No Want of Courage

The British Army in Flanders, 1793-1795

R.N.W. Thomas

The structure of the headquarters staff, the commissariat, and the medical departments of the Duke of York's army in Flanders is examined in detail using mostly unpublished sources from the campaign.
Date Published :
March 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
11 b/w ills, 16 color ills, 4 maps, 47 tables
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915070401
Pages : 330
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : Available


The historiography of eighteenth and early nineteenth century campaigns is dominated by operational narratives and biographies of senior officers. How armies were staffed, fed and medically provisioned was critical to their successful performance in the field, yet much less is known of these key issues. Eyewitness accounts highlight instances of mismanagement, but by ignoring the ordinary they can provide a distorted view of reality, while published information on the organization of the British Army at this period is confined to home administration, not that of an expeditionary force overseas. By using predominantly unpublished sources, including the General Orders issued by the Duke of York’s headquarters, it has been possible to provide considerable detail on the structures necessary for the daily functioning of an army on campaign. Integral to this were the men engaged in staff positions, the commissariat and the medical department, their suitability, how they were appointed, and their day-to-day responsibilities.

The internal organization of the British Army’s fighting units is often taken for granted, but the start of any war during the eighteenth century inevitably led to rapid expansion and major developments in recruiting methods. As the proportion of recruits increased, unit cohesion and experience declined for both officers and men, affecting discipline, operational capability, and health; all factors which tend to be overlooked in standard campaign narratives. A key component of the fighting troops in Flanders were the Ordnance units, comprising the artillery and engineers, which are so often neglected but so critical in providing firepower support and technical expertise. Similarly forgotten are the considerable numbers of women and children who officially accompanied forces in the field, all of whom came under military discipline and received their subsistence from the army. Their numbers, the roles they fulfilled and their experiences in Flanders are discussed in detail.

Underpinning the entire administrative structure of the army on campaign was its relationship with corresponding organizations at home. Performance in the field was heavily dependent on the effectiveness of working relationships on both sides. Structures evolved throughout the eighteenth century, becoming gradually more formalized with increased definition of the duties performed in each role, a process that was to continue until the defeat of Napoleon in 1815. The Flanders campaign represented a key point in this evolutionary process at the start of the French Wars.

About The Author

R.N.W. Thomas has a PhD in Archaeology from Southampton University. He is a contributor to the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography and has published a number of papers on the Flanders campaign in conference proceedings and academic journals. He edited the letters of Daniel George Robinson for the Army Records Society. He works in the shipping industry.

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