As a young girl, I was a pretty voracious not to mention eclectic, reader. Amongst the books I consumed were the romances of Georgette Heyer and the "Hornblower" series of C. S. Forester.
Among the Georgette Heyer romances were two particular ones:
The Spanish Bride is the story of (the then) Lieutenant Harry Smith and Juana, the Spanish child bride he married after the siege of Badajoz. It tells the tale from the days before the storming, to the morning after Waterloo. It also tells about Harry's friends in the regiment, like Johnny Kincaid, Charlie Eeles, George Simmons and William Havelock the "young varmint". (Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan)
An Infamous Army is a love story set against the background of the Waterloo campaign. The description of the battle itself is superb (and apparently still used at Sandhurst). Johnny Kincaid is there again, with his Riflemen snugged down in a sandpit in front of the main line and the company kettle working overtime brewing tea. So is Harry Smith, back from the New Orleans campaign, just in time to provide reserves for Wellington. (Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan)
When I went to University (Science, Physics), it was the University of Sydney, and I gained access to the finest research library in the Southern Hemisphere. Here I found Harry Smith's "Autobiography", Johnny Kincaid's "Adventures", Wellington's "Despatches", Oman and Napier and many other great books about the period but not much fiction.
As for C. S. Forester, when I finished "Hornblower and the Crisis" and realised there would be no more tales, I started to look at his other books and rapidly found:
"Death to the French" is a parallel story, one thread about a Rifleman (Dodd) cut off from his unit during the withdrawal to the Lines of Torres Vedras. He meets up with a group of Portuguese irregulars, and trains them in light troop tactics, to better harry the French. The other thread is about a French subaltern, Godinot, bringing a draft of conscripts to Massena's Army of Portugal. As the small group work their way across Portugal, they are picked off one by one by the Portuguese irregulars (usually Dodd's group, since they are moving in the same direction). The book emphasised the initiative encouraged amongst the rank and file in the Rifles. "Death to the French" is being republished in 2003. It is known as "Rifleman Dodd" in the US. (Image courtesy of Pan Macmillan)
"The Gun" is about a group of Spanish Guerilleros who find an abandoned cannon. It becomes the focus of their campaign, and the rumour of it swells their numbers, until they become too big to take cover in the hills and attract the attention of a French Army. While it doesn't mention the English, let alone the Rifles, it does tell something of the other half of the Peninsular War. "The Gun" has been recently reprinted. (Images courtesy of Pan Macmillan and Weidenfeld & Nicholson Military.)
The Captain from Connecticut has absolutely nothing to do with the Ninety-fifth. It is the story of an American Frigate Captain during the War of 1812. But Harry Smith was Ross's Adjutant at Bladensburg (near Washington, DC), and he and part of the 3rd battalion went with the expedition to New Orleans, so there's a nice sidetrack I wandered down. And it might just make it's way onto these pages one day. (Image courtesy of Hodder Headline.)
Of course I now have the "Hornblower" telemovies on which to feast.
Running out of Foresters and Heyers, I moved on to other naval series like Dudley Pope's Ramage books, Alexander Kent's Bolitho series , the Aubrey/Maturin books by Patrick O'Brian and the Drinkwater series by Richard Woodman. There are other naval series, but I haven't really got into them in a big way, so they form a sort of reading list.
As I said above, on the military side there is far less fiction about this era, probably due to Britain's limited efforts. One example is the "Sharpe" Series of books by Bernard Cornwell, and the television series made from them. Cornwell also writes on other periods. In the last couple of years a new military series has appeared, Howard's Lausard novels. There are also some series about other periods, but the army, being less flexible than the navy, offers limited scope for a series.
Images on this page are used by kind permission of Pan Macmillan Books, Hodder Headline Books and Weidenfeld & Nicholson Military, an Orion Books company (available from Amazon).
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Last update 5/10/03