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A FEW MEMORIES OF LORD ROBERTS, Issue 15651, 16 November 1914
A FEW MEMORIES OF LORD ROBERTS
[By Henry W. Xevinsox.'J
I am far from books and diaries, but this (said Mr Nevinson on the Eieldniarshal’s 80th birthday) is what I remember best. Tho first scene was during the big mameuvros of 1808, when tho Duke of Connaught was commanding against General Duller, and both armies engaged upon tho astonishing tactics that brought disaster in tho following year. As correspondent to the ‘ Daily Chronicle 5 I was toiling up a steep Wiltshire down, pushing my bicycle before nie over grass and chalk. An oflicer in undress uniform cumo behind mo, mounted on an Arab that looked more like u pot stag than a horse. " You've got a hard struggle.” ho said as ho passed, and looking up f saw tho smiling blue eye, the face already so well known, Hie trim little figure, alert and always ready. And while my head was full of visions of Kabul and Kandahar. Ire wont on to describe tho situation of that hour on tho Wiltshire downs, as if nothing in the world mattered more than the position of harmless guns upon this ridge or harmless brigades in tho other village. When wo reached the top of tho down ho cantered on, leaving a sense of pleasure, a sense of politeness, simplicity, and cheerful capacity. I recalled that incident tho day when a runner passed through tho blockade of Ladysmith and brought Sir George White tho news that Roberts had been appointed to tho command in South Africa. I suppose it was late in December of 1899. Cheerfulness and capacity were tho two things wo wanted most. For, indeed, an almost unvaried gloom was settling down upon the. besieged army, and, devoted as was tho attachment of tho staff and the men to General White himself, wo had natural doubts as to tho capacity of other generals, to whom alone we could look for outside help. Tho nows that Roberts was coming acted like a revival. Light and strength were restored, and for the remaining weeks and months of the siege we never again knew demoralising lethargy or despair. On one occasion—whether it was after tho repulse of tho terrible attack of the Boers on January ti or at a later time 1 am not sure.—ho sent tho garrison a message of praise and congratulation by hclio. I remember writing that the message was worth a- fresh brigade to us. By that time the garrison was horribly reduced by hunger, sickness, and death, but the message was worth a fresh brigade. In tho following May I was ordered to leave Natal and join the advance upon Pretoria. It was a hard task, !or Roberts moved vast and had already started from Bloemfontein. To catch him one had to go right down to Durban, round by sea to East London, and all up the weary and broken line to tho Free State. By riding 30 tidies a day from Bloemfontein along intrack 1 came up with the main army just- before it entered Johannesburg. A few days later we were encamped at a suburb called Orange Grove, and the wide view to the north showed line after line of fire across tho veldt at night, for tho Boors had hoped to delay nur advance by destroying the grass. Early-iii the morning 1 saw the little General again. He was riding quietly forward with his staff for his final advance upon the capital, which throughout had been Ids goal. That night v.c camped about five miles from Pretoria, and next morning a fourwheeler drove out, bringing loading citizens to surrender the keys, or whatever t!ie modern equivalent is. They drove up to the General’s tent, and in another hour we were in the midst ol the city.
In tho afternoon the great squate before the Government Buildings was cleared. There in tho centre of one side, mounted on Ids Arab, sat the: little figure who had restored the for- ; tunes of his country. A trumpet blew, ; add to the sound of our well-known ! tune up ran the. little silk flag which I ho was said to have carried in readiness | across, ids saddle all the way. Batteries, cavalry, and battalions, the ' army inarched past. The goal was readied. Tho enemy's capital had fallen. lie believed—wo all believed the war was over. I suppose that in ! a life marked by many great moments ' that moment was tho greatest of them , all. , ; Everyone can speak ol tho man s | mistakes. It is easy enough to criticise I campaigns from a distance; still easier : to criticise them when they arc over, But when I saw the old Field-marshal , once again last year, inspec ting a little J brigade of veterans in a Muncy pad- j dock, it was not of mistakes or ol criticism that 1 thought. Ihere lie, stood —Ids blue eve now pale almost to | whiteness, but his little figure still 1 erect and trim. I thought ol his weilknown saying when first he was oficred the South African command: " Ecu- this 1 have led an abstemious life for 19 years.” And thou I thought of the swift and inflexible decisions taken and followed out in the thick log and perplexity of war; of the passionate courage, the indomitable endurance displaced in a long and consistent Ido ; and at tho back of it all that simplicity, politeness, and sense oi cheerful capacitv which won the heart and made Ids soldiers greater than themselves. .
A FEW MEMORIES OF LORD ROBERTS, Issue 15651, 16 November 1914
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