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20th November 2003Lt Bromhead's character & personality
By Peter Ewart
The recent thread on Bromhead's deafness & reported criticisms of his character by other officers reminded me that I had a copy (somewhere!) of a published letter I had transcribed some time ago which had been written by someone who knew the man far better than, say, had Wolseley.

The letter was published in The Guardian but, as far as I can see, does not appear to have been picked up by any AZW historian although Morris apparently used the paper. It appeared in the issue of 5th March 1879 (p320/321):

"Lt. Bromhead of the 24th.


There is a name at present on the lip of Englishmen which will live for all time. in the brightest annals of English history. As one who was bound to Gonville Bromhead by the closest ties of that intimate friendship which can only exist once in a lifetime, will you allow me to state tha tit was not of his Queen only that he became a "good soldier."

Beneath that reserve which often cocneals so much that is of sterling worth in the English character lay hid a deep and loyal love for all that is g[..... my notes illegible!] and noble in life. Like many others, he owed most of what was dear to him in opinion to the higher influence and teaching of the head master of Newark Grammar School. An earnest, simple-hearted Churchman, when Bromhead joinedhis regiment, he was not ashamed to carry his Chistianity with him into the army.

At school he was ever among the foremost on the river and in the cricket field and excelled in all those sports which demand the qualities so necessary for a soldier - quickness of eye and readiness of hand. Gentle, modest, unassuming, he was a boy for boys to love and for all to esteem. He has "become a name" and yet the very last person to realise the fact will be himself."

W.J. Humble, Clayton [cum Frickley] Vicarage, 3rd March 1879.

Even after picking through the standard public-school language of the period and awareness of the values which were held in esteem in any young gentleman, nuruted at school and brought to the regiment, and allowing for the fact that a very close friend is ofering this testimonial, I submit that the writer knew the man far better than Wolseley and even some of the officers who wrote after the 22nd (excepting those of the 24th, of course).

We see plenty of accounts of Bromhead's military career but I have seen very few detailed descriptions of his character by those who knew him intimately, and I suggest that some remarks by other officers can hardly be relied upon for obvious reasons of partiality. The characteristics of devotion, loyalty, reserve and modesty were highly valued in the Victorian society among gentlemen (not just in the military) and I see these qualities demonstrated by Bromhead in the weeks following R/Drift. Wolseley, shapr and analytical brain that he possessed, "did not do modesty", as we might say today. Perhaps we can rely on the above description more accurately than any other in the absence of a more balanced or less jaundiced account?

Humble, incidentally, changed his name to Humble-Crofts two months later and ended up the incumbent of a rural Sussex parish and became a Prebendary of Chichester Cathedral And - of course! - he played a little first class cricket ... I think it may have been his son, Capt CM Humble-Crofts who served in the 13 (3rd Southdowns) Royal Sussex on the Western Front (and died?) but haven't checked.

20th November 2003Peter Ewart
Excuse the odd typo & wild syntax - trying to finish & send before being booted off by AOL!

20th November 2003Mike McCabe
I vaguely recall being told that Lt Bromhead had written to his sister after the defence, trying to convey his grief at the loss of his men in the burning hospital and his sense of helplessness as the fire raged. Anybody know where it is held. It might have been Brig David Bromhead who mentioned it to me.
21st November 2003Roseanne Covey

On page 385 of Adrian Greaves' book "Rorke's Drift" is part of the letter (or it may be all of the letter--I'm not sure). Also, on page 384 is a letter Bromhead wrote to Capt. Godwin-Austen which is also insightful. O feel that both letters show what a kind and "gentle man" he was.

21st November 2003Roseanne Covey
Oops!!!! Should be "I feel" not "O feel."

21st November 2003Alan Critchley

that's I.K!

21st November 2003Peter Ewart
Just had a look at the original newspaper again. The word in my notes which I couldn't read is "greatness." In the first line I have typed lip instead of "lips" and introduced an errant fullstop. Otherwise, for those of you who collect primary and some published sources, the text of the letter is exactly as I had previously transcribed it.

The Guardian had no connection with the later famous "Manchester Guardian", fore-runner of today's national daily, but was primarily a weekly C of E paper which contained very full reports on British policies overseas & proceeds in the Commons & Lords, etc., in the same way as would The Times and many provincial papers. (Humble was born in 1846 & so was a contemporary of GB at Newark Grammar).