Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts

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John Singer Sargent : Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, oil on canvas, 1906
Roberts at a young age

Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts , called Bobs by the troops he commanded , VC KG KP GCB OM GCSI GCIE KStJ VD PC (born September 30, 1832 in Kanpur , India ; † November 14, 1914 in Saint-Omer , France ) was a British field marshal and one of the most successful military leaders of the Victorian era .


Frederick Sleigh Roberts was a son of Brigadier General Sir Abraham Roberts , whose family came from Waterford , Ireland ; his mother was Isabella Bunbury of Kilfeacle, Tipperary .

First missions

After childhood in India he was educated at Eton , the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and Addiscombe . On February 20, 1852, he traveled from Southampton to India via Egypt . In April he began his service with the Bengali artillery of the British East India Company in Calcutta , where he served as a second lieutenant . In November 1852 he reached Peshawar , on the North West Frontier , where his father's division was stationed. Roberts served there in a mountain battery . In April 1854 Roberts was given a six-month vacation due to frequent fever attacks, which he spent in Kashmir . After his return to Peshawar, he was transferred to the mounted artillery as a lieutenant. In the spring of 1855, again because of the fever, he was on leave and went back to Kashmir for eight months. From summer 1856 he was employed as quartermaster . In May 1857, Roberts was transferred to the staff of the newly established flying column . With this he fought in 1857/58 in the Sepoy uprising near Delhi and Lucknow . In 1858 he received the Victoria Cross for his work with Khudaganj .

Following the dissolution of the East India Company Army, Roberts served in the British Indian Army . With this he took part in the Umbeyla campaign in 1863. In 1867/68 he was quartermaster of the Bengali brigade on Robert Cornelis Napier's expedition to Ethiopia (then Abyssinia ) . In the same position he took part in the 1871/72 campaign against Luschai .

Anglo-Afghan War

Frederick Sleigh Roberts from Men of Mark, a Gallery of Contemporary Portraits of Men Distinguished in the Senate, the Church, in Science, Literature and Art, the Army, Navy, Law, Medicine, etc.

In 1878, as a colonel in the Second Anglo-Afghan War , he led the troops advancing through the Kurum Valley over the Paiwar Pass . He was then promoted to major general in 1879 and knighted as Knight Commander of the Order of Bath ("Sir"). After the war broke out again in September 1879, he was given supreme command of the approximately 10,000 Kabul and Kandahar troops. On October 9, 1879, he occupied Kabul , installed Abdur Rahman Khan as emir of Afghanistan on July 22, 1880 and hurried to the aid of General Primrose, who was trapped by Ayub Khan in Kandahar after the battle of Maiwand , with whom he and Ayub Khan on August 3 September brought a decisive defeat. For his achievements, Roberts was appointed Baronet of the Army in 1881 .

When the First Boer War of the British against the Boers in southern Africa did not develop very favorably, Roberts received the supreme command in Natal and Transvaal in March 1881 . When he arrived, however, the peace had already been concluded. In the same year he was given command of the troops in the Madras presidency . In 1883 he was appointed lieutenant general and in July 1885 commander in chief of the troops throughout India . In this position he subjugated the rebellious Burma in 1886 . In 1890 he was promoted to general and in 1892 raised to Baron Roberts of Kandahar and Waterford .

In November 1892 he resigned supreme command and took his seat in the House of Lords . In 1895 Roberts was appointed Commander in Chief of the Troops in Ireland and Field Marshal . In 1897 he received the Order of St. Patrick .

Boer War

After the initial failures of the troops in the Boer War in South Africa, he was again given the command of command. He horrified Kimberley and forced the Boer Commander-in-Chief Piet Cronjé to surrender at the Battle of Paardeberg on February 27, 1900 . On March 13th he took Bloemfontein and on June 5th Pretoria , after which he declared the Orange Free State and the South African Republic to be British colonies . The war seemed won and Roberts returned to England. He was succeeded by Lord Kitchener , until then his chief of staff . The Boers continued the resistance until 1902.

Commander in chief

Roberts on his 82nd birthday

Before his return, he became the commander of the British army appointed and 1901 with the titles Earl Roberts , of Kandahar, Pretoria and Waterford, and Viscount St Pierre , with the Order of the Garter and 100,000 pounds sterling rewarded.

Towards the end of the 19th century there were two strong rival groups in the British Army with different ideas about defense policy: The Ashanti ring of his predecessor in the office of Commander-in-Chief Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley stood for strengthening the British troops in the motherland, to be prepared for a war against France or Russia in Europe. In contrast, Lord Roberts' group was in favor of strengthening British troops in India and seeking a decision against Russia there ( The Great Game ).

Due to the reorganization of the army administration, he resigned his post as commander- in -chief in 1904 , which was no longer occupied. He died of pneumonia in Saint-Omer on November 14, 1914, during the First World War , while on an inspection visit to the Indian troops fighting on the Western Front . He was laid out in Westminster Abbey and buried in St Paul's Cathedral .

Since his sons died before him, the baron title expired with his death. When the Earls and Viscount titles were awarded, it had already been determined that these could also be passed on to female descendants, which is why his daughter Aileen inherited them. His son, Lieutenant Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts, received the Victoria Cross for his service in the Battle of Colenso , in which he was fatally wounded.

Roberts was considered the Briton with the most name affixes, so-called post-nominal , outside of the royal family. Since these were each performed for a given medal, it can be concluded that no other Briton has received as many awards as he has.

Awards, honors, memberships


The Kandahar run Garmisch is named after him or his title as Earl of Kandahar . The descent has been taking place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen since 1954 .


  • The Rise of Wellington. Low, Marston & Co., London 1895.
  • Forty-one years in India . 1st edition in one volume. Publisher: Richard Bentley & Sons, London 1898 - a Project Gutenberg e-book '(German title: Forty-one Years in India. Verlag Siegismund, Berlin 1904).
  • The Supreme Duty of the Citizen at the Present Crisis. The Last Message to his Fellow-Countrymen by Field-Marshal Earl Roberts. Williams & Norgate , London 1914.


  • William Henry Hannah: Bobs, Kipling's general. The Life of Field-Marshal Earl Roberts of Kandahar, VC Lee Cooper, London 1972.
  • Roberts, Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Earl . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 23 : Refectory - Sainte-Beuve . London 1911, p. 405 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).

Web links

Commons : Frederick Roberts  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Roberts, Frederick Sleigh Roberts, Earl . In: Encyclopædia Britannica . 11th edition. tape 23 : Refectory - Sainte-Beuve . London 1911, p. 405 (English, full text [ Wikisource ]).
  2. Knights and Dames: RAE – SEK at Leigh Rayment's Peerage (English).
  3. ^ Rugby Union Footballers are Doing their Duty. Over 90% have enlisted. British Athletes! Will You Follow this Glorious Example? . 1915. Retrieved October 27, 2013.
predecessor Office successor
Donald Stewart, 1st Baronet Commander in Chief in India
George Stuart White
Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley Commander in Chief in Ireland
Arthur, 1st Duke of Connaught and Strathearn
Sir Redvers Buller Commander in Chief in South Africa
December 1899 to December 1900
Herbert Kitchener, 1st Baron Kitchener of Khartoum
Garnet Wolseley, 1st Viscount Wolseley Commander in Chief of the British Army
Office abolished
New title created Baronet, of the Army
Title expired
New title created Baron Roberts of Kandahar
Title expired
New title created Earl Roberts
Aileen Mary Roberts