Thursday 20 August 2015

His Britannic Majesty's Army In Germany During The Seven Years War

This title featured briefly in the 'I'm Currently Reading...' section of this blog a while back. Any wargamer looking for a suitably detailed work on the western campaign during the Seven Years War will eventually gravitate to this book - indeed, as things stand, Savory's book is really the only game in town for this subject. The Battle of Minden, of course, gets a good deal of attention in English accounts, but this is about as far as most historians go.

It is perhaps surprising that no other military historian has covered the western theatre, but the reason for this may well be that Savory pretty much nailed it back in 1966. The book's 500-odd pages give the story of the campaigns and battles over the relevant 5 years in great detail, and in the process allow the reader to form a picture of the problems faced in 18th century warmaking. Although the book is primarily one of description rather than analysis, the description is so particular that the reader is naturally led to an understanding of how things were. And Savory is perfectly willing to add some analysis when needed. I learned a great deal of what little I know about the quality of the French Army from this book, for example - information that is sadly lacking elsewhere.

Most of what a wargamer needs is here - force strengths, dates and times, the movements of the various forces before, during and after a battle, and the reasoning behind the actions of the generals. The logistical problems faced are not neglected either. The writer (a military man himself) understands that to make sense of all this, theatre maps and detailed sketch maps are required, and there are plenty of these. The final clincher is that Savory writes in an engaging, slightly old fashioned style that is easy to read and keeps you turning the pages.

So overall, this is a fine read, and indispensable if one is serious about understanding this part of the SYW. The only problem is that the book was out of print for many years and original copies now go for around £200. Fortunately, a small publisher called 18th Century Press has had a facsimile edition available since 2009. This still costs £70, plus £12 postage from France, but in the circumstances we are lucky to have this edition available. 

When I originally and briefly reviewed this book, I had taken it out from my local library using the excellent interloan scheme. But after a year or two of pining, I finally took the plunge and bought the book this month. That gap on my bookshelf just had to be filled. Ordering online is easy, and the parcel arrived in just six days. I was relieved to find that a quality job had been done - this is no cheap digital copy. This is a solidly bound hardback book practically indistinguishable from the original, with a nice new illustration on the dustjacket. The only thing that seems to be missing is the general map that I believe was printed on the endpapers of the original book. As the two theatre maps are still present, this is not a great problem. Added are 4 battle maps in colour (Minden, Wilhelmsthal, Kloster Kamp and Vellinghausen), which in a nice, old school touch are printed separately and tucked in a pocket at the back of the book. These are taken from the British Battles website, and so are probably familiar to the enthusiast for this period, but I certainly appreciated these good quality hard copies of maps available online.

And so, many hours of good reading beckon as I once again tuck into this feast of information. This book is a cracker, and no mistake.