The bravest man in the British Army

The bravest man in the British Army

Author
Philip Bujak
ARRSE Rating
5 Mushroom Heads
'A memorable insight into the motivation of an exceptional soldier and into the wars Britain fought at the beginning of the twentieth century.' Author's quote.

I do not do biographies, mainly because the author is either trying to big his subject up or intent upon pulling him to pieces. I chose to do this one because my paternal Grandfather mentioned Major Jack Sherwood Kelly on a number of occasions and served with him during the First World War.

This is the story of a man who first saw active service during the Matabele revolt of 1896, hunted murderers in Somaliland in 1902-3, saw service in Ireland during the uprisings of 1912-14 and who took command of the 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, winning honour at Gallipoli (awarded DSO), The Somme and Cambrai, where he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

Despite being wounded on at least four occasions, Sherwood Kelly refused a staff job, always insisting that he was better suited leading his men, not driving them.

He always had problems with his temper and authority and one feels throughout the pages of this excellent book that he was held back from further advancement because of this. Indeed, after a very public clash with Winston Churchill, Kelly was court marshalled for his lack of action in 1919 during the British intervention against the Bolsheviks. Kelly found Churchill's attitude towards the White Cossacks unworkable and refused direct orders on three occasions. At the court martial, he was severely reprimanded.

Although at one time he was an acting Major-General, Kelly never had his rank substantiated and died as a half-pay Lt-Col in 1931.

This is a very insightful story, on a par with Paddy Mayne's. Both had their own views and resented authority. Anyone interested in the persona of the British Army of the early twentieth century, will be fascinated by Kelly's story and will get an insight into how the Imperial General Staff were run.
An excellent story, well recommended.

Rating 5 out of 5

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