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Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts of Kandahar

Roberts, Frederick Sleigh, 1st Earl Roberts of Kandahar (kăndəhärˈ) [key], 1832–1914, British field marshal. He joined the Bengal artillery in 1851 and fought with distinction in the Indian Mutiny (1857–58), earning the Victoria Cross. By 1875 he was quartermaster general of the Indian army and a strong advocate of the "forward" policy of controlling the Himalayan passes to forestall Russian encroachments; this became the general defensive policy of the British in India. He became a popular British hero for the relief of Kandahar in the second Afghan War (1878–80). Roberts was made commander in chief of the Madras army in 1880 and of the entire Indian forces in 1885. In 1893 he returned to England and wrote his reminiscences, Forty-one Years in India (1897). He became field marshal in 1895. In 1899, when the English were meeting reverses at the hands of the Boers in the South African War, Roberts was appointed commander in chief. Aided by his chief of staff, Horatio Kitchener, Roberts reorganized the transport system, achieving a mobility that had been lacking. By late 1900 the war seemed near a successful conclusion, and Roberts was brought home, awarded an earldom, and appointed commander in chief of the British army. His office was abolished in 1904, and thereafter he devoted himself to the advocacy of compulsory military service for home defense.

See biography by D. James (1954).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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