Forty-One Years in India
From Subaltern to Commander-In-Chief
FIELD MARSHAL LORD ROBERTS
New Year's Day, 1890, found me in Calcutta, where I went to meet Prince Albert Victor on his arrival in India. On my way thither I received a letter from Mr. Edward Stanhope, Secretary of State for War, telling me that he had heard from Lord Cross, the Secretary of State for India, that there was a proposal to ask me to retain my appointment of Commander-in-Chief in India for some time after the expiration of the usual term of office; but that, while such an arrangement would have his hearty approval, he thought the question should be considered from another point of view, and that it would be extremely agreeable to himself, and he felt to the Duke of Cambridge also, if he could secure me for the post of Adjutant-General in succession to Lord Wolseley. Mr. Stanhope went on to say he would like to know whether I would be willing to accept the appointment, or whatever position Lord Wolseley's successor would fill, should the report of Lord Hartington's Commission cause a change to be made in the staff at the Horse Guards.
I was pleased, though somewhat surprised, at this communication, and I replied to the Right Honourable gentleman that I would gladly[Page 530] accept the offer, and that I could arrange to join on the 1st October, when the appointment would become vacant, but that, as Lord Lansdowne had expressed a wish that I should remain in India over the next cold season, I hoped, if it were possible, some arrangement might be made to admit of my doing so. The idea of employment in England, now that I allowed myself to dwell upon it, was very attractive, for dearly as I loved my Indian command, and bitterly as I knew I should grieve at leaving the country, the peoples, and the grand army, which were all sources of such intense interest to me, I felt that the evil day at longest could only be postponed for a few years, and that there is a limit to the time that even the strongest European can with impunity live in an eastern climate, while I was glad to think I should still be in a position to work for my country and for the benefit of the army.
From Calcutta I travelled north to Muridki, where a large force of Horse Artillery and Cavalry was assembled for practice, and where we had a standing camp, at which Prince Albert Victor did us the honour of being our guest for the final manœuvres. I think His Royal Highness enjoyed the novelty of camp life, and was greatly attracted by the picturesque and soldier-like appearance of the Native troops. The Native officers were very proud at being presented to the grandson of their Empress, and at His Royal Highness being appointed Honorary Colonel of the 1st Punjab Cavalry.
Extension of Command Towards the end of April I returned to Simla for what I thought was to be our last season in that place; and shortly after I got up there, a telegram from Mr. Stanhope informed me that my appointment had been accepted by the Cabinet, and that my presence in England was strongly desired in the autumn. It was therefore with very great surprise that I received a second telegram three weeks later from the Secretary of State, telling me that, as it was then found to be impossible to choose my successor, and as the exigencies of the public service urgently required my presence in India, the Cabinet, with the approval of Her Majesty and the concurrence of the Duke of Cambridge, had decided to ask me to retain my command for two more years.
I felt it my duty to obey the wishes of the Queen, Her Majesty's Government, and the Commander-in-Chief; but I fully realized that in doing so I was forfeiting my chance of employment in England, and that a long and irksome term of enforced idleness would in all probability follow on my return home, and I did not attempt to conceal from Mr. Stanhope that I was disappointed.
1891 At the latter end of this year, and in the early part of 1891, it was found necessary to undertake three small expeditions: one to Zhob, under the leadership of Sir George White, for the protection of our newly-acquired subjects in that valley; one on the Kohat border,[Page 531] commanded by Sir William Lockhart, to punish the people of the Miranzai valley for repeated acts of hostility; and the third, under Major-General Elles,1 against the Black Mountain tribes, who, quite unsubdued by the fruitless expedition of 1888, had given trouble almost immediately afterwards. All these were as completely successful in their political results as in their military conduct. The columns were not withdrawn until the tribesmen had become convinced that they were powerless to sustain a hostile attitude towards us, and that it was their interest, as it was our wish, that they should henceforth be on amicable terms with us.
While a considerable number of troops were thus employed, a fourth expedition had to be hurriedly equipped and despatched in quite the opposite direction to punish the Raja of Manipur, a petty State on the confines of Assam, for the treacherous murder of Mr. Quinton, the Chief Commissioner of Assam, and four other British officers.
Notwithstanding its inaccessibility, two columns, one from Burma, the other from Cachar, quickly and simultaneously reached Manipur, our countrymen were avenged, and the administration of the State was taken over for a time by the Government of India.2
Towards the end of January the Cesarewitch came to Calcutta, where I had the honour of being introduced to our august visitor, who expressed himself as pleased with what he had seen of the country and the arrangements made for His Imperial Highness's somewhat hurried journey through India.
In April my military colleague in the Viceroy's Council for five years, and my personal friend, General Sir George Chesney, left India, to my great regret. We had worked together most harmoniously, and, as he wrote in his farewell letter, there was scarcely a point in regard to the Army in India about which he and I did not agree.
Sir George was succeeded by Lieutenant-General Brackenbury, who had been Director of Military Intelligence at the War Office. I was relieved to find that, although in some particulars my new coadjutor's views differed from mine, we were in accord upon all essential points, particularly as to the value of the Indian Army and the necessity for its being maintained in a state of preparedness for war.
Efficiency of the Native Army From the time I became Commander-in-Chief in Madras until I left India the question of how to render the army in that country as perfect a fighting machine as it was possible to make it, was the one which caused me the most anxious thought, and to its solution my most earnest efforts had been at all times directed.
The first step to be taken towards this end was, it seemed to me, to substitute men of the more warlike and hardy races for the Hindustani[Page 532] sepoys of Bengal, the Tamils and Telagus of Madras, and the so-called Mahrattas of Bombay; but I found it difficult to get my views accepted, because of the theory which prevailed that it was necessary to maintain an equilibrium between the armies of the three Presidencies, and because of the ignorance that was only too universal with respect to the characteristics of the different races, which encouraged the erroneous belief that one Native was as good as another for purposes of war.
In former days, when the Native Army in India was so much stronger in point of numbers than the British Army, and there existed no means of rapid communication, it was only prudent to guard against a predominance of soldiers of any one creed or nationality; but with British troops nearly doubled and the Native Army reduced by more than one-third, with all the forts and arsenals protected, and nearly the whole of the Artillery manned by British soldiers, with railway and telegraph communication from one end of India to the other, with the risk of internal trouble greatly diminished, and the possibility of external complications becoming daily more apparent, circumstances and our requirements were completely altered, and it had become essential to have in the ranks of our Native Army men who might confidently be trusted to take their share of fighting against a European foe.
In the British Army the superiority of one regiment over another is mainly a matter of training; the same courage and military instinct are inherent in English, Scotch, and Irish alike, but no comparison can be made between the martial value of a regiment recruited amongst the Gurkhas of Nepal or the warlike races of northern India, and of one recruited from the effeminate peoples of the south.
How little this was understood, even by those who had spent a great part of their service in India, was a marvel to me; but, then, I had had peculiar opportunities of judging of the relative fighting qualities of Natives, and I was in despair at not being able to get people to see the matter with my eyes, for I knew that nothing was more sure to lead to disaster than to imagine that the whole Indian Army, as it was then constituted, could be relied on in time of war.
General Chesney fortunately shared my opinions, and as Lords Dufferin and Lansdowne trusted us, we were able to do a great deal towards increasing the efficiency of the Native Army and improving the status and prospects of the Native soldier. Several companies and regiments composed of doubtful material were disbanded, and men of well-known fighting castes entertained instead. Class regiments were formed, as being more congenial to the men and more conducive to esprit de corps; recruiting was made the business of carefully selected officers who understood Native character, and whose duty it was to become acquainted with the various tribes inhabiting the districts[Page 533] from which the recruits for their own regiments were drawn; and special arrangements were made with the Nepalese Government by which a sufficient number of the best class of men could be obtained for our thirteen Gurkha regiments.
Concessions to the Native Army The pay of Cavalry soldiers was improved, and it was pointed out to the Government that an increase to the Infantry soldiers' pay could not be long deferred;3 the issue of good-conduct pay was accelerated; jagirs,4 were sanctioned annually for a limited number of specially distinguished Native officers; full pay was authorized for recruits from date of enlistment instead of from the date of joining their regiments; field batta,5 was sanctioned whenever troops should be employed beyond sea or on service; pensions were granted after a shorter period of service than heretofore; medals for meritorious service and good conduct were given in commemoration of Her Majesty's Jubilee; bronze war medals were sanctioned for all authorized Government followers; a reserve, which it was arranged should undergo an annual course of training, was formed for the Artillery and Infantry; and a system of linked battalions was organized, three battalions being grouped together, and the men being interchangeable during war-time.
While the tendency of these alterations and concessions was to make all ranks happy and contented, their training was carefully attended to, and, as I have before mentioned, musketry particularly reached a very high standard.
Officering of the Native Army The one thing left undone, and which I should like to have been able to accomplish before leaving India, was to induce the Government to arrange for more British officers to be given to the Native regiments in time of war. Nine to a Cavalry and eight to an Infantry corps may be sufficient in time of peace, but that number is quite too small to stand the strain of war. Indian soldiers, like soldiers of every nationality, require to be led; and history and experience teach us that eastern races (fortunately for us), however brave and accustomed to war, do not possess the qualities that go to make leaders of men, and that Native officers in this respect can never take the place of British officers. I have known many Natives whose gallantry and devotion could not be surpassed, but I have never known one who would not have looked to the youngest British officer for support in time of difficulty and danger. It is therefore most unwise to allow Native regiments to enter upon a war with so much smaller a proportion of British officers than is considered necessary for[Page 534] European regiments. I have no doubt whatever of the fighting powers of our best Indian troops; I have a thorough belief in, and admiration for, Gurkhas, Sikhs, Dogras, Rajputs, Jats, and selected Mahomedans; I thoroughly appreciate their soldierly qualities; brigaded with British troops, I would be proud to lead them against any European enemy; but we cannot expect them to do with less leading than our own soldiers require, and it is, I maintain, trying them too highly to send them into action with the present establishment of British officers.6
In the late autumn of 1891 our latest acquisition, the Zhob Valley, was included in my frontier tour, which I had the pleasure of making, for the greater part of the way, in the company of General Brackenbury. He was prevented from getting as far as Quetta by an accident which laid him up for some time, but not, as he told me, before he had seen enough of the frontier to satisfy him that the tribes were a factor in our system of defence which could not be ignored, and that I had not exaggerated the importance of having them on our side.
The Hunza-Naga Campaign During this winter the brilliant little Hunza-Naga campaign took place, which has been so graphically described in Mr. Knight's 'Where [Page 535] Three Empires Meet.' It was brought about by Russia's intrigues with the Rulers of the petty States on the northern boundary of Kashmir; and our attention was first roused to the necessity for action by two British officers, who were journeying to India by way of the Pamirs and Gilgit, being forced by Russian soldiers to leave what the leader of the party called 'newly-acquired Russian territory'7—territory to which Russia had not the shadow of a claim.
In addition to this unjustifiable treatment of Captain Younghusband and Lieutenant Davison, Colonel Yanoff crossed the Hindu Kush with his Cossacks by the Korabhut Pass, and, after reconnoitring the country on the borders of Kashmir, re-crossed the range by the Baroghil Pass. As this was a distinct breach of the promises made by the Russian Government, and an infringement of the boundary line as agreed to between England and Russia in 1873, it was necessary to take steps to prevent any recurrence of such interference, and a small force was accordingly sent against the Chief of Hunza, who had openly declared himself in favour of Russia. He made a desperate stand, but was eventually driven from his almost inaccessible position by the determined gallantry of our Indian troops, assisted by a Contingent from Kashmir. Three Victoria Crosses were given for this business, and many more were earned, but of necessity there must be a limit to the disposal of decorations; and in an affair of this kind, in which all proved themselves heroes, each individual must have felt himself honoured by the small force being awarded such a large number of the coveted reward, in proportion to its size.
We reaped the benefit of having taken this district under our own control when Chitral required to be relieved, and the Hunza-Naga people afforded Colonel Kelly such valuable help.
1892 On the 1st January, 1892, I received an intimation that Her Majesty had been graciously pleased to bestow a peerage upon me, and the same day the Secretary of State for India offered me a further extension of my appointment as Commander-in-Chief—an offer I would gladly have accepted, as I knew it had been made with the concurrence of the Viceroy, if I could have taken even a few months' leave to England. But during a quarter of a century I had only been able to spend eighteen months out of India, and I felt the need of change of climate and a little rest after so many years of continued hard work. Under the existing regulations a Commander-in-Chief could have no leave. Lord Cross had tried to remedy this hard rule by bringing in the 'Officers' Leave Bill'; but as he informed Lord Lansdowne it was impossible to get it through the House of Commons that session, I was obliged very reluctantly to beg to be allowed to resign my command in[Page 536] the spring of 1893.
Visit to Nepal Before returning to Simla for really the last time, my wife and I made another trip to Burma as far as Mandalay, and after this was over we paid a most interesting visit to Nepal, having received the very unusual honour of an invitation to Khatmandu from Maharaja Bir Shumsher Jung Rana Bahadur.
Khatmandu is about a hundred miles from our frontier station of Segowli, by a very rough road over a succession of steep, high hills and along deep, narrow valleys, which would have been quite impossible for a lady to travel by but for the excellent arrangements made by the Nepalese officials; the last descent was the worst of all; we literally dropped from one rock to the next in some places. But on reaching the base of the mountain all was changed. A beautifully cultivated valley spread itself out before us; comfortable tents were prepared for our reception, where we were met by some of the State officials; and a perfectly appointed carriage-and-four was waiting to carry us on to Khatmandu, where we were received by the Resident, Lieutenant-Colonel Wylie, and his wife, old friends of ours. That afternoon the Maharaja paid me a private visit.
The next morning the official call was made, which I returned soon afterwards; and in the evening the Maharaja, accompanied by his eldest son and eight of his brothers, all high officers of state, were present at Mrs. Wylie's reception, wearing military frock-coats and forage-caps. They all spoke English fluently; their manners were those of well-bred gentlemen, easy and quiet, as free from awkwardness as from forwardness; each, coming up in turn, talked very pleasantly to Lady Roberts for a time, and then made way for someone else. The Maharaja is extremely musical, and has several well-trained bands, taught by an English bandmaster; three of them were in attendance, and were directed to play selections from our favourite operas, and then a number of the beautiful plaintive Nepalese airs. Altogether, we passed a most agreeable evening.
The following day a review of all the troops (18,000 men and 78 guns),8 was held on a ground one mile in length by half a mile in breadth, perfectly level and well turfed. It would be considered a fine parade-ground for the plains of India, and must have entailed a considerable expenditure of time, labour, and money to make in such a hilly place as Khatmandu.
On reaching the ground, I was received by the Maharaja and Deb Shamsher Jung, the eldest of his many brothers, and the nominal[Page 537] Commander-in-Chief of the army; we rode along the line together, and the march past then began. Everything was done with the utmost precision; there was no fuss or talking, and from first to last not a single bugle sound was heard, showing how carefully officers and men had been drilled. I was told that the executive Commander-in-Chief, the third brother, by name Chandra Shamsher, had almost lived on the parade-ground for weeks before my arrival. The Maharaja's sons and brothers, who all knew their work, and were evidently fond of soldiering, commanded the several divisions and brigades.
The troops were not, perhaps, turned out quite so smartly as those in our service, and several of the officers were old and feeble; but these were the only faults perceptible, and I came to the conclusion that the great majority of the 18,000 men were quite as good as the Gurkhas we enlist; and I could not help thinking that they would be a valuable addition to our strength in the event of war.
General Chandra Shamsher is a very red-hot soldier. He said to my wife: 'Lady Roberts, when are the Russians coming? I wish they would make haste. We have 40,000 soldiers in Nepal ready for war, and there is no one to fight!'
The next day a grand durbar was held, at which the King (the Maharaja Dhiraj, as he is called) presided; he was an unusually handsome lad of about eighteen years of age, fairer than most Nepalese, and very refined looking. As on all previous occasions, everyone wore uniform except the King, who had on a perfectly plain dress of spotless white. Great deference is outwardly paid to the Dhiraj, but he has no power, and is never consulted in matters of State, being considered too sacred to be troubled with mundane affairs. Although a mere boy, he had four wives, two of them daughters of the Maharaja Bir Shamsher Jung.
After the durbar, I was shown over the principal school and hospital; both appeared to be well conducted, and evidently no expense was spared upon them. I was then taken to a magazine, in which were a number of guns of various calibre and any amount of ammunition. I was told there were several other magazines, which I had not time to see, and a few miles from Khatmandu extensive workshops, where all kinds of munitions of war were manufactured.
A Nepalese entertainment That evening, accompanied by Colonel and Mrs. Wylie, we attended a reception at the Maharaja's palace. The durbar hall, which was filled with men in uniform, was of beautiful proportions, and very handsomely decorated and furnished. After the usual introductions and some conversation with the chief officers, we were invited to visit the Maharani in her own apartments, and having ascended a flight of steps and passed through numerous corridors and luxuriously furnished rooms, we were shown into a spacious apartment, the prevailing colour of which was rose, lighted by lamps of the same colour. The Maharani[Page 538] was sitting on a sofa at the further end of the room, gorgeously apparelled in rose-coloured gauze dotted over with golden spangles; her skirts were very voluminous, and she wore magnificent jewels on her head and about her person. Two Maids of Honour stood behind her, holding fans, and dressed in the same colour as their mistress, but without jewels. On each side of her, forming a semicircle, were grouped the ladies of the Court, all arrayed in artistically contrasting colours; they were more or less pretty and refined looking, and the Maharani herself was extremely handsome. My wife was placed by her side on the sofa, and carried on a long conversation with her through one of the ladies who spoke Hindustani and acted as Interpreter. The Maharani presented Lady Roberts with a beautiful little Chinese pug-dog, and the Maharaja gave me a gold-mounted kookri (Gurkha knife). After this little ceremony there was a grand display of fireworks, and we took our leave.
Nothing could exceed the kindness we met with during our stay in Nepal. The Maharaja endeavoured in every way to make our visit enjoyable, and his brothers vied with each other in their efforts to do us honour. It was impressed upon me that the Nepalese army was at the disposal of the Queen-Empress, and hopes were repeatedly expressed that we would make use of it in the event of war.
Notwithstanding the occasional differences which have occurred between our Government and the Nepal Durbar, I believe that, ever since 1817, when the Nepal war was brought to a successful conclusion by Sir David Ochterlony, the Gurkhas have had a great respect and liking for us: but they are in perpetual dread of our taking their country, and they think the only way to prevent this is not to allow anyone to enter it except by invitation, and to insist upon the few thus favoured travelling by the difficult route that we traversed. Nepal can never be required by us for defensive purposes, and as we get our best class of Native soldiers thence, everything should, I think, be done to show our confidence in the Nepalese alliance, and convince them that we have no ulterior designs on the independence of their kingdom.
On leaving Nepal we made a short tour in the Punjab, and then went to Simla for the season.
One of the subjects which chiefly occupied the attention of the Government at this time was the unfriendly attitude of the Ruler of Afghanistan towards us. Abdur Rahman Khan appeared to have entirely forgotten that he owed everything to us, and that, but for our support and lavish aid in money and munitions of war, he could neither have gained nor held the throne of Kabul. We refused to Sher Ali much that we could have gracefully granted and that would have made him a firm friend, but in our dealings with Abdur Rahman we rushed into the other extreme, and showered favours upon him; in fact, we made too much of him, and allowed him to get out of hand.[Page 539] The result was that he mistook the patience and forbearance with which we bore his fits of temper for weakness, and was encouraged in an overweening and altogether unjustifiable idea of his own importance; he considered that he ought to be treated as the equal of the Shah of Persia, and keenly resented not being allowed to communicate direct with Her Majesty's Ministers.
Proposed Mission to the Amir In the hope of being able to establish more satisfactory relations with the Amir, Lord Lansdowne invited him to come to India, and, on His Highness pleading that his country was in too disturbed a condition to admit of his leaving it, the Viceroy expressed his willingness to meet him on the frontier, but Abdur Rahman evaded this arrangement also under one pretext or another. It was at last proposed to send me with a Mission as far as Jalalabad, a proposal I gladly accepted, for I was sanguine enough to hope that, by personal explanation, I should be able to remove the suspicions which the Amir evidently entertained as to the motives for our action on the frontier, and to convince him that our help in the time of his need must depend upon our mutually agreeing in what manner that help should be given, and on arrangements being completed beforehand to enable our troops to be rapidly transported to the threatened points.
Abdur Rahman agreed to receive me in the autumn, and expressed pleasure at the prospect of meeting me, but eventually he apparently became alarmed at the size of the escort by which the Government thought it necessary that I, as Commander-in-Chief, should be accompanied; and, as the time approached for the Mission to start, he informed Lord Lansdowne that his health would not permit of his undertaking the journey to Jalalabad.
Thus the opportunity was lost to which I had looked forward as a chance for settling many vexed questions, and I am afraid that there has been very little improvement in our relations with Abdur Rahman since then, and that we are no nearer the completion of our plans for the defence of his kingdom than we were four years ago9—a defence which (and this cannot be too strongly impressed upon the Amir) it would be impossible for us to aid him to carry through unless Kabul and Kandahar are brought into connexion with the railway system of India.
In the autumn, just before we left Simla, our friends bestowed upon my wife a farewell gift in the shape of a very beautiful diamond bracelet and a sum of money for her fund for 'Homes in the Hills, and Officers' Hospitals,' made doubly acceptable by the kind words with which Lord Lansdowne, on behalf of the donors, presented it. Shortly afterwards we bade a regretful adieu to our happy home of so many[Page 540] years, and made our way to the Punjab for a final visit.
A Last Tour We spent a few days at Peshawar, and then went to Rawal Pindi to be present at a Camp of Exercise, and see how the works under construction for the protection of the arsenal were progressing. These works had been put in hand in 1890, when, according to my recommendation, it had been decided not to fortify Multan. No place in the Punjab appeared to my mind to possess the same military value as Rawal Pindi, its strategical importance with regard to the right flank of the frontier line being hardly inferior to that of Quetta in relation to the left flank; but of late the advisability of completing the works had been questioned by my colleagues in Council, greatly to my concern, for I felt that it would be unwise to leave the elaboration of the defences of such a position until war should be imminent.10
Four addresses were presented to me, from the Sikh*, Hindu*, Mahomedan*, and European* communities of the Punjab, respectively, which I will venture to give in the Appendix, as I feel sure that the spirit of loyalty which pervades them will be a revelation to many, and[Page 541] a source of satisfaction to all who are interested in the country to which we owe so much of our present greatness, and which I conceive to be the brightest jewel in England's crown.
Note*: See Appendices XII, XIII, XIVand XV.
It was a wonderful and moving scene upon which we looked from the platform of the Town Hall on this memorable occasion, made up as it was of such different elements, each race and creed easily recognizable from their different costumes and characteristics, but all united by the same kindly desire to do honour to their departing friend, or comrade, for there were a great number of old soldiers present.
At each place that we visited on our way to Calcutta there was the same display of kindly regret at our departure; friends assembled to see us off at the railway-stations, bands played 'Auld lang syne,' and hearty cheers speeded us on our way.
In February we went to Lucknow for a few days, when the Talukdars of Oudh gave my wife and me an entertainment on a very splendid scale in the Wingfield Park, and presented me with an address11 and a sword of honour.
On our return to Calcutta, just before we left for England, the European community entertained me at a dinner, at which more than two hundred were present, presided over by Sir James Mackay, K.C.I.E., Chairman of the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce. Sir James was far too kind and eulogistic in speaking of my services, but for his appreciative allusion to my wife I could only feel deeply gratified and thankful. After dinner a reception was given to Lady Roberts and myself, at which the Viceroy and Lady Lansdowne and all the principal Native and European residents of Calcutta were assembled. An address12 was presented to me on this never-to be-forgotten occasion, in which, to my supreme satisfaction, the Native noblemen and gentlemen expressed their hearty approval of what had been done during my tenure of office as Commander-in-Chief to strengthen the defences of the frontier and render the army in India efficient, and declared that 'we cheerfully bear our share of the cost, as in possession of these protections against aggressions from without we believe all who dwell within the borders of the land will find their best guarantee for peace, and in peace the best safeguard they and their children can possess to enable them to pass their lives in happiness and prosperity, and escape the misery and ruin which follow war and invasion.'
Last Days in India We travelled to Bombay viâ Jeypur and Jodhpur. At both places we were royally entertained by the Rulers of those states, and my staff and I were given excellent sport amongst the wild boar, which was much enjoyed by all, particularly by my son, who, having joined the King's Royal Rifles at Rawal Pindi, was attached to me as A.D.C. during my last six months in India, and had not before had an opportunity[Page 542] of tasting the joys of pig-sticking.
At Jodhpur my friend the Maharaja Sir Pertap Sing gave us a signal proof that the ancient valour of the Rajputs had not deteriorated in the present day. I had wounded a fine boar, and on his making for some rocky ground, where I could hardly have followed him on horseback, I shouted to Sir Pertap to get between him and the rocks, and turn him in my direction. The Maharaja promptly responded, but just as he came face-to-face with the boar, his horse put his foot into a hole and fell; the infuriated animal rushed on the fallen rider, and, before the latter could extricate himself, gave him a severe wound in the leg with his formidable tushes. On going to his assistance, I found Sir Pertap bleeding profusely, but standing erect, facing the boar and holding the creature (who was upright on his hind-legs) at arms' length by his mouth. The spear without the impetus given by the horse at full speed is not a very effective weapon against the tough hide of a boar's back, and on realizing that mine did not make much impression, Pertap Sing, letting go his hold of the boar's mouth, quickly seized his hind-legs, and turned him over on his back, crying: 'Maro, sahib, maro!' ('Strike, sir, strike!') which I instantly did, and killed him. Anyone who is able to realize the strength and weight of a wild boar will appreciate the pluck and presence of mind of Sir Pertap Sing in this performance. Fortunately, my wife and daughter, who had been following the pig-stickers in a light cart, were close at hand, and we were able to drive my friend home at once. The wound was found to be rather a bad one, but it did not prevent Sir Pertap from attending some tent-pegging and other amusements in the afternoon, though he had to be carried to the scene.
A few months after my return to England the boar's head arrived, set up, and with a silver plate attached to it, on which was an inscription commemorating the adventure.
At Ahmedabad, where the train stopped while we lunched, I was presented with an address by the President and members of the Municipality, who, 'with loyal devotion to Her Imperial Majesty the Queen and Empress of India, to whose glorious reign we sincerely wish a continuance of brilliant prosperity,' expressed their hope that Lady Roberts and I would have 'a happy voyage home and enjoyment of perfect health and prosperity in future.'
The day before we left Bombay for England, the members of the Byculla Club gave me a parting dinner. It was with great difficulty I could get through my speech in response to the toast of my health on that occasion, for, pleased and grateful as I was at this last mark of friendship and approval from my countrymen, I could not help feeling inexpressibly sad and deeply depressed at the thought uppermost in my mind, that the time had come to separate myself from India and my [Page 543] gallant comrades and friends, British and Native.
In dwelling on the long list of farewell addresses and entertainments with which I was honoured on leaving India, I feel that I may be laying myself open to the charge of egotism; but in writing of one's own experiences it is difficult to avoid being egotistical, and distasteful as it is to me to think that I may be considered so, I would rather that, than that those who treated me so kindly and generously should deem me unmindful or ungrateful.
Thus ended forty-one years in India. No one can, I think, wonder that I left the country with heartfelt regret. The greater number of my most valued friendships had been formed there; from almost everyone with whom I had been associated, whether European or Native, civilian or soldier, I had experienced unfailing kindness, sympathy, and support; and to the discipline, bravery, and devotion to duty of the Army in India, in peace and war, I felt that I owed whatever success it was my good fortune to achieve.
FOOTNOTES, CHAPTER LXVIII
[Footnote 1: The late Lieutenant-General Sir W.K. Elles, K.C.B.]
[Footnote 2: A detachment of the Calcutta Volunteer Rifles, at the particular request of the regiment, took part in the expedition, and did good service.]
[Footnote 3: The pay of the Native Infantry has been suitably increased since I left India.]
[Footnote 4: Jagirs are grants of land.]
[Footnote 5: Batta, extra allowances given to Native soldiers when proceeding on field service.]
[Footnote 6: During the Mutiny the casualties amongst the British officers with the six Punjab regiments which saw the most fighting amounted to 60 per cent.! Luckily, these were able to be replaced by officers belonging to corps which had mutinied. This supply, however, has long since been used up, and it behoves the Government either to provide an adequate reserve of officers, or to arrange for a sufficient number being sent out from England whenever India is likely to be engaged in a serious war.
[Footnote 7: Captain Younghushand was at Bozai-Gumbaz, and Lieutenant Davison on the Alichur Pamirs, both places being south of the Aksu branch of the Oxus, flowing from the Little Pamir Lake.]
[Footnote 8: The Infantry comprised twenty-four battalions drawn up in line of quarter columns. The Artillery consisted of one battery (six 7-pounders) carried on elephants, six batteries (six guns each, 5-pounders and 7-pounders) dragged by soldiers, and six batteries (six guns each, 3-pounders and 5-pounders) carried by Bhutia coolies.]
[Footnote 9: I am not unmindful of the visit which Sir Mortimer Durand paid to Kabul after I had left India, but on that occasion, I believe, the question of the defence of Afghanistan was not discussed.]
[Footnote 10: The works were stopped after I left India, but not, I was glad to think, before the redoubts had been finished, with the communications thereto. The reasons given were that a change of plans was necessary for economy's sake, and that the construction of fortifications might induce the Natives to think we were doubtful of the continuance of our supremacy. As regarded the first, I explained that the total outlay for works and armaments was estimated at only £332,274—considerably less than one half the cost of a British line-of-battle ship; and as to the second, I urged that an argument of this sort against frontier defences would hardly bear examination; that the possibility of external attack was freely discussed in every newspaper; that Russian movements and frontier difficulties were known and commented on in every bazaar; that the construction of fortifications in support of the Ruling Power had been an Oriental practice from time immemorial; that our action in this respect was at least as likely to instil the idea that we meant to retain our eastern possessions at any cost, as to give an impression of weakness; that the progressive re-organization and mobilization of our army were well known to have reference to service beyond the frontier; and that we had extended our confidence in this respect to Native Princes by encouraging them to train their own troops and fit them to take their place in line with ours.]
[Footnote 11: Given in the
[Footnote 12: Ibid*.