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December 19 , 2008

Generals Le Marchant and Brock: Exemplary Leaders from the Age of Wellington


Major General John Gaspard Le Marchant was killed at the Battle of Salamanca in Spain on 22 July 1812. A few months later, on 13 October 1812, his fellow Guernseyman Major General Sir Isaac Brock was killed at the Battle of Queenston Heights in Canada. Both officers died, sword in hand, brought down by enemy fire whilst leading their men from the front. These were two of the finest British generals of the Napoleonic period, yet two hundred years after their death they remain relatively unknown.

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Using today's lenses of leadership and command, John Symons assesses Le Marchant and Brock to substantiate the claim of exemplary leadership. It is demonstrated that both officers fit comfortably within the pantheon of military commanders whose leadership stands the test of time. The evidence shows that they were charismatic leaders demonstrating military virtues, in particular great personal courage. They proved themselves able administrators as well as inspiring operational commanders. Le Marchant demonstrated vision, determination and political skills in establishing the Army Staff College and Sandhurst. Brock demonstrated the acuity to achieve a complex coalition of Indians, politicians and militia that saved Canada from American hegemony in 1812.

As field commanders these thinking, fighting men were masters of what has come to be known as the Operational Art, orchestrating plans that converted strategic objectives into tactical achievements; outmanoeuvring their enemies in time and space. Le Marchant’s control of his cavalry brigade at Villagarcia and Salamanca, and Brock’s victory at Detroit, illustrated how seizing the moment with concentrated effort can gain tactical and operational superiority against numerically stronger enemy forces.

This book is an interesting read for those who simply enjoy the cut and thrust of military action, and politicking, in the age of Wellington. The discussion of the theory and practice of leadership and management can help inform today's leaders, military or civilian, who seek to become ‘exemplary leaders’.

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