King's College London
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The nearest run thing you ever saw: the Battle of Waterloo

Riflemen and skirmishing tactics

Diagram illustrating the tactic of skirmishingDiagram illustrating the tactic of skirmishingThe Battle of Waterloo marked the end of a long period of pan-European and world conflict that had begun with the French revolutionary wars in 1792. As is often seen in times of such conflict, tactics developed and evolved, with military allies and adversaries learning from each other.

The work shown here was written by ‘a German officer of distinction and much military experience’ and was translated into English under the direction of King George III. According to the preface by William Fawcet, adjudant general, the King thought it would offer ‘much useful instruction to young officers, not familiarised by practice to the arduous duties to be performed in the face of an enterprising enemy.’

The inscription on the title page of the book shows that one such officer, John Meyricke of the ‘4thB Light Infantry’ owned this particular work and it offers instruction on picketing (creating an outpost forward of the main lines), flank patrols and rear guard manoeuvres, as well as advising young officers on the manual operation of rifles.

The diagram shown here illustrates the tactic of ‘skirmishing’, which was employed at Waterloo, where advance troops are sent out in various directions to harass and engage opposing forces. Officers are also warned to be ‘very careful to prevent their skirmishers, loitering in any village’. The text does not suggest what they might be doing, however.

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