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Adrian Musgrave


Insights of a War Correspondent – Military History, Adventurer & Explorer Biographies, Military Biographies

Following service in the British Army, brought to a premature end by injury and subsequent medical discharge, George Clarke Musgrave became a war correspondent and journalist, seeing action with British and American forces in West Africa, Cuba, South Africa, China and France. In a career that spanned some twenty-five years he grew from a raw but determined neophyte of the media circus to a seasoned, brilliantly analytical and highly respected observer of war. But in the same twenty-five years he also became a more frustrated, more discouraged and, ultimately, more troubled man.

While he had no hesitation in identifying and exposing the failings of those in authority, our author was never able to fully come to terms with the habitual inability of our politicians and our best generals to make clear, correct and courageous decisions; or with the ignorance and incompetence of officials at every level; or the foul stain of corruption that sucks the very lifeblood from the fighting man. And he lived with this through the five theatres of conflict in which he served. He suffered the brutality, the traumas and the evils of war tempered with an undying admiration for the men and women who lived and loved, suffered and triumphed in its fighting.

He was a committed and prolific writer whose work chronicles the often untold stories of those left behind to suffer the iniquities and atrocities of wars that others fought. He wrote a number of books which were readily published and well received by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic, as well as a wide-ranging portfolio of media articles and reports. To meet the commercial requirements of his publishers and editors, though, his books, newspaper articles and press reports were necessarily circumspect in terms of the deep-rooted issues and problems with which he struggled. So, it is to his private and often unpublished essays, diary notes and letters that we must turn if we are to discover his fears and concerns, his judgments and opinions, his hopes, his beliefs and his insights; the insights of our war correspondent. 

An Ashanti Uprising – History of Eastern Africa, African History, Adventurer & Explorer Biographies

AshantiAn authentic adaptation of the accurate and entertaining account of Sir Francis Scott’s Ashanti Expedition of 1895-96, vividly portraying the killing fields, the treachery and the debauchery that characterised this gold-rich outpost of the Empire, and building to the final scene when King Prempeh had to undergo the ultimate humiliation in the sight of his chiefs and subjects. Even after Kumassi had been occupied by the British troops, the Ashanti continued to proclaim the invincible greatness of their King. But there could be no more self-deception when the King and the Queen-mother had to kneel before the Governor and embrace his feet. The final denouement followed when Prempeh refused to pay the indemnity that had been owed to the British for more than twenty years, at which point the Royal family was seized, deported to the Coast as prisoners and exiled to the British colony of Sierra Leone.

The lands of Ashanti had stood as the great barrier to the development of our African territories and the expedition had been a brilliant success in fully accomplishing its object. Following a final parade and salute for His Excellency Governor Maxwell, the Headquarters at Cape Cost Castle was embarked, and quietly the Expeditionary Force left for Old England, having brought to a close the most peaceful, but also the most successful and best managed campaign that has ever graced the annals of English History. 

The Cuban Crisis – History of Cuba, Military History, Military History of the United States

cuban crisisSent with a dual commission from an English newspaper and an American journal, George Clarke Musgrave landed in Cuba “a warm sympathiser with Spain.” For two years, though, he lived and served with the revolutionaries, learned of their cause and experienced their suffering. Appointed as a Captain on General Garcia’s staff, he repeatedly crossed the lines carrying despatches from the insurgent Cuban Government to the Americans. Danger and hardship became his companions and he was twice imprisoned, three times wounded, barely rescued from a spy’s death and finally arrested and deported to Spain under threat of execution. Following intervention by the British government he was eventually released from prison in Cadiz, from where he journeyed back to England and on to America to join the United States forces at Tampa Bay for the invasion of Cuba at the start of the Spanish-American war. Thus equipped, he gives us “a plain story of the sufferings and sacrifices of the Cubans for their freedom.”
This detailed review of the insurrection from the arrival of General Weyler to the USS Maine disaster and the ultimate advent of the American forces is thorough, vivid, picturesque and full of incident. The sketches of troops and commanders, lifestyles and politics, characters and manners, are finely drawn and illuminating, as are the comments on the abject failings of the commissariat of the American Army in Cuba and the crushing indictment of the oppressive Spanish rule.

The war in Cuba left the world with a much-changed opinion of the Cuban patriots. They had prevailed against all the forces which Spain could bring against them. The stories of torture, of murder, and of the imprisonment and rescue of Evangelina Cisneros match anything in the history of crime, and bring a spotlight to bear on the cruelty perpetrated by the Spanish aggressors. The later chapters are devoted to the war and chronicle the action from the arrival of the US forces to the final capitulation of Spain at Santiago, depicting in intimate detail the horrors and the heroism of this brief but bloody war, and paying graceful compliment to “the amazing valour of the American soldier” and “the stupendous challenges faced in taking Santiago.” In his concluding retrospect, the author expresses his belief in the British policy of making an ally of a conquered enemy and his opinion that this should be a priority for the United States as they work to fulfil their moral pledge of giving the Cubans independence. 

War with the Boer – History of South Africa, African Historical Biographies, African History

boerA hard-hitting chronological account of the second Boer war, which opens with a strong criticism of the easy methods followed by some authors of writing war histories by sitting at home and compiling “fat newspaper dispatches.” In his foreword, George Clarke Musgrave argues that this prevents a true analysis and understanding of the war and shows contempt for those, on both sides, seeking to explain their conflicting views and aspirations.

The scene is set with the sending of the Boer ultimatum from President Kruger to England, followed by a general overview of the South African republics and the key factors which led to the war, building to the opening of hostilities at Kraaipan in October 1899, and the military operations that followed. In vivid and graphic detail, based on his own experiences, and with special emphasis on the actions of the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Redvers Buller and his General Staff, the narrative can be commended for its clarity and comprehensiveness. The Boer sieges and the subsequent battles for the relief of Kimberley, Mafeking and Ladysmith are covered both in strategic terms and in the intimate detail that is the reality of individuals fighting, suffering and dying for their country.

Despite the downfall of General Buller, following three critical defeats in what has become known as “Black Week,” we are reminded that he, too, deserves due acknowledgement. While his replacement, Field-Marshall Lord Frederick Roberts, will reap most of the credit and the deserved praise for his own success, we should remember that it was the fierce and dogged fighting of Buller’s forces that relieved Ladysmith. History will ultimately record in favour of both generals.

The span of history will also deliver the analgesia to soothe the savage breasts of those having to deal with the treachery and back-stabbing of the self-serving cheats, liars and money-grabbers that inevitably rise from their slime in times of conflict. There were many such despicable opportunists abroad in America as the war gathered momentum and the concluding section of the book details the vicious diatribe arising from the activities of arguably the worst of them; a certain Webster Davis. 

The Boxer Rebellion – Asian History, Chinese Historical Biographies, Biographies & Memoirs of Military People

boxerCalled back from his honeymoon by an urgent telegram from the New York Times, George Clarke Musgrave settled his new wife at her family home in New Jersey and then left for San Francisco on 9th July 1900, from where he sailed for China. His brief was to travel with the American force that was part of an eight-nation alliance with Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Austro-Hungary, Japan and Russia, mounting what was termed the “China Relief Expedition.” Earlier in the year, hundreds of Chinese Christians and foreign missionaries had been viciously attacked and killed in China’s Northern provinces. This violence and blood-letting came to a head with the murder of the German Minister in Peking, at which time most foreigners and many Chinese converts fled to the foreign legations in the city where they were promptly besieged by a large force that called itself the “Righteous Harmony Fists,” but which the press had labelled the Boxers. The objective of the multi-national force was to rescue the foreign nationals.

There is no material relevant as an introduction for this book. In fact, there is no book to draw from, neither are there any newspaper articles or reports. Instead, we have only a collection of notes, diary entries, photographs, military briefings and despatches covering the four weeks spent in China. For such an experienced, committed and prolific writer, this is something of a surprise, but the clues lie in the tenor of the words that he uses to describe the horror, the brutality and the sheer trauma of his experiences. Horror and brutality were no strangers to our author, who had experienced war in many theatres, but he had seen nothing like this. Describing his entry into Tientsin, he says; “I could have likened it only to walking into the depths of Hades itself. The overpowering stench was more revolting than any I had suffered, and was matched in intensity only by the visual horrors before us. Thousands of people milled aimlessly from ruin to ruin; or squatted, expressionless, like dumb animals unaware that they were about to be slaughtered. Putrid corpses lay rotting in the streets, while women and children ran in terror from the carnage around them or stood huddled, almost comatose, in abject groups.”

The march from Tientsin to Peking and the relief of the Legations is documented in some detail but worse – much worse – was to follow. The closing notes describe the aftermath of the expedition, when military order was replaced by chaos. In the days following the entry of the alliance forces into Peking, there began an orgy of looting, execution, rape, torture and murder, described as “an unfolding kaleidoscope of human behaviour more nightmarish and more brutal than any of us could have believed possible.”

And here lies the reason why our author penned no words for publication. In a note describing his final hours in the city, together with a group of three fellow correspondents, he wrote; “not one of us had ever known such an assault on the senses; not one of us had ever been exposed to such obscene visions of reality. In our hearts we all knew, we had a silent understanding and a shared pledge that there are things we must not write, and that may not be printed for our readers, which show that this Western civilisation of ours is merely a veneer over savagery.” 

The Silent Trauma of War – Adventurer & Explorer Biographies, Professional & Academic Biographies, Military Biographies

traumaIn writing of war, well-known episodes must take their place to complete the story; so must the personal observations of those who were there in the field, the bivouacs, the hospitals, and the prisoner convoys. The writer’s eye must also be sharp enough to see through the fog that obscures every arena of conflict grown thick from the ivory-tower diplomacy and simplistic, chess-board planning of war by ignorant politicians; the life and death decisions of generals walking tall on their given pedestals; the incompetence of officials that is evident at every level, and the foul stain of corruption that sucks the very lifeblood from the fighting man. Those absent from the field know nothing of this but we live in an age when interest is ephemeral, and, unless one is content to write for reputation alone, a work must be published during the height of public interest to command success.

The author who has gathered his material first-hand, at the risk of life and health, returns to find his work anticipated in books written by those who have never left the security of their own homes. Their works may be a comedy of errors but, issued when the popular feeling is inflamed with pride and victory, their accuracy is not questioned. The dust and heat of the battlefield do not inspire literary style, and chapters written under fire lack the polish bestowed by wordsmiths reclining in comfort and clean linen. Thanks to electricity and newspaper enterprise, some authors are now able to construct very readable books around the slender fabric of cable despatches but this denies a true analysis and understanding of the war and shows contempt for those, on both sides, seeking to explain their conflicting views and aspirations. No one who has seen the horrors of war can pen words to glorify it. Neither can they minimise its deeply embedded lies, truths, prejudices or values. And this is the dilemma faced by every correspondent, journalist and author: how to portray a true and accurate account of war in the intimate detail that is the reality of individuals fighting, suffering and dying for their country, while remaining unaffected by the causal factors underlying the conflict.

The span of history will deliver the analgesia to soothe the savage breasts of those having to deal with the inability of our politicians and our best generals to make clear, correct and courageous decisions; and to live with the moral decline, treachery and back-stabbing of the self-serving hordes that inevitably rise from their slime in times of conflict. But, until history evolves, this is the silent trauma of war. 

The World at War: History of World War I, Military History, Biographies of World War I

worldThis is a graphic, straightforward history of the war on the Western Front, with a note that the book was written at the suggestion of an American officer who, on his arrival in France, found that he could not gain a meaningful perspective. A keen student of the world war, he had followed its phases in the newspapers and the imposing array of war books. But when he reached France, he found that, by concentrating primarily on the great events, public attention had been shifted to and from different episodes in the far-flung areas of conflict, until the overall canvas had become too large to comprehend.

Through his vivid, accurate and illuminating narrative, our author draws his pictures with an eye to the diplomatic reasons behind the plans of war, the great sweep of armies as they manoeuvre for advantage, and the effect of the life and death decisions of Generals on the fighting man and on the civilian population.

Supported by facts gathered from many sources including: the trenches, bivouacs, hospitals, military briefings, despatches, dug-outs and observation points, he writes of the invasion of Belgium and of the Allied effort to break the German lines as only a man who knows military life intimately, and has seen war all over the world, could describe them. With a focus on the eagerness of the Allied troops to come to grips with their enemy, we are shown the concerted unravelling of the German armies, the long deadlock at the front, and the virtues, the defects and the successes of the offensive strategy that ultimately checked the German menace.

In essence this is a vibrant and exciting story of the war, tinged with human interest, with a central theme depicting the ways in which the super-strategy of Germany to extend her frontier straight across France to the mouth of the Seine, was defeated with simple strategy and super-tactics which foiled the invasion and wrecked all chances of a German victory.

The closing pages outline the influence of the two ultimate challenges to Germany’s planned dominance; the thunder of the new British guns in Belgium, and the arrival of the American Army in Europe, ready for attack. 

Cuba – Pearl of the Antilles: History of Cuba, Adventurer & Explorer Biographies

pearlThe Great War of 1914 – 1918 has taught the world more in geography and history than a century of ordinary education would have imparted. It has destroyed many inherited prejudices and shattered the complacency which was shackling the imagination that built up the British Empire. As peace introduces a new era of international comity which will test the bonds forged between the Allied countries, this seems an opportune time to present some simple facts regarding Cuba, a young member of the family of nations, that has stood solidly with the Allies from the outset, but of whom the British people know so little. We have special interests in the West Indies, and there are sentimental and practical reasons why we should have a cordial understanding with our largest neighbour there, nearly the size of England.

British policy is being determined by a public that cares nothing about other countries unless pestilence, war, earthquake or lynching gives them a news value, while the American Press, on the other hand, teems with articles destined to create a wide interest in Cuban affairs and commercial opportunities. Driven by the enthusiasm and support of their Government, and particularly Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt, Americans are gaining an increasing share in Cuba’s rapidly developing infrastructure and trade. Inspired by all these promising signs, it was the vision of men such as: John Findlay Wallace, John Frank Stevens and Lieutenant Colonel George Washington Goethals, that brought life to the President’s most ambitious project, to connect the Pacific to the Atlantic through a canal across the Isthmus of Panama. Within just two years of the opening of the Panama Canal in 1915, thousands of Americans and Canadians were flocking to the Caribbean Islands and, particularly, to Cuba – the Pearl of the Antilles. 

Wars and Words – Military History, Adventurer & Explorer Biographies, Military History of the United States

wordsI never met my great-uncle, George Clarke Musgrave. Born in 1874, he answered the Reaper’s call in 1932 and now lies at rest with his parents at Swanage in the beautiful countryside of Dorset. I did not know him but, for more than a decade now, I have lived with him, walked with him and dreamed with him. But now he is gone and his going has left us with the sad reality that he can no longer recount his life and times to you in person. That task has slipped several branches down the family tree to me and it is with some trepidation, and a keen desire to keep true to his memory, that I have dedicated myself to channelling for you the stories of this fascinating, multi-faceted, complex character.

George Clarke Musgrave’s time in this world carried him through the great challenges and changes of the reigns of Victoria, Edward VII and George V. For his own character, though, he always felt himself more closely aligned with the reformers, the heroes, the visionaries and the Empire builders of the 19th century, than with the dour and stifling traditionalists of the 20th. Following service in the British Army, brought to a premature end by injury and subsequent medical discharge, George Clarke became a war correspondent and journalist, seeing action with both British and American forces in a number of conflicts across the world. His articles from these conflicts were published in many national and international journals including: the Illustrated London News, the London Chronicle, the Daily Mail, Strand Magazine, Black and White Review and the New York Times. He also wrote a number of books which were readily published and well received by audiences on both sides of the Atlantic.

His books are now out of print and first editions are rare and expensive. But his words should be read and, in seeking to bring his library back to life, my intent in these pages is twofold: Firstly, to present for you authentic adaptations of our author’s original works, written with a particular focus on preserving the action, the excitement, the drama and the emotion of his original narrative and, secondly, to knit together the diverse and tangled threads of his career which spanned some twenty five years in which he grew from a raw but determined twenty-one-year-old neophyte of the media circus to a seasoned, brilliantly analytical and highly respected observer of war.

So, share with us the raw brutality, the traumas and the evils of war tempered with an undying admiration for the men and women who have lived and loved, suffered and triumphed in its fighting. Discover in these writings my attempts to chronicle the joys, the tears, the pleasures, the pain and the blessings of a life that George Clarke Musgrave always tried to live well. 

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