General Sir Arthur Paget, who died yesterday at Cannes at the age of 77, was a fine natural soldier who might have risen to be a leading figure among British commanders in the Great War. Although in 1914 he was still at the best of his powers, still in sound health, he was not sent to France, and, as the War went on it must have become clear to him that, in the eyes of the younger men coming to the fore, he was being relegated to the ranks of those who were too old - a hard fate for a man who possessed outstanding. gifts and qualifications for high military command.
Arthur Henry Fitzroy. Paget, eldest son of General Lord Alfred Henry Paget; C.B.R: and grandson of the Lord Anglesey of Waterloo fame, was born on-March 1, 1851. His mother had been a Miss Wyndham of Cromer Hall, Norfolk. and was an heiress. Arthur Paget thus sprang of: a family endowed with fine military traditions and possessed of social and other advantages. His whole career in the Army showed that he was worthy of his stock. After being educated at Wellington, he -was gazetted to the Scots Guards in June, 1869. In December, 1873, he went in the Ashanti Expedition on special service under Sir Garnet Wolseley. He distinguished himself by his share. in the small flanking force placed on Wolseley's left, which was simply a bait to invite attack and possible annihilation by. the enemy. The column escaped that fate with no little credit to Paget. Returning to England in1874, he then led the normal life of a young officer of Foot Guards of the-period. It was not until 1885 that -he went to Egypt with his battalion and took part in Sir G. Graham's. operations round Suakin. In June, 1895, he became brevet-colonel in the Army, but only four years later received command of the 1st Battalion Scots Guards, on promotion to lieutenant-colonel in his regiment, when on the point of being retired for age.
In this position- he went out to South Africa on the outbreak of the war against the Boer Republics in 1899. ;He commanded his .unit during the advance through Cape-Colony, and took part in the actions of Belmont, Enslin, Modder River, and Magersfontein. On Lord Roberts's arrival he continued with the main western column until promoted major-general. on April 1, 1900. He then received the command of an infantry brigade, composed chiefly of Guards, and led that formation through the various engagements of the march to Pretoria. After that summer he commanded a column based on Bloemfontein. But, not being able to see eye to eye with the General in command of the Free State operations, he relinquished his command, though urged by the highest authority (the, Prince of Wales) to remain, he declined. to do so and returned home in June, 1901, being created C.B. and C.V.O.. When the forces at home were reorganized in 1902 Paget was given command of the 1st Division at Aldershot. This position he occupied for four years with conspicuous success, always ready, on manoeuvres or at other times, to put his finger on a weak-spot, and never at a loss for the phrase which exactly summed up a situation. He was promoted lieutenant-general in May, 1906, and was later made K.C.V.O. on. vacating his appointment.
After 18 months of unemployment, he was appointed G.O.C.-in-C., Eastern Command. Here, as elsewhere, he earned the respect, confidence, and devotion of all. After four years of this service, he was again nominated to the corresponding appointment in Ireland. In the spring of 1914 there took place "the Curragh incident," when Generals Hubert and John Gough, commanding the troops at that station, obtained an assurance from the Army Council that they would not be compelled to participate in any coercion of Ulster. The repudiation of this pledge by the Cabinet led to the resignation of Sir John French from his position as Chief of the General Staff, whereas Paget differed from that attitude. In August of that year the War broke out. Sir Arthur Paget was promptly brought back from Ireland with the 5th and 6th Divisions, as all understood to command the III Army Corps. But his fate was destined to be less glorious that that of his troops. He was' appointed to the command of the First Army of the Central Force then being constituted out of the mobilized Territorial Force for the defence of the home country under Sir Ian Hamilton. Sir Arthur's headquarters were north of the Thames. The estrangement of French and Paget, in consequence of the affair in Ireland, was now to bear fruit and was the real reason for Paget's not obtaining the command of the III Army Corps when this was formed in October 1914. Paget pleaded for, and obtained, the nomination of Sir William Pulteney, a brother Guardsman, to this command. He was then selected to act as British Representative at French Headquarters, but again Sir John French proved an obstacle, and a younger man was sent in his place.
When Sir Ian Hamilton was dispatched to. the Mediterranean in March, 1915, Sir Leslie Rundle succeeded him in London as Commander of the Central Force. Any hope that Paget may have entertained of obtaining a command overseas then rapidly dwindled. The remaining possibility of his being called upon to resist invasion also disappeared. Further, in January, 1916, the recall of Lord French to command the Forces at home deprived Sir Arthur of a last chance of seeing himself in a more active or more influential role. Preparations, to meet hostile air raids were the chief part of his duties connected with-active defence. The time went by spent in the hurried and endless training of. formations, units and drafts for the Forces overseas.. Finally, the death of his eldest son, a most promising officer of cavalry and Staff College graduate, from the effects of gas poisoning in August, 1917, proved the climax of his trials. As soon as he was able to do so he retired and devoted himself to his hobbies, for he was an enthusiastic gardener and a very fair golfer.
Such was the career of a man who was a real soldier at heart and possessed the makings of a great leader in the field. It is true that he had never made much effort, either of will or of intellect, to reach higher rank; it is impossible to deny that he had taken advantage of his position. in the Guards to enjoy life, and, as he said, had lived history rather than read it. In these respects he truly belonged to an age that is past. For all that. he possessed keen .military insight; he was adored by his subordinates, for he trusted and never harassed them; he knew how to handle men. On one occasion he is related to have travelled home from the Riviera, in spite of ill-health, in order to secure the advancement of a staff officer who needed his support. Had he only devoted to military study a fraction of the time ,which he gave up to the observation of trees and shrubs, he might have ranked as a learned soldier. His knowledge of botany grew to he .amazing; his favourite resort became Kew. For some years past he had taken a villa at Cannes for the greater part of each year. When he felt too old for golf, he took up, yachting with enthusiasm, and until quite lately had sailed in practically all the many regattas and races along the Riviera, where he was extremely popular. There, too, his sister, Miss Amy Paget, of the Chateau Gariboudy, near Cannes, has. been for long a beloved figure, honoured by French and English alike.
Mention should also be made of his friendship with Royalty. His father was Equerry and Clerk Marshal of the Royal Household. As a boy he had been a Page of Honour to, Queen Victoria and he became a close friend of the then Prince of Wales, who was godfather to his eldest son. There is no doubt .that King Edward's death deprived him of influential support. In that year, 1910; he :was appointed Special Ambassador to announce to certain foreign Courts the accession of King George V. When the War broke out he was older than many of his colleagues and out of favour. Nevertheless, mentally and physically, he was still young. enough to have undergone severe strain, and others, less qualified than he, were at that time being placed in positions of the greatest stress. So the Army in France may well have been the poorer for his retention in a position inadequate for his powers when those are judged on their true merits.
Sir Arthur Paget was promoted to K.C.B. in 1907 and G.C.B. in .1913; he was sworn of the Privy Council of Ireland in 1912; and appointed Colonel of The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) in 1914. His work in this capacity was of extraordinary value, and by co-ordinating the various charitable and social activities of the regiment under a committee he set up a model. which is being widely followed in the Army. He was nominated King of Arms of the Order of the British Empire in 1918; and he had been an A.D.C. General to the King from 1910 to 1914. He had also received high foreign orders.
He married in 1878 Mary, daughter of Paran Stevens, of New York; she died in 1919. He leaves two sons, twins, surviving. His only daughter, Louisa, married her kinsman, Sir Ralph Paget, K.C.M.G., formerly Ambassador to Brazil; she was created G.B.E. in 1917. Sir Arthur Paget is survived by his brother, Lord Queenborough, and his sisters. Lady Colebrooke and Miss Amy Paget.
General, G.C.B., G.C.V.O., soldier and diplomat, who served in Belgrade and Ireland. Born the son of Lord Alfred Paget and Cecilia Wyndham, Paget was commissioned into the Scots Guards in 1869. He took part in the Ashanti War in West Africa in 1873 and then served in Sudan and Burma. He was appointed General Officer Commanding 1st Infantry Division within 1st Army Corps in 1902 and then became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Eastern Command in 1908 before moving on to be Commander-in-Chief, Ireland in 1911. He was in part responsible for the Curragh Incident. He served in World War I and retired in 1918. During the 1870s he was a leading owner of steeplechasers. Until 1878 he used the nom de plume 'Mr Fitzroy'. Under this pseudonym, he wrote several novels in the Naturalist style, recounting his exploits in the military.