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Lord Roberts V. C.

Margaret Aylward Dr Edward Barron Philip Barron Denis Cashman Raymond Chandler Paddy Coad Patrick Comerford Donncha Ruadh Val Doonican Sean Dunne Frank Edwards Alfie Hale John M Hearne William Hobson Dr Thomas Hussey Charles Kean John Keane Edmund Leamy D. P. Moran Gen Dick Mulcahy James Nash Peter O'Connor Jas Louis O'Donnell Pádraig Ó Fainín Gilbert O'Sullivan John Redmond Edmund I Rice James Rice, Mayor Lord Roberts V. C. John Roberts Frank Ryan Thomas Sexton Archbishop Sheehan Susan Smith John Treacy Luke Wadding William V. Wallace Cardinal Wiseman Bullocks Wyse Lucien Bonaparte Wyse



Frederick Sleigh Roberts
Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, Pretoria and Waterford, V.C., K.G., K.P., G.C.B., O.M., G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E. 

1st Earl Roberts of Kandahar, Pretoria, and Waterford

    1st Earl, VISCOUNT ST. PIERRE, also called (from 1892) BARON ROBERTS OF KANDAHAR. Roberts was born on Sept. 30, 1832 in Cawnpore, India (now Kanpur) the son of Abraham Roberts and great-grandson of John Roberts. After a military education, he served as an officer in the Indian Army for 25 years.  Lord Roberts commanded the British forces in Afghanistan  in 1881-1882.  He was later the Commander-in-Chief, India (1885-1893), in the South African War(1899-1902) and, finally, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army (1901-1904).  He was among the most respected officers of the British Army.  Roberts was awarded the Victoria CrossBritain's highest award for gallantry, while serving as a Lieutenant in the Bengal Horse Artillery (Indian Army) during the Indian Mutiny.  In 1899, his son, Fred Roberts was awarded the V.C. for his actions at the Battle of Colenso during the South African War.  

    Roberts was sent to Eton School, in 1846, at the age of thirteen and a year later he was accepted at the Military Academy at Sandhurst though he had lost the sight in one eye due to a childhood illness whilst resident in India.  After two years there he transferred to the East India Company's military college at Addiscombe. Roberts first came to notice during the aftermath of the Indian Mutiny (1857-58). He gained distinction in dealing with transport and supply problems.  In June 1858 he returned to Waterford where he stayed for over a year in the family residence in Newtown.  During that year he hunted with the Waterford Hounds and he met his future wife, Nora Henrietta Bews, from "Landscape", Passage Road.  They were married on May 17th, 1859 in St.Patrick's Church, Waterford. He took his bride to India where he remained for over forty years.  He was, originally, an artillery officer but he made his name as a meticulous planner in the quartermaster generals office under Sir Robert Napier.  In 1880, he led a famous march from Kabul to relieve Kandahar which was being attacked by the Afghans. He, with ten thousand men, their baggage and supplies marched 320 miles, in 110 degrees Fahrenheit, over rough terrain in just twenty-one days.  On Sept. 1,1880, he defeated Ayub Khan's Afghan Army - effectively ending the Second Afghan War. In 1885, he was made commander in chief of the Indian Army. From 1885 to 1893 he was commander in chief in India and in the latter year he was given the Freedom of the City of Waterford.  

   During the Boer War (1899-1902), Roberts became second commander in chief of the British Army in South Africa (December 1899-November 1900) in succession to Sir Redvers Buller.  When he took command, the British situation in the war was very shaky.  By using more mounted troops and improving the transport system, Roberts increased the army's mobility. These changes and Roberts' campaign strategy brought the English victory.  On the very day that he sailed for South Africa his son, Fred H.S.Roberts, V.C., was killed in the battle of Colenso, trying to recover some captured guns. Lord Roberts 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).  

    He 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. He was one of the earliest advocates of compulsory military service and he supported the officers during the Curragh Mutiny. The 'mutiny' occurred in March 1914, shortly before the third Home Rule Bill (which was strongly opposed by unionists) was due to come into force. The officers intended to use the army to protect arms depots in Ulster and they were told that they would be dismissed the service if they refused to carry out orders. Fifty-six officers at the Curragh military camp decided to resign rather than move against the Ulster opponents of home rule for Ireland. General Sir Hubert de la Poer Gough (1870-1963), who said that if the issue had been decided in open conflict he would rather fight with, than against, Ulster, chaired the meeting. Roberts said that if the king signed the Home Rule Bill he, Roberts, was prepared to declare it unconstitutional. Roberts supported the signing of the 'Ulster Covenant' and he put forward the view that, in the event of mobilisation, the Irish militia should be sent to Britain for duty and should be replaced in Ireland by British regular and militia because of the 'possibility of disaffection.'   

    Roberts was created a baron in 1892 and an earl and viscount in 1901. He received the freedom of the city of Waterford in 1893, though not without controversy. 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.  When the war was almost over, Roberts returned to England to become commander in chief of the British Army and to receive an earldom. He retired from active duty in the army in 1914. He became known as "Kipling's General."  Beloved by his troops, he was known as "Bobs."                     

There's a little red-faced man,

Which is Bobs.

Rides the tallest 'orse 'e can -

Our Bobs.

If it bucks or kicks or rears,

'E can sit for twenty years

With a smile round both 'is ears--

Can't yer, Bobs?

    "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.  He stemmed the tide of British defeats and brought peace to the North-West Frontier - 'Pax Britannia,' with all that that entailed.  His march from Kabul to Kandahar will long be cited as a remarkable feat of both strategy and administration. 

    The Indian Command was by far the most enlightened and experienced, but it had to contend with the jealousy of the 'Africans,' especially Sir Garnet Wolesley.  Bobs still succeeded in rising to the highest command in the Army becoming first, Commander-in-Chief in Ireland and, finally, the last Commander-in-Chief 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."

    Bobs died while inspecting the troops on the Western Front on Nov. 14, 1914, at Saint-Omer, France.  At his funeral his body was placed on one of the gun carriages from the Battle of Colenso where his son had won the Victoria Cross.   


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