‘Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier’ Samuel Johnson.
Bernard Cornwell wrote a series of books concerning the adventures of a British rifleman during the Napoleonic Wars. Rifleman Sharpe was based on the English rugby player Richard Sharp. His companion, Sergeant Patrick Harper, was based on a character Cornwell met when living in Belfast, Ireland, in the 1970’s. Sharpe’s enemies were predominantly British, who constantly challenged, irritated, obstructed and angered him. The French should naturally have provided legions of enemies for him, however, his friends were often Irish. Sharpe acquired a fondness for Ireland that grew as the books developed their story lines. Wellington’s armies were heavily recruited from the Irish and indeed the Duke of Wellington was born in Trim, Co Meath, Ireland. ‘Just because a man was born in a stable it doesn't make him into a horse’ a saying attributed to Wellington, who was a difficult, cold and snobbish man but was also one of the most able soldiers to lead men into battle. Wellington when he heard about the new railway line linking Manchester to London replied with horror ‘On no, the unwashed masses can travel to London unhindered!.’ This was an unsolicited opinion on accessible public transport. Sharpe’s story is intricately linked with Wellington whose life he allegedly saved at Assaye, (some brave British soldier did save Wellington’s life at Assaye, why not a fictional Richard Sharpe, who was awarded a battlefield commission from Sergeant to Lieutenant).
India, Wellington with 5,000 British and Sepoy infantry, well drilled troops, took on the Mahratta horde's 15,000 man army which disintegrated when faced with concentrated volley fire.
Richard Sharpe and the Talavera campaign 1809 was the first Sharpe novel. The books are based from 1799 to 1821. Cornwell went forward and back in time, comprehensively researching battle sites. The newly raised South Essex Regiment just arrived in Portugal is officered by Lieutenant Richard Sharpe. Sharpe makes an enemy of the arrogant Colonel Simmerson whose incompetence leads to needless casualties during their first operation. When the Duke of Wellington promotes Sharpe to Captain, Sharpe realises how dangerous an enemy he has made. Sharpe must prove himself in action at the battle of Talavera. Read on!