Tuesday, 28 April 2020

THE ROAD TO LADYSMITH by Nigel Seed


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Boer War / Military
1901
South Africa

Following his exploits in the Sudan, Captain Michael McGuire is sent to South Africa with his special team that was formed in the first volume, No Road to Khartoum. He is now to form a full troop and sets about recruiting the usual misfits and wastrels. Once in place, McGuire and his men are given several difficult reconnaissance roles culminating with taking part in the relief of Ladysmith. As the war progresses, they move on to Mafeking.

Along the way, McGuire meets a lot of well known people – Col Redvers Buller, Ghandi, Winston Churchill,  Breaker Morant and Robert Baden Powell, for example. There is also a nice touch when Baden Powell admires the 'badges' that McGuire awards his men when they have passed his tests in various activities! It is to the writer's credit than he can weave these real characters into the ficional story. But he also meets the ineffective and often class conscience officers that seem to have dogged the British army in so many periods and times of war.

For the most part, the story is told from McGuire's point of view, but every so often, the author will throw in a chapter which outlines the true facts of the war's progress. There is also the true story of Churchill's escape from a Boer POW camp.

The chapters are quite short and the action is constant which means that the story is told at a very fast pace. Although the second of three volumes, this is completely stand alone. A very brief synopsis is given at the beginning of the book and other details are added in at varying stages. The research is excellent and the true stories of the above mentioned characters forms part of the Author's Notes. 

I did have a couple of very minor niggles: there were a few typos and a typesetting formatting error and there were a few examples of repetitious words or phrases - Churchill refers to 'armchair warriors' a number of times, for example.

However, these did not spoil my enjoyment of the novel in the slightest. I certainly learned more about the Boer War than I had ever known before. I  look forward to newly promoted Major McGuire's further adventures.

© Richard Tearle

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