A Popular History of The Great War/Volume 1/Page 103

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EARL ROBERTS AT THE FRONT


a remarkable reception. The people of France cheered and shouted, broke into their ranks, and heaped gifts on them.

The Lahore Division arrived in the concentration area in the rear of the second British Army Corps on October 19 and 20. It was quickly followed by others. The Indian troops at once found themselves plunged into the heart of the fighting, but it was fighting of a character to which they were entirely unadapted by training or physique. The miseries and hardships of trench warfare told heavily on their numbers, and it says much for their morale and their leadership that they remained immovable and unbeaten for so long a period.

One of the most remarkable and touching incidents in the early campaign of the Indian troops – an incident which will be remembered generations hence throughout the East — was the farewell visit of Lord Roberts to his old soldiers at the front. Lord Roberts was determined, despite his years and despite the pleadings of his friends, to go to Flanders and do what he could to cheer some of his comrades there. He reached Boulogne on November 11, and first visited the Indian wounded on the hospital ship. The stricken Indian soldiers strove as he entered the wards to rise up from their beds and greet him. The veteran commander-in-chief went from one to the other, with a word of comfort and good cheer for each, unable to conceal his own emotion as he gazed on their battered and stricken forms.

From Boulogne he went to the headquarters of the Indian corps, where he was received with great state. He spoke to the regiments in their own tongues, and walked through the ranks of the men drawn up in his honour, his very presence an encouragement to them all. Great Indian commanders who had served under him were there. Men who had fought in the ranks under him time after time in great battles gazed up at the slight figure of the veteran field marshal again. He had planned to cheer up the wounded in more than one hospital, and to inspect the troops in many lines. But in the course of his tour he was seized with a chill, taken with congestion of the lungs and pleurisy, and was unable to rally. He died at the front after a few hours' illness, amidst the armies for whom he had lived and worked and fought so long. Some people in England spoke of his end as a tragedy. It was a tragedy for his country to lose so great, disinterested, and simple a leader of men. But for Lord Roberts himself surely there could have been no tragedy in such

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