§ The King's Message of February 28 taken into consideration (according to Order).
§ THE LORD PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL (EARL CURZON OF KEDLESTON)
My Lords, I rise to move—That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to return the thanks of this House for his most gracious Message informing this House that His Majesty, having taken into consideration the eminent services rendered by the late Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., while commanding His Majesty's Forces during the campaign in Mesopotamia, and being desirous, in recognition of such services, of conferring some signal mark of his favour upon his widow, recommends to the House of Lords that they should concur in granting Lady Maude the sum of £25,000; and to assure His Majesty that this House will cheerfully concur in enabling him to make such provision.240 But few words are, I am convinced, required from me to ensure the eager acceptance by your Lordships of the Motion which I have just read.
The late General Maude was a man who was destined, not merely by birth but by natural inclination, to a soldier's career. The son of an eminent General who himself wore the Victoria Cross, an Eton boy, a Guardsman, he had served in many capacities in this country and abroad, in Canada, in South Africa, in Egypt, and at the War Office, before his opportunity came. War is a great leveller of distinctions, but it is also a supreme discoverer of merit; and it is not too much to say that General Maude was one of the discoveries, although to none of his friends was he one of the surprises, of the present war. At the beginning of the war he was only a Lieutenant-Colonel. In 1914 he was given a Brigade, and went to France. He took part in the Battle of Mons, and was wounded in the retreat upon Paris. In 1915 he was sent in command of a Division to the Dardanelles, and there, in command of his force—known locally, I believe, as the "Iron Legion"—he shared not merely in the perils and privations, but also in the glories, of that momentous and fateful campaign. He was, indeed, almost the last British officer to leave the peninsula when evacuation took place. And I have been told that had the Turkish forces shown anything like the alertness which might have been expected, they might have materially altered the course of future events and themselves captured on the beaches the future conqueror of Baghdad.
In 1916, General Maude was sent with his Division to Mesopotamia, where he took part in the arduous operations that were then in course of being carried out for the relief of the beleaguered garrison of Kut. As your Lordships will remember, that place fell after a heroic defence by General Townshend and his brave men; and in August of that year General Maude succeeded Sir Percy Lake as Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force in Mesopotamia. It was a dark moment in the history of the war; it was a critical moment in the fortunes of Great Britain in the East. The issues of the conflict themselves trembled in the balance, and the prestige of the British Empire may be described not unfairly as having been at stake. General Maude had to deal with an enemy flushed with victory, entrenched in 241 a position of exceptional strength, provided with all the scientific military resources which he had received from his European ally. The advance upon Baghdad in the month of December, 1916, the dramatic crossing of the Tigris, the forced evacuation of Kut by the Turks, the disorderly retreat of the fleeing enemy upon Baghdad, the rapid pursuit by General Maude and his men constituted a military achievement of no mean order.
But General Maude was by no means content with his initial victory; he was not the kind of man to rest upon his laurels. Following the Turks with great speed up the Dialah River in one direction, up the Tigris in another, and, at a later date, up the waters of the Euphrates, he inflicted upon them a series of crushing defeats which rendered them incapable of any further sustained military effort. He lifted the danger which overhung the Persian border, and which might, unless arrested, have reacted, through Persia, upon Afghanistan, and upon India itself, and he occupied the whole of the Baghdad vilayet. And be it remembered that he carried out the series of operations which I have described, labouring under a sense of bitter disappointment at the failure of our Russian Allies, who were at that time in the North-western parts of Persia, to extend to him the support which he had reason to expect.
The last few months of General Maude's life were devoted to the task of organising and administering the territories which he had won; and there in November, 1917, in an act of unthinking courtesy, he contracted that fatal pestilence which always broods behind the atmosphere of the East, and in a few hours had passed away. Thus in a few months of time it was given to General Maude to achieve what many military commanders do not attain in a lifetime. He retrieved a great disaster; he won a resounding victory; he recovered a province—almost a country—once one of the gardens of the East, which had mouldered for centuries under the blight of Turkish misrule. Nay, more. By a single stroke, or series of strokes, he may be said to have altered the history of the world. For it is surely inconceivable that the inhabitants of those fair regions can ever be thrust back into the servitude from which General Maude and his forces succeeded in emancipating them. And then in the hour of his triumph the General was stricken down, not, indeed, on the battlefield, but, as I 242 have pointed out, by a death not less honourable, and infinitely more pathetic.
My Lords, if we turn from the contemplation of the soldier to that of the man, there is a consensus of opinion among those who knew General Maude well—of whom, unfortunately, I was not one—that not merely did he possess the genius of a military commander, but that he had many qualities of personal character which endeared him to all those with whom he was associated. The soul of chivalry, he was not less strict in the discipline that he applied to himself than he was in that which he applied to others. A non-smoker, almost a total abstainer, he set an example of conscientious abnegation and self-control which profoundly affected the conduct of those whom he either commanded or who served with him. At the same time, he was kind and thoughtful to a degree to his soldiers, and, as abundant testimony confirms, he was exceptionally considerate to the native inhabitants of the countries that had passed under his sway. Thus I think we may say of the departed General that in manifold respects he fulfilled the ideal of the Happy Warrior which was drawn for us in such moving terms by one of the greatest of our poets more thin n a century ago.
Fate has deprived us of the opportunity of crowning with glory the victorious survivor and hero of this memorable campaign; and the only tribute, other than that of words, to his memory that we can now offer is the provision recommended by His Majesty for the widow and family whom he has left without the means to sustain the position which the head of the family had won. Your Lordships will, I am sure, be proud to join in that tribute of sorrowing sympathy and profound respect. I beg to move.
§ Moved, That an humble Address be presented to His Majesty to return the thanks of this House for his most gracious Message informing this House that His Majesty, having taken into consideration the eminent services rendered by the late Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, K.C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., while commanding His Majesty's Forces during the campaign in Mesopotamia, and being desirous, in recognition of such services, of conferring some signal mark of his favour upon his widow, recommends to the House of Lords that they should concur in granting Lady Maude the sum of £25,000; 243 and to assure His Majesty that this House will cheerfully concur in enabling him to make such provision.—(Earl Curzon of Kedleston.)
THE MARQUESS OF CREWE
My Lords, this Motion is so sure of receiving the universal assent of your Lordships' House that it is really more for my own satisfaction as a very old friend of General Maude—having known him in the days when he was a subaltern in the Coldstream Guards—that I rise to say a word in its support, although, indeed, that is not necessary after the eloquent statement which has been made by the noble Earl who leads the House.
General Maude was a man who was always greatly regarded and beloved by his friends. He was a quiet and dignified man even in his younger days. He had the reputation of being a most excellent regimental officer, and he also became a careful student at the Staff College. I know very well that the senior officers of that day always looked upon him as a man who, if the time of test came, would prove himself to be in all respects an admirable soldier. How the test would come, and how severe it would be, of course nobody in those days could foretell; but that it was met not merely with the gallantry which everybody would have expected of General Maude, but also with a degree of military skill which was to a great degree the reward of the hard work that he had exercised in his younger days, will not be denied by anybody.
As the noble Earl has stated, the circumstances of General Maude's death were singularly pathetic. He knew, of course, the admiration which his conduct and that of his troops had won from his fellow-countrymen, but he was not spared to receive at home those tributes of respect and affection which would have been lavished on him had he returned here. We all, I am certain, feel that this small tribute is the least that the country can pay to his memory. General Maude was a poor man, the son of a younger son; but had his life been spared he would have no doubt filled for many years high positions of great military trust which would have been reward to at any rate an adequate extent. I feel that even the most churlish of those who profess to object on principle to pecuniary grants for military services could not desire—at least it seems 244 incredible that they could—that to the heavy loss which his widow and family have sustained should be added the anxieties of narrow means. I am certain that the whole country will approve the action which your Lordships and the other House have taken.
§ VISCOUNT HALDANE
My Lords, I should like to be permitted to add a few words about one whom I knew very well, and with whom I was at one time closely associated. The noble Earl the Leader of the House felicitously referred to General Maude as a discovery but not a surprise in his pre-eminence. To me I can scarcely say that he was a discovery, because I had an opportunity of seeing these qualities very early in his career. At the time when the Territorial Forces Act passed, and when it was very doubtful whether men and officers could be got to come forward, it was necessary to make personal efforts, and night after night, afternoon after afternoon, General Maude—who was the General Staff officer attached to the Territorial Forces organisation at the War Office—used to set off with me sometimes to distant parts to stir up enthusiasm. Mine was the ornamental part, but his was the difficult business of explaining away all difficulties and of showing how things could be accomplished. This he did with supreme ability. He then showed the great quality, which I think was distinctive of him afterwards, of visualising clearly and distinctly what was the object which he had in view, and at the same time of being conscious almost by intuition of the means by which to attain that object. That was a distinctive characteristic of him and the secret of his success in those much humbler days in his life. Later when he became the commander of a Brigade, and again of a Division, and again of a Corps, and finally when he become a Commander-in-Chief, he always visualised with the utmost distinctness what he was aiming at, and he always knew how to get at his object.
Shortly before his death I had a long letter from him in which he told me that he considered he had turned himself completely into an administrator. He knew what he meant to do, and was concentrating upon that very necessary grasp of the material facts and resources which a great General always has and always insists upon in himself before he sets out to the attainment of a new object. From the personal experience and intimacy which I 245 was privileged to have at one time, I am able to testify, as noble Lords who have spoken have already done, to General Maude's great qualities, to his personal charm, and to his supreme combination of the two kinds of military gift. His death is a great loss to the nation. We can ill do without him. The least we can render now in the way of tribute is to support this Motion, which will at least do something for those whom he has left behind.
§ On Question, Motion agreed to nemine dissentiente: The said Address to be presented to His Majesty by the Lords with White Staves.