscombe

Wellington's campaigns are amongst the most studied in British military history, but his artillery has been curiously neglected. What coverage there is tends to focus either on the famously poor relationship between Wellington and most of his artillery commanders or the problems finding a siege train for the attacks on Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo.

Lipscombe has produced a very impressive piece of work, combining a detailed narrative history of the artillery's role in these campaigns with an analysis of their performance. For each campaign and every major battle and siege and many smaller we are told which batteries were present, with what guns, and with whom in charge. This is followed by an examination of their contribution to the action, with a special focus on unusual developments such as the direct support provided during the siege of San Sebastian, when the gunners fired just over the heads of the stalled Allied attackers. Finally we look at the aftermath of the action, including Wellington's reports, letters from the participants, casualty figures and an assessment of the performance of the artillery.

There are several key strands that run through this book. The first follows the generally unsatisfactory chain of command in the artillery and the relationship between Wellington and his various artillery commanders. The artillery was the one part of his army that didn’t answer directly to Wellington, and instead to the Board of Ordnance in London. Wellington often struggled to get his way with appointments elsewhere in the army, having to make do with officers sent out because of their seniority rather than their ability, but he had even less command over the artillery. The second strand looks at the difficulties faced by the artillery units in the field, including once again the chain of command, which could be rather confused even on the individual battlefield and transport problems, both with the supply of horses and suitable drivers. Third are the many innovations introduced during the fighting in Spain and Portugal, with close support, an early form of creeping barrage and tests with rockets.  

This is a very useful contribution to the literature on Wellington's campaigns, provided both detailed information that will be of use to other authors and a thoughtful analysis of Wellington's use of his artillery, his attitude to, and the relationship between the artillery and their commander.

1 - Robe's Frustrations
2 - Harding's Preparations
3 - Cookson's Powder Keg
4 - Howorth's Arrival
5 - Wellington's Cold Shoulder
6 - MacLeod's Labours
7 - Shrapnel's Duck Shot
8 - Ross's Agitation
9 - Duncan's Determination
10 - Ramsay's Breakout
11 - Cleeve's Escape
12 - Dickson, the Die is Cast
13 - Borthwick, the Walking Target
14 - Douglas's Close Support
15 - Dyneley's Capture and Wellington's Failure
16 - Holcombe's Opportunity
17 - Ramsay's Arrest
18 - Williamson's Fury
19 - Curtain of Fire
20 - Waller's Remonstrance
21 - Frazer's Swank and Lane's Rockets
22 - Wood's Commitment
23 - Wellington's Guns and Napoleon's Daughters
24 - Wellington's Gunners

Author: Nick Lipscombe
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 408
Publisher: Osprey
Year: 2013

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