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SIXPENCE NET 



THE BATTLE 
OF DORKING 




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THE BATTLE OF DORKING 



THE BATTLE OF 
DORKING 



WITH AN INTRODUGTlOr^ ' 

BY 

G. H. POWELL 




LONDON 
GRANT RICHARDS LTD, 

MDGGCGXIV 






HcLl 



I ENS 



PREFACE 

The warnings and prophecies addressed to one 
generation must prove very ineffective if they are 
equally applicable to the next. But in the eloquent 
appeal published forty-three years ago, by General 
Chesney, with its vivid description and harrowing 
pathos, few readers will not recognize parallel 
features to those of our own situation in Septem- 
ber, 1914. 

True the handicaps of the invasion of August, 
1871, are heavily piled upon the losing combatant. 
Not only the eternal Anglo- Irish trouble (so easily 
mistaken by the foreigner for such a difference as 
might be found separating two other countries) 
but complications with America, as well as the 
common form seduction of the British fleet to the 
Dardanelles, a general unreadiness of all adminis- 
trative departments, and a deep distrust of the 
" volunteer " movement, involve the whole drama 
in an atmosphere of profound pessimism. 

But there are scores of other details, counsels, 
and reflections (of which we will not spoil the 
reader's enjoyment by anticipation) which, as the 
common saying is of history when it repeats itself, 
" might have been written yesterday." The 



86(>883 



vi PREFACE 

desperate condition of things is all the more 
remarkable as Englishmen had just witnessed the 
crushing defeat of their great ally — supposed to 
be the first military power of Europe — ^by the 
enemy they are supposed to despise. The story 
is otherwise simple enough. The secret annex- 
ation of Holland and Denmark is disclosed. 
People said we might have kept out of the trouble. 
But an impulsive nation egged on the Government 
who, confident that our old luck would pull us 
through, at once declare war. The fleet, trying to 
close with the enemy, is destroyed in "a few 
minutes " by the " deadly engines " left behind 
by the evasive enemy ; our amateurish armies 
are defeated on our own soil, and voila tout. 

Remarkable must have been the national in- 
souciance, or despondent the eye which viewed it, 
to explain the impassioned actuality of such a 
reveillematin. 

For one thing it may be remarked that The 
Battle of Dorking,* though in a sense the "history" 
of the pamphlet is already " ancient," is really the 
first of its kind. The topic, then of such inspiring 
freshness, has since become well worn. 

Mutatis mutandis, doubtless, much of General 
Chesney's advice and warning might have been 
repeated on the occasion of the Boer War. If 
that were not a practical " alarum to the patriotic 

• Contributed by Genl. Sir Geo. T. Chesney (1830-1895) to Blackwood's 
Magazine (May, 1871). It created a great sensation and appeared in 
pamphlet form the same year. 



PREFACE vii 

Briton," we ask ourselves what could be so called. 
Perhaps it combined the maximum of alarm with 
the minimum of national risk, but its beneficent 
influence can scarcely be questioned. 

At the date of the republication of this pamphlet 
we face a peril immeasurably greater than that, 
if not equal to the Napoleonic terror of 1803 ; and 
we face it, as concerns the mass of our population, 
with a calmness which — to critical eyes and in 
view of the appeal made by the Government to 
the country — is at least susceptible of an un- 
satisfactory explanation. 

If surprise, misunderstanding, may in a measure 
account for that, it would be idle to pretend that 
the national mood and temper (and the moods 
and tempers of nations will vary) were altogether 
— if they could ever be — such as encouraged the 
most sanguine hopes of our success when exposed 
to an ordeal of suddenness, extent, and severity 
unknown in the world's history. 

In estimating the risks of our situation, 
thoughtful criticism may be said to run naturally 
into two channels. 

Firstly, in the political world — for reasons 
which cannot here be considered — ^the past decade 
has seen a predominance of idealist activity and 
ratiocination scarcely known before. 

Hence the State has exhibited, to some extent, 
a Utopiste attitude likely to mislead foreign 
nations — it may be said with mild brevity — alike 
as to our real views of their conduct, and as to our 



viii PREFACE 

national belief in the right or duty of self-assertion. 

If, in 1871, we were represented as the helpless 
dupes of foreign diplomacy, in 1914 we rather 
appear to have deceived the enemy to our own 
hurt. A humane aversion to War — though, for 
that matter, it is only by a philanthropic " illu- 
sion " that the extreme stage of self-assertion can 
be morally differentiated from those that precede 
it, may tempt politicians by a too sedulous avoid- 
ance of the unpleasing phrase to invite the dread- 
ful reality. But, again, in the private life of the 
nation, other traits (some noted in the pamphlet 
of '71) have given cause for critical reflection. 
Besides Luxury — remarkable enough in its novel 
and fantastic forms, though a commonplace 
complaint of tractarians in all ages — a generally 
increased relaxation of all old-established ties of 
religion, convention or tradition, a tendency 
noticeable in general conduct, art and letters 
alike, a sort of orgy of intellectual and literary 
Erastianism, a hlase craving for sensational novelty 
(encouraged perhaps if not sated by the startling 
novelties of the age) have given scope for anxiety 
as to the conservation in the English nature of that 
solid morale, that "gesundesund sicheres Gefiihl" 
defined by an eminent thinker as the source of all 
worthy activity. 

These words can but very crudely sketch a 
complex sense of uneasiness and dissatisfaction 
familiar to most of us. 

Mr. Kipling has sung long since of athletic 



PREFACE IX 

excesses and indolence. More recent critics have 
dwelt on the extravagant time and expense 
devoted to golf. General Chesney would have 
branded the sensationalist effeminacy of our 
football-gloating crowds of thousands who mi^ht 
be recruits. Reviewers laugh wearily over the 
horrors or absurdities of the latest poetic mon- 
strosity or " futurist " nightmare. But in one 
phase or another the consciousness is present to 
all, and not unnoticed by our enemies. 

And it adds a sting to our inevitable anxiety if 
we cannot yet feel sure how far we can " recollect " 
our true best selves in the very moment of action, 
how far there has been given to us that saving 
grace of a storm-tost nation, 'Tart de porter en soi 
le remede de ses yroyres defauts."" 

Every race, doubtless, has its own special 
weaknesses and delusions, the " idols " of its 
patriotic "cave," and it is a commonplace of 
history that the moral, physical, or intellectual 
"decadence" of one age is revived and actualized 
by the material cataclysm of another. 

And the readiness, spiritual and material, of the 
nation in utrumque paratus is the index of its 
harmony with its environment. 

On the other hand there are wars to be fully 
prepared for which would almost mean to be a 
partner in their criminality. There is an attitude 
of defence which, if successful, would lose all 
dignity were it allied with a permanent distrust in 
the morality and humanity of other nations. 



X PREFACE 

If only an inhuman pride could be free from 
uneasiness at such a moment, at least warm 
encouragement comes to us ah extra. Whatever 
our weaknesses now, our sins or blunders in the 
past, no historian will question the motive, nay, 
the severe moral effort with which the English 
nation enters upon this war of the ages. 

It is scarcely conceivable that any people could 
be called upon to make a greater or more sudden 
exhibition of — their peculiar qualities. 

What will be the verdict upon our own ? That 
we are wilfully misunderstood, misrepresented, 
must matter little to us, if we have the moral 
support of a public opinion which will, if we 
triumph, be more powerful for good than ever 
before. 

Nor need we fear its ultimate perversion by 
interested slander. The hostile demonstrations of 
the German intellect during the early stages of this 
war have scarcely been on a par with those of its 
material force. 

One of the latest of sophistical Imperialist 
ebullitions complains with somewhat forced pathos 
of our waging war with our former allies of 
Waterloo ! 

But we did .not fight the French then because 
they were French, nor ally ourselves with 
Prussians because they spoke a guttural tongue. 
We fought then, as now, against the erection of 
an impossible and unbearable European tyranny, 
the local origin and nationality of which would 



PREFACE XI 

have been quite immaterial to the main question. 

Can we beheve for a moment that the great 
German intellect has ever been under the slightest 
misapprehension of so very simple a matter ? 

War, honest war, may be Hell, as General 
Sherman described it. It is, at least, a form of 
Purgatory in which personality, nationality, are 
forces that count but little, while principle and 
motive (as was tragically exhibited in the great 
American struggle) are everything. Did not 
Christianity itself preach this kind of sanctified 
discord in which a novel sense of right, or the per- 
ception of higher ideal, should divide even the 
nearest and dearest, and set them at war not, as 
in old days, by reason of any " family compact," 
or mere racial tie, but for the sake of " Right," 
and — so far as ordinary friendly or neighbourly 
relations were concerned — in utter " scorn of 
consequence." 

There, indeed, is the poignant tragedy of the 
case. To be at war with the countrymen of 
Schumann and Beethoven, of Goethe and Ranke, 
is not that an affliction to the very soul of England, 
an outrage to feelings and instincts tangled up 
with the very core of our civilization ? 

Terrible, indeed, is it that there should be 
alnities which, at such crises, we must 
• " tear from our bosom 

Though our heart be at the root." 
No man or nation expects perfection in his friends. 
Honestly we have loved and respected the Ger- 



xii PREFACE 

man. We have not wormed ourselves into his 
confidence, nursing through long years secret 
stores of explosive jealousy. His art, his learning, 
have had their full meed of admiration from his 
kindred here. 

But we recognize — dull, indeed, would they be 
who needed a more striking reminder that be- 
neath the defective " manner " of the Teuton 
lurks an element of crude barbarity with which 
we cannot pretend to fraternize. 

The violence of the Goths and Huns had its 
place in history ; but that would be a strange 
international morality which would give the rein 
now to mediaeval instincts of egoistic tyranny and 
perfectly organized brute force, as against the 
gentler instincts, th-e higher social civilization 
largely associated with the Latin and Celtic races. 

In these matters the Balance of Power is no less 
vital to international life and the evolution of true 
cosmopolitan ideals than in mere Politics. And 
if we stand up in battle for the smaller races it is 
not merely because they are small and need 
defence, but because an element of the right, a 
share in the civilization which we mean to prevail, 
is with them and a part of their heritage. 

The technical bond may be, as the scoffing 
enemy remarks (in words which will surely, as 
curses, return some day to roost), a mere '* scrap 
of paper " signed with England's name. 

But the civilized world will recognize that it is 
only by the increased sanctity of such ties that 



PREFACE xiii 

Europe advances towards intelligent cosmopoli- 
tanism, and leaves behind the vandal wild beast 

den after which woe to those who still hanker! 
* * * * 

There were critics, even English critics, who 
have taken so superficial a view of history and 
humanity as to ask why we should support 
France, with our blood and treasure, when in 
morale and intellect it is perhaps the candid truth 
that we are more on the side of her enemy. 

It is scarcely necessary to urge in reply that 
France, if not the one great continental nation, is 
the one great people of parallel and contemporary 
development to our own, our comrade, our rival, 
our nearest social (if not racial) kin, and that, spite 
of all her decadence and even degradation, upon 
the arena of Europe she stands lor Humanity and 
Civilization against Absolutism and Brute Force. 

And as we raised the world against her, when 
dominated by the tyrannous egoism of Bona- 
parte, the monstrous fungoid growth that over- 
laid her great Revolution and obscured her 
services to freedom, so now we stand as foes, not, 
we would fain believe, of the German people, but 
of the militarist clique, the Napoleonic nightmare 
that overpowers her moral instincts and clouds 
her honesty and intelligence. But here, again, let 
us not deceive ourselves as to the extent — perhaps 
to be all too fatally revealed — of "the force behind 
the Kaiser." Germany of to-day stands for a 
compact mass of highly energized (though not yet 



xiv PREFACE 

politically conscious) material and intellectual 
vigour. That a group of principalities, obsessed 
by militarist and petty-aristocratic traditions, 
should within half a century of their amalgama- 
tion form a politically great and united people, 
could scarcely be expected. 

But if not fully organized on the representative 
lines to which we attach so much importance, 
Germany presents a united front of intelligence, 
commercial industry and ambition with which her 
rapidly increasing population pushes on, eager for 
new worlds to conquer. 

That she demands an " Elizabethan age " of her 
own is the tragic platitude of our time. 

That she is aggrieved that we have had one, 
while we can only imperfectly (in her estimation) 
utilize its modern fruits, is her true theoretical 
casus belli against us. 

The immorality of the position consists in her 
belief that the Sun of Civilization must stand still, 
the currents of Law and Order run backwards to 
satisfy her entetee and unscrupulous jealousy. 
Englishmen have been so innocent as to believe 
she would be satisfied by a share, nay an extensive 
monopoly of the trade we once thought our own. 
They have urged that the German has all the 
advantages enjoyed by a native throughout the 
British Empire, that in spite of a constant agita- 
tion by a large and powerful party, no English 
Government has ever used its power to impose 
any artificial restraints upon German trade ; that 



PREFACE XV 

the fullest hospitality of these Islands has been 
extended to our Teuton brethren ; while they were 
invited to successfully compete on their merits 
with one English industry after another. 

That they would not rest content with these 
advantages, this political and commercial equality, 
that they would want to organize secret treachery, 
to spy out our weaknesses and hide bombs in their 
bedrooms, that — to the simple Briton of a few 
weeks ago — would have seemed impossible. 

He now knows what primitive passions may 
lurk behind a plausible commercialism secretly 
disappointed in its immoderate greed. 

It is in the alliance of despotic militarism with 
bureaucratic intellectual sophistry that has lain 
a new peril for the world, and one yet to be fully 
realized by the German people, when many of the 
hasty and speculative structures of her self- 
conscious and academic Protectionism are dis- 
covered to be as unsound as the quasi-religious 
aphorisms of the Kaiser. 

In spite of these confident assurances it may be 
the fate of that arrogant leader to find himself at 
war with " things," stony facts, economic laws 
that crush the transgressor, as well as with an 
indignant world. 

Meanwhile — our armies have fought bravely 
and held their own in the greatest battle, the 
most ferocious conflict the world ever dreamed of. 

Our unconquered fleet, after the tradition of 
four centuries, is still "looking for the enemy." 



xvi PREFACE 

All around us, as we write, is evidence that ti 
nation is bracing herself for a new and stupendo 
effort of courage, perhaps of imaginative strategy 
and even Weltpolitik which will in startling 
fashion bring the forces of half the world to meet 
and crush a world-menacing peril, and place our 
England, the mistress of the seas, on a pinnacle 
where she will be justified of all her patriotic 
children, counsellors, critics and heroes alike. 

G. H. Powell. 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 



You ask me to tell you, my grandchildren, some- 
thing about my own share in the great events that 
happened fifty years ago. 'Tis sad work turning 
back to that bitter page in our history, but you 
may perhaps take profit in your new homes from 
thje lesson it teaches. For us in England it came 
too late. And yet we had plenty of warnings, if 
we had only made use of them. The danger did 
not come on us unawares. It burst on us suddenly, 
'tis true ; but its coming was foreshadowed plainly 
enough to open our eyes, if we had not been wil- 
fully blind. We English have only ourselves to 
blame for the humiliation which has been brought 
on the land. Venerable old age! Dishonourable 
old age, I say, when it follows a manhood dis- 
honoured as ours has been. I declare, even qow, 
though fifty years have passed, I can hardly look 
a young man in the face when I think I am one of 
those in whose youth happened this degradation 
of Old England — one of those who betrayed the 
trust handed down to us unstained by our fore- 
fathers. 

What a proud and happy country was this 

17 



18 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

fifty years ago ! Free-trade had been working for 
more than a quarter of a century, and there 
seemed to be no end to the riches it was bringing 
us. London was growing bigger and bigger ; 3^ou 
, could c npjj Jbjiild houses fast enough for the rich 
'^ '^^^ people ^^lio' wanted to Hve in them, the merchants 
/. i i;: ^i\o:i^§,deAlie>hioney and came from all parts of 
the world to settle there, and the lawyers and 
doctors and engineers and others, and trades- 
people who got their share out of the profits. The 
streets reached down to Croydon and Wimbledon, 
which my father could remember quite country 
^-places ; and people used to say that Kingston and 
Reigate would soon be joined to London. We 
thought we could go on building and multiplying 
for ever. 'Tis true that even then there was no 
lack of poverty ; the people who had no money 
went on increasing as fast as the rich, and pauper- 
ism was already beginning to be a difficulty ; but 
if the rates were high, there was plenty of money 
to pay them with ; and as for what were called the 
middle classes, there really seemed no limit to their 
increase and prosperity. People in those days 
thought it quite a matter of course to bring a 
dozen children into the world — or, as it used to be 
said, Providence sent them that number of babies ; 
and if they couldn't always marry off all the daugh- 
ters, they used to manage to provide for the sons, 
for there were new openings to be found in all the 
professions, or in the Government offices, which 
went on steadily getting larger. Besides, in those 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 19 

days young men could be sent out to India, or into 
the army or navy ; and even then emigration was 
not uncommon, although not the regular custom 
it is now. Schoolmasters, like all other profes- 
sional classes, drove a capital trade. They did 
not teach very much, to be sure, but new schools 
with their four or five hundred boys were springing 
up all over the country. 

Fools that we were! We thought that all this 
wealth and prosperity were sent us by Providence, 
and could not stop coming. In our blindness we 
did not see that we were merely a big workshop, 
making up the things which came from all parts 
of the world ; and that if other nations stopped 
sending us raw goods to work up, we could not 
produce them ourselves. True, we had in those 
days an advantage in our cheap coal and iron ; and 
had we taken care not to waste the fuel, it might 
have lasted us longer. But even then there were 
signs that coal and iron would soon become 
cheaper in foreign parts ; while as to food and 
other things, England was not better off than it is 
now. We were so rich simply because other na- 
tions from all parts of the world were in the habit 
of sending their goods to us to be sold or manu- 
factured ; and we thought that this would last for 
ever. And so, perhaps, it might have lasted, if we 
had only taken proper means to keep it ; but, in 
our folly, we were too careless even to insure our 
prosperity, and after the course of trade was 
turned away it would not come back again. 



20 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

And yet, if ever a nation h&d a plain warning, 
we had. If we were the greatest trading country, 
our neighbours were the leading military power in 
Europe. They were driving a good trade, too, for 
this was before their foolish communism (about 
which you will hear when you are older) had 
ruined the rich without benefiting the poor, and 
they were in many respects the first nation in 
Europe; but it was on their army that they 
prided themselves most. And with reason. They 
had beaten the Russians and the Austrians, and 
the Prussians too, in bygone years, and they 
thought they were invincible. Well do I remem- 
ber the great review held at Paris by the Emperor 
Napoleon during the great Exhibition, and how 
proud he looked showing off his splendid Guards 
to the assembled kings and princes. Yet, three 
years afterwards, the force so long deemed the 
first in Europe was ignominiously beaten, and the 
whole army taken prisoners. Such a defeat had 
never happened before in the worM's history ; 
and with this proof before us of the folly of dis- 
believing in the possibility of disaster merely be- 
cause it had never fallen upon us, it might have 
been supposed that we should have the sense to 
take the lesson to heart. And the country was 
certainly roused for a time, and a cry was raised 
that the army ought to be reorganized, and our 
defences strengthened against the enormous power 
for sudden attacks which it was seen other na- 
tions were able to put forth. And a scheme of 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 21 

army reform was brought forward by the Govern- 
ment. It was a half-and-half affair at best ; and 
unfortunately, instead of being taken up in Parlia- 
ment as a national scheme, it was made a party 
matter of, and so fell through. There was a 
Radical section of the House, too, whose votes 
had to be secured by conciliation, and which 
blindly demanded a reduction of armaments as 
the price of allegiance. This party always decried 
military establishments as part of a fixed policy 
for reducing the influence of the Crown and the 
aristocracy. They could not understand that the 
times had altogether changed, that the Crown had 
really no power, and that the Government merely 
existed at the pleasure of the House of Commons, 
and that even Parliament-rule was beginning to 
give way to mob-law. At any rate, the Ministry, 
baffled on all sides, gave up by degrees all the 
strong points of a scheme which they were not 
heartily in earnest about. It was not that there 
was any lack of money, if only it had been spent 
in the right way. The army cost enough, and 
more than enough, to give us a proper defence, 
and there were armed men of sorts in plenty and 
to spare, if only they had been decently organized. 
It was in organization and forethought that we 
fell short, because our rulers did not heartily be- 
lieve in the need for preparation. The fleet and 
the Channel, they said, were sufficient protection. 
So army reform was put off to some more con- 
venient season, and the militia and volunteers 



22 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

were left untrained as before, because to call them 
out for drill would "interfere with the industry 
of the country." We could have given up some of 
the industry of those days, forsooth, and yet be 
busier than we are now. But why tell you a tale 
you have so often heard already ? The nation, 
although uneasy, was misled by the false security 
its leaders professed to feel ; and the warning 
given by the disasters that overtook France was 
allowed to pass by unheeded. We would not even 
be at the trouble of putting our arsenals in a safe 
place, or of guarding the capital against a surprise, 
although the cost of doing so would not have been 
so much as missed from the national wealth. The 
French trusted in their army and its great repu- 
tation, we in our fleet ; and in each case the result 
of this blind confidence was disaster, such as our 
forefathers in their hardest struggles could not 
have even imagined. 

I need hardly tell you how the crash came about. 
First, the rising in India drew away a part of our 
small army ; then came the difficulty with 
America, which had been threatening for years, 
and we sent off ten thousand men to defend 
Canada — a handful which did not go far to 
strengthen the real defences of that country, but 
formed an irresistible temptation to the Ameri- 
cans to try and take them prisoners, especially as 
the contingent included three battaUons of the 
Guards. Thus the regular army at home was even 
smaller than usual, and nearly half of it was in 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 23 

Ireland to check the talked-of Fenian invasion 
fitting out in the West. Worse still — though I do 
not know it would really have mattered as things 
turned out — ^the fleet was scattered abroad : some 
ships to guard the West Indies, others to check 
privateering in the China seas, and a large part to 
try and protect our colonies on the Northern 
Pacific shore of America, where, with incredible 
folly, we continued to retain possessions which we 
could not possibly defend. America was not the 
great power forty years ago that it is now ; but lor 
us to try and hold territory on her shores which 
could only be reached by sailing round the Horn, 
was as absurd as if she had attempted to take the 
Isle of Man before the independence of Ireland. 
We see this plainly enough now, but we were all 
bhnd then. 

It was while we were in this state, with our 
ships all over the world, and our little bit of an 
army cut up into detachments, that the Secret 
Treaty was published, and Holland and Denmark 
were annexed. People say now that we might 
have escaped the troubles which came on us if we 
had at any rate kept quiet till our other difficulties 
were settled ; but the English were always an 
impulsive lot : the whole country was boiling over 
with indignation, and the Government, egged on 
by the Press, and going with the stream, declared 
war. We had always got out of scrapes before, 
and we believed our old luck and pluck would 
somehow pull us through. 



24 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

Then, of course, there was bustle and hurry all 
over the land. Not that the calling up of the army 
reserves caused much stir, for I think there were 
only about 5,000 altogether, and a good many of 
these were not to be found when the time came ; 
but recruiting was going on all over the country, 
with a tremendous high bounty, 50,000 more men 
having been voted for the army. Then there was a 
a Ballot Bill passed for adding 55,500 men to the 
militia ; why a round number was not fixed on I 
don't know, but the Prime Minister said that this 
was the exact quota wanted to put the defences 
of the country on a sound footing. Then the ship- 
building that began! Ironclads, despatch-boats, 
gunboats, monitors, — every building-yard in the 
country got its job, and they were offering ten 
shillings a day wages for anybody who could drive 
a rivet. This didn't improve the recruiting, you 
may suppose. I remember, too, there was a 
squabble in the House of Commons about whether 
artisans should be drawn for the ballot, as they 
were so much wanted, and I think they got an ex- 
emption. This sent numbers to the yards ; and 
if we had had a couple of years to prepare instead 
of a couple of weeks, I daresay we should have 
done very well. 

It was on a Monday that the declaration of war 
was announced, and in a few hours we got our first 
inkling of the sort of preparation the enemy had 
made for the event which they had really brought 
about, although the actual declaration was made 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 25 

by us. A pious appeal to the God of battles, 
whom it was said we had aroused, was telegraphed 
back ; and from that moment all communica- 
tion with the north of Europe was cut off. Our 
embassies and legations were packed off at an 
hour's notice, and it was as if we had suddenly 
come back to the middle ages. The dumb as- 
tonishment visible all over London the next 
morning, when the papers came out void of news, 
merely hinting at what had happened, was one of 
the most startling things in this war of surprises. 
But everything had been arranged beforehand ; 
nor ought we to have been surprised, for we had 
seen the same Power, only a few months before, 
move down half a million of men on a few days' 
notice, to conquer the greatest military nation in 
Europe, with no more fuss than our War Office 
used to make over the transport of a brigade from 
Aldershot to Brighton, — and this, too, without 
the allies it had now. What happened now was 
not a bit more wonderful in reality ; but people 
of this country could not bring themselves to be- 
lieve that what had never occurred before to 
England could ever possibly happen. Like our 
neighbours, we became wise when it was too late. 

Of course the papers were not long in getting 
news — even the mighty organization set at work 
could not shut out a special correspondent ; and 
in a very few days, although the telegraphs and 
railways were intercepted right across Europe, the 
main facts oozed out. An embargo had been laid 



26 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

on all the shipping in every port from the Baltic 
to Ostend; the fleets of the two great Powers had 
moved out, and it was supposed were assembled in 
the great northern harbour, and troops were 
hmTving on board all the steamers detained m 
these places, most of which were British vessels. 
It was clear that invasion was intended. Even 
then we might have been saved, if the fleet had 
been ready. The forts which guarded the flotilla 
were perhaps too strong for sliipping to attempt ; 
but an ironclad or two, handled as British sailors 
knew how to use them, might have destroyed or 
damaged a part ot the transports, and delayed the 
expedition, giving us what we wanted, time. But 
then the best part of the fleet had been decoyed 
down to the Dardanelles, and what remained of the 
Channel squadron was looking after Fenian fih- 
busters off the west of Ireland ; so it was ten days 
before the fleet was got together, and by that time 
it was plain the enemy's preparations were too far 
advanced to be stopped by a coup-de-iiiain, In- 
iormation, which came cliiefly through Italy, 
came slowly, and was more or less vague and un- 
certain ; but this much was known, that at least 
a couple of hundred thousand men were em- 
barked or ready to be put on board ships, and that 
the flotilla, was guarded by more ironclads than 
we could then muster. I suppose it was the un- 
certainty as to the point the enemy would aim at 
for landing, and the fear lest he should give us the 
the go-by, that kept the fleet for several days in 



THE^BATTLE OF DORKING 27 

the Downs ; but it was not until the Tuesday 
fortnight after the declaration of war that it 
weighed anchor and steamed away for the North 
Sea. Of course you have read about tlie Queen's 
visit to the fleet the day before, and how she 
sailed round the sliips in her yacht, and went on 
board the flag-ship to take leave of the admiral ; 
how, overcome with emotion, she told him that 
the safety of the country was committed to liis 
keeping. You remember, too, the gallant old 
officer's reply, and how all the ships' yards were 
manned, and how lustily the tars cheered as her 
Maj esty was rowed off. The account was of course 
telegraphed to London, and the high spirits of the 
fleet infected the whole to\vn. I was outside the 
Charing Cross station when the Queen's special 
train from Dover arrived, and from the cheering 
and shouting which greeted her ^lajesty as she 
drove away, you might have supposed we had 
already won a great victor\'. The leading journal, 
which had gone in strongly for the army reduction 
carried out during the session, and had been 
nervous and desponding in tone during the past 
fortnigiit, suggesting all sorts of compromises as a 
way of getting out of the war, came out in a very 
jubilant form next morning. " Panic-stricken 
inquirers,'' it said, " ask now, where are the means 
of meeting the invasion? We reply that the in- 
vasion will never take place. A British fleet 
manned by British sailoi^s, whose courage and 
enthusiasm are reflected in the people of this 



28 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

country, is already on the way to meet the pre- 
sumptuous foe. The issue of a contest between 
British ships and those of any other country, under 
anything hke equal odds, can never be doubtful. 
England awaits with calm confidence the issue 
of the impending action." 

Such were the words of the leading article, and 
so we all felt. It was on Tuesday, the 10th of 
August, that the fleet sailed from the Downs. It 
took with it a submarine cable to lay down as it 
advanced, so that continuous communication was 
kept up, and the papers were publishing special 
editions every few minutes with the latest news. 
This was the first time such a thing had been done 
and the feat was accepted as a good omen. Whe- 
ther it is true that the Admiralty made use of the 
cable to keep on sending contradictory orders, 
which took the command out of the admiral's 
hands, I can't say ; but all that the admiral sent 
in return was a few messages of the briefest kind, 
which neither the Admiralty nor any one else 
could have made any use of. Such a ship had 
gone off reconnoitring ; such another had rejoined 
—fleet was in latitude so and so. This went on till 
the Thursday morning. I had just come up to 
town by train as usual, and was walking to my 
office, when the newsboys began to cry, " New 
edition — enemy's fleet in sight! " You may ima- 
gine the scene in London! Business still went on 
at the banks, for bills matured although the inde- 
pendence of the country was being fought out 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 29 

under our own eyes, so to say, and the speculators 
were active enough. But even with the people 
who were making and losing their fortunes, the 
interest in the fleet overcame everything else ; 
men who went to pay in or draw out their money 
stopped to show the last bulletin to the cashier. 
As for the street, you could hardly get along for 
the crowd stopping to buy and read the papers ; 
while at every house or office the members sat 
restlessly in the common room, as if to keep to- 
gether for company, sending out some one of their 
number every few minutes to get the latest edi- 
tion. At least this is what happened at our office ; 
but to sit still was as impossible as to do anything, 
and most of us went out and wandered about 
among the crowd, under a sort of feeling that the 
news was got quicker at in this way. Bad as were 
the times coming, I think the sickening suspense 
of that day, and the shock which followed, was 
almost the worst that we underwent. It was about 
ten o'clock that the first telegram came ; an hour 
later the wire announced that the admiral had 
signalled to form line of battle, and shortly after- 
wards that the order was given to bear down on 
the enemy and engage. At twelve came the 
announcement, " Fleet opened fire about three 
miles to leeward of us " — ^that is, the ship with the 
cable. So far all had been expectancy, then came 
the first token of calamity. " An ironclad has 
been blown up " — " the enemy's torpedoes are 
doing great damage" — "the flagship is laid 



so THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

aboard the enemy " — " the flag-ship appears to 
be sinking " — " the vice-admiral has signalled to " 
— ^there the cable became silent, and, as you know, 
we heard no more till, two days afterwards, the 
solitary ironclad which escaped the disaster 
steamed into Portsmouth. 

Then the whole story came out — how our sailors 
gallant as ever, had tried to close with the enemy ; 
how the latter evaded the conflict at close quar- 
ters, and, sheering off, left behind them the fatal 
engines which sent our ships, one after the other, 
to the bottom ; how all this happened almost in a 
few minutes. The Government, it appears, had 
received warnings of this invention ; but to the 
nation this stunning blow was utterly unexpected. 
That Thursday I had to go home early for regi- 
mental drill, but it was impossible to remain doing 
nothing, so when that was over I went up to town 
again, and after waiting in expectation of news 
which never came, and missing the midnight 
train, I walked home. It was a hot sultry night, 
and I did not arrive till near sunrise. The whole 
town was quite still — ^the lull before the storm; 
and as I let myself in with my latch-key, and went 
softly upstairs to my room to avoid waking the 
sleeping household, I could not but contrast the 
peacefulness of the morning — no sound breaking 
the silence but the singing of the birds in the gar- 
den — with the passionate remorse and indignation 
that would break out with the day. Perhaps the 
inmates of the rooms were as wakeful as myself ; 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 31 

but the house in its stillness was just as it used to be 
when I came home alone from balls or parties in 
the happy days gone by. Tired though I was, I 
could not sleep, so I went down to the river and 
had a swim ; and on returning found the house- 
hold was assembling for early breakfast. A sor- 
rowful household it was, although the burden 
pressing on each was partly an unseen one. My 
father, doubting whether his firm could last 
through the day ; my mother, her distress about 
my brother, now with his regiment on the coast, 
already exceeding that which she felt for the 
public misfortune, had come down, although 
hardly fit to leave her room. My sister Clara was 
worst of all, for she could not but try to disguise 
her special interest in the fleet ; and though we 
had all guessed that her heart was given to the 
young lieutenant in the flag-ship — the first vessel 
to go down — a love unclaimed could not be told, 
nor could we express the sympathy we felt for the 
poor girL That breakfast, the last meal we ever 
had together, was soon ended, and my father and 
I went up to town by an early train, and got there 
just as the fatal announcement of the loss of the 
fleet was telegraphed from Portsmouth. 

The panic and excitement of that day — how the 
funds went down to 35 ; the run upon the bank 
and its stoppage ; the fall of half the houses in the 
city ; how the Government issued a notification 
suspending specie payment and the tendering of 
bills — this last precaution too late for most firms. 



32 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

Graham & Co. among the number, which stopped 
payment as soon as my father got to the office ; 
the call to arms and the unanimous response of 
the country — all this is history which I need not 
repeat. You wish to hear about my own share in 
the business of the time. Well, volunteering had 
increased immensely from the day war was pro- 
claimed, and our regiment went up in a day or two 
from its usual strength of 600 to nearly 1,000. But 
the stock of rifles was deficient. We were pro- 
mised a further supply in a few days, which how- 
ever, we never received ; and while waiting for 
them the regiment had to be divided into two 
parts, the recruits drilling with the rifles in the 
morning, and we old hands in the evening. The 
failures and stoppage of work on this black Friday 
threw an immense number of young men out of 
employment, and we recruited up to 1,400 strong 
by the next day ; but what was the use of all these 
men without arms ? On the Saturday it was an- 
nounced that a lot of smooth-bore muskets in store 
at the Tower w^ould be served out to regiments 
applying for them, and a regular scramble took 
place among the volunteers for them, and our 
people got hold of a couple of hundred. But you 
might almost as well have tried to learn rifle-drill 
with a broom-stick as with old brown bess ; 
besides, there was no smooth-bore ammunition 
in the country. A national subscription was 
opened for the manufacture of rifles at Birming- 
ham, which ran up to a couple of millions in two 



THE BATTLE OF DORKINCx 33 

days, but, like everything else, this came too late. 
To return to the volunteers : camps had been 
formed a fortnight before at Dover, Brighton, 
Harwich, and other places, of regulars and hiilitia, 
and the headquarters of most of the volunteer 
regiments were attached to one or other of them, 
and the volunteers themselves used to go down for 
drill from day to day, as they could spare tirhe, 
and on Friday an order went out that they should 
be permanently embodied ; but the metropolitan 
volunteers were still kept about London as a sort 
of resei-ve, till it could be seen at what point the 
invasion would take place. We were all told off to 
brigades and divisions. Our brigade consisted of 
the 4th Royal Surrey Militia, the 1st Surrey 
Administrative Battalion, as it was called, at 
Ckpham, the 7th Surrey Volunteers at South- 
wark, and ourselves ; but only our battalion and 
the militia were quartered in the same place, and 
the whole brigade had merely two or three after- 
noons together at brigade exercise in Bushey Park 
before the march took place. Our brigadier be- 
longed to a line regiment in Ireland, and did not 
join till the very morning the order came. Mean- 
while, during the preliminary fortnight, the militia 
colonel commanded. But though we volunteers 
were busy with our drill and preparations, those of 
us who, like myself, belonged to Government offices, 
had more than enough of office work to do, as you 
may suppose. The volunteer clerks were allowed 

t9 leave office at four o'clock, but the rest were 

c 



34 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

kept hard at the desk far into the night. Orders 
to the lord-heutenants, to the magistrates, noti- 
fications, all the arrangements for cleaning out the 
workhouses for hospitals — ^these and a hundred 
other things had to be managed in our office, and 
there was as much bustle indoors as out. Fortu- 
nate we were to be so busy — the people to be 
pitied were those who had nothing to do. And on 
Sunday (that was the 15th August) work went on 
just as usual. We had an early parade and drill, 
and I went up to town by the nine o'clock train in 
my uniform, taking my rifle with me in case of 
accidents, and luckily too, as it turned out, a 
mackintosh overcoat. When I got to Waterloo 
there were all sorts of rumours afloat. A fleet had 
been seen off the Downs, and some ot the despatch 
boats which were hovering about the coasts 
brought news that there was a large flotilla off 
Harwich, but nothing could be seen from the 
shore, as the weather was hazy. The enemy's 
light ships had taken and sunk all the fishing 
boats they could catch, to prevent the news of 
their whereabouts reaching us ; but a few escaped 
during the night and reported that the Inconstant 
frigate coming home from North America without 
any knowledge of what had taken place, had 
sailed right into the enemy's fleet and been cap- 
tured. In town the troops were all getting ready 
for a move ; the Guards in the Wellington Bar- 
racks were under arms, and their baggage-wag- 
gons packed and drawn up in the Bird-cage Walk. 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 35 

The usual guard at the Horse Guards had been 
withdrawn, and orderlies and staff- officers were 
going to and fro. All this I saw on the way to my 
office, where I worked away till twelve o'clock, 
and then feeling hungry after my early breakfast, 
I went across Parliament Street to my club to get 
some luncheon. There were about half-a-dozen 
men in the coffee-room, none of whom I knew; 
but in a minute or two Danvers of the Treasury 
entered in a tremendous hurry. From him I got 
the first bit of authentic news I had had that day. 
The enemy had landed in force near Harwich, and 
the metropolitan regiments were ordered down 
there to reinforce the troops already collected in 
that neighbourhood ; his regiment was to parade 
at one o'clock, and he had come to get something 
to eat before starting. We bolted a hurried lunch, 
and were just leaving the club when a messenger 
from the Treasury came running into the hall. 

"Oh, Mr. Danvers," said he, "I've come to 
look for you, sir ; the secretary says that all the 
gentlemen are wanted at the office, and that you 
must please not one of you go with the regiments." 

" The devil! " cried Danvers. 

" D6 you know if that order extends to all the 
public offices ? " I asked. 

" I don't know," said the man, " but I believe 
it do. I know there's messengers gone round to all 
the clubs and luncheon-bars to look for the gentle- 
men ; the secretary says it's quite impossible any 
one can be spared iust now, there's so much work 



36 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

to do ; there's orders just come to send off our 
records to Birmingham to-night." 

I did not wait to condole with Danvers, but, 
just glancing up Whitehall to see if any of our 
messengers were in pursuit, I ran off as hard as I 
could for Westminster Bridge, and so to the 
Waterloo station. 

The place had quite changed its aspect since the 
morning. The regular service of trains had ceased, 
and the station and approaches were full of troops, 
among them the Guards and artillery. Every- 
thing was very orderly : the men had piled arms, 
and were standing about in groups. There was no 
sign of high spirits or enthusiasm. Matters had 
become too serious. Every man's face reflected 
the general feehng that we had neglected the 
warnings given us, and that now the danger so 
long derided as impossible and absurd had really 
come and found us unprepared. But the soldiers, 
if grave, looked determined, like men who meant 
to do their duty whatever might happen. A train 
full of guardsmen was just starting for Guildford. 
I was told it would stop at Surbiton, and, with 
several other volunteers, hurrying like myself to 
join our regiment, got a place in it. We did not 
arrive a moment too soon, for the regiment was 
marching from Kingston down to the station. The 
destination of our brigade was the east coast. 
Empty carriages were drawn up in the siding, and 
our regiment was to go first. A large crowd was 
assembled to see it off, including the recruits who 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 37 

had joined during the last fortnight, and who 
formed by far the largest part of our strength. 
They were to stay behind, and were certainly very 
much in the way already ; for as all the officers 
and sergeants belonged to the active part, there 
was no one to keep discipline among them, and they 
came crowding around us, breaking the ranks and 
making it difficult to get into the train. Here I 
saw our new brigadier for the first time. He was 
a soldier-like man, and no doubt knew his duty, 
but he appeared new to volunteers, and did not 
seem to know how to deal with gentlemen privates. 
I wanted very much to run home and get my 
greatcoat and knapsack, which I had bought a few 
days ago, but feared to be left behind ; a good- 
natured recruit volunteered to fetch them for me, 
but he had not returned before we started, and I 
began the campaign with a kit consisting of a 
mackintosh and a small pouch of tobacco. 

It was a tremendous squeeze in the train ; for, 
besides the ten men sitting down, there were three 
or four standing up in every compartment, and 
the afternoon was close and sultry, and there were 
so many stoppages on the way that we took nearly 
an hour and a half crawling up to Waterloo. It 
was between five and six in the afternoon when 
we arrived there, and it was nearly seven before 
we marched up to the Shoreditch station. The 
whole place was filled up with stores and ammuni- 
tion, to be sent off to the east, so we piled arms in 
the street and scattered about to get food and 



38 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

drink, of which most of us stood in need, especially 
the latter, for some were already feeling the worse 
for the heat and crush. I was just stepping into a 
public-house with Travers, when who should drive 
up but his pretty wife ? Most of our friends had 
paid their adieus at the Surbiton station, but she 
had driven up by the road in his brougham, bring- 
ing their little boy to have a last look at papa. She 
had also brought his knapsack and greatcoat, and, 
what was still more acceptable, a basket contain- 
ing fowls, tongue, bread-and-butter, and biscuits, 
and a couple of bottles of claret, — which priceless 
luxuries they insisted on my sharing. 

Meanwhile the hours went on. The 4th Surrey 
Militia, which had marched all the way from 
Kingston, had come up, as well as the other volun- 
teer corps ; the station had been partly cleared of 
the stores that encumbered it ; some artillery, 
two militia regiments, and a battalion of the line, 
had been despatched, and our turn to start had 
come, and long lines of carriages were drawn up 
ready for us ; but still we remained in the street. 
You may fancy the scene. There seemed to be as 
many people as ever in London, and we could 
hardly move for the crowds of spectators — fellows 
hawking fruits and volunteers' comforts, news- 
boys and so forth, to say nothing of the cabs and 
omnibuses ; while orderlies and staff- officers were 
constantly riding up with messages. A good many 
of the militiamen, and some of our people too, 
had taken more than enough to drink ; perhaps a 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 39 

hot sun had told on empty stomachs ; anyhow, 
they became very noisy. The din, dirt, and heat 
were indescribable. So the evening wore on, and 
all the information our officers could get from the 
brigadier, who appeared to be acting under another 
general, was, that orders had come to stand fast 
for the present. Gradually the street became 
quieter and cooler. The brigadier, who, by way of 
setting an example, had remained for some hours 
without leaving his saddle, had got a chair out of a 
shop, and sat nodding in it ; most of the men were 
lying down or sitting on the pavement — some 
sleeping, some smoking. In vain had Travers 
begged his wife to go home. She declared that, 
having come so far, she would stay and see the last 
of us. The brougham had been sent away to a by- 
street, as it blocked up the road ; so he sat on a 
doorstep, she by him on the knapsack. Little 
Arthur, who had been delighted at the bustle and 
the uniforms, and in high spirits, became at last 
very cross, and eventually cried himself to sleep in 
his father's arms, his golden hair and one little 
dimpled arm hanging over his shoulder. Thus 
went on the weary hours, till suddenly the assembly 
sounded, and we all started up. We were to 
return to Waterloo. The landing on the east was 
only a feint — so ran the rumour — ^the real attack 
was on the south. Anything seemed better than 
indecision and delay, and, tired though we were, 
the march back was gladly hailed. Mrs. Travers, 
who made us take the remains of the luncheon 



40 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

with us, we left to look for her carriage ; little 
Arthur, who was awake again, but very good and 
quiet, in her arms. 

We did not reach Waterloo till nearly midnight, 
and there was some delay in starting again. 
Several volunteer and militia regiments had 
arrived from the north ; the station and all its 
approaches were jammed up with men, and trains 
were being despatched away as fast as they could 
be made up. All this time no news had reached us 
since the first announcement ; but the excitement 
then aroused had now passed away under the 
influence of fatigue and want of sleep, and most of 
us dozed off as soon as we got under way. I did, 
at any rate, and was awoke by the train stopping 
at Leatherhead. There was an up-train returning 
to town, and some persons in it were bringing up 
news from the coast. We could not, from our part 
of the train, hear what they said, but the rumour 
was passed up from one carriage to another. The 
enemy had landed in force at Worthing. Their 
position had been attacked by the troops from the 
camp near Brighton, and the action would be 
renewed in the morning. The volunteers had 
behaved very well. This was all the information 
we could get. So, then, the invasion had come at 
last. It was clear, at any rate, from what was 
said, that the enemy had not been driven back 
yet, and we should be in time most likely to take 
a share in the defence. It was sunrise when the 
trrJn crawled into Dorking, for there had beon 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 41 

numerous stoppages on the way ; and here it was 
pulled up for a long time, and we were told to get 
out and stretch ourselves — an order gladly res- 
ponded to, for we had been very closely packed all 
night. Most of us, too, took the opportunity to 
make an early breakfast off the food we had 
brought from Shoreditch. I had the remains of 
Mrs. Travers's fowl and some bread wrapped up 
in my waterproof, which I shared with one or two 
less provident comrades. We could see from our 
halting-place that the line was blocked with trains 
beyond and behind. It must have been about 
eight o'clock when we got orders to take our seats 
again, and the train began to move slowly on 
towards Horsham. Horsham Junction was the 
point to be occupied — so the rumour went ; but 
about ten o'clock, when halting at a small station 
a few miles short of it, the order came to leave the 
train, and our brigade formed in column on the 
high road. Beyond us was some field artillery ; 
and further on, so we were told by a staff- officer, 
another brigade, which was to make up a division 
with ours. After more delays the line began to 
move, but not forwards ; our route was towards 
the north-west, and a sort of suspicion of the state 
of affairs flashed across my mind. Horsham was 
already occupied by the enemy's advance-guard, 
and we were to fall back on Leith Common, and 
take up a position threatening his flank, should he 
advance either to Guildford or Dorking. This 
was soon confirmed by what the colonel was told 



42 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

by the brigadier and passed down the ranks ; and 
just now, for the first time, the boom of artillery 
came up on the light south breeze. In about an 
hour the firing ceased. What did it mean ? We 
could not tell. Meanwhile our march continued. 
The day was very close and sultry, and the clouds 
of dust stirred up by our feet almost suffocated us. 
I had saved a soda-water-bottleful of yesterday's 
claret ; but this went only a short way, for there 
w ere many mouths to share it with, and the thirst 
soon became as bad as ever. Several of the regi- 
ment fell out from faintness, and we made frequent 
halts to rest and let the stragglers come up. At 
last we reached the top of Leith Hill. It is a 
striking spot, being the highest point in the south 
of England. The view from it is splendid, and 
most lovely did the country look this summer day, 
although the grass was brown from the long 
drought. It was a great relief to get from the 
dusty road on to the common, and at the top of 
the hill there was a refreshing breeze. We could 
see now, for the first time, the whole of our division. 
Our own regiment did not muster more than 500, 
for it contained a large number of Government 
office men who had been detained, like Danvers, 
for duty in town, and others were not much larger ; 
but the militia regiment was very strong, and the 
whole division, I was told, mustered nearly 5,000 
rank and file. W^e could see other troops also in 
extension of our division, and could count a 
couple of field-batteries of Royal Artillery, besides 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 43 

some heavy guns, belonging to the volunteers 
apparently, drawn by cart-horses. The cooler air, 
the sense of numbers, and the evident strength of 
the position we held, raised our spirits, which, I 
am not ashamed to say, had all the morning been 
depressed. It was not that we were not eager to 
close with the enemy, but that the counter- march- 
ing and halting ominously betokened a vacillation 
of purpose in those who had the guidance of affairs. 
Here in two days the invaders had got more than 
twenty miles inland, and nothing effectual had 
been done to stop them. And the ignorance in 
which we volunteers, from the colonel downwards, 
were kept of their movements, filled us with un- 
easiness. We could not but depict to ourselves 
the enemy as carrying out all the while firmly his 
well-considered scheme of attack, and contrasting 
it with our own uncertainty of purpose. The very 
silence with which his advance appeared to be con- 
ducted filled us with mysterious awe. Meanwhile 
the day wore on, and we became faint with hunger, 
for we had eaten nothing since daybreak. No 
provisions came up, and there were no signs of any . 
commissariat officers. It seems that when we 
were at the Waterloo station a whole trainful of 
provisions was drawn up there, and our colonel 
proposed that one of the trucks should be taken 
off and attached to our train, so that we might 
have some food at hand ; but the officer in charge 
an assistant-controller I think they called him — 
this control department was a newfangled affair 



44 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

which did us almost as much harm as the enemy 
in the long-run — said his orders were to keep all the 
stores together, and that he couldn't issue any 
without authority from the head of his depart- 
ment. So we had to go without. Those who had 
tobacco smoked — indeed there is no solace like a 
pipe under such circumstances. The militia 
regiment, I heard afterwards, had two days' pro- 
visions in their haversacks ; it was we volunteers 
who had no haversacks, and nothing to put in 
them. All this time, I should tell you, while we 
were lying on the grass with our arms piled, the 
General, with the brigadiers and staff, was riding 
about slowly from point to point of the edge of the 
common, looking out with his glass towards the 
south valley. Orderlies and staff- officers were 
constantly coming, and about three o'clock there 
arrived up a road that led towards Horsham a 
small body of lancers and a regiment of yeomanry, 
who had, it appears, been out in advance, and now 
drew up a short way in front of us in column facing 
to the south. Whether they could see anything in 
their front I could not tell, for we were behind the 
crest of the hill ourselves, and so could not look 
into the valley below ; but shortly afterwards the 
assembly sounded. Commanding officers were 
called out by the General, and received some brief 
instructions ; and the column began to march 
again towards London, the militia this time com- 
ing last in our brigade. A rumour regarding the 
object of this counter- march soon spread through 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 45 

the ranks. The enemy was not going to attack us 
here, but was trying to turn the position on both 
sides, one column pointing to Reigate, the other to 
Aldershot ; and so we must fall back and take up 
a position at Dorking. The line of the great chalk- 
range was to be defended. A large force was con- 
centrating at Guildford, another at Reigate, and 
we should find supports at Dorking. The enemy 
would be awaited in these positions. Such, so far 
as we privates could get at the facts, was to be the 
plan of operations. Down the hill, therefore, we 
marched. From one or two points we could catch 
a brief sight of the railway in the valley below 
running from Dorking to Horsham. Men in red 
were working upon it here and there. They were 
the Royal Engineers, some one said, breaking up 
the line. On we marched. The dust seemed worse 
than ever. In one village through which we 
passed — I forget the name now — ^there was a 
pump on the green. Here we stopped and had a 
good drink ; and passing by a large farm, the 
farmer's wife and two or three of her maids stood 
at the gate and handed us hunches of bread and 
cheese out of some baskets. I got the share of a 
bit, but the bottom of the good woman's baskets 
must soon have been reached. Not a thing else 
was to be had till we got to Dorking about six 
o'clock ; indeed most of the farmhouses appeared 
deserted already. On arriving there we were 
drawn up in the street, and just opposite was a 
baker's shop. Our fellows asked leave at first by 



46 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

twos and threes to go in and buy some loaves, but 
soon others began to break off and crowd into the 
shop, and at last a regular scramble took place. If 
there had been any order preserved, and a regular 
distribution arranged, they would no doubt have 
been steady enough, but hunger makes men 
selfish ; each man felt that his stopping behind 
would do no good — he would simply lose his share ; 
so it ended by almost the whole regiment joining 
in the scrimmage, and the shop was cleared out in 
a couple of minutes ; while as for paying, you 
could not get your hand into your pocket for the 
crush. The colonel tried in vain to stop the row ; 
Fome of the officers were as bad as the men. Just 
then a staff- officer rode by ; he could scarcely 
make way for the crowd, and was pushed against 
rather rudely, and in a passion he called out to us 
to behave properly, like soldiers, and not like a 
parcel of roughs. " Oh, blow it, governor," said 
Dick Wake, " you aren't agoing to come between 
a poor cove and his grub." Wake was an articled 
attorney, and, as we used to say in those days, a 
cheeky young chap, although a good-natured 
fellow enough. At this speech, which was followed 
by some more remarks of the sort from those about 
him, the staff-officer became angrier still. 
" Orderly," cried he to the lancer riding behind 
him, " take that man to the provost-marshal. As 
for you, sir," he said, turning to our colonel, who 
sat on his horse silent with astonishment, " if you 
don't want some of your men shot before their 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 47 

time, you and your precious officers had better 
keep this rabble in a httle better order " ; and 
poor Dick, who looked crestfallen enough, would 
certainly have been led off at the tail of the 
sergeant's horse, if the brigadier had not come up 
and arranged matters, and marched us off to the 
hill beyond the town. This incident made us both 
angry and crestfallen. We were annoyed at being 
so roughly spoken to : at the same time we felt we 
had deserved it, and were ashamed of the miscon- 
duct. Then, too, we had lost confidence in our 
colonel, after the poor figure he cut in the affair. 
He was a good fellow, the colonel, and showed 
himself a brave one next day ; but he aimed too 
much at being popular, and didn't understand a 
bit how to command. 

To resume : — We had scarcely reached the hill 
above the town, which we were told was to be our 
bivouac for the night, when the welcome news 
came that a food-train had arrived at the station ; 
but there were no carts to bring the things up, so 
a fatigue-party went down and carried back a 
supply to us in their arms, — loaves, a barrel of 
rum, packets of tea, and joints of meat — abund- 
ance for all ; but there was not a kettle or a cook- 
ing-pot in the regiment, and we could not eat the 
meat raw. The colonel and officers were no better 
off. They had arranged to have a regular mess, 
with crockery, steward, and all complete, but the 
establishment never turned up, and what had 
become of it no one knew. Some of us were sent 



48 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

back into the town to see what we could procure 
in the way of cooking utensils. We found the 
street full of artillery, baggage-waggons, and 
mounted officers, and volunteers shopping like 
ourselves ; and all the houses appeared to be 
occupied by troops. We succeeded in getting a 
few kettles and saucepans, and I obtained for 
myself a leather bag, with a strap to go over the 
shoulder, which proved very handy afterwards ; 
and thus laden, we trudged back to our camp on 
the hill, filling the kettles with dirty water from a 
little stream which runs between the hill and the 
town, for there was none to be had above. It was 
nearly a couple of miles each way ; and, exhausted 
as we were with marching and want of rest, we 
were almost too tired to eat. The cooking was of 
the roughest, as you may suppose ; all we could 
do was to cut off slices of the meat and boil them 
in the saucepans, using our fingers for forks. The 
tea, however, was very refreshing; and, thirsty as 
we were, we drank it by the gallon. Just before it 
grew dark, the brigade-major came round, and, 
with the adjutant, showed our colonel how to set 
a picket in advance of our line a little way down 
the face of the hill. It was not necessary to place 
one, I suppose, because the town in our front was 
still occupied with troops ; but no doubt the 
practice would be useful. We had also a quarter- 
guard, and a line of sentries in front and rear of 
our line, communicating with those of the regi- 
ments on our flanks. Firewood was plentiful, for 



THE BATTLE OF DORKIXG 49 

the hill was covered with beautiful wood ; but it 
took some time to collect it, for we had nothing 
but our pocket-knives to cut down the branches 
with. 

So we lay down to sleep. My company had no 
duty, and we had the night undisturbed to our- 
selves ; but, tired though I was, the excitement 
and the novelty of the situation made sleep diffi- 
cult. And although the night was still and warm, 
and we were sheltered by the woods, I soon found 
it chilly with no better covering than my thin 
dust-coat, the more so as my clothes, saturated 
with perspiration during the day, had never dried ; 
and before daylight I woke from a short nap, 
shivering with cold, and was glad to get warm 
^vith others by a fire. I then noticed that the 
opposite hills on the south were dotted with fires ; 
and we thought at first they must belong to the 
enemy, but we were told that the ground up there 
was still held by a strong rear-guard of regulars, 
and that there need be no fear of a surprise. 

At the first sign of dawn the bugles of the regi- 
ments sounded the reveille, and we were ordered 
to fall in, and the roll was called. About twenty 
men were absent, who had fallen out sick the day 
before ; they had been sent up to London by train 
during the night, I beUeve. After standing in 
column for about half an hour, the brigade-major 
came down ^\ith orders to pile arms and stand 
easy ; and perhaps half an hour afterwards we 
were told to get breakfast as quickly as possible. 



50 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

and to cook a day's food at the same time. This 
operation was managed pretty much in the same 
way as the evening before, except that we had our 
cooking-pots and kettles ready. Meantime there 
was leisure to look around, and from where we 
stood there was a commanding view of one of the 
most beautiful scenes in England. Our regiment 
was drawn up on the extremity of the ridge which 
runs from Guildford to Dorking. This is indeed 
merely a part of the great chalk- range which ex- 
tends from beyond Aldershot east to the Medway ; 
but there is a gap in the ridge just here where the 
little stream that runs past Dorking turns suddenly 
to the north, to find its way to the Thames, We 
stood on the slope of the hill, as it trends down 
eastward towards this gap, and had passed our 
bivouac in what appeared to be a gentleman's 
park. A little way above us, and to our right, was 
a very fine country-seat to which the park was 
attached, now occupied by the headquarters of 
our division. From this house the hill sloped 
steeply down southward to the valley below, 
which runs nearly east and west parallel to the 
ridge, and carries the railway and the road from 
Guildford to Reigate ; and in which valley, im- 
mediately in front of the chateau, and perhaps a 
mile and a half distant from it, was the little town 
of Dorking, nestled in the trees, and rising up the 
foot of the slopes on the other side of the valley 
which stretched away to Leith Common, the scene 
of yesterday's march. Thus the main part of the 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 51 

town of Dorking was on our right front, but the 
suburbs stretched away eastward nearly to our 
proper front, culminating in a small railway 
station, from which the grassy slopes of the park 
rose up dotted with shrubs and trees to where we 
were standing. Round this railway station was a 
cluster of villas and one or two mills, of whose 
gardens we thus had a bird's-eye view, their little 
ornamental ponds glistening like looking-glasses 
in the morning sun. Immediately on our left the 
park sloped steeply down to the gap before men- 
tioned, through which ran the little stream, as well 
as the railway trom Epsom to Brighton, nearly 
due north and south, meeting the Guildford and 
Reigate line at right angles. Close to the point of 
intersection and the little station already men- 
tioned, was the station of the former line where we 
had stopped the day before. Beyond the gap on 
the east (our left), and in continuation of our ridge, 
rose the chalk-hill again. The shoulder of this 
ridge overlooking the gap is called Box Hill, from 
the shrubbery of boxwood with which it was 
covered. Its sides were very steep, and the top of 
the ridge was covered with troops. The natural 
strength of our position was manifested at a glance, 
a high grassy ridge steep to the south, with a 
stream in front, and but little cover up the sides. 
It seemed made for a battle-field. The weak point 
was the gap ; the ground at the junction of the 
railways and the roads immediately at the entrance 
of the gap formed a little valley, dotted, as I have 



52 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

said, with buildings and gardens. This, in one 
sense, was the key of the position ; for although it 
would not be tenable while we held the ridge com- 
manding it, the enemy by carrying this point and 
advancing through the gap would cut our line in 
two. But you must not suppose I scanned the 
ground thus critically at the time. Anybody, 
indeed, might have been struck with the natural 
advantages of our position ; but what, as I 
remember, most impressed me, was the peaceful 
beauty ol the scene — ^the little town with the 
outline of the houses obscured by a blue mist, the 
massive crispness of the foliage, the outlines of the 
great trees, lighted up by the sun, and relieved by 
deep-blue shade. So thick was the timber here, 
rising up the southern slopes of the valley, that it 
looked almost as if it might have been a primeval 
forest. The quiet ol the scene was the more im- 
pressive because contrasted in the mind with the 
scenes we expected to follow ; and I can remember 
as if it were yesterday, the sensation of bitter 
regret that it should now be too late to avert this 
coming desecration of our country, which might 
so easily have been prevented. A little firmness, 
a little prevision on the part of our rulers, even a 
little common sense, and this great calamity 
would have been rendered utterly impossible. Too 
late, alas ! We were like the foolish virgins in the 
parable. 

But you must not suppose the scene immediately 
around was gloomy : the camp was brisk and 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 53 

bustling enough. We had got over the stress of 
weariness ; our stomachs were full ; we felt a 
natural enthusiasm at the prospect of having so 
soon to take a part as the real defenders of the 
country, and we were inspirited at the sight of the 
large force that was now assembled. Along the 
slopes which trended off to the rear of our ridge, 
troops came marching up — volunteers, militia, 
cavalry, and guns ; these, I heard, had come down 
from the north as far as Leatherhead the night 
before, and had marched over at daybreak. Long 
trains, too, began to arrive by the rail through the 
gap, one after the other, containing militia and 
volunteers, who moved up to the ridge to the right 
and left, and took up their position, massed for the 
most part on the slopes which ran up from, and in 
rear of, where we stood. We now formed part of 
an army corps, we were told, consisting of three 
divisions, but what regiments composed the other 
two divisions I never heard. All this movement 
we could distinctly see from our position, for we 
had hurried over our breakfast, expecting every 
minute that the battle would begin, and now stood 
or sat about on the ground near our piled arms. 
Early in the morning, too, we saw a very long train 
come along the valley from the direction of Guild- 
ford, full of redcoats. It halted at the little station 
at our feet, and the troops alighted. We could 
soon make out their bear-skins. They were the 
Guards, coming to reinforce this part of the line. 
Leaving a detachment of skirmishers to hold the 



54 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

line of the railway embankment, the main body 
marched up with a springy step and with the band 
playing, and drew up across the gap on our left, in 
prolongation of our line. There appeared to be 
three battalions of them, for they formed up in 
that number of columns at short intervals. 

Shortly after this I was sent over to Box Hill 
with a message from our colonel to the colonel of 
a volunteer regiment stationed there, to know 
whether an ambulance-cart was obtainable, as it 
was reported this regiment was well supplied with 
carriage, whereas we were without any : my mis- 
sion, however, was futile. Crossing the valley, I 
found a scene of great confusion at the railway 
station. Trains were still coming in with stores 
ammunition, guns, and appliances of all sorts, 
which were being unloaded as fast as possible ; 
but there were scarcely any means of getting the 
things off. There were plenty of waggons of all 
sorts, but hardly any horses to draw them, and 
the whole place was blocked up ; while, to add to 
the confusion, a regular exodus had taken place of 
the people from the town, who had been warned 
that it was likely to be the scene of fighting. 
Ladies and women of all sorts and ages, and child- 
ren, some with bundles, some empty-handed, 
were seeking places in the train, but there ap- 
peared no one on the the spot authorized to grant 
them, and these poor creatures were pushing their 
way up and down, vainly asking for information 
and permission to get away. In the crowd I 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 55 

observed;our][surgeon, who likewise was in search 
of an ambulance of some sort : his whole profes- 
sional apparatus, he said, consisted of a case of 
instruments. Also in tlcih crowd I stumbled upon 
Wood, Travers's old coachman. He had been 
send down by his mistress to Guildford, because it 
was supposed our regiment had gone there, riding 
the horse, and laden with a supply of things — 
food, blankets, and, of course, a letter. He had 
also brought my knapsack ; but at Guildford the 
horse was pressed for artillery work, and a receipt 
for it given him in exchange, so he had been 
obliged to leave all the heavy packages there, in- 
cluding my knapsack ; but the faithful old man 
had brought on as many things as he could carry, 
and hearing that we should be found in this part, 
had walked over thus laden from Guildford. 
He said that place was crowded with troops, and 
that the heights were lined with them the whole 
way between the two towns ; also, that some 
trains with wounded had passed up from the coast 
in the night, through Guildford. I led him off to 
where our regiment was, relieving the old man 
from part of the load he was staggering under. 
The food sent was not now so much needed, but 
the plates, knives, etc., and drinking-vessels, 
promised to be handy — ^and Travers, you may be 
sure, was delighted to get his letter ; while a 
couple of newspapers the old man had brought 
were eagerly competed for by all, even at this 
critical moment, for we had heard no authentic 



56 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

news since we left London on Sunday. And even 
at this distance of time, although I only glanced 
down the paper, I can remember almost the very 
words I read there. They were both copies of the 
same paper : the first, published on Sunday eve- 
ning, when the news had arrived of the successful 
landing at three points, was written in a tone of 
despair. The country must confess that it had 
been taken by surprise. The conqueror would be 
satisfied with the humiliation inflicted by a peace 
dictated on our own shores ; it was the clear duty 
of the Government to accept the best terms ob- 
tainable, and to avoid further bloodshed and dis- 
aster, and avert the fall of our tottering mercan- 
the credit. The next morning's issue was in quite 
a different tone. Apparently the enemy had re- 
ceived a check, for we were here exhorted to 
resistance. An impregnable position was to be 
taken up along the Downs, a force was concen- 
trating there far outnumbering the rash invaders, 
who, with an invincible line before them, and the 
sea behind, had no choice between destruction or 
surrender. Let there be no pusillanimous talk of 
negotiation, the fight must be fought out ; and 
there could be but one issue. England, expectant 
but calm, awaited with confidence the result of the 
attack on its unconquerable volunteers. The 
writing appeared to me eloquent, but rather in- 
consistent. The same paper said the Government 
had sent off 500 workmen from Woolwich, to open 
a branch arsenal at Birmingham. 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 57 

All this time we had nothing to do, except to 
change our position, which we did every few 
minutes, now moving up the h'll farther to our 
right, now taking ground lower down to our left, 
as one order after another was brought down the 
line ; but the staff- officers were galloping about 
perpetually with orders, while the rumble of the 
artillery as they moved about from one part of the 
field to another went on almost incessantly. At 
last the whole line stood to arms, the bands struck 
up, and the General commanding our army corps 
came riding down with his staff. We had seen him 
several times before, as we had been moving fre- 
quently about the position during the morning ; 
but he now made a sort of formal inspection. He 
was a tall thin man, with long light hair, very well 
mounted, and as he sat his horse with an erect seat, 
and came prancing down the line, at a little dis- 
tance he looked as if he might be five-and-twenty ; 
but I believe he had served more than fifty years, 
and had been made a peer for services performed 
when quite an old man. I remember that he had 
more decorations than there was room for on the 
breast of his coat, and wore them suspended like a 
necklace round his neck. Like all the other 
generals, he was dressed in blue, with a cocked-hat 
and feathers — a bad plan, I thought, for it made 
them very conspicuous. The general halted before 
our battalion, and after looking at us a while, 
made a short address : We had a post of honour 
next Her Majesty's Guards, and would show our- 



58 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

selves worthy of it, and of the name of Enghsh- 
men. It did not need, he said, to be a general to 
see the strength of our position ; it was impreg- 
nable, if properly held. Let us wait till the enemy 
was well pounded, and then the word would be 
given to go at him. Above everything, we must 
be steady. He then shook hands with our colonel, 
we gave him a cheer, and he rode on to where the 
Guards were drawn up. 

Now then, we thought, the battle will begin. 
But still there were no signs of the enemy ; and 
the air, though hot and sultry, began to be very 
hazy, so that you could scarcely see the town 
below, and the hills opposite were merely a con- 
fused blur, in which no features could be dis- 
tinctly made out. After a while, the tension of 
feeling which followed the General's address re- 
laxed, and we began to feel less as if everything 
depended on keeping our rifles firmly grasped : 
we were told to pile arms again, and got leave to 
go down by tens and twenties to the stream below 
to drink. This stream, and all the hedges and 
banks on our side of it, were held by our skir- 
mishers, but the town had been abandoned. The 
position appeared an excellent one, except that 
the enemy, when they came, would have almost 
better cover than our men. While I was down at 
the brook, a column emerged from the town, 
making for our position. We thought for a 
moment it was the enemy, and you could not 
make out the colour of the uniforms for the dust ; 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 59 

but it turned out to be our rear-guard, falling back 
from the opposite hills which they had occupied 
the previous night. One battalion, of rifles, 
halted for a few minutes at the stream to let the 
men drink, and I had a minute's talk with a 
couple of the officers. They had formed part of 
the force which had attacked the enemy on their 
first landing. They had it all their own way, they 
said, at first, and could have beaten the enemy 
back easily if they had been properly supported ; 
but the whole thing was mismanaged. The vol- 
unteers came on very pluckily, they said, but they 
got into confusion, and so did the militia, and the 
attack failed with serious loss. It was the 
wounded of this force which had passed through 
Guildford in the night. The officers asked us 
eagerly about the arrangements for the battle, 
and when we said that the Guards were the only 
regular troops in this part of the field, shook their 
heads ominously. 

While we were talking a third officer came up ; 
he was a dark man with a smooth face and a 
curious excited manner. " You are volunteers, I 
suppose," he said, quickly, his eye flashing the 
while. " Well, now, look here ; mind I don't 
want to hurt your feelings, or to say anything un- 
pleasant, but I'll tell you what ; if all you gentle- 
men were just to go back, and leave us to fight it 
out alone, it would be a devilish good thing. We 
could do it a precious deal better without you, I 
assure you. We don't want your help, I can tell 



60 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

you. We would much rather be left alone, I 
assure you. Mind I don't want to say anything 
rude, but that's a fact." Having blurted out this 
passionately, he strode away before any one could 
reply, or the other officers could stop him. They 
apologized for his rudeness, saying that his 
brother, also in the regiment, had been killed on 
Sunday, and that this, and the sun, and marching, 
had affected his head. The officers told us that 
the enemy's advanced-guard was close behind, 
but that he had apparently been waiting for re- 
inforcements, and would probably not attack in 
force until noon. It was, however, nearly three 
o'clock before the battle began. We had almost 
worn out the feeling of expectancy. For twelve 
hours had we been waiting for the coming strug- 
gle, till at last it seemed almost as if the invasion 
were but a bad dream, and the enemy, as yet un- 
seen by us, had no real existence. So far things 
had not been very different, but for the numbers 
and for what we had been told, from a Volunteer 
review on Brighton Downs. I remember that these 
thoughts were passing through my mind as we lay 
down in groups on the grass, some smoking, some 
nibbling at their bread, some even asleep, when 
the listless state we had fallen into was suddenly 
disturbed by a gunshot fired from the top of the 
hill on our right, close by the big house. It was the 
first time I had ever heard a shotted gun fired, and 
although it is fifty years ago, the angry whistle 
of the shot as it left the gun is in my ears now. The 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 61 

sound was soon to become common enough. We 
all jumped up at the report, and fell in almost with 
out the word being given, grasping our rifles 
tightly, and the leading files peering forward to 
look for the approaching enemy. This gun was 
apparently the signal to begin, for now our bat- 
teries opened fire all along the line. What they 
were firing at I could not see, and I am sure the 
gunners could not see much themselves. I have 
told you what a haze had come over the air since 
the morning, and now the smoke from the guns 
settled like a pall over the hill, and soon we could 
see little but the men in our ranks, and the outline 
of some gunners in the battery drawn up next us 
on the slope on our right. This firing went on, I 
should think, for nearly a couple of hours, and still 
there was no reply. We could see the gunners — it 
was a troop of horse-artillery— working away like 
fury, ramming, loading, and running up with car- 
tridges, the officer in command riding slowly up 
and down just behind his guns, and peering out 
with his field-glasses into the mist. Once or twice 
they ceased firing to let their smoke clear away, 
but this did not do much good. For nearly two 
hours did this go on, and not a shot came in reply. 
"If a battle is like this," said Dick Wake, who was 
my next-hand file, "it's mild work, to say the least." 
The words were hardly uttered when a rattle of 
musketry was heard in front ; our skirmishers 
were at it, and very soon the bullets began to sing 
over our heads, and some struck the ground at our 



62 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

feet. Up to this time we had been in column ; we 
were now deployed into line on the ground assigned 
to us. From the valley or gap on our left there 
ran a lane right up the hill almost due west, or 
along our front. This lane had a thick bank about 
four feet high, and the greater part of the regiment 
was drawn up behind it ; but a little way up the 
hill the lane trended back out of the line, so the 
right of the regiment here left it and occupied the 
open grass-land of the park. The bank had been 
cut away at this point to admit of our going in and 
out. We had been told in the morning to cut 
down the bushes on the top of the bank, so as to 
make the space clear for firing over, but we had no 
tools to work with ; however, a party of sappers 
had come down and finished the job. My com- 
pany was on the right, and was thus beyond the 
shelter of the friendly bank. On our right again 
was the battery of artillery already mentioned ; 
then came a battalion of the line, then more guns, 
then a great mass of militia and volunteers and a 
few line up to the big house. At least this was the 
order before the firing began ; after that I do not 
know what changes took place. 

And now the enemy's artillery began to open; 
where their guns were posted we could not see, 
but we began to hear the rush of the shells over 
our heads, and the bang as they burst just beyond. 
And now what took place I can really hardly tell 
you. Sometimes when I try and recall the scene, it 
seems as if it lasted for only a few minutes ; yet I 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 63 

know, as we lay on the ground, I thought the 
hours would never pass away, as we watched the 
gunners still plying their task, firing at the invis- 
ible enemy, never stopping for a moment except 
when now and again a dull blow would be heard 
and a man fall down, then three or four of his 
comrades would carry him to the rear. The cap- 
tain no longer rode up and down ; what had be- 
come of him I do not know. Two of the guns 
ceased firing for a time ; they had got injured in 
some way, and up rode an artillery general. I 
think I see him now, a very handsome man, with 
straight features and a dark moustache, his breast 
covered with medals. He appeared in a great 
rage at the guns stopping fire. 

" Who commands this battery ? " he cried. 

" I do. Sir Henry," said an officer, riding for- 
ward, whom I had not noticed before. 

The group is before me at this moment, stand- 
ing out clear against the background of smoke, 
Sir Henry erect on his* splendid charger, his 
flashing eye, his left arm pointing towards the 
enemy to enforce something he was going to say, 
the young officer reining in his horse just beside 
him, and saluting with his right hand raised to his 
busby. This for a moment, then a dull thud, and 
both horses and riders are prostrate on the ground. 
A round-shot had struck all four at the saddle- 
line. Some of the gunners ran up to help, but 
neither officer could have lived many minutes. 
This was not the first I saw killed. Some time 



64 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

before this, almost immediately on the enemy's ar- 
tillery opening, as we were lying, I heard something 
like the sound of metal striking metal, and at the 
same moment Dick Wake, who was next me in the 
ranks, leaning on his elbows, sank forward on his 
face. I looked round and saw what had happened; 
a shot fired at a high elevation, passing over his 
head, had struck the ground behind, nearly cut- 
ting his thigh off. It must have been the ball 
striking his sheathed bayonet which made the 
noise. Three of us carried the poor fellow to the 
rear, with difficulty for the shattered limb ; but 
he was nearly dead from loss of blood when we got 
to the doctor, who was waiting in a sheltered hol- 
low about two hundred yards in rear, with two 
other doctors in plain clothes, who had come up to 
help. We deposited our burden and returned to the 
front. Poor Wake was sensible when we left him, 
but apparently too shaken by the shock to be able 
to speak. Wood was there helping the doctors. 
I paid more visits to the rear of the same sort 
before the evening was over. 

All this time we were lying there to be fired at 
without returning a shot, for our skirmishers were 
holding the line of walls and enclosures below. 
However, the bank protected most of us, and the 
brigadier now ordered our right company, which 
was in the open, to get behind it also ; and there 
we lay about four deep, the shells crashing and 
bullets whistling over our heads, but hardly a man 
being touched. Our colonel was, indeed, the only 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 65 

one exposed, for he rode up and down the lane at 
a foot-pace as steady as a rock ; but he made the 
major and adjutant dismount, and take shelter 
behind the hedge, holding their horses. We were 
all pleased to see him so cool, and it restored our 
confidence in him, which had been shaken yes- 
terday. 

The time seemed interminable while we lay thus 
inactive. We could not, of course, help peering 
over the bank to try and see what was going on ; 
but there was nothing to be made out, for now a 
tremendous thunder-storm, which had been gath- 
ering all day, burst on us, and a torrent of almost 
blinding rain came down, which obscured the view 
even more than the smoke, while the crashing of 
the thunder and the glare of the lightning could 
be heard and seen seen even above the roar and 
flashing of the artillery. Once the mist lifted^ 
and I saw for a minute an attack on Box Hill, on 
the other side of the gap on our left. It was like 
the scene at a theatre — a curtain of smoke all 
round and a clear gap in the centre, with a sudden 
gleam of evening sunshine lighting it up. The 
steep smooth slope of the hill was crowded with the 
dark-blue figures of the enemy, whom I now saw 
for the first time — an irregular outline in front, 
but very solid in rear : the whole body was 
moving forward by fits and starts, the men firing 
and advancing, the officers waving their swords, 
the columns closing up and gradually making way. 
Our people were almost concealed by the bushes 



66 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

at the top, whence the smoke and their fire could 
be seen proceeding : presently from these bushes 
on the crest came out a red line, and dashed down 
the brow of the hill, a flame of fire belching out 
from the front as it advanced. The enemy hesi- 
tated, gave way, and finally ran back in a con- 
fused crowd down the hill. Then the mist cov- 
ered the scene, but the glimpse of this splendid 
charge was inspiriting, and I hoped we should 
show the same coolness when it came to our turn. 
It was about this time that our skirmishers fell 
back, a good many wounded, some limping along 
by themselves, others helped. The main body 
retired in very fair order, halting to turn round 
and fire ; we could see a mounted officer of the 
Guards riding up and down encouraging them to 
be steady. Now came our turn. For a few 
minutes we saw nothing, but a rattle of bullets 
came throvigh the rain and mist, mostly, however, 
passing over the bank. We began to fire in reply, 
stepping up against the bank to fire, and stooping 
down to load ; but our brigade-major rode up 
with an order, and the word was passed through 
the men to reserve our fire. In a very few mo- 
ments it must have been that, when ordered to 
stand up, we could see the helmet-spikes and then 
the figures of the skirmishers as they came on : 
a lot of them there appeared to be, five or six deep 
I should say, but in loose order, each man stopping 
to aim and fire, and then coming forward a little. 
Just then the brigadier clattered on horseback up 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING G7 

the lane. " Now then, gentlemen, give it them 
hot! " he cried ; and fire away we did, as fast as 
ever we were able. perfect storm of bullets 

seemed to be flying about us too, and I thought 
each moment must be the last ; escape seemed 
impossible, but I saw no one fall, for I was too 
busy, and so were we all, to look to the right or 
left, but loaded and fired as fast as we could. How 
long this went on I know not — it could not have 
been long; neither side could have lasted many 
minutes under such a fire, but it ended by the 
enemy gradually falling back, and as soon as we 
saw this we raised a tremendous shout, and some 
of us jumped up on the bank to give them our 
parting shots. Suddenly the order was passed 
down the line to cease firing, and we soon dis- 
covered the cause ; a battalion of the Guards was 
charging obliquely across from our left across our 
front. It was, I expect, their flank attack as much 
as our fire which had turned back the enemy ; and 
it was a splendid sight to see their steady line as 
they advanced slowly across the smooth lawn 
below us, firing as they went, but as steady as if on 
parade. We felt a great elation at this moment ; 
it seemed as if the battle was won. Just then 
somebody called out to look to the wounded, and 
for the first time I turned to glance down the rank 
along the lane. Then I saw that we had not bea- 
ten back the attack without loss. Immediately 
before me lay Bob Lawford of my office, dead on 
his back from a bullet through his forehead, his 



68 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

hand still grasping his rifle. At every step was 
some friend or acquaintance killed or wounded, 
and a few paces down the lane I found Travers, 
sitting with his back against the bank. A ball had 
gone through his lungs, and blood was coming 
from his mouth. I was lifting him up, but the cry 
of agony he gave stopped me. I then saw that 
this was not his only wound ; his thigh was 
smashed by a bullet (which must have hit him 
when standing on the bank), and the blood stream- 
ing down mixed in a muddy puddle with the rain- 
water under him. Still he could not be left here, 
so, lifting him up as well as I could, I carried him 
through the gate which led out of the lane at the 
back to where our camp hospital was in the rear. 
The movement must have caused him awful 
agony, for I could not support the broken thigh, 
and he could not restrain his groans, brave fellow 
though he was ; but how I carried him at. all I 
cannot make out, for he was a much bigger man 
than myself ; but I had not gone far, one of a 
stream of our fellows, all on the same errand, when 
a bandsman and Wood met me, bringing a hurdle 
as a stretcher, and on this we placed him. Wood 
had just time to tell me that he had got a cart 
down in the hollow, and would endeavour to take 
off his master at once to Kingston, when a staff- 
officer rode up to call us to the ranks. "You 
really must not straggle in this way, gentlemen," 
he said ; " pray keep your ranks." " But we 
can't leave our wounded to be trodden down and 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 69 

die," cried one of our fellows. " Beat off the ene- 
my first, sir," he replied. " Gentlemen, do, pray, 
join your regiments, or we shall be a regular mob." 
And no doubt he did not speak too soon ; for 
besides our fellows straggling to the rear, lots of 
volunteers from the regiments in reserve were 
running forward to help, till the whole ground was 
dotted with groups of men. I hastened back to 
my post, but I had just time to notice that all the 
ground in our rear was occupied by a thick mass 
of troops, much more numerous than in the 
morning, and a column was moving down to the 
left of our line, to the ground before held by the 
Guards. All this time, although musketry had 
slackened, the artillery-fire seemed heavier than 
ever ; the shells screamed overhead or burst 
around ; and I confess to feeling quite a relief at 
getting back to the friendly shelter of the lane. 
Looking over the bank, I noticed for the first time 
the frightful execution our fire had created. The 
space in front was thickly strewed with dead and 
badly wounded, and beyond the bodies of the 
fallen enemy could just be seen — ^for it was now 
getting dusk — ^the bear- skins and red coats of our 
own gallant Guards scattered over the slope, and 
marking the line of their victorious advance. But 
hardly a minute could have passed in thus looking 
over the field, when our brigade-major came 
moving up the lane on foot (I suppose his horse 
had been shot), crying, " Stand to your arms, 
volunteers! they're coming on again; " and we 



70 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

found ourselves a second time engaged in a hot 
musketry-fire. How long it went on I cannot now 
remember, but we could distinguish clearly the 
thick line of skirmishers, about sixty paces off 
and mounted officers among them ; and we seemed 
to be keeping them well in check, for they were 
quite exposed to our fire, while we were protected 
nearly up to our shoulders, when — I know not 
how — I became sensible that something had gone 
wrong. "We are taken in flank!" called out 
some one ; and looking along the left, sure enough 
there were dark figures jumping over the bank into 
the lane and firing up along our line. The volun- 
teers in reserve, who had come down to take the 
place of the Guards, must have given way at this 
point ; the enemy's skirmishers had got through 
our line, and turned our left flank. How the next 
move came about I cannot recollect, or whether it 
was without orders, but in a short time we found 
ourselves out of the lane, and drawn up in a strag- 
gling line about thirty yards in rear of it — at our 
end, that is, the other flank had fallen back a good 
deal more — and the enemy were lining the hedge, 
and numbers of them passing over and forming 
up on our side. Beyond our left a confused mass 
were retreating, firing as they went, followed by 
the advancing hne of the enemy. We stood in this 
way for a short space, firing at random as fast as 
we could. Our colonel and major must have been 
shot, for there was no one to give an order, when 
somebody on horseback called out from behind — 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 71 

I think it must have been the brigadier — " Now, 
then, volunteers! give a British cheer, and go at 
them — charge! " and, with a shout, we rushed at 
the enemy. Some of them ran, some stopped to 
meet us, and for a moment it was a real hand-to- 
hand fight. I felt a sharp sting in my leg, as I 
drove my bayonet right through the man in front 
of me. I confess I shut my eyes, for I just got a 
glimpse of the poor wretch as he fell back, his eyes 
starting out of his head, and, savage though we 
were, the sight was almost too horrible to look at. 
But the struggle was over in a second, and we had 
cleared the ground again right up to the rear 
hedge of the lane. Had we gone on, I believe we 
might have recovered the lane too, but we were 
now all out of order ; there was no one to say what 
to do ; the enemy began to line the hedge and 
open fire, and they were streaming past our left ; 
and how it came about I know not, but we found 
ourselves falling back towards our right rear, 
scarce any semblance of a line remaining, and the 
volunteers who had given way on our left mixed 
up with us, and adding to the confusion. It was 
now nearly dark. On the slopes which we were 
retreating to was a large mass of reserves drawn 
up in columns. Some of the leading files of these, 
mistaking us for the enemy, began firing at us ; 
our fellows, crying out to them to stop, ran to- 
wards their ranks, and in a few moments the whole 
slope of the hill became a scene of confusion that 
I cannot attempt to describe, regiments and de- 



72 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

tachments mixed up in hopeless disorder. Most 
of us, I believe, turned towards the enemy and 
fired away our few remaining cartridges ; but it 
was too late to take aim, fortunately for us, or 
the guns which the enemy had brought up through 
the gap, and were firing point-blank, would have 
done more damage. As it was, we could see little 
more than the bright flashes of their fire. In our 
confusion we had jammed up a line regiment im- 
mediately behind us, which I suppose had just 
arrived on the field, and its colonel and some staff- 
officers were in vain trying to make a passage for 
it, and their shouts to us to march to the rear and 
clear a road could be heard above the roar of the 
guns and the confused babel of sound. At last a 
mounted officer pushed his way through, followed 
by a company in sections, the men brushing past 
with firm-set faces, as if on a desperate task ; and 
the battalion, when it got clear, appeared to de- 
ploy and advance down the slope. I have also a 
dim recollection of seeing the Life Guards trot 
past the front, and push on towards the town — a 
last desperate attempt to save the day — before 
we left the field. Our adjutant, who had got sep- 
arated from our flank of the regiment in the con- 
fusion, now came up, and managed to lead us, or 
at any rate some of us, up to the crest of the hill 
in the rear, to re-form, as he said ; but there we 
met a vast crowd of volunteers, militia, and wag- 
gons, all hurrying rearward from the direction of 
the big house, and we were borne in the stream for 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 73 

a mile at least before it was possible to stop. At 
last the adjutant led us to an open space a little 
off the line of fugitives, and there we re-formed 
the remains of the companies. Telling us to halt, 
he rode off to try and obtain orders, and find out 
where the rest of our brigade was. From this 
point, a spur of high ground running off from the 
main plateau, we looked down through the dim 
twilight into the battle-field below. Artillery-fire 
was still going oh. We could see the flashes from 
the guns on both sides, and now and then a stray 
shell came screaming up and burst near us, but we 
were beyond the sound of musketry. This halt 
first gave us time to think about what had hap- 
pened. The long day of expectancy had been suc- 
ceeded by the excitement of battle ; and when 
each minute may be your last, you do not think 
much about other people, nor when you are facing 
another man with a rifle have you time to consider 
whether he or you are the invader, or that you are 
fighting for your home and hearths. All fighting 
is pretty much alike, I suspect, as to sentiment, 
when once it begins. But now we had time for 
reflection ; and although we did not yet quite 
understand how far the day had gone against us, 
an uneasy feeling of self-condemnation must have 
come up in the minds of most of us ; while, above 
all, we now began to realise what the loss of this 
battle meant to the country. Then, too, we knew 
not what had become of all our wounded comrades. 
Reaction, too, set in after the fatigue and excite- 



74 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

merit. For myself, I had found out for the first 
time that besides the bayonet-wound in my leg, 
a bullet had gone through my left arm, just below 
the shoulder, and outside the bone. I remember 
feeling something like a blow just when w^e lost 
the lane, but the wound passed unnoticed till 
now, when the bleeding had stopped and the shirt 
was sticking to the wound. 

This half-hour seemed an age, and while we 
stood on this knoll the endless tramp of men and 
rumbling of carts along the downs beside us told 
their own tale. The whole army was falling back. 
At last we could discern the adjutant riding up to 
us out of the dark. The army was to retreat and 
take up a position on Epsom Downs, he said ; 
we should join in the march, and try and find our 
brigade in the morning ; and so we turned into 
the throng again, and made our way on as best we 
could. A few scraps of news he gave us as he rode 
alongside of our leading section ; the army had 
held its position well for a time, but the enemy 
had at last broken through the line between us 
and Guildford, as well as in our front, and had 
poured his men through the point gained, throw- 
ing the line into confusion, and the first army 
corps near Guildford were also falling back to 
avoid being out-flanked. The regular troops were 
holding the rear ; we were to push on as fast as 
possible to get out of their way, and allow them 
to make an orderly retreat in the morning. The 
gallant old lord commanding our corps had been 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 75 

badly wounded early in the day, he heard, and 
carried off the field. The Guards had suffered 
dreadfully ; the household cavalry had ridden 
down the cuirassiers, but had got into broken 
ground and been awfully cut up. Such were the 
scraps of news passed down our weary column. 
What had become of our wounded no one knew, 
and no one liked to ask. So we trudged on. It 
must have been midnight when we reached 
Leatherhead. Here we left the open ground and 
took to the road, and the block became greater. 
We pushed our way painfully along ; several trains 
passed slowly ahead along the railway by the 
roadside, containing the wounded, we supposed — 
such of them, at least, as were lucky enough to be 
picked up. It was daylight when we got to Ep- 
som. The night had been bright and clear after 
the storm, with a cool air, which, blowing through 
my soaking clothes, chilled me to the bone. My 
wounded leg was stiff and sore, and I was ready 
to drop with exhaustion and hunger. Nor were 
my comrades in much better case ; we had eaten 
nothing since breakfast the day before, and the 
bread we had put by had been washed away by the 
storm : only a little pulp remained at the bottom 
of my bag. The tobacco was all too wet to smoke. 
In this plight we were creeping along, when the 
adjutant guided us into a field by the roadside to 
rest awhile, and we lay down exhausted on the 
sloppy grass. The roll was here taken, and only 
180 answered out of nearly 500 present on the 



76 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

morning of the battle. How many of these were 
killed and wounded no one could tell ; but it was 
certain many must have got separated in the con- 
fusion of the evening. While resting here, we saw 
pass by, in the crowd of vehicles and men, a cart 
laden with commissariat stores, driven by a man 
in uniform. "Food!" cried some one, and a 
dozen volunteers jumped up and surrounded the 
cart. The driver tried to whip them off ; but he 
was pulled off his seat, and the contents of the 
cart thrown out in an instant. They were pre- 
served meats in tins, which we tore open with our 
bayonets. The meat had been cooked before, I 
think ; at any rate we devoured it. Shortly after 
this a general came by with three or four staff - 
officers. He stopped and spoke to our adjutant, 
and then rode into the field. "My lads," said he, 
" you shall join my division for the present : fall 
in, and follow the regiment that is now passing." 
We rose up, fell in by companies, each about 
twenty strong, and turned once more into the 
stream moving along the road ; — regiments, de- 
tachments, single volunteers or militiamen, coun- 
try people making off, some with bundles, some 
without, a few in carts, but most on foot; here and 
there waggons of stores, with men sitting where- 
ever there was room, others crammed with woun- 
ded soldiers. Many blocks occurred from horses 
falling, or carts breaking down and filling up the 
road. In the town the confusion was even worse, 
for all the houses seemed full of volunteers and 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 77 

militiamen, wounded, or resting, or trying to find 
food, and the streets were almost choked up. 
Some officers were in vain trying to restore order, 
but the task seemed a hopeless one. One or two 
volunteer regiments which had arrived from the 
north the previous night, and had been halted 
here for orders, were drawn up along the roadside 
steadily enough, and some of the retreating regi- 
ments, including ours, may have preserved the 
semblance of discipline, but for the most part the 
mass pushing to the rear was a mere mob. The 
regulars, or what remained of them, were now, I 
believe, all in the rear, to hold the advancing 
enemy in check. A few officers among such a 
crowd could do nothing. To add to the confusion 
several houses were being emptied of the wounded 
brought here the night before, to prevent their 
falling into the hands of the enemy, some in carts, 
some being carried to the railway by men. The 
groans of these poor fellows as they were jostled 
through the street went to our hearts, selfish 
though fatigue and suffering had made us. At 
last, following the guidance of a staff-officer who 
was standing to show the way, we turned off from 
the main London road and took that towards 
Kingston. Here the crush was less, and we man- 
aged to move along pretty steadily. The air had 
been cooled by the storm, and there was no dust. 
We passed through a village where our new gen- 
eral had seized all the public-houses, and taken 
possession of the liquor ; and each regiment as it 



78 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

came up was halted, and each man got a drink of 
beer, served out by companies. Whether the 
owner got paid, I know not, but it was Uke nectar. 
It must have been about one o'clock in the after- 
noon that we came in sight of Kingston. We had 
been on our legs sixteen hours, and had got over 
about twelve miles of ground. There is a hill a 
little south of the Surbiton station, covered then 
mostly with villas, but open at the western ex- 
tremity, where there w^as a clump of trees on the 
summit. We had diverged from the road towards 
this, and here the general halted us and disposed 
the line of the division along his front, facing to 
the south-west, the right of the line reaching down 
to the water-works on the Thames, the left ex- 
tending along the southern slope of the hill, in the 
direction of the Epsom road by which we had 
come. We were nearly in the centre, occupying the 
knoll just in front of the general, who dismounted 
on the top and tied his horse to a tree. It is not 
much of a hill, but commands an extensive view 
over the flat country around ; and as we lay 
wearily on the ground we could see the Thames 
glistening like a silver field in the bright sunshine, 
the palace at Hampton Court, the bridge at 
Kingston, and the old church tower rising above 
the haze of the town, with the woods of Richmond 
Park behind it. To most of us the scene could not 
but call up the associations of happy days of 
peace — days now ended and peace destroyed 
through national infatuation. W^e did not say 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 79 

this to each other, but a deep depression had come 
upon us, partly due to weakness and fatigue, no 
doubt, but we saw that another stand was going 
to be made, and we had no longer any confidence 
in ourselves. If we could not hold our own when 
stationary in line, on a good position, but had 
been broken up into a rabble at the first shock, 
what chance had we now of manoeuvring against a 
victorious enemy in this open ground ? A feeling 
of desperation came over us, a determination to 
struggle on against hope ; but anxiety for the 
future of the country, and our friends, and all 
dear to us, filled our thoughts now that we had 
time for reflection. We had had no news of any 
kind since Wood joined us the day before — we 
knew not what was doing in London, or what the 
Government was about, or anything else ; and 
exhausted though we were, we felt an intense 
craving to know what was happening in other 
parts of the country. 

Our general had expected to find a supply of 
food and ammunition here, but nothing turned up. 
Most of us had hardly a cartridge left, so he ordered 
the regiment next to us, which came from the 
north and had not been engaged, to give us enough 
to make up twenty rounds a man, and he sent off 
a fatigue-party to Kingston to try and get pro- 
visions, while a detachment of our fellows was 
allowed to go foraging among the villas in our 
rear ; and in about an hour they brought back 
some bread and meat, which gave us a slender 



80 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

meal all round. They said most of the houses 
were empty, and that many had been stripped of 
all eatables, and a good deal damaged already. 

It must have been between three and four o'clock 
when the sound of cannonading began to be heard 
in the front, and we could see the smoke of the 
guns rising above the woods of Esher and Clare- 
mont, and soon afterwards some troops emerged 
from the fields below us. It was the rear-guard of 
regular troops. There were some guns also, which 
were driven up the slope and took up their position 
round the knoll. There were three batteries, but 
they only counted eight guns amongst them. 
Behind them was posted the line ; it was a brigade 
apparently of four regiments, but the whole did 
not look to be more than eight or nine hundred men. 
Our regiment and another had been moved a little 
to the rear to make way for them, and presently 
we were ordered down to occupy the railway 
station on our right rear. My leg was now so stiff 
I could no longer march with the rest, and my left 
arm was very swollen and sore, and almost useless ; 
but anything seemed better than being left behind, 
so I limped after the battalion as best I could 
down to the station. There was a goods shed a 
little in advance of it down the line, a strong brick 
building, and here my company was posted. The 
rest of our men lined the wall of the enclosure. A 
staff- officer came with us to arrange the distribu- 
tion ; we should be supported by line troops, he 
said ; and in a few minutes a train full of them 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 81 

came slowly up from Guildford way. It was the 
last ; the men got out, the train passed on, and a 
party began to tear up the rails, while the rest were 
distributed among the houses on each side. A 
sergeant's party joined us in our shed, and an 
engineer officer with sappers came to knock holes 
in the walls for us to fire from ; but there were 
only half-a-dozen of them, so progress was not 
rapid, and as we had no tools we could not help. 

It was while we were watching this job that the 
adjutant, who was as active as ever, looked in, and 
told us to muster in the yard. The fatigue-party 
had come back from Kingston, and a small baker's 
hand-cart of food was made over to us as our share. 
It contained loaves, flour, and some joints of meat. 
The meat and the flour we had not time or means 
to cook. The loaves we devoured ; and there was 
a tap of water in the yard, so we felt refreshed 
by the meal. I should have liked to wash my 
wounds, which were becoming very offensive, but 
I dared not take off my coat, feeling sure I should 
not be able to get it on again. It was while we 
were eating our bread that the rumour first 
reached us of another disaster, even greater than 
that we had witnessed ourselves. Whence it came 
I know not ; but a whisper went down the ranks 
that Woolwich had been captured. We all knew 
that it was our only arsenal, and understood the 
significance of the blow. No hope, if this were 
true, of saving the country. Thinking over this, 
we went back to the shed. 



82 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

Although this was only our second day of war, 
I think we were already old soldiers so far that we 
had come to be careless about fire, and the shot 
and shell that now began to open on us made no 
sensation. We felt, indeed, our need of discipline, 
and we saw plainly enough the slender chance of 
success coming out of troops so imperfectly 
trained as we were ; but I think we were all deter- 
mined to fight on as long as we could. Our 
gallant adjutant gave his spirit to everybody ; 
and the staff-officer commanding was a very 
cheery fellow, and went about as if we were 
certain of victory. Just as the firing began he 
looked in to say that we were as safe as in a church, 
that we must be sure and pepper the enemy well, 
and that more cartridges would soon arrive. 
There were some steps and benches in the shed, 
and on these a party of our men were standing, to 
fire through the upper loop-holes, while the line 
soldiers and others stood on the ground, guarding 
the second row. I sat on the floor, for I could 
not now use my rifle, and besides, there 
were more men than loop-holes. The artillery 
fire which had opened now on our position was 
from a longish range ; and occupation for the 
riflemen had hardly begun when there was a crash 
in the shed, and I was knocked down by a blow on 
the head. I was almost stunned for a time, and 
could not make out at first what had happened. 
A shot or shell had hit the shed without quite 
penetrating the wall, but the blow had upset the 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 83 

steps resting against it, and the men standing on 
them, bringing down a cloud of plaster and brick- 
bats, one of which had struck me. I felt now past 
being of use. I could not use my rifle, and could 
barely stand ; and after a time I thought I would 
make for my own house, on the chance of finding 
some one still there. I got up therefore, and 
staggered homewards. Musketry fire had now 
commenced, and our side were blazing away from 
the windows of the houses, and from behind walls, 
and from the shelter of some trucks still standing 
in the station. A couple of field-pieces in the yard 
were firing, and in the open space in rear of the 
station a reserve was drawn up. There, too, was 
the staff-officer on horseback, watching the fight 
through his field-glass. I remember having still 
enough sense to feel that the position was a hope- 
less one. That straggling line of houses and 
gardens would surely be broken through at some 
point, and then the line must give way like a rope 
of sand. It was about a mile to our house, and I 
was thinking how I could possibly drag myself so 
far when I suddenly recollected that I was passing 
Travers's house, — one of the first of a row of villas 
then leading from the Surbiton station to Kings- 
ton. Had he been brought home, I wondered, as his 
faithful old servant promised, and was his wife 
still here ? I remember to this day the sensation 
of shame I felt, when I recollected that I had not 
once given him — my greatest friend — a thought 
since I carried him off the field the day before. 



84 THE BATTLE Of DORKING 

But war and suffering make men selfish. I would 
go in now at any rate and rest awhile, and see if 
I could be of use. The little garden before the 
house was as trim as ever — I used to pass it every 
day on my way to the train, and knew every shrub 
in it — ^and ablaze with flowers, but the hall-door 
stood ajar. I stepped in and saw little Arthur 
standing in the hall. He had been dressed as 
neatly as ever that day, and as he stood there in 
his pretty blue frock and white trousers and socks 
showing his chubby little legs, with his golden 
locks, fair face, and large dark eyes, the picture of 
childish beauty, in the quiet hall, just as it used 
to look — the vases of flowers, the hat and coats 
hanging up, the familiar pictures on the walls — 
this vision of peace in the midst of war made me 
wonder for a moment, faint and giddy as I was, 
if the pandemonium outside had any real exist- 
ence, and was not merely a hideous dream. But 
the roar of the guns making the house shake, and 
the rushing of the shot, gave a ready answer. The 
little fellow appeared almost unconscious of the 
scene around him, and was walking up the stairs 
holding by the railing, one step at a time, as I had 
seen him do a hundred times before, but turned 
round as I came in. My appearance frightened 
him, and staggering as I did into the hall, my face 
and clothes covered with blood and dirt, I must 
have looked an awful object to the child, for he 
gave a cry and turned to run toward the basement 
stairs. But he stopped on hearing my voice calling 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 85 

him back to his god-papa, and after a while came 
timidly up to me. Papa had been to the battle, 
he said, and was very ill : mamma was with papa : 
Wood was out : Lucy was in the cellar, and had 
taken him there, but he wanted to go to mamma. 
Telling him to stay in the hall for a minute till I 
called him, I climbed upstairs and opened the 
bedroom door. My poor friend lay there, his body 
resting on the bed, his head supported on his wife's 
shoulder as she sat by the bedside. He breathed 
heavily, but the pallor of his face, the closed eyes, 
the prostrate arms, the clammy foam she was 
wiping from his mouth, all spoke of approaching 
death. The good old servant had done his duty, 
at least, — he had brought his master home to die 
in his wife's arms. The poor woman was too in- 
tent on her charge to notice the opening of the door 
and as the child would be better away, I closed it 
gently and went down to the hall to take little 
Arthur to the shelter below, where the maid was 
hiding. Too late ! He lay at the foot of the stairs 
on his face, his little arms stretched out, his hair 
dabbled in blood. I had not noticed the crash 
among the other noises, but a splinter of a shell 
must have come through the open doorway ; it 
had carried away the back of his head. The poor 
child's death must have been instantaneous. I 
tried to lift up the little corpse with my one arm, 
but even this load was too much for me, and while 
stooping down I fainted away. 

When I came to my senses again it was quite 



86 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

dark, and for some time I could not make out where 
I was ; I lay indeed for some time like one half 
asleep, feeling no inclination to move. By de- 
grees I became aware that I was on the carpeted 
floor of a room. All noise of battle had ceased, 
but there was a sound as of many people close by. 
At last I sat up and gradually got to my feet. The 
movement gave me intense pain, for my wounds 
were now highly inflamed, and my clothes sticking 
to them made them dreadfully sore. At last I got 
up and groped my way to the door, and opening 
it at once saw where I was, for the pain had 
brought back my senses. I had been lying in 
Travers's little writing-room at the end of the 
passage, into which I made my way. There was 
no gas, and the drawing-room door was closed ; 
but from the open dining-room the glimmer of a 
candle feebly lighted up the hall, in which half-a- 
dozen sleeping figures could be discerned, while 
the room itself was crowded with men. The table 
was covered with plates, glasses, and bottles ; 
but most of the men were asleep in the chairs or 
on the floor, a few were smoking cigars, and one 
or two with their helmets on were still engaged at 
supper, occasionally grunting out an observation 
between the mouthfuls. 

" Sind wackere Soldaten, diese Englischen 
Freiwilligen," said a broad-shouldered brute, 
stuffing a great hunch of beef into his mouth with 
a silver fork, an implement I should think he must 
have been using for the first time in his life. 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 87 

" Ja, ja," replied a comrade, who was lolling 
back in his chair with a pair of very dirty legs on 
the table, and one of poor Travers's best cigars in 
his mouth ; " Sie so gut laufen konnen." 

" Ja wohl," responded the first speaker ; " aber 
sind nicht eben so schnell wie die Franzdsischen 
Mobloten." 

^ " Gewiss," grunted a hulking lout from the 
floor, leaning on his elbow, and sending out a cloud 
of smoke from his ugly jaws ; " und da sind hier 
etwa gute Schiitzen." 

" Hast recht, lange Peter," answered number 
one ; " wenn die Schurken so gut exerciren wie 
schiitzen konnten, so waren wir heute nicht hier ! " 

"Recht! recht!" said the second; "das 
exerciren macht den guten Soldaten." 

What more criticisms on the shortcomings of 
our unfortunate volunteers might have passed I 
did not stop to hear, being interrupted by a sound 
on the stairs. Mrs. Travers was standing on the 
landing-place ; I limped up the stairs to meet her. 
Among the many pictures of those fatal days 
engraven on my memory, I remember none more 
clearly than the mournful aspect of my poor 
friend, widowed and childless within a few 
moments, as she stood there in her white dress, 
coming forth like a ghost from the chamber of the 
dead, the candle she held lighting up her face, and 
contrasting its pallor with the dark hair that fell 
disordered round it, its beauty radiant even 
through features worn with fatigue and sorrow. 



88 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

She was calm and even tearless, though the 
trembling lip told of the effort to restrain the 
emotion she felt. " Dear friend," she said, taking 
my hand, " I was coming to seek you ; forgive my 
selfishness in neglecting you so long ; but you will 
understand " — glancing at the door above — " how 
occupied I have been." " Where," I began, " is " 

" my boy ? " she answered, anticipating my 

question. " I have laid him by his father. But 
now your wounds must be cared for ; how pale 
and faint you look! — rest here a moment," — and, 
descending to the dining-room, she returned with 
some wine, which I gratefully drank, and then, 
making me sit down on the top step of the stairs, 
she brought water and linen, and, cutting off the 
sleeve of my coat, bathed and bandaged my 
wounds. 'Twas I who felt selfish for thus adding 
to her troubles ; but in truth I was too weak to 
have much will left, and stood in need of the help 
which she forced me to accept ; and the dressing 
of my wounds afforded indescribable relief. While 
thus tending me, she explained in broken sentences 
how matters stood. Every room but her own, and 
the little parlour into which with Wood's help she 
had carried me, was full of soldiers. Wood had 
been taken away to work at repairing the railroad 
and Lucy had run off from fright ; but the cook 
had stopped at her post, and had served up supper 
and opened the cellar for the soldiers' use : she 
herself did not understand what they said, and 
they were rough and boorish, but not uncivil. I 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 89 

should now go, she said, when my wounds were 
dressed, to look after my own home, where I might 
be wanted ; for herself, she wished only to be 
allowed to remain watching there — glancing at 
the room where lay the bodies of her husband and 
child — where she would not be molested. I felt 
that her advice was good. I could be of no use as 
protection, and I had an anxious longing to know 
what had become of my sick mother and sister ; 
besides, some arrangement must be made for the 
burial. I therefore limped away. There was no 
need to express thanks on either side, and the 
grief was too deep to be reached by any outward 
show of sympathy. 

Outside the house there was a good deal of 
movement and bustle ; many carts going along, 
the waggoners, from Sussex and Surrey, evidently 
impressed and guarded by soldiers ; and although 
no gas was burning, the road towards Kingston 
was well lighted by torches held by persons 
standing at short intervals in line, who had been 
seized for the duty, some of them the tenants of 
neighbouring villas. Almost the first of these 
torch-bearers I came to was an old gentleman 
whose face I was well acquainted with, from hav- 
ing frequently travelled up and down in the same 
train with hin. He was a senior clerk in a Govern- 
ment office, I believe, and was a mild-looking old 
man with a prim face and a long neck, which he 
used to wrap in a white double neckcloth, a thing 
even in those days seldom seen. Even in that 



90 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

moment of bitterness I could not help being 
amused by the absurd figure this poor old fellow 
presented, with his solemn face and long cravat 
doing penance with a torch in front of his own 
gate, to light up the path of our conquerors. But 
a more serious object now presented itself, a 
corporal's guard passing by, with two English 
volunteers in charge, their hands tied behind their 
backs. They cast an imploring glance at me, and 
I stepped into the road to ask the corporal what 
was the matter, and even ventured, as he was 
passing on, to lay my hand on his sleeve. " Auf 
dem Wege, Spitzbube! " cried the brute, lifting 
his rifle as if to knock me down. " Must one 
prisoners who fire at us let shoot," he went on to 
add ; and shot the poor fellows would have been, 
I suppose, if I had not interceded with an officer, 
who happened to be riding by. " Herr Haupt- 
mann," I cried, as loud as I could, " is this your 
discipline, to let unarmed prisoners be shot with- 
out orders ? " The officer, thus appealed to, 
reined in his horse, and halted the guard till he 
heard what I had to say. My knowledge of other 
languages here stood me in good^ stead, for the 
prisoners, north-country factory hands apparently, 
were of course utterly unable to make themselves 
understood, and did not even know in what they 
had offended. I therefore interpreted their ex- 
planation : they had been left behind while skir- 
mishing near Ditton, in a barn, and coming out of 
their hiding-place in the midst of a party of the 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 91 

enemy, with their rifles in their hands, the latter 
thought they were going to fire at them from 
behind. It was a wonder they were not shot down 
on the spot. The captain heard the tale, and then 
told the guard to let them go, and they slunk off 
at once into a by-road. He was a fine soldier-like 
man, but nothing could exceed the insolence of his 
manner, which was perhaps all the greater because 
it seemed not intentional, but to arise from a sense 
of immeasurable superiority. Between the lame 
freiwilliger pleading for his comrades, and the 
captain of the conquering army, there was, in his 
view, an infinite gulf. Had the two men been 
dogs, their fate could not have been decided more 
contemptuously. They were let go simply because 
they were not worth keeping as prisoners, and 
perhaps to kill any living thing without cause 
went against the hauptmann's sense of justice. 
But why speak of this insult in particular ? Had 
not every man who lived then his tale to tell of 
humiliation and degradation ? For it was the 
same story everywhere. After the first stand in 
line, and when once they had got us on the march, 
the enemy laughed at us. Our handful of regular 
troops was sacrificed almost to a man in a vain 
conflict with numbers; our volunteers and 
militia, with officers who did not know their work, 
without ammunition or equipment, or staff to 
superintend, starving in the midst of plenty, we 
had soon become a helpless mob, fighting desper- 
ately here and there, but with whom, as a man- 



92 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

oeuvring army, the disciplined invaders did just 
what they pleased. Happy those whose bones 
whitened the fields of Surrey ; they at least were 
spared the disgrace we lived to endure. Even you, 
who have never known what it is to live otherwise 
than on sufferance, even your cheeks burn when 
we talk of these days ; think, then, what those 
endured who, like your grandfather, had been 
citizens of the proudest nation on earth, which had 
never known disgrace or defeat, and whose boast 
it used to be that they bore a flag on which the sun 
never set! We had heard of generosity in war; we 
found none : the war was made by us, it was said, 
and we must take the consequences. London and 
our only arsenal captured, we were at the mercy 
of our captors, and right heavily did they tread 
on our necks. Need I tell you the rest ? — of the 
ransom we had to pay, and the taxes raised to 
cover it, which keep us paupers to this day ? — ^the 
brutal frankness that announced we must give 
place to a new naval Power, and be made harmless 
for revenge ? — the victorious troops living at free 
quarters, the yoke they put on us made the more 
galling that their requisitions had a semblance of 
method and legality ? Better have been robbed at 
first hand by the soldiery themselves, than through 
our own magistrates made the instruments for 
extortion. How we lived through the degradation 
we daily and hourly underwent, I hardly even now 
understand. And what was there left to us to live 
for ? Stripped of our colonies ; Canada and the 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 93 

West Indies gone to America ; Australia forced to 
separate ; India lost for ever, after the English 
there had all been destroyed, vainly trying to hold 
the country when cut off from aid by their country- 
men ; Gibraltar and Malta ceded to the new naval 
Power ; Ireland independent and in perpetual 
anarchy and revolution. When I look at my 
country as it is now — its trade gone, its factories 
silent, its harbours empty, a prey to pauperism 
and decay — when I see all this, and think what 
Great Britain was in my youth, I ask myself 
whether I have really a heart or any sense of 
patriotism that I should have witnessed such 
degradation and still care to live ! France was 
different. There, too, they had to eat the bread 
of tribulation under the yoke of the conqueror ! 
their fall was hardly more sudden or violent than 
ours ; but war could not take away their rich soil ; 
they had no colonies to lose ; their broad lands, 
which made their wealth, remained to them ; and 
they rose again from the blow. But our people 
could not be got to see how artificial our prosperity 
was — that it all rested on foreign trade and 
financial credit ; that the course of trade once 
turned away from us, even for a time, it might 
never return ; and that our credit once shaken 
might never be restored. To hear men talk in 
those days, you would have thought that Provi- 
dence had ordained that our Government should 
always borrow at 3 per cent., and that trade 
came to us because we lived in a foggy little island 



94 THE BATTLE OF DORKING 

set in a boisterous sea. They could not be got to 
see that the wealth heaped up on every side was 
not created in the country, but in India and China, 
and other parts of the world ; and that it would 
be quite possible for the people who made money 
by buying and selling the natural treasures of the 
earth, to go and live in other places, and take 
their profits with them. Nor would men believe 
that there could ever be an end to our coal and 
iron, or that they would get to be so much dearer 
than the coal and iron of America that it would no 
longer be worth while to work them, and that 
therefore we ought to insure against the loss of our 
artificial position as the great centre of trade, by 
making ourselves secure and strong and respected. 
We thought we were living in a commercial 
millennium, which must last tor a thousand years 
at least. After all, the bitterest part of our reflec- 
tion is, that all this misery and decay might have 
been so easily prevented, and that we brought it 
about ourselves by our own shortsighted reckless- 
ness. There, across the narrow Straits, was the 
writing on the wall, but we would not choose to 
read it. The warnings of the few were drowned in 
the voice of the multitude. Power was then 
passing away from the class which had been used 
to rule, and to face political dangers, and which 
had brought the nation with honour unsullied 
through former struggles, into the hands of the 
lower classes, uneducated, untrained to the use of 
political rights, and swayed by demagogues ; and 



THE BATTLE OF DORKING 95 

the few who were wise in their generation were 
denounced as alarmists, or as aristocrats who 
sought their own aggrandisement by wasting 
pubhc money on bloated armaments. The rich 
were idle and luxurious ; the poor grudged the 
cost of defence. Politics had become a mere 
bidding for Radical votes, and those who should 
have led the nation stooped rather to pander to 
the selfishness of the day, and humoured the 
popular cry which denounced those who would 
secure the defence of the nation by enforced 
arming of its manhood, as interfering with the 
liberties of the people. Truly the nation was ripe 
for a fall ; but when I reflect how a little firmness 
and self-denial, or political courage and foresight, 
might have averted the disaster, I feel that the 
judgment must have really been deserved. A 
nation too selfish to defend its liberty, could not 
have been fit to retain it. To you, my grand- 
children, who are now going to seek a new home 
in a more prosperous land, let not this bitter 
lesson be lost upon you in the country of your 
adoption. For me, I am too old to begin life again 
in a strange country ; and hard and evil as have 
been my days, it is not much to await in solitude 
the time which cannot now be far off, when my old 
bones will be laid to rest in the soil I have loved so 
well, and whose happiness and honour I have so 
long survived. 



GARDEN CITY PRESS 
LIMITED "RrNTFRS 

LETCH WORTH, HEKTS 






















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