Friday 18 December 2020

Despite Destruction, Misery and Privations, a review.

One of the colour plates from the book showing an armoured a Cossack warrior.

I’ve now read this new book from Helion, No 61 in their ever expanding Century of the Soldier series. Actually I didn’t just read it, I devoured it. Amazing detail. Very easy and enjoyable to read. Well written. Fascinating, in depth and informative. This is the only English language book of its kind that I’m aware of, and the author Michal Paradowski has done a very thorough job indeed, consulting a huge range of Polish language sources to give us a superb description and analysis of the Polish-Lithuanian armies in their war against Sweden in Prussian between 1626 and 1629. 

The author sets the scene nicely and presents us with a detailed analysis of the workings of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and the peculiar issues hinging on having an elected King. The many and various components of the army are broken down and described clearly, down to individual regiment and company levels in most cases. As always I am intrigued  by the contribution made by ‘British’ officers and common soldiers, including several well known figures  from the 30 Years War and the British Civil Wars. 

One thing about books in this series that stands out is the quality and quantity of illustrations within each publication. This one is no different and it is jam-packed full of black and white illustrations, most of which are contemporary, and a centre spread of 16 pages of gorgeous colour plates showing examples of troop types found in the army, including eight detailing a great many Polish flags of the period, quite a few which I’d never seen before. The colour plates all come with handy descriptions at the back of the book. There are also some excellent maps outlining the campaigning against the Swedes. There is an extensive list of appendices including some muster rolls, details of garrisons and even a Polish to English dictionary as relevant to 17thC warfare.

This well-researched volume (judging by the extensive bibliography) is destined to take its place as the definitive book in English on the subject, so if this subject is of interest to you, this book should be your ‘go-to’ reference. Helion (and the series editor Charles Singleton) are yet again to be commended on their insight in fostering new authors and the choice of material they publish. Incidentally I know Michal is working on further volumes, including one on the Polish Army and it’s role in lifting the siege of Vienna in 1689, so I am looking forward to these immensely. 

I’ve had to have a major rethink about the composition of my 28mm 17thC Polish army. I probably don’t have too many winged hussars but do need more Cossacks  and some Western infantry and cavalry, which I have somewhere in the depths of ‘the box of Doom’). 


  1. These Helion series seem to all be well-researched and detailed presentations of information about armies and uniforms, which have been available in other languages, but all-too-few in English. I have two of the 'Armies of the early reign of Louis IV' series: the Ottoman one (which you reviewed so well and effusively before I got mine) and the Imperial one, which I thought was as good (but not quite as complete as the Ottoman). I'm preparing a review of that one.
    Another good review of what sounds like a most interesting book. I'd like one covering the Poles of Sobieski through to the Great Northern War, please Mark/Helion!!
    Regards, James

    1. Next year I will publish in 'Century of the Soldier' next book, this time about Polish army during relief of Vienna in 1683. There will be plenty of information regarding organisation and equipment of Polish (but also Lithuanian, despite them being absent at Vienna) troops during Sobieski's reign. Polish/Lithuanian army from the period of GNW is not as much interesting topic for me though, so do not have plans to write about it.


  2. Thanks for review Colin. I think I need to work harder to convince you to write 'cossacks' instead of 'Cossacks' though :)

    In regards to composition of the army: it really depends what period you're aiming for. In first half of 17th century ratio of winged hussars to cossacks and reiters was fairly even but lot depends on campaign. After 1651, when hussars took high losses at Batoh, there were only few of their banners in Polish army up to 1670's, when number was again increased.

  3. Not my period at all but sounds fascinating. I shall have to invest. It is never too late to learn history.