Sir Garnet Wolseley

The ultra efficient and unconventional British officer who managed to keep the initiative and refused to play by the rules. He was born in 1833 into an impoverished army family. He was given a commission on his 18th birthday by the Duke of Wellington in recognition of the services of his father and grandfather.

His ability and ambition were soon noticed. During the Burma War he led a desperate charge whilst being wounded. This one him promotion to the rank of Lieutenant. His cavalier attitude to danger was again in evidence at the siege of Sevastapol in 1855. He attached himself to the Royal Engineers 'in the post of greatest danger' and was accordingly wounded by a bursting shell losing the sight of is right eye.

During the Indian Mutiny he saw action with the 90th Light Infantry at Cawnpore and at Lucknow where he was promoted to Brevet Major. In 1861, he was posted to Canada to become quartermaster-general with the rank of colonel. He was given his first independent command at Red River Campaign of 1869-70. It was here that he managed to crush Louis Riel's rebellion with a minimum of bloodshed. It showed him to be a master of careful planning and preparation, giving rise to the Cockney expression: 'All Sir Garnet'.

The Ashanti campaign showed his 'All Sir Garnet' method in evidence once more and made his promotion to high command irresistible. However, there would be frequent minor expeditions and campaigns after that but none to allow him to show his talents to their full. He found himself side tracked into being appointed the Lord High Commissioner of Cyprus. He was brushed over for command during the Afghanistan campaign.

'I feel like an eagle that has had his wings clipped.' he said. It was not until the war in Egypt in 1882 that he was able to put his talents to the full test and the eagle was able to soar back into full flight.


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by Stephen Luscombe