E.S. Turner

  • An Ensign in the Peninsular War: The Letters of John Aitchison edited by W.F.K Thompson
    Joseph, 349 pp, £15.95, March 1981, ISBN 0 7181 1828 6

As the Duke of Wellington was stung to complain, the British officers in the Peninsular War were ‘the most indefatigable writers of letters that exist in the world’. Even at this late hour their correspondence is still being discovered and published. In 1979 appeared the spirited letters of George Hennell, a young volunteer who presented himself to General Picton at the siege of Badajoz and was commissioned within six weeks into the 43rd Light Infantry.[*] Now we have the high-minded and contentious letters of an ensign in the Guards, John Aitchison, who soldiered on after the war to become General Sir John Aitchison GCB, with a baton in his reach when he died at 87.

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[*] A Gentleman Volunteer, edited by Michael Glover (Heinemann).