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Field Marshal Frederick Sleigh Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts, Bt, VC, KG, KP, GCB, OM, GCSI, GCIE, PC (30 September 1832 – 14 November 1914) was a distinguished Anglo-Irish soldier and one of the most successful commanders of the Victorian era. He was affectionately known as 'Bobs' by the troops he commanded.

Early life

Born at Cawnporemarker, Indiamarker on 30 September 1832, Roberts was the second son of General Sir Abraham Roberts, a member of the famous Waterfordmarker city family that contributed so much to the city. At the time Sir Abraham was commanding the 1st Bengal European Regiment. Roberts was named Sleigh in honour of the garrison commander, Major General William Sleigh. His mother was Isabella, daughter of Abraham Bunbury of Kilfeacle, County Tipperarymarker. He was educated at Etonmarker, Sandhurstmarker and Addiscombe Military Academy before entering the British East India Company Army as a Second Lieutenant with the Bengal Artillery on 12 December 1851.

Indian rebellion of 1857

He fought in the Indian rebellion, seeing action during the siege and capture of Delhimarker, and was present at the relief of Lucknow, where he was attached to the staff of Sir Colin Campbell, Commander In Chief, India. In December 1858, Roberts was awarded the Victoria Cross for actions on 2 January of that year at Khudaganjmarker. The citation reads:

He married Nora Henrietta Bews on 17 May 1859.

Abyssinia and Afghanistan

After serving with the British Army in the Umbeyla and Abyssinian campaigns of 1863 and 1867–1868 respectively, Roberts fought in the Lushai campaign (1871–1872), for which he was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB). Six years later, he was promoted to Major-General and given command of the Kuram field force in the Second Afghan War, distinguishing himself enough to receive the thanks of Parliamentmarker and the Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB). In the wake of this success he was appointed commander of the Kabulmarker and Kandaharmarker field force, leading his 10,000 troops through Afghanistanmarker to the relief of the latter city (see Battle of Kandahar). He also managed to capture Kabul, and defeated Muhammad Yakub Khan, the Afghan emir. For his services, Sir Frederick again received the thanks of Parliament, and was appointed both Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) and Companion of the Order of the Indian Empire (CIE) in 1880, becoming a baronet the following year.

After a very short interval as Governor of Natal and Commander-in-Chief of British forces in South Africa, Roberts (having been promoted to Lieutenant-General in 1883) was appointed Commander-in-Chief in Madrasmarker, a post he held for four years. In 1885 he succeeded this appointment as Commander-in-Chief throughout the whole of Indiamarker, and two years later was appointed Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire (GCIE). This was subsequently followed by his promotion to General in 1890, and in 1892 he was created Baron Roberts, of Kandahar in Afghanistan and of the City of Waterfordmarker.

After relinquishing his Indian command and becoming Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India in 1893, Lord Roberts two years later returned to his homeland as Commander-in-Chief of British forces in Irelandmarker, becoming Field Marshal in 1895 and receiving the Order of St Patrick in 1897.

Boer War

Two years later, he returned to South Africa on the RMS Dunottar Castle in command of British troops fighting in the Second Boer War, relieving Kimberleymarker and advancing to Pretoriamarker. After a year, he was succeeded in the command by Lord Kitchener, and returned to Englandmarker to receive yet more honours: he was made a Knight of the Garter and also created Earl Roberts, of Kandahar in Afghanistan and Pretoria in the Transvaal Colonymarker and of the City of Waterford, and Viscount St Pierre. He also became the honorary Colonel of the Irish Guards in 1900, an appointment he kept for the remainder of his life, which gained the regiment the nickname 'Our Bobs'. He was also the following year, in 1902, appointed one of the first members of the Order of Merit.

Later life

Roberts on his 82nd birthday
Lord Roberts served as the last Commander-in-Chief of the Forces for three years before the post was abolished in 1904, and for the last ten years of his life was showered with yet more honours, including numerous honorary degrees and the Colonelcy of the National Reserve. He was founding president of the Pilgrims Society in 1902. He was a keen advocate of introducing conscription in Britain (heading the National Service League) to prepare for a Great European War. Immediately after his return from the Boer War, he was instrumental in promoting the mass training of civilians in rifle shooting skills through membership of shooting clubs, and a facsimile of his signature appears to this day on all official targets of the National Smallbore Rifle Association. He died of pneumonia at St Omermarker, Francemarker, while visiting Indian troops fighting in the First World War. After lying in state in Westminster Hall (one of two non-Royals to do so in the 20th century, the other being Winston Churchill), he was given a State Funeral.

Roberts' estate was probated in 1915 at £77,304 (equivalent to £ today).

Both his sons predeceased him, including Frederick Hugh Sherston Roberts VC who was killed in action at the Battle of Colensomarker during the Boer War. Roberts and his son were one of only three pairs of fathers and sons to be awarded the VC. Today, their Victoria Crosses are in the National Army Museummarker. His barony became extinct, but under the special remainder granted with them he was succeeded in the earldom and viscountcy by his elder surviving daughter.

Roberts Barracks at Larkhill Garrison is named after him.

Titles and Honours

  • 1858-1859 Lieutenant Frederick Roberts VC
  • 1859-1866 Second Captain (Bvt. Major) Frederick Roberts VC
  • 1866-1868 Second Captain (Bvt. Lieutenant-Colonel) Frederick Roberts VC
  • 1868-1872 Captain (Bvt. Lieutenant-Colonel) Frederick Roberts VC
  • 1872-1875 Major (Bvt. Lieutenant-Colonel) Frederick Roberts VC CB
  • 1875-1878 Major (Bvt. Colonel) Frederick Roberts VC CB
  • 1878-1879 Major-General Frederick Roberts VC CB
  • 1879-1880 Major-General Sir Frederick Roberts VC KCB
  • 1880-1881 Major-General (Local Lieutenant-General) Sir Frederick Roberts VC GCB CIE
  • 1881-1883 Major-General The Rt Hon. Sir Frederick Roberts Bt VC GCB CIE
  • 1883-1887 Lieutenant-General The Rt Hon. Sir Frederick Roberts Bt VC GCB CIE
  • 1887-1890 Lieutenant-General The Rt Hon. Sir Frederick Roberts Bt VC GCB GCIE
  • 1890-1892 General The Rt Hon. Sir Frederick Roberts Bt VC GCB GCIE
  • 1892-1893 General The Rt Hon. The Lord Roberts Bt VC GCB GCIE PC
  • 1893-1895 General The Rt Hon. The Lord Roberts Bt VC GCB GCSI GCIE PC
  • 1895-1897 Field Marshal The Rt Hon. The Lord Roberts, Bt VC GCB GCSI GCIE PC
  • 1897-1900 Field Marshal The Rt Hon. The Lord Roberts Bt VC KP GCB GCSI GCIE PC
  • 1900-1902 Field Marshal The Rt Hon. The Earl Roberts Bt VC KG KP GCB GCSI GCIE PC
  • 1902-1914 Field Marshal The Rt Hon. The Earl Roberts Bt VC KG KP GCB OM GCSI GCIE PC


"Lord Roberts of Kabul and Kandahar on his Celebrated Charger"
Roberts is a Senior Boys house at the Duke of York's Royal Military Schoolmarker, where, like Welbeck collegemarker all houses are named after prominent military figures.

Lord Roberts Public School in Scarborough, Ontariomarker, and Lord Roberts Elementary School in Vancouver, British Columbia, are named after him.

The Lord Roberts Centre - a facility at the National Shooting Centre built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and HQ of the National Smallbore Rifle Association (which Roberts was fundamental in founding) is named in his honour.

On 29 May 1900 Pretoria surrendered to the British commander-in-chief, Lord Roberts. On account of the high incidence of malaria and because the area had become too small, he moved his headquarters from the vicinity of the Normal College to a high-lying site 10 km south-west of the city - hence the name Roberts Heights. Roberts Heights, a busy military town, the largest in South Africa and resembling Aldershotmarker, soon took shape. On 15 December 1938 the name was changed to Voortrekkerhoogte and again to Thaba Tshwane on 19 May 1998.


  1. The Pilgrims of Great Britain: A Centennial History (2002) - Anne Pimlott Baker, ISBN 1-86197-290-3
  2. Harper's Magazine, European Edition, December 1897, p. 27.


Monument of Frederick Roberts, 1st Earl Roberts in Glasgow

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