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A devout old soldier

05 December 2014

The death had occurred on 14 November of "the veteran Field Marshal, Earl Roberts, the gallant winner of the Victoria Cross, the leader of the famed march to Kandahar, and the commander who brought the Boer War to a successful end". He had contracted pneumonia after going to visit the Indian troops on the Western Front, and he was laid to rest in St Paul's Cathedral. There was this postscript:

IN YESTERDAY's Daily Chronicle Mr Coulson Kernahan corrects the statement which attributed to Lord Roberts the authorship of a prayer which was said to have been composed by him for the soldiers serving under him in South Africa. When asked by Mr Kernahan if the statement was true, Lord Roberts said that he certainly was not the writer of the prayer, and regretted that it had been believed to be his composition. "It is not," he wrote, "as you know, that I do not believe in prayer. I have humbly asked God's help and guidance in everything that I undertook all through my life, and never more so than now, when I am an old man, and His call may be very near." After ransacking his memory, Lord Roberts at last recalled the fact that he asked the Primate, Archbishop Alexander, to write out a short prayer shortly after the trouble arose in South Africa, and this was the prayer in question. He remembered also that he caused several thousand copies to be distributed, and, no doubt, those into whose hands it came quickly fell into the habit of calling it "Lord Roberts's Prayer." Probably, it will continue so to be called for many a long day.

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