The Gazette hall of fame: Frederick Roberts

Victoria Cross Field Marshal Frederick Roberts was one of the most successful military commanders of the 19th century, and many of his remarkable achievements were recorded in The Gazette.

Born in India in 1832, Roberts’ family had a rich military tradition. His father was a General of the 1st Bengal European Regiment, while his mother was the daughter of a major.

After being educated at Eton and Sandhurst, he returned to India to serve in the army. It didn’t take long for the young man to be mentioned in The Gazette – Issue 22143 describes him as most useful. At just 34 years old he was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant.

Roberts was to play a key role in the Indian Mutiny, in which he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 2 January 1858. Issue 22212 of The Gazette describes his act of gallantry in which he rescued the British flag from the enemy.

He continued to serve in India, and due to his bravery soon rose up the ranks, finally becoming a Major at the age of 39 (Gazette issue 23876), and appointed companion of the Order of the Bath on 10 September 1872 (Gazette issue 23895).

But it didn’t stop there for the young Major. His actions commanding the troops at the Battle of Peiwar Kotal in the Second Anglo Afghan war led to his promotion to Major-General (Gazette issue 24688). He then went on to lead 10,000 British troops across 300 miles of difficult Afghan terrain to relieve Kandahar on 1 September 1880. For his military service and remarkable success in Asia he was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (Gazette issue 24886).

With tensions in South Africa reaching boiling point, Roberts was promoted to Field Marshal (Gazette issue 26628) and transferred to the continent to take control of British forces in the Second Boer War. In the battle of Paardeberg in February 1900 he successfully forced the Boer General Piet Cronje to surrender, taking 4,000 prisoners as a result. Having then captured Johannesburg and defeating the Boers at Diamond Hill, he won his final victory at Bergandal in August 1900.

He returned to England to rapturous applause and received even more honours – Knight of the Garter (Gazette issue 27290) and conferred the title of Viscount St.Pierre (Gazette issue 27283). Then, on 9 August 1902, he was also appointed one of the first members of the Order of Merit (Gazette issue 27470).

Roberts took part in the funeral of Queen Victoria in 1901 (Gazette issue 27316) and the funeral procession following the death of King Edward VII in 1910 (Gazette issue 28401). Now an elderly man, the 82 year old Roberts died of pneumonia whilst visiting his beloved Indian troops in France in November 1914. He remains one of the most gazetted military men of all time, receiving a total of 55 mentions over the course of his long and distinguished career.