This month sees the centenary of the death of an English general, Sir Henry Havelock, for whom, when the news reached New York and Boston, flags were flown half-mast on public buildings and on the shipping in the harbours. “A purely voluntary tribute,” commented the New York Times, “paid to his memory by a people to whom he was a stranger, who were in no way interested in his career and to whom even his name was unknown six months since. It was a tribute of respect which even the Duke of Wellington did not command.”

Havelock’s life still has a message for the English-speaking peoples. He had swept to fame for his exploits in stemming the tide of the Indian Mutiny, which was spreading havoc and massacre. At the moment of triumph, when the world was celebrating the relief of Lucknow, he died there on November 24, 1857, at the age of sixty-two. Were this all, General Havelock would have little relevance for today. But it was not simply as a soldier but as a Christian general, a Christian hero, that Britain and America took him to their hearts. For a whole generation Havelock was revered as the pattern on which young men should mould their lives.

Saint And Soldier

Havelock, converted by a brother officer on their voyage to India in 1823, had an outstanding purpose: “It was the great object of my ambition to be surpassed by none in zeal and determination in the path of my duty, because I was resolved to put down the vile calumny that a Christian could not be a meritorious soldier.” In the steamy heat of Burmese jungles, in the excitements and privations of the Afghan and Sikh wars, and in the devastatingly dull years of routine soldiering in a climate which science and medical progress had not yet made bearable, he proved his point. ...

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