I have been a fan of Saul David’s writing for a number of years and had eagerly anticipated the publication of this book subtitled ‘The British solider from the restoration to Waterloo’. However, I have to say I was a little disappointed as although David used the diaries and letters of the ordinary soldier to great effect the main thrust of the book is not on the ordinary British Tommy (a phrase coined by Lord Wellington) but the great generals and field marshals of the era including Marlborough, Wolfe, Moore and Wellington.
I enjoyed the book but I bought it for the very purpose of it reportedly not being about the leaders of the epic campaigns and battles of the period. The BBC series Bullets, Boots and Bandages, which is based on the book, is a much more visceral and detailed account of the lives of the ordinary soldiers throughout the long 18th century than the content of the book.
Having said that David’s style of writing and detailed narrative of the campaigns, wars and individual battles are some of the best in the military history genre with Wolfe’s capture of Quebec and the retreat to Corunna being particularly praiseworthy.
I would recommend this book with the caveat that the title of the book is a slight misnomer but that Saul David is still one of our finest military historians and that All the King’s men contains great short appraisals of some of Britain’s greatest ever generals.