Edited by Col. Henry Cadogan, RWF
The Road to Armageddon follows the career of one man, Henry Cadogan, the personification of an infantry officer of the late-nineteenth century. Commissioned in 1888, he was trained for the imperial wars of the closing years of Queen Victoria’s reign and saw active service on the North-West Frontier and in China. The son of a clergyman, he hailed from a large family with whom he regularly corresponded over the many years that he served abroad. These letters form the basis of this history, illustrating the everyday life of a young officer stationed far from home defending an empire of which he, and every other soldier and sailor, was immensely proud. As he rose to eventually command the 1st Battalion, The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, during the peaceful Edwardian years, he played a part in numerous ceremonial and social events which marked a period when the army underwent wholesale changes to prepare it for conflict in the twentieth century.
When Europe was plunged into war in August 1914, Hal Cadogan brought his battalion back from garrison duties on Malta and endeavoured to prepare it for the conflict. After a very short period of training, his battalion was posted to Belgium as part of 7 Division, the last division of the `Old Contemptibles’ to go overseas. Although the British Expeditionary Force was regarded as the best-trained force to ever sail from Britain, it was ill-prepared for what awaited it in France and Belgium. Fighting the last of the Victorian-style campaigns of movement, it acquitted itself with great distinction against an enemy whose sheer weight of numbers seemed to guarantee him victory. Despite this, the BEF managed to halt the German Army long enough to deny it victory in 1914, but for Hal Cadogan and the men under his command the price paid was high indeed, as the battalion was effectively wiped out. But they, and others like them, prevented Britain and her allies losing the war in the opening rounds and thereby laid the first paving on what was to be a long road to eventual victory.