space100.gif (138 bytes) Frederick Sleigh Roberts
Field Marshall Lord Roberts of Kandahar, V.C., K.G., K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E.
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"Bobs"
Lord Roberts of Kandahar

Lord Roberts commanded the British forces in Afghanistan during Baden-Powell's service in 1881-1882. He was later to become the Commander-in-Chief in India (1885-1893), in the South African War (1899-1902) and, finally Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (1901-1904). For much of Baden-Powell's active military service, Lord Roberts was among the highest ranking and most respected officers of the British Army. He became known as "Kipling's General." 

His life was jewelled and upheld by those ideals the poet himself sought to glorify - courage, faith and honour.  But ... to Kipling's Tommy) Atkins he was just "Bobs," a well-loved commander who had been with them since most of them were recruits, a shrewd tactician, yet careful of his men's lives and solicitous of their welfare. Nothing endears a leader to his men more than sparing them needless hardship, and for this reason his men would follow Bobs through all necessary perils, partly for their belief in him, and partly to see that no harm befell him.

Bobs served for a total of forty-one years in India, at a time when the India Army was both unfashionable and unadvantageous. In those years he rose from Horse Artillery subaltern to Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Army. He served with distinction in the Indian Mutiny, winning the V.C. for repeated acts of heroism, but he will chiefly be remembered as the man who curbed the unruly spirit of the treacherous Afghans, wiping out the memory of British defeats and bringing peace to the North-West Frontier. His us march from Kabul to Kandahar long be cited as a remarkable feat of both strategy and administration. 

Beset by Sir Garnet Wolesley's jealousy of all Indian officers, though the Indian Command was by far the most enlightened and experienced, Bobs still succeeded in rising, being first C-in-C Ireland, Bobs himself was an Irishman, and finally, the last C-in-C of the whole army before the post was abolished. Sent to reprieve the disasters of the early stages of the Boer War, his energy and decision saved the situation and caused the Boers never to take the field again as an organised army.

Characteristically, Bobs died while visiting his beloved soldiers on the Western Front in 1914, and thus passed into history a man of tact and understanding, dignity and firmness of purpose, courage and honour - Kipling's "Father Bobs."

From: W. H. Hannah, Bob's, Kipling's General. The Life of Field Marshal Earl Roberts of Kandahar, VC, 1972.


Roberts (of Kandahar, Pretoria, and Waterford), Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl, VISCOUNT ST. PIERRE.
Also called (from 1892) BARON ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR (born Sept. 30, 1832, Cawnpore, India--died Nov. 14, 1914, Saint-Omer, France), British field marshal, an outstanding combat leader in the Second Afghan War (1878-80) and the South African War (1899-1902), and the last commander in chief of the British Army (1901-04; office then abolished). Foreseeing World War I, he was one of the earliest advocates of compulsory military service.

Roberts first distinguished himself during the suppression of the Indian Mutiny (1857-58). On September 1, 1880, he scored the decisive victory of the Second Afghan War, defeating Ayub Khan's Afghan Army near Qandahar. From 1885 to 1893 he was commander in chief in India. As the second British commander in chief (December 1899-November 1900) in the South African War, he ended a succession of British defeats; captured Bloemfontein, capital of the Orange Free State Republic (March 13, 1900), and annexed that Boer state as the Orange River Colony (May 24); took the cities of Johannesburg (May 31) and Pretoria (June 5); and defeated Boer commandos at Bergendal (August 27). A field marshal from 1895, he gave way to Horatio Herbert Kitchener as commander in chief in South Africa in November 1900.

Roberts was created a baron in 1892 and an earl and viscount in 1901. Both of his sons having predeceased him, the barony became extinct, but the earldom and viscounty devolved, in turn, on his elder and younger surviving daughters.

"Roberts (of Kandahar, Pretoria, and Waterford), Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl, VISCOUNT ST. PIERRE" Britannica Online. [Accessed 16 January 1999].

Lord Roberts was awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry in the face of the enemy while serving as a Lieutenant in the Bengal Horse Artillery (Indian Army) during the Indian Mutiny. The Victoria Cross is Britain's highest award for gallantry. In 1899, his son, Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts, was awarded the V.C. posthumously for his actions at the Battle of Colenso during the South African War.
In his autobiography, Forty-One Years in India, London, 1897, Lord Roberts recounts the Siege of Delhi (1857) during the Indian Mutiny (Chapters XIII through XIX).
Over his long military career, Lord Roberts was recognized with the highest honours and decorations of England and the British Empire.

Lord Robert's was sometimes referred to as Kipling's General. He was the personification of what Kipling thought of as best of the Army in India. In preparation.
Perspectives on the South African War
A collection of links to primary and contemporary resources on the war in South Africa.

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