Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Review: 'Into The Valley of Death' by Mollo, Mollo & Fosten

Any wargamer wishing to build either the British Light or Heavy cavalry brigades really must access this work. Researched and written by Borris and John Mollo, with illustrations by Bryan Foster, this work covers the organisation, drills, history, uniforms and equipment of the British cavalry division for the Crimean expedition of 1854.

Published in 1991, this work is a completion of research undertaken by the Mollos done in the mid-1960's, financed by Tony Richardson for his feature film The Charge of the Light Brigade (see previous posting). Previously published as Uniforms and Equipment of the Light Brigade, the Mollos expanded their research to complete this work which includes accompanying brief histories to contextualise the technical content which the real value of this work. Those already familiar with other more comprehensive accounts of Balaclava will find the included campaign narratives repetitive and of little value. Nevertheless, those narratives do round this volume out, allowing it to stand alone as more than a technical accompaniment.

None of the deficiencies to be found in the Osprey Balaclava or Crimean additions affect this work. Whilst concentrated on the cavalry, it is comprehensive in every detail and the colour plates by Fosten are superb. My only yearning with this work would have been the inclusion of the Staff for the Cavalry Divisional and Brigade levels for protocols, structure and uniform. A minor quibble to be sure.

Again, this is a highly recommended, in fact 'must have' for anyone wishing to approach Balaclava in anything but a cursory manner. It is rare that a subject is covered in as much specific detail as the British cavalry are in this work. This is a gem. I purchased my 1994 reprint in hard cover through Amazon.com and it remains available. It runs to 127 glossy pages with eight pages of colour plates and a multitude of black and white reprints and photographs (both contemporary and current) to accompany.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Book Review: Hell Riders by Terry Bighton

First published in 2004, Terry Brighton's considered volume Hell Riders "The truth about the Charge of the Light Brigade' approaches the Charge of the Light Brigade with a concentration on first person accounts recorded from or written by combatants and onlookers. This is simply a 'must have' for any wargamer's or enthusiast's collection and is an essential companion to Cecil Woodham-Smith's The Reason Why.

The socio-political context to the Crimean War and the Balaclava campaign itself is referred to only minimally; such background detailed only insofar as it relates to the Charge itself. Hell Riders is very much about the Charge and the Light Brigade and consequently I found much additional detail for modelling, characters and units surrounding the events at Balaclava - which will feature in my detailed project 'Allied Army Order of Battle' to follow.

The key feature of this volume is Brighton's approach to the Charge in part two - in my volume, pages 81-204. Taking excerpts from the accounts of the men who charged or witnessed the attack, the author takes us through the murderous approach stage by stage, lacing his narrative with the survivors commentary and synchronising their experiences. The chapter gathers its own momentum and by the time the reader hits the gun-line one fairly re-lives the seven minute disaster as it unfolds along. With the constant interjections from the cavalrymen's accounts, you feel you are riding in with them.

Brighton takes us from the point of decision, through the charge to the wild skirmish at the guns (and beyond) then back again up the valley of death. More than this, part four of his work discusses who was to blame, he describes the disgraceful wasting of the Brigade the following winter (part three) and delves into every dynamic of the legend from 'the bugle controversy' to awarding of the Victoria Cross.

This work includes a very handy roll call for the entire Brigade as well as handy tips for researching the Charge of the Light Brigade. If you are after greater detail concerning the battle of Balaclava; however, you will need to read further afield than Hell Riders. Nevertheless, anyone wishing to 'know' about the Charge must simply include this work in their reading list if they want to be even close to authoritative on the subject.

I highly recommend this to those who have not as yet had the pleasure and it can be purchased readily through Amazon.com as I did. Enjoy.