The British Soldier As A Drunken Brute

1648 Words Oct 9th, 2015 7 Pages
The beginning of the nineteenth century found the British army already engaged for the last seven years in a war with the French. This war to oppose Napoleon would last until 1815, by which time the British would be victorious. This triumphant British army, although successful throughout their campaign with the French, was not openly considered a humble and advantageous force for society. In fact, the common stereotype and popular image of the British soldier was negative, as the Duke of Wellington stated the soldiers were “the scum of the earth” who have “all enlisted to drink”.1 For the majority of the soldiers, this label was given inappropriately and carelessly. The Autobiography of Sergeant William Lawrence, a British soldier who fought in the Peninsula and Waterloo Campaigns during his fourteen-year military career, offers an insight into the lives of the labelled soldiers and interpretation of whether this label can be deemed accurate.
The idea of the British soldier as a drunken brute is inaccurate. The men who enlisted to fight against Napoleon were more often than not forced to do so out of economic necessity. “Soldiers’ delinquencies seemed to many contemporaries to be the unavoidable result of the type of men who enlisted.”2 The British army was made from voluntary enlistment, and this was thought to have produced a body of army that was inferior in both character and discipline to the past British armies. For the volunteers, the promise of regular food and…
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