It is the breadth taking story of a great man, a truly brave soldier whose sterling character, transparent sincerity and unswerving devotion to duty, under the gravest provocations, are self-evident from each line and each page of the book. If Britain once ruled over an empire on which the sun never set, it is because it produced heroes of such indomitable course and calibre as Field Marshal Lord Roberts of Kandahar, the author of the present volume. Whatever be our grievances against our old colonial masters, we cannot ignore the verdict of history about truly great men who have left a permanent mark on history. Born in Kanpur, the son of General Sir Abraham Roberts who lived and served in India for nearly 50 years, Field Marshal Lord Roberts was educated at Eton and Sandhurst. He left England for India in 1852 and joined the Indian Army as a subaltern in the Native Field Battery at Calcutta at an early young age. This remarkable book which records his eventful life of 41 years’ military service in India was first published in 1896 and in course of two years it ran into 29 editions. There are very few parallels of a book which enjoyed such immense popularity. It is now being reprinted after 85 years in India. It gives a most authentic and eye-witness account of the rise and fall of the military fortunes of the East India Company during the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 and with it also the meteoric rise of the author from a Subaltern to the Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army with a grateful homage of a country which conferred upon him a peerage and the highest military rank of Field Marshal. He was the recipient of Victoria Cross at a tender age when he was still in his twenties, displaying incredible courage and bravery against gravest danger to personal safety during Sepoy Mutiny. (The first war of Indias’ independence). The book is packed with crowded events and it would not be practicable to condense all the tumultuous events of Sepoy Mutiny, the Second Afghan War, the military expeditions to Lushai Hills and War with Burma in which the author participated as one who controlled and directed the events which shaped the destiny of the age. There is graphic description of the ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ of 1857 (the first war of Indian Independence). Unrest among Sepoys was building after the British disaster in First Afghan War in which the entire British army of 10,000 perished and which exploded the myth of British invincibility. The other causes of ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ have been listed as the prohibition of Sati, putting a stop to female infanticide, the execution of Brahmins for capital offences, the efforts of religious conversion by Christian Missionaries and the protection of their converts, the removal of all legal obstacles to the remarriage of widows, the spread of Western and secular education and attempt to introduce female education. Finally what added spark to the fuel was the introduction of a new rifle (in place of the old musket) with the widespread that its cartridges were greased with the fat of pigs and cows with the intention of violating the religious beliefs of Hindus and Muslims. Tracing the genesis of the Second Afghan War in which the author played major role as the Commander-in-Chief of British forces, he describes how the British envoy, Sir Louis Cavagnari and his escort of 75 Guides, consisting of cavalry and infantry, were massacred with the connivance of the Emir who made no efforts to save the British Mission. The author fought a grim war, first at Kabul and then in Kandahar, which resulted in the installation of Abdur Rehman Durrani as Emir of Afghanistan after the abdication of Yakub Khan. The entire volume is of such an absorbing interest that once one starts reading it, he or she would not like to stop without reading the whole of it. Its interest heightens because it comes out of the pen of an author who not only participated in the epoch-making events of the time but also actually provided necessary guidance and direction. Such a remarkable book should be an asset to any library or book collection.
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