Lord Roberts
ROBERTS, FREDERICK SLEIGH ROBERTS, EARL (1832-1914),
British soldier, second son of General Sir Abraham Roberts, G.C.B., was
born at Cawnpore, India, on the 30th of September 1832. Educated at
Eton, Sandhurst and Addiscombe, he obtained a commission in the Bengal
Artillery on 12th December 1851. In the following year he was posted
to a field battery at Peshawar, where he also acted as aide-de-camp to
his father, who commanded the Peshawar division.

In 1856 Roberts was appointed to the Quartermaster-General’s
department of the staff, in which he remained for twenty-two years,
passing from one grade to another until he became Quartermaster-
General in India. On the outbreak of the Mutiny in 1857, Roberts, at
first, was staff officer to the movable column operating against the
mutineers in the Punjab, successively commanded by Colonels Neville
Chamberlain and John Nicholson, but, towards the end of June, he joined
the Delhi Field Force, and was Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General
with the artillery during the operations against Delhi.

He was wounded in the fight of the 14th of July, but was sufficiently
recovered in September to take command as a regimental officer of the
left half of No. 2 Siege Battery during the siege. He rejoined the
headquarters staff for the assault, and took part in the storm and
subsequent seven days fighting in the city. He then, accompanied Colonel
Greathed’s column to Cawnpore, and during September and October was
present at the actions of Bulandshahr, Aligarh, Agra, Bithur and Kanauj.
He served under Sir Colin Campbell at the second relief of Lucknow in November, at the battle of Cawnpore on the 6th of
December, and the subsequent pursuit and defeat of the Gwalior contingent near Shinrajpur. Roberts distinguished himself
at the engagement of Khudaganj, on the 2nd of January 1858, by capturing, in single-handed combat, a standard from two
sepoys, and also by cutting down a sepoy about to kill a sowar. For these acts of gallantry he was recommended for the
Victoria Cross. He was present at the reoccupation of Fatehgarh on the 6th of January, the storm of Mianganj in February,
the siege and capture of Lucknow in March, and the action at Kursi on the 22nd of that month, after which he went home on
sick leave. For his services in the Mutiny he was seven times mentioned in despatches, received the medal with three
clasps, the Victoria Cross, and on his promotion to captain, in October 1860, a brevet majority. On the 17th of May 1859 he
married, at Waterford, Miss Nora Bews, and on his return to India was entrusted with the organization of the Viceroy’s
camps during the progresses through Oudh, the North-West Provinces, the Punjab and Central India in 1860 and 1861. In
December 1863 he took part, under Major-General Garvock, in the Umbeyla campaign among the mountains to the north of
Peshawar, and was present at the storm of Lalu, the capture of Umbeyla, and the destruction of Mulka, receiving for his
services the medal and clasp.

In 1867 Roberts was appointed Assistant Quartermaster-General to Sir Donald Stewart’s Bengal Brigade for Abyssinia.
He showed judgment in embarking each unit complete in every detail, instead of despatching camp equipage in one ship,
transport in another, and so on, as was customary.  He arrived at Zula, Annesley Bay, in the Red Sea, the base of the
expedition, on the 3rd of February 1868, and remained there as senior base staff officer during the four months’ campaign.
At its close he superintended the re-embarkation. of the whole army. His duties were so well performed that Sir Robert
Napier sent him home with his final despatches. He was three times “mentioned,” and received a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy
and the war medal. He returned to India the following year as First Assistant Quartermaster-General. In the autumn of
1871 he made the arrangements for the expedition into Lushai, between southeast Bengal and Burma, fitted out two
columns under Brigadiers-General Bourchier and Brownlow, and himself accompanied the first. A road, over 100 miles long,
was cut through dense gloomy forests in stifling heat, and the column was attacked by cholera; but the object of the
expedition was successfully accomplished, and Roberts, who was present at the capture of the Kholel villages and the action
in the Northlang range, and commanded the troops at the burning of Taikum, was mentioned in despatches and made a
Companion of the Bath. On his return in March 1872, he became Deputy Quartermaster-General in Bengal, and in 1875
Quartermaster-General and colonel. He settled the details of the great camp of exercise at Delhi on the occasion of the
visit of the Prince of Wales in January 1876, and attended H.R.H. at the maneuvers. He also superintended the
arrangements for the great durbar at Delhi on the 1st of January 1877, when Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of
India.

In 1878 Roberts was appointed to the command of the Frontier Field Force at Abbottabad, in Hazara; but in the autumn,
on the repulse of the Chamberlain Mission by the Afghans, and the formation of three columns to advance into Afghanistan
by the Khyber, the Bolan and the Kurram passes, he was given the command of the Kurram Field Force, with the rank of
major-general. Concentrating his column at Thai, he advanced to Kurram towards the end of November, and having formed
an advanced base there, moved on to Habib Lila. Under cover of preparations for a front attack on the Peiwar Kotal, he
reconnoitred that formidable position, and on the night of the 1st of December moved part of his force to attack the
Spingawi Kotal, in order to turn the Afghan left flank, leaving the remainder of the force to feign a frontal attack on the
Peiwar, and to guard the camp. After a very difficult night march the Spingawi Kotal was carried at daybreak on the 2nd,
and, later, the Afghans on the Peiwar Kotal, threatened in rear, abandoned the position. The next morning Roberts occupied
the Peiwar, and on the 6th advanced to Ali Khel. He reconnoitred the Shutargardan and the Sapari passes, and made a
strong reconnaissance through Khost, in which some fighting took place, and at the end of January returned to Hagir Pir, in
Kurram, where his force remained in occupation. In July. Major Cavagnari, the British envoy to the new Amir, Yakub Khan,
passed through Kurram on his way to Kabul, and, shortly afterwards, Roberts left his Kurram command and went to Simla to
take his seat on the army commission, where he strongly advocated the abolition of the three Presidency armies, and the
substitution for them of four army corps, a measure which was carried out sixteen years later. While he was at Simla, news
arrived on the 5th of September of the murder of Cavagnari and his companions at Kabul.

The Peshawar Valley Force had been broken up; Sir Donald Stewart was still at Kandahar, but most of his troops had
started for India; Roberts, therefore, had the only force ready to strike rapidly at Kabul. It was hastily reinforced, and he
hurried back to Kurram to take command, as a lieutenant-general, of the Kabul Field Force (7500 men and 22 guns). By the
19th of September a brigade was entrenched on the Shutargardan, and as Roberts advanced, the Amir Yakub Khan came
into his camp.  An Afghan force of 8000 men blocked the way in a strong position on the heights beyond Charasia, and on
the 6th of October Roberts repeated the tactics that had done him such good service at the Peiwar in the previous year,
and sending Brigadier-General T. D. Baker with the greater part of his force to turn the Afghan. right flank, threatened
the pass in front with the remainder. By the afternoon Baker had seized the position, and the enemy, severely defeated,
were in full retreat. Kabul was occupied without further opposition.

The city was spared, but punishment was meted out to those convicted of complicity in the murder of the British Mission.
Yakub Khan abdicated on the 12th of October, and was eventually deported to India. The troops occupied the Sherpur
cantonments; but in November a religious war was proclaimed by the Mullahs, and early in December, in order to prevent a
threatening combination of Afghan tribes against him, Roberts moved out two columns to attack them in detail. After
considerable fighting around Kabul, the numbers of the enemy were so great that he was forced to concentrate his troops
again at Sherpur, the defences of which had been greatly improved and strengthened. Sherpur was invested by the enemy,
and early on the 23rd of December was attacked by over 100,000 Afghans. They were driven off with great loss; and on
making a second attempt to storm the place, were met by Roberts, who moved out, attacked them in flank, and defeated
them, when they broke and dispersed. Roberts now recommended the political dismemberment of Afghanistan, and
negotiations were carried on with the northern tribes for the appointment of an Amir for the Kabul district only. On the
5th of, May Sir Donald Stewart arrived with his Column from Kandahar and assumed the supreme command in Afghanistan,
Roberts retaining, under Stewart, the command of the two Kabul divisions, and organizing an efficient transport corps
under Colonel R. Low, which was soon to be of inestimable value. On the 22nd of July Abdur Rahman was proclaimed Amir of
Kabul; and Roberts was preparing to withdraw his troops to India by the Kurram route, when news arrived that a British
brigade had been totally defeated at Maiwand on the 27th of July, and that Lieutenant-General Primrose was besieged in
Kandahar.

Roberts was ordered to proceed thither at once with a specially selected column of 10,000 troops and his new transport
corps. He started on his famous march on the 9th of August and arrived at Kandahar on the morning of the 31st, having
covered 313 miles in twenty-two days. On the following day he fought the battle of Kandahar and gained a complete victory.
His services in the Afghan campaigns of 1878 to 1880 are recorded in eight Gazettes, and were recognized by the thanks
of both Houses of Parliament, of the Government of India, and of the Governor-General in Council. He was created K.C.B., G.
C.B. and a baronet, received the medal with four clasps and the bronze star, and was given the command of the Madras
army.

Before proceeding to Madras, Roberts went home on furlough, and when the news of the disaster at Majuba Hill in South
Africa arrived in London at the end of February 1881, he was appointed governor of Natal and Commander-in-Chief in South
Africa. He arrived at Cape Town to find that peace had been made with the Boers, and that instructions were awaiting him
to return home. The same year he attended the autumn maneuvers in Hanover as the guest of the German emperor. He
declined the post of Quartermaster-General to the forces in succession to
Sir Garnet Wolseley, and returned to India,
arriving at Madras in November. The following year he visited Burma with the Viceroy, and in 1885 attended the meeting
between Abdur Rahman and Lord Dufferin at Rawalpindi at the time  of the Panjdeh incident, in connexion with which he had
been nominated to the command of an army corps in case of hostilities. In July he succeeded Sir Donald Stewart as
Commander-in-Chief in India, and during his seven years' tenure of this high position instituted many measures for the
benefit of the army, and greatly assisted the development of frontier communications and defence. At the end of 1885, at
the request of the Viceroy, he took personal command for a time of the forces in Burma, and organized measures for the
suppression of dacoity. For his services he received the medal, was created G.C.I.E., and promoted supernumerary general.
In 1890 he did the honours of the army to Prince Albert Victor at a standing camp at Muridki and in 1891 his attention was
occupied with the Zhob and Hunza Nagar frontier campaigns. On the 1st of January 1892 he was raised to the peerage as
Baron Roberts of Kandahar and Waterford. In 1893 he left India for good, and the G.C.S.I. was bestowed upon him. He was
promoted to be Field-Marshal in 1895, and in the autumn of that year succeeded Lord Wolseley in the Irish command and
was sworn a Privy Councilor. At Queen Victoria's diamond jubilee in 1897 he was created K.P.

After the disastrous actions in the Boer war in South Africa in December 1899 at Magersfontein, Stormberg and Colenso,
where his only son was killed, Lord Roberts was sent out as Commander-in-Chief. He arrived at Cape Town on the 10th of
January 1900, and after organizing his force, advanced with sound strategy on Bloemfontein, the capital of the Orange
Tree State, and soon changed the aspect of affairs. The sieges of Kimberley and
Ladysmith were raised, and the Boer
general Cronje, flying towards the capital, was overtaken at Paardeberg and, after a fine defence, compelled to surrender,
with 5000 men. on the anniversary of Majuba Day, the 27th of February 1900. Roberts entered Bloemfontein on the 13th
of March, and after six weeks' preparation, advanced on Pretoria, the capital of the Transvaal. Mafeking was relieved on
the 17th of May, and Pretoria occupied on the 5th of June. The two Boer states were annexed, and the war gradually
assuming a guerilla character, Roberts handed over the command to Lord Kitchener and returned to England to fill the
office of Commander-in-Chief of the Army in succession to Lord Wolseley

He arrived in the Solent on the 2nd of January 1901, and the same day, had an audience of Queen Victoria, who handed him
the insignia of the Order of the Garter. The next day he was received at Paddington by the Prince and Princess of Wales
and drove in procession to Buckingham Palace, where he was entertained as the guest of the Queen. He again had an
audience of the green at Osborne on the 14th of January on his elevation to an earldom, the last audience given by Her
Majesty before her death, which took place eight days later. When the German emperor came to London for the Queen's
funeral, he decorated Lord Roberts with the Order of the Black Eagle. Earl Roberts received the thanks of both Houses
of Parliament and a grant of £100,000 for his services in South Africa. In 1905 he resigned his post on the Committee of
National Defence, and devoted himself to attempting to rouse his countrymen to the necessity of cultivating rifle shooting
and of adopting systematic general military training and service. As an author he is known by his Rise of Wellington (1895),
and his Forty-One Years in India (1897), an autobiography which has passed through numerous editions.

From the Encyclopaedia Britannica, 11th Edition, 1910-1911.
p.s.

He died of pneumonia at St Omer,
France, while visiting Indian troops
fighting in the First World War.
After lying in state in Westminster
Hall (one of two non-Royals to do so
in the 20th century, the second
being Winston Churchill in 1965),
he was buried in St Paul's
Cathedral, London.

Roberts' estate was probated in
1914 at 77,304 pounds sterling.

Both his sons having predeceased
him, Roberts's barony became
extinct, but under the special
remainder granted with them he was
succeeded in the Earldom and
Viscountcy by his elder surviving
daughter.

Lord Roberts' medals are at the
National Army Museum in London