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Book Review | Wellington's Redjackets by Steve Brown (2015)

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Book Review | Wellington's Redjackets by Steve Brown (2015)

Postby Mark » March 13th, 2016, 3:54 pm

Title: Wellington’s Redjackets: The 45th (Nottinghamshire) Regiment of Foot on Campaign in South America and the Peninsula, 1805-14
Author: Steve Brown
Publication Date: 2015
Publisher: Frontline Books
ISBN: 978-1-47385-175-7


The Peninsular War of 1808 to 1814 was, perhaps, the principal theatre of war during the wider Napoleonic Wars where Britain was able to make a significant contribution to the fight against Napoleon on land. Anyone with an interest in British history will have heard of the Duke of Wellington and his campaigns against the French in Portugal and Spain. Many will also have heard of the exploits of the legendary 95th Rifles or the almost equally famous 52nd Regiment of Foot, another light infantry unit. Numerous other regiments, of course, fought under the duke’s command during the campaign, many of which also have a rich an interesting history; yet so little is heard about them outside of official regimental histories or brief mentions in other works. Thanks to author Steve Brown, we can now learn much about the 45th Regiment of Foot, which clearly rates amongst some of the best in the Peninsula.

Although this title largely concentrates on the 45th in Portugal and Spain, the book begins with the regiment in South America, a theatre of war that still remains under-studied in the history of the Napoleonic Wars, thus offering the reader something more than just details of the fighting on the Iberian Peninsula. However, the story really begins when the regiment landed in Portugal in late 1808, after which the author chronologically examines the activities of the battalion, which remained in the Peninsula until the end of the war in 1814. (The book itself is separated into parts, each examining a full year of the war while being further subdivided into three to five chapters.) The 45th would take part in – or at least be present at - the battles or sieges of Rolica, Vimiera, Talavera, Busaco, Fuentes D'Onoro, Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, Salamanca, Vittoria, Pyrenees, Nivelle, Orthes and Toulouse; making it one of the most experienced of Wellington’s infantry regiments by the time of Napoleon’s first defeat. One could even argue that the 45th should take pride of place alongside the legendary 95th Rifles and 52nd Foot.

Overall the book is extremely well written and enjoyable to read. It is packed full of detail and, although there are none of the usual illustrations or images, there are many useful maps. This book should appeal to anyone with an interest in the Napoleonic Wars, and especially those with a particular enthusiasm for the Peninsular War. It deserves five out of five stars!
Mark Simner BA (Hons) MSc | Web: http://marksimner.me.uk | Twitter @marksimner
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Re: Book Review | Wellington's Redjackets by Steve Brown (20

Postby jf42 » March 13th, 2016, 8:47 pm

"Redjackets" An odd nickname- in that it could, on the face of it, apply to any one of dozens of infantry corps, until one considers that it derives from the story of Lieutenant Macpherson of the 45th, at Badajoz on 6th April 1812.

MacPherson, having already been shot once off the top of a scaling ladder, bleeding, with two broken ribs, made it over the battlements on the second attempt and found his way to the tower where the French garrison flag was flying. He struck the French colours and for lack of a British flag, so the story goes, ran his own jacket up the halyard thus proclaiming victory, and the Lincoln green facings claiming the laurels of the day for his regiment.

Next day, Macpherson delivered the French flag to Picton, his divisional commander, who directed him to present it to Wellington, which, after some hesitation, he duly did. We are told Wellington thanked MacPherson and invited him to dinner, but he declined because of the state of his wounds. (History does not relate whether he was, at that moment, improperly dressed).

https://archive.org/stream/historythstn ... 4/mode/2up

Good story. I wonder how long after the event the nickname was in fact coined. In the 1902 history cited above, written by Lt Col P.H. Dalbiac, there is no mention of it. The author cites the nickame of Picton's 'Fighting Third' division on virtually every page of the chapter on the Peninsula. He mentions the 45th's adoption of the subsidiary title "Sherwood Foresters' in 1866 and at the end of the book he makes a brief reference to the regiment's being dubbed 'The Green Marines' in the mid-C18th, but on the matter of 'Wellington's Red Jackets,' he is mysteriously mute.

The not-entirely reliable list of Regimental Nicknames compiled by John Cook and Robert Burnham for the Napoleonic Series
offers the 'Old Stubborns'- 'Because of service at Talavera.' Dalbiac does make one oblique reference to the casualties suffered by the "gallant 'stubborns' " that day and another to the stubborness of Wellesley's troops in general. Make of that what you will.

https://archive.org/stream/historythstn ... 2/mode/2up
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Re: Book Review | Wellington's Redjackets by Steve Brown (20

Postby Mark » March 14th, 2016, 3:24 pm

Thanks for the additional info, jf42! :)

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