The British Empire Library

Villiers-Stuart on the Frontier, 1894-1914

by Robert Maxwell

Courtesy of OSPA

Review by Anthony Kirk-Greene (N Nigeria 1950-66)
There are three reasons for reviewing this publication in a magazine which would not usually be expected to notice a memoir of a senior military officer in the Indian Army who served - with however much distinction - on the North West Frontier before World War I.

One is that the topic of military matters within imperial control is, of course, a subject which has an intrinsic appeal to virtually every one who served in any capacity in the old British Empire. Secondly, it is possible that some of our readers will themselves have seen wartime service (not, bien entendu, under the legendary Brigadier-General V. D. Villiers-Stuart in the 5th Royal Gurkha Rifles (Frontier Force)), and so have a personal interest in reading about "The Desperate Encounters" - to use the title of a predecessor volume by the same military historian - of one of the famous Gurkha regiments. Though a former Punjabi rather than an ex-Gurkha, I was myself interested to read anecdotes about the father of one of my own commanding officers, the Hon. C. G. Bruce; and then there is G. H. Boisragon, who must have served in Africa to have been awarded the Order of the Nile, 4th Class, and equally must have been related to the Captain Alan Boisragon who commanded the Niger Coast Protectorate Constabulary in the assault on Benin in January, 1897.

Thirdly, and in this instance convincing me to agree to notice the book here, it is published by the Pentland Press at Kippielaw, Haddington, East Lothian. Now this small, enterprising publisher carried an impressive list of what, in shorthand, I might call 'our kind' of books; that is to say, personal memoirs of men and women who have served in the Empire. To pick a handful out of the current Pentland Press catalogue, there is John Butter's I.C.S. memoir. Uncivil Servant: Gren Wedderburn's account of his years as a medical missionary in China and Japan, No Lotus Garden; A. E. G. Haig's Gentleman Cadet to Headmaster; and John Goodall's reminiscences of his life in the Colonial Medical Service, Goodbye to Empire. Sadly, this company ceased trading in 2007 but most of its books can still be found if you look hard enough.

British Empire Book
Robert Maxwell
The Pentland Press,


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