Saturday, March 29, 2014

"All For a Shilling a Day".. a review..

...while the 3rd game in the Annexation Campaign carries on (we're up to move 4) I recently finished reading "All For a Shilling a Day" and it was good enough that I thought it more than deserved a proper post

This is Donald Featherstone's depiction of the 16th (Queen's) Lancers [clicky] during, and just before, the First Sikh War of 1845 [clicky] and although it must be 30 odd years since I last read it, I found it fascinating..

It starts with recruitment, how it was done, conditions, pay and arrears once the recruits arrived at the home depot, the tedium and squalor of barracks living, poor food, poor pay (no wonder they drank as much as they did!). The training (doubly hard in a crack Lancer regiment as they also had to learn to ride), manoeuvres, and the day to day relationship between officers and men in a peace situation (basically none!), and how it changed dramatically when they were on a war footing.

The book is a contrast, the regiment in two states, war and peace, and no wonder the Victorians loved to go to war as much as they did as the contrasts between the two are marked - much more freedom when on campaign.

The second part of the book deals with their campaign as part of the First Sikh War where they served under Sir Harry Smith [clicky], and fought at the battle of Aliwal [clicky]. The book is quite short, what I found most interesting were the copious (and I mean copious!) notes..  I'd recommend reading the book, and then reading the notes separately so as not to disrupt the flow, but they are fascinating - Don clearly had an eye for the snippets that helped to illustrate life in the military at the time ...  I was left with an overwhelming opinion that our forefathers were made of very tough stuff!

Cacker.. 9 out of 10 without a doubt..


  1. Replies
    1. Will - no difference of opinion from the other as well, MacDonald of the 42nd and Bowmen of England are all well worth a read..

  2. Interesting indeed. But reading the notes separately? I was always told notes were for source references and nothing else. If it's relevant, include it in the text. If it's not relevant, leave it out.

    But thanks for this. I've never explored the Don's non wargaming books - maybe I should start. My reading around the SYW also leaves me with a strong impression of just how tough those underfed, poorly clothed and poorly shod 18th century soldiers must have been.

    1. Hi Keith - normally I'd agree with you but I started off by reading them in parallel, but found the notes so voluminous it was spoiling the flow of the story... the notes are almost a second book!

  3. I have a book by Mr Featherstone called 'At them with a bayonet' which is a history of the First Sikh war. Its an old paperback and a very interesting introduction book.


    1. Guy - you've reminded me that I have the same book in my library too - in fact I read it not long ago.. either the First Sikh war was a favourite of Dons, or he didn't want to waste the extensive research he must have done...!