Wellington's Unsung Heroes

The Fifth Division in the Peninsular War, 1810-1814

Carole Divall

Although the events of the Peninsular War have been retold many times, there is scope for different perspectives. The complexities of war mean that the broad-brush approach must of necessity concentrate on the overall direction of the action.
Date Published :
November 2022
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Series :
From Reason to Revolution
Illustration :
c 20 b/w ills, 15 maps
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Paperback
ISBN : 9781915113924
Pages : 208
Dimensions : 9.75 X 6.75 inches
Stock Status : Not Yet Published. Available for Pre-Order


The men of the Fifth Division (‘The Pioneers’) were among the workhorses of the British Peninsular army. Lacking both the kudos and the wealth of letters, journals and memoirs of divisions like the Third and the Light, it is easy to overlook the part they played in the struggle that finally drove the French out of Spain and Portugal. Yet they were the first troops into the streets of Badajoz. They, along with the Third Division, played a crucial part in the great victory at Salamanca. And they made up the bulk of the troops that finally took San Sebastian after a protracted and bloody siege. There is also a surprisingly wide range of material that records both their exploits and the experience of serving in the war, extending from the voices of men in the ranks to company and staff officers, brigade commanders, and the journal of the aide-de-camp of the general most associated with the division, James Leith. Looking at one division in detail also allows analysis of the divisional system as it functioned in Wellington's Peninsular Army.

The purpose of this study, therefore, is to retell a familiar story from a less familiar perspective and thus demonstrate the strategic relationship between the parts and the whole while also emphasizing that wars are fought by individuals – and no two individuals react in the same way. Each man’s experience is his own.

About The Author

Carole Divall specializes in military history, focusing in particular on the British army during the Napoleonic Wars. She has published articles on regimental history, the workings of the army of Wellington’s time and aspects of the key campaigns. Her publications include Redcoats Against Napoleon and Inside the Regiment, two studies of the officers and men of the 30th Regiment during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, Napoleonic Lives and Wellington’s Worst Scrape: The Burgos Campaign 1812.

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