An exhilarating and uplifting account of the lives of sixteen `warriors' from the last three centuries, hand-picked for their bravery or extraordinary military experience by the eminent military historian, author and ex-editor of the Daily Telegraph, Sir Max Hastings. Over the course of forty years of writing about war, Max Hastings has grown fascinated by outstanding deeds of derring-do on the battlefield (land, sea or air) - and by their practitioners.
He takes as his examples sixteen people from different nationalities in modern history - including Napoleon's `blessed fool' Baron Marcellin de Marbot (the model for Conan Doyle's Brigadier Gerard); Sir Harry Smith, whose Spanish wife Juana became his military companion on many a campaign in the early 19th-century; Lieutenant John Chard, an unassuming engineer who became the hero of Rorke's Drift in the Zulu wars; and Squadron Leader Guy Gibson, the `dam buster' whose heroism in the skies of World War II earned him the nation's admiration, but few friends. Every army, in order to prevail on the battlefield, needs a certain number of people capable of courage beyond the norm.
In this book Max Hastings investigates what this norm might be - and how it has changed over the centuries.
While celebrating feats of outstanding valour, he also throws a beady eye over the awarding of medals for gallantry - and why it is that so often the most successful warriors rarely make the grade as leaders of men.