"Bobs" or "Our Bobs"
(notes by Alastair Wilson)
This particular expression of admiration (not to be taken literally – it was not a task for a senior officer to take the place of a battery horse) was appropriate, since Roberts had started his career in the artillery.
6-pdr gun team of the Bengal Horse Artillery, 1845
(Drawn by Joan Wanklyn. Property of the Royal Artillery Institution. Reproduced from Gunner by permission of the Editor.)
Each of the six horses has a rider, the two rear horses have a pole between them attached to the two-wheeled limber and the gun is hooked to the limber, muzzle facing to the rear. Two Indian horse-holders are seated either side of the gun between the wheels.
The popular image of the little, simple, upright soldier, the chevalier sans peur et sans reproche, owed more to Rudyard Kipling's hero-worship (as in his poem "Bobs") than to reality. His surviving papers reveal a more complex character—ambitious, manipulative, on occasions devious, and with a strong political awareness ...
Roberts was perhaps the ablest field commander since Wellington—quick to grasp a situation, bold and decisive in his solutions, and calm and confident in the face of difficulties. But he was prone to underestimate his opponents and to take risks, particularly with logistics. His performance in South Africa at the age of sixty-seven suggests that he had the potential to be one of the great ommanders, but it was never tested in a European theatre. About his stature as a commander there will continue to be debate.