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November 11, 2014

Book Review - All in Scarlet Uniform by Adrian Goldsworthy

This is historical military fiction covering the Peninsula War in Portugal and Spain when England stood virtually alone against Napoleon in Europe. It is familiar territory to readers of Bernard Cornwell's Sharpe series and even to those who have read Georgette Heyer's The Spanish Bride, a retelling of the real life story of Harry Smith of the 95th rifles. This is the story of an imaginary regiment but is based on fact. I found it competent rather than inspired but it certainly conveyed the brutal reality of close up encounters with rifle and bayonet as well as adding to our understanding of the strategic, budgetary and political considerations of the generals.  Getting new recruits to take the King's shilling was always a tough ask, although poverty led to many joining up on promises, which were sometimes kept, of regular pay and good food. One aid to the task was a marching song to the traditional Scottish tune of "Oh Bonnie Wood O'Craigielee" which is now better known, in Australia at least, as Waltzing Matilda. The full lyrics are at the front of the book.

 
A bold fusilier came marching back through Rochester

Off for the wars in a far country,

And he sang as he marched

Through the crowded streets of Rochester,

Who'll be a soldier with Wellington and me?

 

Who'll be a soldier? Who'll be a soldier?

Who'll be a soldier with Wellington and me?

And he sang as he marched

Through the crowded streets of Rochester,

Who'll be a soldier with Wellington and me?

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