Army Lives and Loyalties From Redcoats to Dusty Warriors
Date of publication: September 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
From best-selling military historian Richard Holmes,a magisterial new history of a man famously described by the Duke of Wellington as 'the scum of the earth'. From battlefield to barrack-room, this book tells the story of a man as ancient as a redcoat in Charles II's Tangier garrison and as modern as gate-guard on Camp Bastion. The British soldier forms a core component of British history.
In this riveting and important book, Richard Holmes addresses the elements of change and continuity that lie at the heart of the soldier. Technological, political and social changes have all made their mark on the development of warfare, but have the attitudes of the soldier shifted as much we might think? For Holmes, the soldier is part of a unique tribe - and the qualities of loyalty and heroism have continued to grow amongst these men. And while today the army constitutes the smallest proportion of the population since the first decade of its existence (regular soldiers make up just 0.087%), the social organisation of the men has hardly changed; the major combat arms, infantry, cavalry and artillery, have retained forms and terminologies that men who fought at Blenheimm, Waterloo and the Somme would readily grasp.
Regiments remain an enduring feature of the army and Lieutenant Colonels have lost nothing of their importance in military hierarchy; the death of Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thornloe in Afghanistan in 2009 shows just how high the risks are that these men continue to face. Filled to the brim with stories from all over the world and spanning across history, this magisterial book conveys how soldiers from as far back as the seventeenth century and soldiers today are united by their common experiences. This is the definitive history of the British soldier and a book that will no doubt be considered so for many years to come.