Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby mike snook » 29 Jun 2014 17:33

Afternoon Richard,

One of the last decent charges by British cavalry...and hard work too. Of course that's one of my points about the really not so terribly shiny Wolseley Ring - Stewart had the brigade there and its commonly received that he mistimed his attack quite badly with some unnecessarily heavy casualties in the 10th and 19th H as a result.

I would suggest starting with Roberts's autobiography: 'Forty-one Years in India'. It was a big seller and you should be able to pick one up for not very much with a bit of googling. There are also biographies by:

David James - Lord Roberts, London 1954.
W H Hannah - Bobs, Kipling's General, London 1972.
Walter Jerrold - Lord Roberts of Kandahar VC The Life Story of a Great Soldier London 1900.
J Maclaren Cobban - The Life and Deeds of Earl Roberts (4 vols) London. c 1910-is [well illustrated and probably a bit expensive now]

There are doubtless others but these are the ones on my Afghanistan shelf. Perhaps one in the Victoria's General's genre - Prof Ian Beckett edited one of that sort recently. I think Victoria's Generals may be its title. That way you should get some coverage of both 2nd Anglo-Afghan and 2ABW though perhaps not in the level of detail that would satisfy your curiosity.

Please accept my apologies for any matrimonial strife caused by BTROE! I don't suppose it would help if you gave your copy to Mrs P for your next wedding anniversary?!! You never know she might appreciate the thought (which is what counts after all)!

As ever

Mike

Ps Josh, My heart attack is averted. The Duke...now there was a solider! As ever, M
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Josh&Historyland » 29 Jun 2014 19:15

mike snook wrote:
Ps Josh, My heart attack is averted. The Duke...now there was a solider! As ever, M


Phew! Glad to hear it, Mike. As a soldier, The Duke, in my opinion is in a league of his own.

Josh.
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby rclpillinger » 29 Jun 2014 21:30

Thank you very much Mike, that is a really useful list of books for me to work my way through.

My Grandfather was also part of what I, in my unqualified position, would probably call THE last true cavalry charge, the Relief of Kimberley, where the Tenth were in the vanguard of the charge, under the overall direction of Lord Roberts. In the "Brief History of the Xth Royal Hussars" that Grandpa co-wrote in 1907 with Col. Vaughan, he does somewhat gloss over this ride, but does mention Roberts on a couple of occassions. If it is of any interest to you, I have reproduced the chapters of the booklet on "his" website http://www.majorpillinger.com

Thank you also for your invaluable matramonial advice. I think I can see why you chose the army as your career rather than RELATE !

Best wishes

Richard
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby mike snook » 29 Jun 2014 22:01

:lol:
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Les Waring » 30 Jun 2014 12:53

As someone brought to the study of the Victorian military by India and the Mutiny, I'll have to declare for Roberts. More so as his memoir 'Forty One Years' in India' had the first mention of 'my man', Sam Lawrence V.C. ('an old friend from Peshawar days') that I came across. They met again at the final Relief of Lucknow, and Wolsley was also present, I believe. All this is before his generaling days, of course, but he gives excellent first-person descriptions of finding the mortally wounded John Nicholson inside Delhi and the surprise attack of the rebels at Agra.

One glaring omission, common to all the memoirs I know of the period except Flashman's, of course, is any account of his affairs with women, Indian or British, before his 'respectable marriage. There are vague hints in different sources, that he had many, but not a word from him. Of course, him having been an officer and, unlike Flashman, a 'gentleman', one would'nt expect Roberts to have gone into detail or have named names, but a few salacious hints would have spiced the thing up.

On the other hand the, so-far unfound, 'Full and Unexpurgated Secret Life of Sir Colin Campbell be worth reading.

Best

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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Mark A. Reid » 01 Jul 2014 19:37

Hello Mike;

Canadians are generally regarded as relatively benign and modest but I really can't let your somewhat cavalier assessment of the Red River Expedition be dismissed as simply a " Grand Military Regatta, " although I suspect that you may have used such language in order to elicit some response.

Granted, that Louis Riel and the Metis were no more defeated than the Taliban have been in Afghanistan, the problem was simply postponed 15 years, and somewhat exacerbated, by the expedition. As you say, no shots were fired although it could be argued that the immediate political goals of the Canadian government were completely achieved. It is as a logistical victory, if not a triumph, that the expedition, its members and its leader deserve better treatment than being dismissed as " a piddling little sideshow. " Let's examine some of the statistics and compare to the speed, expense and eventual goals of other military operations that have better captured the interest of historians, re-enactors and toy soldier enthusiasts;

- A hastily-assembled force of 1,214 men, two-thirds of them civilian militiamen, and supported by a professional logistical component of only 12 men of the ASC and a few Commissariat officers, was assembled in Toronto. Remember, Canada was still very much a frontier country and simply locating, let alone centralising, sufficient boats, food & stores to one location would have challenged Moses himself, but it was accomplished in just a few weeks.

- Within 2-3 weeks of being brought together, they had been outfitted and transported 628 miles on foot and by train, carefully respecting American borders, to meet their unfamiliar boats and equipment at Prince Arthur's Landing. Any comparison to water sports or leisure activities ends right here, this was the start of a 500-mile slog.

- Every barrel of salt pork, every frying pan, sack of flour and ammunition box had to be carried or loaded & unloaded from boats, canoes, rafts, etc. and, in addition, the boats themselves had to be carried over no less than 47 portages ... yes 47. Now how many cataracts are there on the Nile again? Difficult to comprehend but seven ASC bakers managed to produce fresh bread every day for most of the expedition, providing a much-needed respite from aged biscuits unearthed from Military Stores.

- Whilst some of this trek probably involved sitting in a boat under sail and beneath a sunny sky a la Henley Regatta, most of it involved hard paddling/rowing against strong westerly winds and uncooperative currents. Any one familiar with the Canadian woods ( remember Mike? ) should also be aware that every foot of the way every man would have been surrounded by clouds of maddening mosquitoes. To further dispel any confusion with a regatta, it is recorded that it rained for a total of 46 days ... 'though I suppose that kept down the mosquito and black fly infestation.

- No shooting at the end, no doubt to everyone's chagrin, BUT, 1400 souls were transported 1200 miles in only 13 weeks without the loss of a single man. I will make no defence of Colonel Wolseley as a brilliant general, having just read a recent book about the Nile Expedition ( yes, that one! ) but one cannot dismiss this earlier campaign as anything other than a well-planned, professionally-executed and physically-challenging operation ( largely by amateurs ) that was accomplished on a shoestring budget and met all the political goals of the Canadian government who actually paid for three-quarters of the expedition. Should mention that Canada, as a country, was less than three years old at this stage. If I should ever meet a veteran of the Red River Expedition, Regular or Militia, officer, soldier or civilian, I would be proud to shake his hand and announce Well done!

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Mark A. Reid » 01 Jul 2014 19:58

Hello again;

My recent " rant " allows me to showcase one of my ancestors, Captain Alexander R. Macdonald MD. He served as a Private during the 1866 Fenian Raids and later as a company commander in the Ontario Rifles during Wolseley's excursion to Fort Garry in 1870. He remained there over the winter of 1870-71 to treat an outbreak of cholera amongst the local Cree. And, yes, there is a slight family resemblance, although for some unfathomable reason my ancestor failed to grow a " proper " mustache!

Cheers,

Mark
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Waggoner » 01 Jul 2014 21:14

Mark,

You have been holding out! I did not know that you had such a distinguished ancestor!

I had been pondering whether or not to rise to Mike's bait and had decided that discretion was the better part of valour. You are absolutely correct to point out that Wolseley's strength was in overcoming horrendous logistics problems, usually those involving transportation. His first exposure to this was a movements control officer/staging base commander at Rivière du Loup during the troop movements in response to the Trent Affair of 1861. Following the Red River Expedition, his next field challenge was the Ashantee War of 1873/74.

Again his task was to organize transportation from the coast to the Ashantee territory. At first, this did not go well as the Commissariat officers were not familiar with using bearers. Fortunately, Colley was present as a special duties officer. As he had a keen talent for administrative duties, he was assigned this task under the senior Commissariat officer, Matthew Bell-Irvine, a Canadian and member of the "ring" . The Commissariat continued to operate the surf boats to land the supplies while Colley controlled the Line of Communications and the reorganized bearers. The expedition advanced by stages and established camps for the regular troops to use. Because of the constant threat of disease, the regular troops were kept aboard the ships and only landed when all was ready for their rapid advance in to the Ashantee territory. This was a successful operational strategy that reaulted in the defeat of the Ashantee and the capture of their capital. Of course, they had to go back and do it again some 22 years later but that is another story!

All this to say, I am still firmly in the Wolseley camp!

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Josh&Historyland » 02 Jul 2014 00:23

This should be interesting 8) The Canadians strike back, and military history shows us they are dangerous when they're angry ;)

Between the two, I'm still a Wolesley for the above reasons (Though generally I'm a Wellington, also for the above reasons).

Josh.
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Waggoner » 03 Jul 2014 20:59

Mike,

You have gone silent. Looking forward to your counter agruments :D

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby mike snook » 03 Jul 2014 23:58

Oh my dear chap....not at all. It's just that the feebleness of the case, (for those two commands as operations of war or great military achievements - which you will recall was the exam question), is so painfully self-evident that I don't really feel the need to say anything. Besides, it was Canada Day and all that and I didn't want to cause any crisis of confidence in the dominions. You see....6 June 1944 on Gold, Juno and Sword...now that was a great Anglo-Canadian achievement...(shall we say 9.97 on a scale of 1 to 10), while the Red River Expedition....well, come now, surely nobody is suggesting that it rates above one and a bit at best. I'm not even sure it qualifies as an operation of war. And West Africa...why you have made the case yourself sir....Major Colley's logistic victory in Asante. In neither case did anything remotely approaching a great military achievement take place and I'm pretty confident that any one of the subalterns I ever instructed in dimensions of the art of war could, with a decent quartermaster to help them, have delivered 'victories' every bit the equal of Wolseley's. Soldiering doesn't come any simpler than make your way from Point A to Point B by a fixed linear route (such as a series of waterways or a forest track), fight anybody who tries to stop you, try not to die of starvation or disease if you can possibly help it, and then come back to Point A again to collect your medals (and in Wolseley's case in 1874 £25,000, which would have to be one of the most extravagant wastes of the taxpayer's money on record!). Kumasi you will recall was not even occupied for 24 hours before the withdrawal to the coast began. So taking the duration of the victory as 24 hours, that's £25,000 per diem. But I digress. It's not as if he wasn't a nice chap who deserved the odd lucky break after all.

:wink:

As ever

M

PS. To be serious for a split second...I heartily commend reading the books by HM Stanley and Winwood Reade (NY Herald and London Times respectively). Both were in Asante. Stanley indeed helped to defend Wolseley's headquarters. I believe he was a good shot!

PPS. Of course that the RRE was a ghastly labour of Hercules for all concerned in it is not remotely contested. That it was important in the early history of Canada likewise...but we are talking great military achievements if you please.
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Waggoner » 04 Jul 2014 00:46

Mike,

All jesting aside, I see that we have diametrically opposing views. From your comments, you are clearly not a student of logistics. So, I suggest that we agree to disagree and move on.

All the best,

Gary
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby jf42 » 04 Jul 2014 00:50

mike snook wrote:and in Wolseley's case in 1874 £25,000, which would have to be one of the most extravagant wastes of the taxpayer's money on record!). Kumasi you will recall was not even occupied for 24 hours before the withdrawal to the coast began. So taking the duration of the victory as 24 hours, that's £25,000 per diem.



And didn't W have shares in the company making the Elcho tweed for the special service dress with which the troops were kitted out, or the sword bayonet ditto? One or the other, or both.

Let's not forget the viscountcy, either.
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby Maureene » 04 Jul 2014 03:35

mike snook wrote:I would suggest starting with Roberts's autobiography: 'Forty-one Years in India'. It was a big seller and you should be able to pick one up for not very much with a bit of googling. There are also biographies by:

David James - Lord Roberts, London 1954.
W H Hannah - Bobs, Kipling's General, London 1972.
Walter Jerrold - Lord Roberts of Kandahar VC The Life Story of a Great Soldier London 1900.
J Maclaren Cobban - The Life and Deeds of Earl Roberts (4 vols) London. c 1910-is [well illustrated and probably a bit expensive now]

There are doubtless others but these are the ones on my Afghanistan shelf..

Some of these books are available online. The links may be found on the FIBIS Fibiwiki page "Frederick Roberts"
http://wiki.fibis.org/index.php/Frederick_Roberts

Cheers
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Re: Wolseley or Roberts Rings?

Postby mike snook » 04 Jul 2014 10:56

JF, To be fair the Viscountcy was for Egypt. Hadn't heard the elcho tweed thing. Where does that come from?

Gary

Logistics you will recall is an enabler to great military achievements and not one in its own right. Logistics is logistics - an important dimension of soldiering, just as it is a dimension of running a railway or operating Thomas Cook & Sons on the Nile. By definition an operation in which not a single shot is fired is a deployment, a troop movement, or at best a demonstration or an exercise in force projection. It can never constitute a 'great military achievement' (which I know is my phrase of choice - chosen specifically to 'shape the battlefield' to my advantage). So much for RRE (in the terms in which I have chosen to address it). As I say, important to the Canadian sovereign entity? Of course. Exacting work for those involved? Certainly. Level of terror in their hearts? Nil. Great military achievement? Go tell it to the 3rd Canadian Division.

It is fundamental that one cannot study war without acquiring at least a passing knowledge of logistics, which is why I have commended that you read Stanley and Reade, who both have some interesting things to say on how close Wolseley's logistics came to collapse in Asante, just as they later did actually collapse in 1884-5, in both the River and Desert Columns. In respect of Asante, it is the correspondents that one needs to read, rather than Henry Brackenbury's 'history'. This is why.

We need to be conscious of how much VMH was written by members of the Ring and begin, intelligently, to probe it for self-serving hyperbole or the unwarranted and unjust derision of non-ringers. Let me demonstrate. The leading account of RRE is Huyshe's is it not? Who he? Member of the Wolseley Ring. The leading account of Asante is Brackenbury's is it not? Who he? Wolseley's military secretary during the campaign, whose cleverness is more than amply demonstrated by the fact that he wrote that hefty 2-volume work in around five weeks, precisely in order to beat Stanley and Reade into print. Who wrote the official history of the Egyptian intervention? Colonel J F Maurice. Who he? Wolseley Ring. Who wrote the official history of the Nile Expedition? Colonel Henry Colvile who lost control of his manuscript for two years until eventually it was released in adapted form by Brackenbury, by then the DMI.

Contrary to your assertion, I have been rather a keen student of Victorian military logistics, which is probably why the second most pressing date in my diary at present is picking up a Doctorate of Philosophy derived from a five year study of Victorian campaign planning. Of course as a critic of Wolseley I run a poor second to Prof Adrian Preston, who was the professor of military history at the Royal Military College of Canada, and was also on to him.

My point is this. Wolseley was an excellent and utterly fearless regimental officer of infantry. He acquired a great deal of operational experience in working his way to colonel. But his career as a general officer [I count RRE here, where he enjoyed the autonomy of a general, even though his rank was colonel], falls a long way short of demonstrating that in contemplating this renowned Victorian general we are discussing somebody who was head and shoulders above his peer group. He certainly believed himself to be. But I entertain serious and, I believe, justifiable doubts, about whether he actually was a cut above the rest. The evidence points to serious defects of character, judgement, temperament and, I begin to suspect, intelligence too.

But Mark posed his question for fun. So let others take it on from here...I sat quietly by once, but look what you went and did!!

As ever

Mike
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