This map has been taken, with the author's kind permission, from Christopher Hibbert's The Destruction of Lord Raglan (Longmans, 1961), pp. 13-15. Copyright, of course, remains with Dr. Hibbert. Alvin Wee of the University Scholar's Programme, scanned the text, converting it to an electronic format. — Marjie Bloy Ph.D., Senior Research Fellow, National University of Singapore.
o find sufficiently capable and adequately experienced officers to command [the] five infantry divisions presented an even greater problem than finding the regiments to form them. And, as it happened, only two of those officers chosen had experience of commanding in action, against trained troops, anything larger than a battalion; and only one of them was under sixty, and he had never been in action before.
He was the thirty-five-year-old Duke of Cambridge. A grandson of George III, a cousin of the Queen, a colonel of the Hanoverian Guards at nine and a major-general at twenty-six, his name was immediately suggested as commander of the 1st Division, comprising three battalions of Foot Guards and the Highland Brigade. He was a good-natured man, industrious, well-liked and affable. That he could lead men under fire was yet to be disproved.
Sir George de Lacy Evans, appointed to command the 2nd Division, was almost twice his age. He was the most experienced of the divisional commanders and, in the later opinion of the French Commander-in-Chief, the best. He had been born in Ireland in 1787 and had joined the Army as a volunteer in 1806. As a young man he had fought in the Peninsula, in India and in America, and had commanded with some success the British Legion in Spain during the fight against the Carlists. Knighted for his services in Spain in 1837, he had since then been interested more in politics than in the Army. First as Member [of Parliament] for Rye and then for Westminster, he expressed views unusually radical for a soldier. But then he was an unusual man. Moody, intelligent, rather remote and extremely brusque, his thin head with its long, curling hair and black eyes peers out of his photographs with an air at once theatrical and accusatory.
Sir Richard England, commanding the 3rd Division, was another Irishman. His father, a general, had been one of the first English-speaking Canadian colonists, and Sir Richard had been born in Canada in 1793. He had been at Walcheren, seen service in the Kaffir War and in India. Knighted in 1843 and promoted major-general eight years later, he was a man of meagre talent and reputation.
In command of the 4th Division was a better-known figure. The Hon. Sir George Cathcart was at sixty the youngest of them an, apart from the Duke of Cambridge. He had been bought a cornetcy in the Life Guards when he was fifteen by his father, General Earl Cathcart, at that time Ambassador at St. Petersburg; and by a succession of purchases and exchanges found himself a lieutenant-colonel in the 7th Hussars in 1826. He had not distinguished himself since; but he was granted a 'dormant commission' by the Government, which provided for his succession to the command of the army in the event of the death of the Commander-in-Chief in the Field. Touchy, inexperienced, stubborn and tactless, he was an unfortunate choice. But the idea that the senior of the divisional generals, Sir George Brown, should succeed to the command was unthinkable.
Sir George Brown was, perhaps, the most unpopular infantry officer in the Army. The 'old wretch is more hated than any man ever was', one of his young officers thought. 'He blusters and bullies everybody he dares and damns and swears at everything an inch high'. 'An old imbecile bully' another of his subalterns called him, expressing a widely held judgment. He was a fierce martinet who had fought under Moore at Corunna as an ensign in the 43rd Foot, and his men were not allowed to forget it. He was a firm believer in the leather stock that soldiers still wore, constricting their throats like a garrotter, in the salutary effects of pipe-clay and flogging, in the necessity for the rejection of all suggestions about Army reform. Lord Panmure said that 'he never knew a man who so cordially hated all change'. It was, in fact, in protest against some minor reforms introduced into the administration of the Army the year before that led him to retire. He thought also that the Prince Consort, a young civilian, meddled a great deal too much in military affairs. Although almost as cordially disliked by his superiors as by his men, he was known to be a brave and resolute soldier, and as this was something which in so many other cases had to be taken on trust, he was given command of the Light Division.
The Cavalry Division was given to the fifty-four-year-old Earl of Lucan. He was a military maniac. Like Sir George Cathcart, by numerous exchanges and purchases he got himself the command of a regiment without ever having done much to prove himself worthy of it. In the same year that Cathcart bought the command of the 7th Hussars the Earl of Lucan bought that of the 17th Lancers for £25,000. He turned it into 'Bingham's Dandies'. But it was more than a toy; it was an obsession. He rose before dawn, worked unceasingly. He was conscientious, prejudiced, vindictive, brave, narrow-minded and violently unpopular.
His brother-in-law, the Earl of Cardigan, commander of the Light Brigade in his division, possessed most of his faults and few of his virtues. He was as heartily disliked as Lucan and even more arrogant. They hated each other.
The Hon. James Scarlett, who was given command of the Heavy Brigade, was, however, quite unlike either of them. Sensible, pleasant, easy-going, his was a character everyone liked and admired. Men hoped that his sound common sense would do something to help hold the cavalry division together.
Finding officers for the staff was as great a problem as finding competent generals. Lord de Ros, who was appointed Quartermaster-General of the army and thus made responsible for a variety of duties far more extensive than the name of the appointment would seem to imply, was 'an extremely curious fellow'. He was 'very eccentric, both in his habits and dress; very amusing, too'. But a more unsuitable officer for a position which combined the present-day duties of Chief of Staff with those of Quartermaster-General it would have been difficult to find. He not only lacked experience but did not seem in the least anxious to acquire it. He was very fond of sunbathing.
Brigadier-General James Bucknall Estcourt, appointed to be Adjutant-General, was more industrious. But he also had little experience. He had never been to war and was, in fact, more interested in exploration than in the Army. While sitting as MP for Devizes he had gone on the Euphrates Valley Expedition to find a route to India from the Persian Gulf. He was a man, one of his officers thought, 'of remarkably kind and courteous disposition'. But these are not qualities much required of an adjutant-general, responsible for the discipline of an army. General Estcourt was 'too kind and too forgiving'. He was, however, a great deal more efficient than most officers who were given appointments on the staffs of the various divisional headquarters.
The real trouble was, of course, as the Secretary-for-War was later to observe, there was 'no means of making General Officers or of forming an efficient staff'. The Senior Department of the Royal Military College had been in existence for many years, but few officers thought it worth while to attend it. That sort of thing was all very well for Frenchmen and Germans and even for those officers who were unfortunately obliged to think of the Army as a career and to serve in India, but it did not do for gentlemen.
Indeed, the less exciting departments of the Army were handed over altogether to civilians. And no one had yet had cause to doubt the wisdom or convenience of leaving the humdrum matters of supply and transport almost entirely in the hands of a department of the Treasury. Administered by bureaucrats, many of them grotesque in their pedantry and ineptitude, the Commissariat Department was hopelessly ill-equipped to move and supply an army of 30,000 men, and Lord Raglan at the Ordnance Office had frequently complained of its insufficiency and its lack of any reserve of trained officials. Appointed to run it was Mr. James Filder, a man of sixty-six called from an already lengthy retirement.
To hold this muddled assembly together and, what was perhaps of more importance, to hold the allies together, there were fortunately a few men who appeared at first sight to have some qualifications. Lord Hardinge, Lord Gough, Lord Combermere and Lord Raglan were all distinguished officers, and the names of all of them were mentioned as suitable commanders. But when their records were examined it was found that Lord Raglan was the only one under seventy. On reflection it seemed that there could only be one choice.
Lord Raglan had been taught the business of war by the Duke — and this in itself was considered by a trusting country as almost a guarantee of success — he had been in the Army for nearly half a century, he had earned great respect and great affection, he was strong and healthy, he was a trained diplomat and spoke excellent French. There were, of course, those who wondered whether a man who had spent the last forty years behind a desk and who had never commanded so much as a battalion in the field was an ideal man to command an army, but when asked to point out another officer more suitable they could not. And so, less than three weeks after war was declared, General Lord Raglan, P.C., G.C.B., found himself sailing for a conference in Paris and then on to Turkey in command of what was proudly called in The Times 'the finest army that has ever left these shores'.
Last modified 18 May 2002