Waterloo 1815 (1) Quatre Bras.
Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: Osprey Publishing (November 18, 2014)
Osprey’s multi volume contribution to the 200th anniversary of Waterloo kicks of with the Battle of Quatre Bras. Fought on the 16th of June 1815, it is good to bear in mind that this battle two has reached its bicentenary.
A barrel straight narrative dominates this account of a very confusing battle. This precursor to Waterloo has always defied an easy analysis because it has no real form and eludes clear definition like the shape of water. Therefore the more focused histories that are published the better. However it has been continuously overshadowed by the main battle on the 18th.
I was very pleased with this book, it’s not showy, it’s a nuts and bolts sort of account and supremely detailed, with an emphasis on the Dutch and Brunswick participants as one would expect from Franklin, especially their commanders, The Prince of Orange and the Duke of Brunswick. However all the main points are covered The initial French advance that caught the allies so off guard while the Duchess of Richmond held her ball, and the early fighting between the French and Prussian’s, not to mention the famous stand of the 42nd that adorns the cover is also included.
In an effort to keep a sense of atmosphere the author has resorted to an interesting style of referring to the participants. Instead of just rendering their names and ranks in English, each officer gets his rank and name spelled in the language of his parent nation. Even to Waterloo aficionados some of the spellings will be refreshingly unfamiliar.
One of the reasons the battle is hard to narrate is the ebb and flow of the seesaw struggle that tipped back and forth until late in the day. This theme of constant instability and brilliant split decision, is captured well here as the initial French advantage is squandered, and the pressure on Wellington’s position is relieved over and over again by nick of time reinforcements.
The art alone is worth half the price of the books. Osprey wisely gave this commission to veteran illustrator Gerry Embleton who has exerted himself to find new and overlooked parts of the story to paint. Embleton comes from the old corps d’élite of Osprey illustrators, his mostly watercolour scenes are full of character atmosphere and historical detail. The “Deployment of the artillery battery under Captain Cleeves” is particularly good. They brilliantly compliment the text and are usually my favourite part of Osprey books.
With so few histories focusing solely on the leadup to Waterloo, a series like this is very welcome indeed!
Below you will find some excellent articles by the author on aspects of the battle which for reason’s of space were unable to be included in the main book.