WHAT MADE WELLINGTON A SUCCESSFUL COMMANDER?
Sir Arthur Wellesley, better known after his title as Wellington, was an Anglo-Irish general and statesman, victor of the famous Battle of Waterloo and twice British prime minister. His education was poor – a lonely and unhappy time at Eton where he was bullied mercilessly by others, which, combined with a shortage of family funds caused by his father’s death, forced the young Wellesley and his mother to move to Brussels. Until his early twenties, Arthur continued to show little sign of distinction and his mother grew increasingly concerned at his idleness, stating, "I don't know what I shall do with my awkward son Arthur". A year later, Arthur enrolled in a military school in France, where he progressed significantly, becoming a good horseman and learning French, which was later to prove very useful. Despite his new promise, he was slow to gain promotion and only came to prominence when he went to India where his brother, Richard, was Governor-General. There he learnt his trade, as Colonel Wellesley, and founded a great reputation for himself as a brilliant but also painstaking commander. At the Battle of Assaye, 1803, he defeated an army of 40,000 men thus handing the military power of India to Britain. Hailed as a hero he was recalled to Britain and then joined in an attack on Denmark to seize their navy. He then went to Portugal, systematically destroying each French force that confronted him, but retreating into Portugal when faced with overwhelming numbers. In 1815, Wellesley – who had now been created Duke of Wellington – faced Napoleon in the Battle of Waterloo, which he won. He had tremendous ability, enthusiasm and leadership qualities, as well as being tactically brilliant. The following paragraphs show what made him arguably Britain’s greatest military commander. Tactically, he was first class. He could read a battle very precisely. He always took a very long term view and studied the terrain very...
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