IT was indeed a mischance that the spring of 1903,
which saw the end of the South African War, and so closed a dark chapter in the history of the British Army, should also have witnessed the death of one of the few men to whom the whole Army confidently looked to inaugurate a new and a brighter era. When Colonel Henderson was called upon at Assouan to lay down a life which had been too freely spent in the service of his country, the general public only knew that they had lost the author of the fascinating Life of Stonewall Jackson, and were to be denied the services of a talented writer in the compilation of the official history of the war. But the British Army, and particularly the younger of the regimental officers, to whom more than to any general or to the private soldier we owe the successful issue of the cam- paign, knew that in the death of Colonel Henderson they had suffered an almost irreparable loss. The well-loved friend, the inspiring teacher, the unassuming, eager student, the one man in all their experience who had been able to make the lecture-room or the Staff ride more attractive to the young Englishman than the cricket field or the polo ground, had passed away.
The magnitude of the loss we have suffered will be apparent to every one who reads the fascinating essays collected in this volume by one of the host of devoted junior officers whose excellence as soldiers must now be regarded as Colonel
• The Science of War. By the late Colonel G. F. R. Henderson. C.B. Edited by Captain Neill Malcolm, D.S.O. With a Memoir of the Author by Field. Marshal Earl Roberts, V.C. London Longmans and Co. [lie. net.]
officers :— Henderson's best title to the gratitude of the nation. Students of the Life of Stonewall Jackson will realise the striking similarity in character, and even in ashievemenf,, of the great Confederate leader and his English biographer. The long wait in comparative obscurity; the promotion to an unfashionable military professorship, eagerly grasped at, and so adorned as to vindicate at once for the work and the worker their due place of honour in the profession of arms ; the rare sense of the dignity and nobility of the soldier's calling; the rarer singleness of aim and entire absence of personal jealousies or ambitions ; the life cut short at the gates only of the greater opportunity,—such in brief is the history of both men. As for the achievements of each in the field, though it was never Henderson's fortune to command a regiment, much less a division, does not Lord Roberts make it clear to us in his preface how entirely the daring strategy of his opening campaign owed its inspiration to the con- ceptions of the American as made clear by the English soldier ? It is impossible to say what might have been the outcome of the great Civil War in America had Stonewall Jackson survived his wound at Chancellorsville. Similarly, had Colonel Henderson been with us to-day, it is probable that he might have succeeded where others have failed,—in impressing sound conceptions of military policy upon our statesmen, with incalculable effects upon our Army and our Army system.
His outstanding merit, as is clear from this volume, was
the unusual sanity and moderation of his views. As an earnest student of war, who based all his conclusions upon a
dispassionate examination of the campaigns of history, he is absolutely without prejudice of any kind. There is no despairing my for conscription, founded on an unreasoning disbelief in the capacity of the people for patriotism and self- sacrifice, and obstinately persisted in with a childish refusal to attempt any military reorganisation without it. On the contrary, every chapter is inspired with a belief in the potentialities of the existing voluntary system, and a quiet determination to make the very best of it. There is no bitter complaint of the generals, no unjust and scathing criticism of the regimental officer or of the man, no contemptuous die- belief in the value of the Auxiliary Forces.
In the last paper which he was destined to write, and which was doubtless the first draft of an introduction to his official history of the war, this sanity and broadness of view are especially evident :—
" The soldiers of Great Britain, whether regular or volunteer, British or Colonial, were heirs to proud traditions. The glories
of their predecessors fell upon them like a prophet's mantle The men of Badajos and Albuera did far more than give the death-blow to the ambition of Napoleon, they set an imperishable example of unyielding fortitude, an example which was to influence the coming generations not only of their own islands, but of far distant continents. The determination to prove themselves worthy of their sires, to uphold the honour of their race, burned, often unconsciously, in every breast, and those who were soldiers only for the war were not less resolved to conquer, not less ready to accept the sacrifices by which victory is appeased, than those who were in the ranks of some historic regiment."
Colonel Henderson had a justly high opinion of the regimental
" Whether they were as well abreast of their duties as their predecessors history will decide. It is certain, in any case, that the British officer, military or naval, is what Britain makes him. His natural qualities, be they virtues or defects, are true of his race, and it is the country, not himself, which is primarily responsible for the development of the one and the correction of the other. The profession of arms is no exception to the rule that efficiency and success depend more on systematic training than on inherent aptitude, and the education of the officer is necessarily almost entirely in the hands of the State. . . . . But the attitude of the nation and the legislature towards the educa- tion of the officer was one of supreme indifference. The true nature of war had never been brought home to them. They had forgotten, if they had ever heeded, the terrible warning of the
Crimea Fortunately for the Empire, the service of the British officer was not confined to the commons of Hampshire or to the dull barracks which rose like prisons in the roaring streets of the great cities. The laureate of the army has nowhere struck a truer note than in the line which crystallises the dis- tinctive character of the British soldier :--
I have heard the reveille from Bier to Bareilly.'
How far do its echoes reach, gathering in one sheaf the memories of a lifetime. And not the memories only, but the experiences. Experiences of many men and many lands, of divers racei and of extremes of climate ; of long voyages over lonely oceans, of storm and pestilence, of outposts in brown deserts
far beyond the verge of civilisation; of times and places where men hold their lives as lightly as their gloves, of vast cities teeming with an alien population, overawed by a few companies of redcoats, of great armies of dark faces loyally obedient to a handful of white officers, of warlike expeditions hastily organised, where one man has to do the work of ten, of long campaigns in waterless solitudes under a brazen sun, of enemies who give no piarter, and of comrades who know no fear. . . . . . And it is to be remembered that even the idlest of British officers was not altogether an unwholesome object. The unattractive and un- practical nature of his training at home was at the root of his apathy. Nauseated with dull theory, cramped by the want of responsibility, his energy unawakened by appeals to his intelli- gence, with no opening offered to him to acquire that higher knowledge which would have aroused his interest and kindled his ambition, and with abundant leisure at his command, it is no wonder that he sought distraction in other fields. But his instincts were healthy. If he was a mere barrack square soldier, he was generally a sportsman—he was at least hardening his nerve and learning the great lesson of self-control, improving his powers of observation, training his eye to country, and acquiring to some extent those qualities which made the Boer so formidable an enemy."
Here is a defence of the British Army, if ever there was one ! But Colonel Henderson believed no less in the Auxiliary Forces:—
" England in all her greater and many of her smaller wars has always sought assistance outside the ranks of her professional soldiers. To her Militia, her Colonial contingents, and her native levies she owes much. The conquests of Canada, of India, of West Africa, of the Soudan are honours which should be emblazoned on other standards than those of the regular army, and it is hardly too much to say that without the aid of the Militia the victories of the Peninsula and of the Crimea would have been impossible."
As regards the Volunteers he writes :— "The material without exception was excellent. But as a rule the importance of preparation in time of peace was under- estimated. The factors which make for efficiency in war were not thoroughly understood by the troops themselves ; and the question of their training, which must perforce run on other lines than that of regulars, has never, in default of a thinking department of the staff, been properly thrashed out at head- quarters The principle of self-help, however, is deeply imbedded in the English character, and for the majority of the Volunteers self-help did far more than had ever been anticipated by the War Office."
(Colonel Henderson does not remind us how cheerfully his help was given on every possible occasion.) Or again :—
"I am convinced that the American Volunteers were superior, as any army of volunteers will always be, to the conscript levies of European States, and I am of opinion that only sounder training is required to make our own citizen soldiers fully equal to the troops of any possible invader. . . . . . What foreign soldiers cannot, or perhaps will not, see is that the war in South Africa is a triumph for the principle of voluntary service. The moral of conscript armies has always been their weakest point, the moral of the Volunteer is of a higher type."
Yet the student of the War of Secession was not blind to the shortcomings of non-professional soldiers, and as a strict disciplinarian, like all great soldiers, he warns us against the want of discipline inherent in all volunteer troops, which led to straggling on the march, and often even turned a reverse into a rout in the earlier stages of the war in America. But he adds that the shortcomings of the American armies in the matter of discipline were largely due to the short- comings of their officers, and more especially of the Staff. Perhaps the most serious aspect of the present situation in England is the ill-feeling and indiscipline engendered in the Auxiliary Forces by tbe attitude of headquarters at Pall Mall. Confidence in those who must lead it in battle is the
only possible counterpoise to the necessary absence of a . • systematised discipline in a volunteer army ; and we are at a loss to know which Colonel Henderson would have regarded with the greater alarm it the present time : the distrust of the generals in the Volunteers, or of the Volunteers in the generals. In any case, we trust that his warning will not fall upon deaf ears in either quarter.
For the absorbingly interesting treatment of the tactical and strategical problems, and for the discussion, of every aspect of modern war with which these pages abound, we must refer our readers to the volume itself. The quotations we have given above afford ample proof of the attractive manner in which they are treated. To soldiers the essays will not appear to contain any theories that are startlingly new,—firstly, because one of the writer's main objects through- out is to show how essentially unchangeable the root principles of warfare have ever been; and secondly, because in many of the essays will be found ample internal evidence of the share taken by the writer in the compilation of the existing text-books. To take but one instance, on p. 80 we find this sentence : "A successful battle is a methodical progression from point to point, each successive capture weakening the enemy's position and paving the way for a further advance,"—words which are very familiar to those who know Section 8 of the Combined Training by heart. But we are equally convinced that no soldier who begins one of the essays will lay the book down till he has finished it.
As for the civilian reader, let him ponder these words : "The importance, nay, the necessity, that the people as a governing body shall keep an eye on its armed forces and the national defence, as on diplomacy or legislation, is only fully realised by those nations whose instincts of self-preservation are strongly developed." If he takes this lesson to heart, and then realises that in the chapter from which we have made the longer quotations the verbs are all in the past tense, he may wake to the fact that a state of affairs described two years ago as " past " continues to exist, and if he has the instinct of self-preservation he will realise how serious this is. If he studies Colonel Henderson, he will find that in the Bribish regimental officer, the regimental tradition, and the man, whether Regular or Auxiliary, we probably possess the best fighting material in the world. Where we fail so lamentably is in the higher administration of this material, and for the absence of a trained Staff, a sound policy of military education, and all semblance of rational military organisation Colonel Henderson, like Mr. Amery, rightly held the nation and the House of Commons responsible.