... MD Richard's favourite Osprey book - and we also reveal the winners of our book and poster competition


One of my favourite books this year has been The Great Chevauchée – John of Gaunt’s Raid on France 1373. I’d been reading some fiction on the period including Bernard Cornwell’s 1356, the continuing story of Thomas of Hookton and his mercenary band, revolving around the campaign of Edward, The Black Prince, leading up to the battle of Poitiers. I’d already checked out the Campaign on the battle for a visual sense and a look at the campaign maps. I’d also got hold of Warren Ellis’s Crécy. I liked the artwork and the dialogue but the history was just horrible. One of my 2013 resolutions must be to look at redoing Graphic Histories again.

Anyway The Great Chevauchée details the events following on from the brilliant victories of Crécy and Poiters and the Treaty of Brétigny in 1360, as the French developed tactics to deal with the supremely effective armies of Edward III. John of Gaunt planned this raid for more than three years, and intended it to be much more than the usual slash and burn, as had been done successfully before he intended to bring French troops to battle.

Unfortunately, Charles V of France and his very able commanders, primarily Philip the Bold, Duke of Burgundy but also Bertrand du Guesclin, Constable of France, had ample warning and were ready with their fabian tactics. The French avoided battle, staying in fortified towns and castles and only venturing out to harass the English as they progressed across a depopulated landscape, in a zone of destruction that was estimated at 50km wide. John of Gaunt and his mixed band of men-at-arms and archers advanced from Calais to Troyes with only small engagements fought along the way. Despite not being able to bring the French to battle or to take any significant prize they went on and as summer turned to autumn the English began to struggle, proceeding through the Auvergne. The baggage train got lost, food ran short and dysentery and other diseases were rife. Strain between John of Gaunt and his fellow commander, Jean IV de Montfort, Duke of Brittany also took its toll. Finally they marched into friendly territory finishing in Bordeaux on Christmas Eve 1373 after an epic raid across France, traveling almost 900km.

This wouldn’t be the end of English success in harrying France with Henry V and Agincourt to follow but it does demonstrate a much more rounded picture of the Hundred Years War with the French developing a more effective counter to the longbow of the English. To complete the picture I’ll be reading about Jeanne d'Arc (Joan of Arc) in Orléans 1429 and then onto The Fall of English France next.

Finally I think I’ll settle down on Christmas day with a bit of Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V:

From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remember'd;
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Thank you Richard - a rousing way to start the week!

Over the weekend, we gave you the chance to win a selection of Osprey books, and a HUGE piece of Osprey artwork. The response we received was phenomenal, with hundreds of entries, but the winners picked randomly by the Osprey Christmas elves are....


The books:  Jan Wroblewski!

The poster: Julian Humphrys!

Congratulations to you both! For those of you that didn't win, fear not - on Friday there will be the final competition to win some Osprey books, and on Christmas Eve we'll have another giant Osprey artwork to give away