The Light Division in the Peninsular war 1808-1811, Tim Saunders and Rob Yuill

The Light Division in the Peninsular war 1808-1811, Tim Saunders and Rob Yuill

The Light Division was one of the most famous parts of Wellington’s victorious army in Spain and Portugal during the Peninsula War after its formation in 1810, but many of the units involved in the division had been in Iberia since the start of the British intervention in 1808. This book covers the history of each of the units involved in the Light Division from the arrival of those first troops under Wellington, through the period under Sir John Moore, and on to Wellington’s return, the impressive march to Talavera (although they still missed the battle), the retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras and the less familiar campaign of 1811.

We start with a look at the development of light infantry in Britain, where for many years it was a fringe idea. Only the great success of the French skirmishes on Revolutionary battlefields forced the army to take the idea seriously. Sir John Moore’s famous Shorncliffe Camp is examined, but isn’t the full picture. It is also interesting to see how Moore’s ideas were modified in combat, especially under General Craufurd, the division’s most effective commander during this period. The main text covers the first four years of the Peninsula War – starting with Wellington’s initial invasion of Portugal, which saw the light infantry take part in his first victories. After the embarrassing Convention of Cintra, all three senior British officers had to return home, leaving Sir John Moore in charge for the first expedition into Spain, which ended with the retreat to Corunna, where the light troops often formed the rearguard. This rather set a pattern for them – very often the nearest to the enemy either as a rearguard or on outpost duty.

We then move on to look at Wellington’s return and the battles of Talavera, Bucaco Ridge and Fuentes de Onoro as well as the retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras. The light division missed the first of these (after a famous march), but played a major role in the others. However their record wasn’t perfect – on several occasions Craufurd took too many risks and exposed his troops to potential defeat, and these are examined here.

The Division didn’t just contain the famous 95th Rifles. This book makes a determined attempt to include sources from the other units in the division, including the cavalry, and covers the activities of their Portuguese forces as well (although with limited sources available for this period). Although the events covered are often very familiar, this means that we do get a different view of most of them, and a better idea of the full range of the Light Division’s activities. 

1 – Origins of the British Light Infantry
2 – The First Peninsula Campaigns, 1808
3 – Sir John Moore’s Campaign in Spain
4 – The Retreat to Corunna
5 – Return to the Peninsula and the 1809 Campaign
6 – Outpost Duties, 1810
7 – Combat on the Coa
8 – The Battle of Bucaco Ridge
9 – The Lines of Torres Vedras and Winter 1810-1811
10 – The Pursuit to Spain, March 1811
11 – Fuentes de Onoro

Author: Tim Saunders and Rob Yuill
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 272
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2020

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