Now this choice of bedside reading came about having purchased the box set of the wonderful, Napoleonic adventure series, 'Sharpe'. It was one of those impromptu buys when I was supposed to be supporting the good lady wife on a recent grocery shopping trip - clearly I need a stronger lead! The knock down price for fourteen feature length episodes was just too much to resist and so it found its way home hidden under a rather delicious ready made paella. A couple of episodes in I started to wonder how accurately portrayed the characters were and with a couple of carefully placed clicks of the mouse Mark Urban's 'Rifles' was winging its way towards 'Awdry Towers'.
I would like to tell you that I am able to devour military history books with ease but sadly the opposite is true as far too often my concentration is broken by the most trivial of things. I was relieved then to discover the Urban's style of writing was suitably fast paced to keep even me well and truly hooked, "an exhilarating work of narrative history".
'Rifles' charts the progress of the now legendary 95th or Rifle Regiment of Wellington's army, Sharpe's original regiment in the fictional series, and its progress through the Peninsula campaigns up to and including Waterloo. What was particularly fascinating to learn was that the tactics employed by the Rifles were a relatively new way of thinking with regards to soldiering and one that would ultimately form the basis of modern skirmishing tactics that we see in use even today. Told using anecdotal evidence, the stories of the riflemen were riveting and it clear to see how this band of tough and resilient men formed the inspiration for the characters created by Bernard Cornwell for the 'Sharpe' series of novels.
A thoroughly enjoyable piece of work and a must for anyone with an interest in the period of who, like me, just wanted to know what happened to those men that marched, "over the hills and far away". A well deserved four crowns.