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Highland Furies: The Black Watch 1739-1899 Hardcover – April 26, 2012
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'Each campaign, battle and tour of duty [is] allocated its due place ... it is lively ... recounting of the regiment's experiences' TLS.―TLS
'as authoritative a history of the regiment as we are going to get' Standpoint.―Standpoint
'an absorbing book that lives up to its name as the 'Official Regimental History'. It is supported by more than 170 pages of appendices, bibliography, maps, and notes, as well as a brilliant array of illustrations' Military History Monthly.―Military History Monthly
'Schofield's meticulous record of the spirit that gave rise to those honours provides a worthy memorial to the Black Watch' Spectator.―Spectator
'Schofield's attention to detail and obvious relish for the task has produced a memorable celebration of the valiant role played in our history by The Black Watch' Scottish Field.―Scottish Field
About the Author
As a historian and independent commentator on international affairs, with specialist knowledge of South Asia, Victoria Schofield's other books include Kashmir in Conflict: India, Pakistan and the Unending War and Afghan Frontier: at the Crossroads of Conflict. She is a frequent contributor to BBC World TV, BBC World Service and other news outlets. She has also written for the Sunday Telegraph, The Times, The Independent, Asian Affairs and The Round Table, the Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs. Schofield read Modern History at the University of Oxford and was President of the Oxford Union. In 2004-05 she was the Visiting Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony's College, Oxford. www.victoriaschofield.com.
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The trick to writing a regimental history which can appeal to a wider audience than the regimental family is to describe the larger geopolitical context in just enough detail to make sense of the specific activities of the regiment. This is no easy task but the author has impressively managed.
In its illustrious career the Black Watch served in the 18th century wars of America--the French and Indian and the American War of Independence. Toward the end of the century saw action in India. In the 19th century Egypt and the Peninsular wars.The fight against Bonaparte continued at Quatre Bras and Waterloo.Later came the Crimea and the Indian Mutiny. Rounding out the century the regiment fought again in India and in Egypt. The final chapter,Land of the Pharaohs, provides especially vivid descriptions of the battles of Tel-el-Kebir,El Teb,and Tamai. The book closes on the eve of the Boer War transitioning in to the twentieth century. Why was the Black Watch in the forefront of every conflict? The answer is that the Scottish soldier, then and now, embodies in himself and his culture all of the war like virtues of courage, loyalty, and extreme ruggedness--inured to hardship in his home country he brought to the army excellence in field craft and an intense pride in his regiment. Kilts swaying and pipes playing the Black Watch proved its worth on many battlefields. Illustrative of this is the book's title which is derived from a description of them in action at the battle of Fontenoy(1745) "The Highland furies rushed in upon us with more violence than ever did a sea driven by a tempest". We look forward with anticipation to the second volume of this fine history.
This volume covers the formation of the Black Watch in 1739 from its beginnings as independent companies patrolling the highlands through to its foundation as a Regiment to fight for the King. The author follows the Regiment as part of the British Army through the many campaigns and battles fought during the 18th and 19th centuries, from the American Revolution, through the Peninsular campaign during the Napoleonic Wars, and onto Waterloo, then the Crimea, the Indian Mutiny to Egypt and finally the Sudan.
The book offers the reader a very general account of all the battles, campaigns skirmishes that the Black Watch participated in during its long and illustrious history. Too many to provide any detailed and in-depth accounts but more than enough to keep you interested and the use of many first-hand accounts makes the book a pleasure to read. There are a number of general maps covering all areas where the Black Watch served to assist the reader in following its story, from country to continent.
As stated above, do not expect a full-blown military history covering each battle in-depth, this would be near impossible to complete in 538 pages of narrative (the book is 728 pages in total) however expect some great stories and accounts from the mouths of those who were there, like this from Captain Stirling, serving in American prior to the War of Independence:
"After twelve years in North America, Captain Thomas Stirling was hoping the Regiment would be sent to Germany, `for I am heartily tired of this Country as is every officer in it'. As he wrote to his brother: `Long may Peace reign here, for sure God never intended any war should be carried on by any other besides the natives for the soldiers are wrought like horses & the officers can acquire no honour in a Country where as the New England people says, every Tree is a fort and every man a General'."
Or this account of that famous charge of the Scots Grey at Waterloo:
"At this critical moment, the Earl of Uxbridge, who famously lost his leg at the close of battle, ordered a charge of the 1st and 2nd Cavalry Brigades. As the 42nd opened ranks to let the 2nd `Union' Brigade - under General Ponsonby's command - gallop through, ` "Scotland for ever!" bursts from the mouth of each Highlander, as the Scots Greys pass through our ranks,' recalled Anton with pride. `What pen can describe the scene?' he continued graphically in his memoir. `Horses' hoofs sinking in men's breasts, breaking bones and pressing out their bowels. Riders' swords streaming in blood, waving over their heads and descending in deadly vengeance. Stroke follows stroke, like the turning of a flail in the hands of a dexterous thresher'."
Another first-hand account from the aftermath of the battle for the Alma in 1854 during the Crimean War:
"`This battle field is exactly like pictures you see', Wilkinson described to his sister, `horses and men all dead in awful positions killed instantaneously, arms and shoulders torn off, men groaning, pots and pans and thousands of packs soon ransacked ... you can't imagine how horrid the smell is. I have got quite accustomed to the horrors, dead being carried past me even now.' `What moved me most was a nice-looking young lad, about my own age,' Robb recorded, describing a wounded Russian. `He waved his hand towards us. Tom Steele stepped out to him, gave his a drink out of his water keg, took off his knapsack and laid his head on it. The poor fellow took Tom's hand and kissed it. A short time after he died'."
And finally, this description of the trials and travails of a British officer during the campaign in India to suppress the Mutiny of 1857:
"As Wilkinson related, night marches during the campaign were a trial. `Camels roaring outside and elephants, and tent pegs giving. You get up and your tent has to be packed, elephants loaded and camels. Bugles sound and you march off, after hearing 20 different lies about the enemy. Daylight appears, and you still go in clouds of dust, cavalry dashing past you making dust so that you can eat it. Out comes the sun enough to bake you, and after 14 miles you arrive on a piece of ground 2 hours before your tent is pitched. If Field Officer you post your picquets, and visit them by night and day. If you are not shot, or fall down a well you come back to bed for about 4 hours, and again the same routine, sour bread and dust, no sugar, 9 servants that drive you wild, none being fit for anything'."
These accounts and many more like them make this a great and easy book to read as we follow the Black Watch fight it's way across most of the world where the British Empire had hoisted its flag at sometime or other.
Volume two will continue the story covering the Boer War, WW1 & WW2, Korea, Malaya and the modern conflicts that blight the world today. This is a good book for those who enjoy an easy to read history of brave soldiers.