Waterloo – A New History of the Battle and its Armies
By Gordon Corrigan
Atlantic Books – £12.99

If nothing else, Waterloo – A New History of the Battle and its Armies, sheds much illuminating light on the 220,000 men who actually fought amid the rain-sodden, blood-stained fields of Belgium on Sunday June 18th, 1815.

One very interesting, and perhaps pertinent example is to be found in the fifth chapter of this more than readable book (‘The Soldiers’), wherein Gordon Corrigan (MBE) writes: ”While in some aspects of military discipline French soldiers, representing as they did a wider spectrum of society than their British equivalents, were better behaved, the incidence of rape was considerably higher in French service. This may be because the British soldier on the loose tended to search for and consume large quantities of alcohol first, before his thoughts turned to women, while French ambitions were the other way round.”

So nothing much has really changed.
That’s not to say all Frenchmen remain plagued with a sexual appetite wherein rape is the only answer. That’s to say most Englishmen still prefer tipple over totty.

Hence the belief that many Frenchmen makes for better lovers – which, given the colossal amount of binge-drinking in the UK, they probably are.

Moreover, these ten chapters (excluding Introduction, Epilogue and a list of maps & colour illustrations) traverses an array of distinctive material, that was to ultimately be responsible for Napoleon’s final exile to St. Helena. Not to mention Britain going on to become a world power (”indeed the only world power for a century to come”).

Corrigan, whose previous books include Blood and Poppycock, Blood, Sweat and Arrogance, The Second World War and Glorious Adventure, writes with a vigour that is clearly steeped in inspired thought and analytical know-how – which may partially account for The Spectator having referred to Waterloo as ”vigorous, lucid, well-organised and entertaining.”

That, it most certainly and undoubtedly is.
Qualities which will hopefully entice an entire new generation of readers and historians to learn about this decisive defeat for Napoleon and hard-won victory of the Allied armies of (ironically) Britain and Prussia.

David Marx


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