Fred: The Collected Letters and Speeches of Colonel Frederick Gustavus Burnaby

Volume 2 - 1878-1885

Dr. John W. Hawkins

Date Published :
August 2014
Publisher :
Helion and Company
Illustration :
62 b/w illustrations, 9 maps and plans
Format Available    QuantityPrice
Binding. : Hardback
ISBN : 9781909982130
Pages : 584
Dimensions : 9 X 6 inches
Stock Status : In stock


Colonel Fred Burnaby of the Blues, six feet four inches tall and with a riding weight of over twenty stone, was one of the most recognizable soldier/adventurers of the late Victorian period. As a young officer he became famous as an athlete, gymnast, swordsman and pugilist, reputed to be the strongest man in the British army. In working his way to the command of the Blues, the country's most prestigious cavalry regiment, he made some notable friends and not a few enemies. He also found time for numerous journeys involving considerable hardship. He was a brilliant modern linguist and spoke seven languages fluently. Born into the landed gentry, he increased his financial independence by marrying a young heiress, who produced an heir and promptly decamped to climb mountains in Switzerland. In 1882 he became the first person to make a solo balloon crossing of the English Channel. As his army career approached its close he stood unsuccessfully for Birmingham as a Conservative. His regimental seniority at the time of the Egyptian Campaign of 1882 precluded him joining the newly formed Camel Corps, but he was determined not to leave the army without facing action. In 1884 he traveled to Egypt and participated in both battles of El Teb. Returning to England with his arm in a sling, his popularity with the public became greater than ever. This was not echoed at the War Office, where he was increasingly regarded as a loose cannon. On the Gordon Relief Expedition of 1884 he was denied attachment to the staff of his hero, General Wolseley, but traveled to Egypt anyway and eventually found himself second in command on the dessert march to Metemmeh. He never arrived, killed by a spear through the throat in hand-to-hand fighting at the battle of Abu Klea. Even his death was controversial, with songs in his memory being sung in the music halls at the same time as his fellow officers criticized orders he had given during the battle.

Two of Burnaby's books have barely been out or print since they were first published, but his other works are much more difficult to find. His biographers have often included excerpts from his letters and speeches in their works, but none comprehensively. This book is intended to provide both. It also includes a new biography of Burnaby, the first to have been written for almost sixty years. Volume 1 covered his early life, including his journeys to Spain as a special correspondent during the Third Carlist War, Khartoum, Khiva and Asia Minor and his place at the side of Baker Pasha at the battle of Tashkessan in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877/78. Volume 2 covers his political career and his participation in the Egyptian Campaigns of 1883/4 and 1884/5, culminating in his death.


"These two volumes succeed hugely as a biography of a figure renowned in his time … the rigour of the research and the presentation provide something much wider; a work of insight into the social workings of the Victorian Army. It is unlikely to be surpassed. The volumes themselves are also a delight to hold as produced books, sustaining Helion’s record for a quality product in every sense.”"

- Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

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