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Sunday, 19 June 2011

Walls of Jericho by Jonathan Hopkins

Every felt so annoyed about something you just have to stick your oar in?

You tell your friends how cross you are. Facebook it. Blog about it, maybe. Phone a radio show. Send a comment to the newspapers.

That's how I felt.

Why? It's a slightly complicated story.

Some years ago, my wife nagged me about...the usual stuff, really. About not being romantic, never buying flowers...etc, etc. So I had a brainwave. For our anniversary I'd deliver her flowers as...a Napoleonic Hussar, on horseback. Can't get much more romantic than that, thought I.

The horse was no problem, but saddlery and equipment was. No patterns available, you see, so I would have to make everything from scratch. That meant reading proper history books (ugh!). Lots of them. Trying desperately to glean enough information from contemporary pictures and diagrams to make accurate copies of bridle and pistol holsters. And other bits 'n pieces.

The thing was, every historian I read, with a couple of honourable exceptions, had a single view of the British cavalry fighting Napoleon. They were rubbish.

And as I read more and more disparaging comments I got more and more frustrated. The cavalry couldn't have been all that bad, could they?

It was when I started to read the few published cavalrymen's diaries, both British and French, that a quite different picture began to emerge. A story of lives full of even more hardship and tragedy than the average redcoat could have imagined. After all, at the end of a march the infantryman had simply to find food, a place to sleep, and clean his musket. The cavalryman had another life to consider before his own. Even this one obvious fact had been simply glossed over by most academics.

Well, they're not horsemen, are they?

So I decided I'd put the record straight. And because I'm no historian, I wrote a novel; the story of two young cavalry recruits. A journey from boyhood to manhood, for privileged and pauper alike. In it I've tried to give readers a feel of what these men's lives were really like.

Because historians don't seem to care. And in my book, that's not playing fair with men who fought and died for their country.

The wedding anniversary went fine, by the way!


M.M. Bennetts said...

Loved this!

Deborah Swift said...

I followed the links to your website and its obvious you have real enthusiasm and dedication for your area of military history. So few have investigated what it means to be responsible for a horse in battle and the untold stories of these men sounds gripping.

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I had such a chuckle when I read this – so, your wife's a nag, eh;o) Seriously, you make military history sound fascinating (and I can't believe I'm writing this, because it's not an area I've ever been interested in), and you give voice to the stories of people who've undeservedly been forgotten! Intriguing!
ps glad to hear the aniversary was a success :)