The author has gone a long way to redress the lack of visibility of one of the most important soldiers of the British Empire. Sir Francis Wingate participated in the key Middle East events from the Dervish uprising in the Sudan, to the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. It is difficult to see how history could have overlooked him. If only British and American politicians and generals had studied Wingate a much more successful outcome could have been achieved in the recent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq.
NAME: Wingate Pasha, The Life of General Sir Francis Reginald Wingate 1861-1953
CLASSIFICATION: Book reviews
AUTHOR: R J M Pugh
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: Hard back
SUBJECT: Egypt, Sudan, Kitchener, Gordon of Khartoum, intelligence, Arab Revolt, T E Lawrence, Empire
DESCRIPTION: The author has gone a long way to redress the lack of visibility of one of the most important soldiers of the British Empire. Sir Francis Wingate participated in the key Middle East events from the Dervish uprising in the Sudan, to the destruction of the Ottoman Empire. It is difficult to see how history could have overlooked him. He was a Scottish soldier-statesman of the type that built the British Empire and maintained order, quietly, efficiently and modestly. He mastered several languages, including Arabic. He was sent to relieve General Gordon who had been besieged in Khartoum by Dervish rebels, arriving shortly after Gordon had been murdered. As Kitchener’s intelligence officer, Wingate played an important role in the recovery of the Sudan from Dervish control and was appointed Governor-General of the Sudan with the task of reconstruction. If only British and American politicians and generals had studied Wingate a much more successful outcome could have been achieved in the recent occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq. Wingate proved an enlightened administrator who very successfully helped the Sudan to recover from the Dervish control. His administration brought unprecedented political, social and economic benefits. During the First World War, Wingate took the leading role, organizing the Arab Revolt against the Turks. T E Lawrence was his subordinate who received the acclaim, largely because a US journalist expended much effort to promote Lawrence and his front-line role, aided by Lawrence’s love of costume and drama. When Lawrence faded into obscurity as an enlisted airman in peacetime Britain, Wingate was High Commissioner of Egypt and took a firm stand in defence of the Egyptian people at Paris Peace Conference. When he retired from public life, he returned to Scotland and established a successful business career in which he was active until his death in 1953. The story told so well by the author shows that fame can be a fickle thing. Having passed without acclaim for his role in making the Arab Revolt the success that it was, Sir Francis also lost out within his family. Wingates, of succeeding generations, have served the British military with some distinction. Of these officers, Sir Francis deserves to be the most famous, with a firm footing in history, having been a key figure in the establishment Arab nations, free from Turkish rule. Where his direct actions were highly beneficial in providing a basis for the same enlightened benefits that his Governor-Generalship had brought to the Sudan, later politicians have failed to seize the opportunities he helped to provide and betrayed his legacy. That may be the reason for his anonymity because politicians hate to admit the extent of their incompetence. However, his cousin’s son, Major General Orde Wingate, has achieved fame, if for less effort and result than Sir Francis. Even so, a mark of Sir Francis is that he would not have begrudged the fame achieved by Lawrence and by Orde Wingate because he came from a cast of warrior-administrators who built a great Empire through working quietly and efficiently to deliver enlightened government where the people, whatever their race, were served rather than ruled. There is an interesting collection of photographs in a photo plate section to support the text.