In both the United States and Great Britain service leaders are, and have long been, subject to compulsory retirement under an age-limit proviso virtually insusceptible to those exceptions which are said to prove the rule. Yet in neither country, oddly enough, is there a comparable regulation by whose operation the politician can be relieved, in good time, from what he himself so often describes, in tones of profoundest self-commiseration, as “the almost intolerable burden of office.”
It occurs to few of those who have to foot the bill that this ironic paradox permits the makers of mischief a much longer run for their (and the country’s) money than is accorded to those who have to try and “putty-up” once that selfsame mischief has been wrought. For that is the way it goes: as Tallyrand was fain to confess to Marshal Ney, “When my profession fails, yours comes in.”
But such is the system, although it would be idle to pretend that the existent method governing retirement from the services does not operate wastefully and oppressively in certain circumstances. The best that can be said of it is that it is less unfair than any other mode of coping with the vexed but interrelated problems of superannuation and promotion previously employed.
Wars—even those fought in the days prior to the concept of total war—involve such expansion of the armed forces, and the incidence of so much temporary promotion, that the shrinkage of establishments that follows on the “Cease Fire” leaves a surplus with which it is impossible to deal with anything like equity. Obviously, this unhappy state of affairs is not improved if the older men cling on to their appointments with the desperate tenacity of a non-swimmer clutching a life-belt.
Until the days of standing armies and Navies, appointment to high command was largely a matter of caprice—or political expediency. In the year of the Armada the widely-experienced Francis Drake, at forty- seven, was passed over for the command of the English fleet in favour of Lord Howard of Effingham, in years slightly the Devon seafarer’s senior, but in every other particular his undoubted junior. Wallenstein, on the other hand, was endowed with command over the heads of subordinates many years older than himself: in 1627, the Captain- General being in his forty-fourth year, while his principal assistant, Tilly, had passed his sixty-seventh.
With the institution of permanent standing forces the problem of advancement up to the rank of captain in the Navy was largely a matter of seniority—tinctured with favouritism; up to the rank of colonel, simply and solely a question of money. For under the “Purchase” system—not abandoned in England until 1871—anyone in possession of the necessary means, and irrespective of his age or military competence, could procure senior regimental rank by the simple process of buying it in the open market.
“Purchase” did not extend, however, beyond regimental command. And although seniority played its part in the award, elevation to Admiral’s or General’s rank was invariably a matter of “interest,” of the political patronage enjoyed by a man with good Party connections or an irresistible family “pull.” Useful even in his early days, these assets were of paramount importance in any subsequent attempt to build up a career.1 If “Influence” could be sustained by a modicum of talent, so much the better: that it was not a sine qua non of progressive advancement the 18th century records demonstrate with only too painful a clarity. In any case, once “in the swim,” the question of a man’s increasing age, and therefore of his continued fitness for command, never entered seriously into consideration. There was no such thing as retired pay; and the fact that, in his earlier days a man had probably spent years on end on a miserable dole of half pay2 entitled him, in contemporary eyes, to the enjoyment of the full emoluments he had finally attained, until gout chained him immovably to his chair or the grave closed over him.
Thus Wellington remained Commander in Chief until his death in his eighty-third year; while John Jervis, Earl of St. Vincent, continued in harness in command of the Channel Fleet, a couple of months after he had celebrated his seventy-first birthday and lived on to the ripe age of 88. The fact that both these distinguished Officers retained their faculties, virtually unimpaired, until the end can hardly be said to affect the principle involved.
Promotion by selection, when the principle was finally accepted, should, according to its sponsors, have provided a solution to the problem that left no loopholes for criticism. Events, however, conspired too often to falsify so boldly confident a hope. The tradition that seniority must, ipso facto, imply superior competence lingered obstinately in the minds of those in whose hands the allocation of promotion to, and selection for, high command was vested. And the fact that seniority and superior ability were quite frequently found to dwell under the same hat helped very considerably to reinforce our traditional belief that a man had only to achieve longevity to become automatically possessed of the qualities of a Hannibal, a Nelson, a Marlborough, and a Napoleon Bonaparte combined.
In these days, while seniority is bound to exert its influence, promotion by selection is a principle quite obviously destined to attain an ever-increasing significance.
For all that, the problem of choice can never be easy; and as a preliminary to this always teasing and frequently invidious task of selection, it is as well to determine as explicitly as possible what qualities are essential in a man to qualify him for leadership in war. “A General,”3 Socrates laid it down, “must know how to get his men their rations and every other kind of stores needed for war. He must have imagination to originate plans, practical sense, and energy to carry them through. He must be observant, untiring, shrewd; kindly and cruel; simple and crafty; a watchman and a robber; lavish and miserly; generous and stingy; rash and conservative. All these and many other qualities, natural and acquired, he must have. He should also, as a matter of course, know his tactics; for a disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house.”
This classical description of the “compleat General” has been brought up to date by the authors4 of The General and the President. In their view, “A General today must be a diplomat, a politician, an industrial statesman, a transportation tsar, a publicity expert—all these things as well as a strategist.”
All this is comprehensive enough, in all conscience; but in no way does it indicate the necessity for a hard-and-fast rule as to the minimum age-limit at which it could be considered that these qualities had been acquired; not the maximum age-limit at which it might be deemed that they would be likely to have suffered dangerous deterioration.
Onosander, a Greek chronicler of the 1st century A.D., is, by implication, considerably more explicit. “A General,” he wrote, “must be continent, sober,5 frugal, middle- aged, eloquent, a father of a family and a member of an illustrious house, since soldiers do not like to be under one who is not of good birth. In addition, a General should be polite, affable, easy of approach, and cool-headed.” Onosander’s insistence that a Commander should be of good social standing was warmly supported by Philippe de Comines, who laid it down that “A General should be of noble and distinguished house; no one likes to serve under an Officer of humble origin.” Surprisingly enough, the same sentiment is echoed by Rifleman Harris, of Peninsular War fame, who wrote, “I know from experience that in our army the men like best to be officered by gentlemen, men whose education has rendered them more kind in manners than your coarse Officer, sprung from obscure origin, and whose style is brutal and overbearing.” This offers an interesting commentary on Napier’s sneer that “the British soldier fought in the pale shade of the aristocracy”; as, for that matter, did the republican soldiery of the War of Independence. For one of the chief reasons advanced for selecting George Washington as Commander in Chief was that he was “a man of position.”
The Emperor Leo VIth, known to his contemporaries as “The Philosopher,” indulges in very similar recommendations to the foregoing; praising a capacity for eloquence, exhorting to prudence, insisting on a faculty for business, and—oblivious to the fact that so inviting was the bon camaraderie of Alexander the Great that when he appeared amongst his troops “the men quarreled as to who should first embrace him”— counselled that selfsame affability so emphatically recommended by Onosander. He added the further frigid advice, little calculated to appeal to the condottiere of the John Hawkswood type, that “a General should be the very model of temperance, especially with regard to female captives.” Unfortunately, he was silent on the subject of Commissaries’ wives. This is an immortal pity, since the importance of the part played by these odalisques in the conduct of military operations can scarcely be exaggerated. Invariably combining transcendental beauty with a remarkably sympathetic reaction to the presence of military officers not under the rank of major-general, their subtle influence on the course of events has never received the attention from the military historians— a sniffing and prudish breed—it so obviously demands.6
It was Polybius, however—another Greek historian, flourishing between 175 and 123 B.C.—who first drew attention to a highly important attribute to efficient generalship, when he affirmed that, “A good Captain should know what are the characters of the Generals opposed to him, if they are prudent or rash; if they fight according to rule or haphazard.” It was an exceedingly cogent point, which later engaged the earnest attention of Vegetius, a military commentator of the latter end of the 4th century.
In the recommendations of these early writers there is, of course, no more than an attempt to define the general principles upon which selection for high command should be founded; with something more than a hint that men in possession of the necessary qualifications will more probably be found among those of maturer years. Would that the solution of the problem were governed by so relatively simple a synthesis! In point of fact, mere length of service can never be more than a contributory factor, in itself in no way amounting to a qualification. There are some men whom a thousand experiences endow with no more than a modicum of experience. As the Voltairean quip put it, “Le mulet du Prince Eugène pour avoir assisle a plus de Irenle engagements n’en etait pourtanl plus fort en art militaire!” In other words, you can lead an ass to knowledge, but you cannot make him think!
Irrespective of all considerations of age and service, the business of selection must always be fraught with an ineradicable element of doubt. X______, who did so well in the last campaign, during the years which have ensued, has lost all his sap and mental elasticity. Y______ is a famous theorist; but how will it work out when, in the presence of the enemy, he comes to the actual handling of ships, of which he has hitherto commanded no more than a relatively small number, and then under superior direction? W is______ unquestionably brilliant, but he is a man who lives on his nerves; and the unremitting strain of a long campaign would probably find him without sufficient psychological and physical reserves, wanting in that constitutional and intellectual “robustness” which Field Marshal Lord Wavell nominated as amongst a Great Captain’s primary qualifications, without which no man can hope to “stay the course.” S______, dear old fellow starts every sentence with “I remember . . .” a sure sign that his mental processes are too firmly anchored in the past to undergo expansion to the realignments and readjustments demanded of the present and the future. T______ is glib-tongued enough to palliate a Cannae or a Tsushima, or strip the gilt from a Trafalgar or an Inchon landing; oblivious to the fact that a victory needs no explanation and that a defeat does not admit of one.
That the question of years, of seniority per se, has often played an entirely subordinate part in the selection of a man for high command, is so often witnessed by history as to throw any such rule-of-thumb procedure out of court as the convenient yardstick of judgment which, superficially, it appears to be. It is true that the advocates of maturity can point to many of the world’s Great Captains as men from whom youth had unquestionably fled before the day which saw their most signal successes. Ghengis Khan, who lived by the sword from his early ’teens, did not put the seal on his military reputation until he had reached the age of fifty-six; and this in the day when the normal expectation of life rendered a man “middle-aged” in the early thirties. Tamurlane was sixty-two at the time the Sultan Bajazet met such crushing defeat at the Mongol conqueror’s hands. Julius Caesar, a deeply wrinkled, prematurely bald, but obstinately dandiacal patrician of forty-four when he set out on his conquest of Gaul, had well passed the half century before he could proclaim his local task completed; and Britain still lay ahead. In his case, however, belated military fruition may partly be accounted for by the fact that, as Mommsen assures us, “he appeared among all victories to value those won over beautiful women.” Shades of Onosander!
John Ziska, one of the greatest of all military reformers, was in his fifty-second year—and blind—at the time when his score against the Emperor Sigismund was fifteen victories for the price of one defeat. Suvorov, a hard-living warrior from his ’teens—he habitually slept on a truss of hay, neither smoked nor inhaled snuff, and, in a hard-drinking age, was a model of temperate indulgence—was a septuagenarian at the time (1799) of his successful campaign in Italy. George Augustus Eliott, Baron Heathfield, was in his sixty-fifth year when his long defense of the Rock of Gibraltar was brought successfully to a close. Moltke was in his seventy-first year when his Sovereign was crowned Emperor of Germany in the Salle des Glaces at Versailles, on January 18, 1871. Winfield Scott, gross as a warthog but with all his wits about him, was rising seventy-five with the outbreak of the War Between the States.
On the naval side, Richard Earl Howe was in his sixty-eighth year when he trounced the French on “the glorious First of June,” and in his seventy-second year when he bustled down from London to Portsmouth to wade in with superb confidence and aplomb, and settle the ticklish business of the Spithead mutiny to the satisfaction of seamen and public alike. George Brydges Rodney was Public alike. George Brydges Rodney was in his seventy-third year at the time of his victory over de Grasse in the battle of "the Saints"; Admiral George Dewey in his sixty fourth year when he destroyed the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay.
At the other end of the scale, Hannibal had the impertinence to flout the conventions by conquering all Spain up to the Ebro by the time he had reached the age of twenty-six Of course, as the son of a redoubtable Carthaginia General, hereditary talent may be offered as the excuse for a piece of forwardness for which the wiseacres would otherwise be hard put to it to account. Scipio Africanus, too, was a mere twenty-seven when his defeat of Hasdrubal followed his capture of Novo Carthago, and led to his subjugation of virtually the whole of the Iberian peninsula. Alexander the Great established himself as a world conqueror by the time he had attained his early twenties. Xenophon, however, was a salted twenty-four by the time he achieved even limited independent command.
That the phenomenon of astoundingly successful leadership at an exceptionally early age was not a peculiarity of the wars of antiquit is witnessed by the fact that Seydlitz was appointed General of Cavalry and virtual Second-in-Command to his royal master at the age of thirty. But Frederick the Great himself was on the thirty-seven mark before he began to achieve the results forever to be associated with his name. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden was another three years advanced towards "the sere and yellow leaf" before his genius for command gained European recognition.
That a general condition of physical fitness must play a very considerable part in the conditioning of a military leader for supreme command is obvious. Mens sana in corpore sano applies to no one more than to a Admiral on the quarter-deck or a General in the field. Yet Marshal Saxe, natural son of Augustus the Strong, pupil of Marlborough7 erudite military commentator, bon viveur and amorist, was the victim of a dropsical disorder so acute that, at the relatively early age of thirty-nine, he was reduced to directing the battle of Fontenoy from a litter. Even so, he won at least a Pyrrhic victory, so superbly did the active mind control the stricken body. On the other hand, Napoleon on the day of Waterloo was sadly wanting in that moral and physical "robustness" which Field Marshal Lord Wavell esteemed, so highly. A martyr to the extremely painful affliction of strangury, it is almost certain that in addition he was also suffering from the early stages of the fell disease that eventually caused his death. Dull, lethargic and indecisive, he virtually left the battle to fight itself, and at no time exercised that vital control over events which is the hallmark of the great commander.
Gout is a malady which is inclined to arouse the onlooker to greater ribaldry than sympathy, but it is very far from being a joke to the man who is its victim. Admiral Sir George Rooke was a martyr to it in his later years; but when the chance arose in 1703 to seize fifty Spanish treasure ships which, together with their French escort, had taken shelter in Vigo harbour, no considerations of bodily weakness were allowed to deter him. Too sick to lead the enterprise in person, Rooke none the less planned it all in detail, while personally supervising all arrangements from his invalid cot. In the outcome, fifteen enemy line-of-battle ships were put out of action, while a greater haul of treasure was garnered even than Drake had captured in his heyday.
Nelson, who was struck down in his forty-seventh year, was a man who had always to contend with a congenital frailty, which was further undermined by the loss of an arm and the serious injury inflicted on his right eye.8 He was also a lifelong victim to chronic mal de mer. George Washington, with a medical history which included early exposure to tuberculosis, acute dysentery, and recurrent malaria, would have been rejected outright for service with the army had his application for a Commission been dependent on the verdict of a medical board. Fortunately for the destiny of America, no such thing existed in Virginia of 1751.
As Saxe had been a neophyte under Marlborough, so “Corporal John” himself had served his apprenticeship under the wise and canny Turenne. In every way a redoubtable figure, as plain Ensign Churchill he had started active campaigning at the early age of eighteen. Thence onwards, the sword was hardly ever out of his hand; and the year of Blenheim found him a vigorous man of rising fifty-four—by contemporary standards a pretty ripe age. But “Corporal John’s” sober, spartan way of life had enabled him to build up a reserve of strength sufficient to fight off the gout, and those devitalising headaches and racking agues which increasing years and the enormous fatigues of the campaigns he had already undergone, combined to inflict on him. At the battle of Blenheim he was seventeen hours in the saddle, after a snatched sleep of little more than three hours. The day’s work included in addition to the normal heavy responsibilities of command, the extra labors of a practical artillerist and the personally-led charge of a body of cavalry. Yet with victory in his pocket, “Corporal John” set himself, without further pause, to the supervision of those “mopping-up” operations which constitute not the least anxious and fatiguing part of battle-fighting.
So the work went on incessantly; for it was not until he was in his sixty-first year that Marlborough could sheath the sword for good and always, with the signing of the Peace of Utrecht.
“The little Abbé,” Prince Eugene of Savoy, on the other hand, was a good fifteen years younger than his British coadjutor. A small, spare, but wiry individual, the self- denying discipline of his early life had been such as to harden rather than impair a constitution apparently compounded of steel wire and catgut. Fighting almost to the last, he lived to attain his seventy-second year; still keen and bright of intellect, and as formidable an opponent at piquet as could be found in a long day’s march.
Eugene was forty-one when his military fame attained to international significance. George Washington was two years older when he assumed command of the swarm of New England farmers and mechanics, in place of the obese and prematurely aged Artemas Ward.9
Among the “Gentleman from Virginia’s” immediate subordinates Israel Putnam was by far the oldest, for at Bunker Hill the old Indian fighter was rapidly approaching the Prophet’s allotted “three score years and ten.” But he was still full of pluck and wily council, as his sage advice to the raw levies all about him, to “Fire at the. fancy waistcoats,” gave eloquent testimony.10 At this stage in affairs the shifty, cantankerous Charles Lee—a rolling stone of whom Washington, at one time, was unwarrantably a little bit in awe—was in his forty-fourth year; Horatio Gates in his forty-seventh; Nathanael Greene in his thirty-fourth; Philip Schuyler in his forty-second, and “Mad Antony” Wayne in his thirtieth year. The “Benjamin” of the entourage was Alexander Hamilton, who in 1775 was a mere stripling of eighteen, but with an old head on young shoulders even at that early age.
Washington’s principal opponents included the fifty-four year old Thomas Gage; “Good- natured Billy” Howe, in 1775 a well- nourished forty-six; Henry Clinton, rising thirty-seven; the Marquis Cornwallis, a querulous forty-seven, and “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne, at the time of his defeat by “Old Granny Gates,” a well-preserved fifty-five.
The Peninsular War was directed by a “Sepoy General,” as the current sneer termed the future Duke of Wellington, who was in his thirty-ninth year when he landed on the Mondego to assume command. “Daddy Hill,” Wellington’s acknowledged right hand throughout the campaign, had acquired his venerable sobriquet and his mature, rosy, Pickwickian appearance at the comparatively early age of thirty-six. But Thomas Picton, a gangling six feet, with a heavy but powerful figure, topped with the face of a morose brewer’s drayman, had reached a hard-bitten forty-six, and looked considerably older.
Of Wellington’s great opponent, it is a matter of common assent that as a Great Captain he offers the most outstanding instance of military precocity that recent times have afforded. At the Bridge of Lodi Napoleon was in his twenty-seventh year— five years younger than Wolfe when he fell on the Plains of Abraham—and even then his success in arms had attained to world-wide fame. Of the better known of his Marshals, at the time of the advance on Moscow in 1812 Bertier was in his fifty-ninth year; Massena in his fifty-fourth; Soult and Ney in their forty-third, and Junot in his forty-first.
The Crimean campaign saw a Peninsular veteran still in active command; for the British Commander in Chief, Lord Raglan, had lost an arm on the field of Waterloo. The average age of his subordinate generals was just under sixty; the oldest of them being John Fox Burgoyne, the Engineer-in-Chief, who had turned seventy-two. The fifty-eight year old Gallic Commander, St Arnaud, who in the course of a highly variegated life had met Byron in Greece and most of the fashionable beauties of European celebrity in their respective boudoirs, died in the first year of the campaign—appropriately enough of heart failure. He was followed by the modest, kind-hearted but diminutive Canrobert, then in his forty-fifth year, and destined to live on to become a captive in the Franco- Prussian Campaign of 1870-71.
By current expectation-of-life standards, the Generals of the War Between the States could be regarded as verging on maturity. Square, dogged, undemonstrative Ulysses S. Grant, who had already experienced active service in the Mexican War, was a solid, experienced forty-two at the time of the operations about Vicksburg. Lee was thirteen years his opponent’s senior when he assumed command of all the forces in the neighbourhood of Richmond; while Sherman, who had achieved no particular success as a business man in the days immediately preceding the outbreak of hostilities, was in his forty-third year at the time he was awarded the rank of Brigadier. At Bull Run the indomitable stand of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, then in his thirty-seventh year, earned for the erstwhile West Pointer the cognomen of “Stonewall” ever after to be associated with his name. “Little Phil” Sheridan, who took over the command of the Cavalry of the Army of the Potomac, was then in his thirty-third year; while at the outbreak of war David Farragut and David Dixon Porter were, respectively, sixty-one and fifty-nine—in contemporary eyes, virtually on the brink of the grave!
When the Franco-Prussian campaign came to an end, it would have been forgivable if the septuagenarian Helmuth von Moltke had lapsed into semi-moribundity. But twenty years later, on the occasion of his birthday, he was quite capable of a bright and playful little speech and a hearty kiss for the donor of a congratulatory bouquet. Lord Roberts, too, was nearer seventy than sixty when he took over in the Transvaal from the sixty year old Redvers Buffer, whose divagations on the banks of the Modder river did greater credit to his pertinacity than to his flair for tactics. Operations after the faff of Pretoria were very largely left to the direction of Roberts’ erstwhile Chief of Staff, Kitchener of Khartoum; the flush of his Omdurman campaign stiff bright upon him. The outbreak of hostilities in 1914 found “K. of K.” in his sixty-fourth year, and stiff capable of invaluable work as Secretary of State for War. An equally formidable veteran, Admiral “Jacky” Fisher, was recalled to contribute sterling work as First Sea Lord, to which onerous post he was appointed in his remarkably vigorous seventy-third year.
In 1914 the British Commander-in-Chief, Sir John French, had reached the respectable age of sixty-two; but so had his Gallic opposite number, Marshal Joffre. But while General Haig owned to fifty-four and his brother Corps Commander was a little older, Ferdinand Foch had passed the sixty mark. On the naval side, Admiral Jellicoe was another man in the mid-fifties; his immediate subordinate, David Beatty, having arrived at his forty-seventh year. “Black Jack” Pershing, the strong-willed, vigorous Commander who brought the first Americans into the field, was an up-and-coming fifty-seven. It was left to the Germans to resuscitate and place at the head of their armies a veteran of sixty-nine, in the person of Paul von Beneckendorff und Hindenburg. Happy in retirement and relaxed in convivial intercourse with his cronies at the local Bierkeller, so small a part had re-emergence into the military limelight played in his calculations, that the hurried insertion of a generous V in the back of his service trousers was an indispensable preliminary to the feat of cramming himself into the field uniform appropriate to his assumption of command. His able collaborator, Erich von Ludendorff, was a thoroughly eupeptic fifty.
In the more recent war, while exceptions to the rule are not wanting—General Mac- Arthur, for example, was a considerable way from his first childhood and certainly an equal distance from his second—the general tendency was to entrust the higher responsibilities of command to men around the middle fifties; the Germans, in general, exhibiting a greater latitude in this particular than the allies ranged against them.
Of course, having regard for the increased longevity with which greater medical care and knowledge has endowed the present-day world, it would not be too much to affirm that the fifty-five year old soldier or sailor of today is comparable in physical stamina, mental alertness, flexibility and resource, as well as in nervous strength and capacity for endurance, with the best of Commanders who, during the 17th and 18th centuries, were ten years and more their juniors.
It is, after all, a question of arteries, and particularly of what might be termed the mental arteries, at that. In their tone and condition, their atrophy or resilience, may be found the reflex of the way of life pursued throughout the years that have already passed. It is the self-denial, the rigid self- discipline, the carefully nurtured flexibility of mind and imagination, the steady canalisation of all the faculties to the prime purpose of preparation, the rigid adherence to a spartan but invigorating regimen, that alone enables the man trained to command to survive the relentless passage of the years with serenity and confidence, assured of expanding rather than dwindling powers.
A man is old when he comes to regard the burdens of a fresh assignment rather than its opportunities. A man is old when he finds himself more reluctant to experiment with the new than set aside the already proven. A man is old when he exchanges the dynamic for the doctrinaire. A man is old when he has lost the faculty for self-criticism.
It is easier, then, to set an outside limit than to determine an inside boundary to the age at which an individual may be considered capable of performing all that is required of a man entrusted with high command. All else being equal, the early fifties would appear to be the norm when experience fuses with native vigour to produce the best results. Thereafter, under the gruelling strain imposed upon them, the faculties— over-strung like a concert-pitch pianoforte— show a tendency to run down quickly, and the baton falters in the hand too often reluctant, to the point of danger, to surrender it.
“ . . . Does he feel his title
Hang loose about him like a giant’s robe
Upon a dwarfish chief?”
If so it be, then irrespective of age, of reputation, of personal pride or ambition’s galling spur, the time has come to drive the sword home in the scabbard once and for always, and thereafter breathe a thankful nunc dimittis.
Such a self-denying ordinance applies no less to the worn-out politician than to the naval or military leader whose honorable retirement would be in the best interests of the country it has been his privilege to serve. But should the politicos ever come to realise this, then the millennium will clearly be at hand.
1. They failed to work in the case of John Rodney, son of Admiral Lord Rodney. Made a Lieutenant at the age of fifteen, and a full Post-Captain five weeks later, he never advanced beyond the latter rank, which he still held sixty years later.
2. Half Pay rather than Retired Pay accounted for such anomalies as that of Billy Culver, who in 1791 was the senior Midshipman in the British Navy, having served in that rank for 34 years. Midshipman Vallack, white haired and sixty-five years of age, was still serving afloat in 1822, while of Lieutenant Michael Turner’s 48 years’ service only 11 were spent afloat on full pay. Had all three been pensioned, they would not have blocked the promotion of better—or luckier—men.
3. In broad terms, what applies to the military commander has equal validity with senior officers of the Navy or Air Force.
4. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr, and Richard H. Rovere.
5. A consideration which might not have appealed too strongly to General Ulysses S. Grant; the particular brand of whose whiskey, however, President Lincoln was all in favour of recommending to some of the Federal Commander’s less enterprising coadjutors.
6. On the other hand, diplomats’ wives, headed by Nelson’s Emma, have figured largely in the pages of the less reticent chronicles scandaleuses.
7. Maurice Saxe, at the age of twelve, was present at Marlborough’s victory of Malplaquet.
8. Nelson wore a shade over his left eye to protect it from splinters. Incidentally, he had been advanced by St. Vincent over the heads of several seniors; an outstanding example of promotion by selection
9. In the United States the present expectation of life, for men, is 67; only fifty years ago it was no more than 48.23.
10. i.e.. at the officers’ waistcoats, which were embroidered with regimental lace.