Jonathon Riley, The Colonial Ironsides English Expeditions under the Commonwealth and Protectorate 1650-1660 (Helion, 2022)
The Century of the Soldier series from Helion covers a wide range of topics, but the one I am most interested in is the English Civil Wars of the 17th century. This book covers the period after the main fighting was over and how the Commonwealth dealt with various issues around the world that needed military intervention. Jonathan Riley surveys the various expeditions that the Commonwealth and Protectorate despatched across the decade.
Riley starts with the smashing of Royalist enclaves within the British Isles and the colonies and continues as Oliver Cromwell and his successor navigated the treacherous waters of European diplomacy. The general scene is first set with the Commonwealth testing the waters of whether they wanted to be on the side of France or Spain. This includes being on the side of Spain while also attempting to wrest control of various Caribbean colonies from them. Eventually, this leads to the conquest of Jamaica and England’s definitive siding with the French. There are 19 chapters in all that cover everything you probably need to know about these expeditions. It is full of scenario ideas for the wargamer (like me) and provides some food for thought for what games I can use my large ECW army for. The failed attack on Hispaniola looks the most likely.
There is an odd affectation in the book whereby most of the chapters have an appendix or two before the next chapter. I expect an appendix to be at the back; although it makes it easier to get to the data on Orders of Battle and the like, I would have simply called most of the appendices chapters too. The other curiosity is when a larger map explanation is needed, the text suddenly swaps to landscape, meaning you need to turn the book, which gets annoying. There are also some editorial issues where words are missing, or a map references the British Empire, which doesn’t exist in this time frame. The same map then only references England and ignores the rest of the Commonwealth.
None of those minor issues detract from the book. It sheds light into a lesser known part of the Cromwellian period and especially explains the convoluted nature of European diplomacy in a simple manner that I may not have seen so clearly before. I may now need to get a Spanish army to refight Jamaica, Hispaniola, and Flanders. Or find someone who has one. And I need to paint some English soldiers in redcoats. If you have even a slight interest in this period, then get this book as it is a great addition to any library.
(Reviewed by Dom Sore)