Courtesy Reuters

Ironside

THE first time I saw Sir Edmund Ironside was in 1936. I had been asked to luncheon by some friends and on entering their drawing room I had the impression that it was smaller than I remembered. I then realized that what had changed its proportions was the presence of an enormous and most restless man. He was pacing up and down between the windows discussing with his host some point of military administration. I observed his great square shoulders and his great square jaw; he reminded me of Field Marshal Allenby, although his movements and the manner in which he spoke were infinitely more brisk. From the tone of authority in his voice it was evident that he was a very senior officer. Yet there was something about him which was different from the typical general. I supposed, at first, that it was his restlessness which made the difference. There was none of the slow grace of Haig, none of the ponderous and monumental rigidity of Kitchener, none of the lazy, lanky swing of Henry Wilson. There was something in the way he moved, at once nervous and decisive, which recalled the quick gestures of Marshal Foch. Yet what really made the difference was the manner in which he spoke. Most senior officers speak unwillingly, weighing their words, studiously avoiding anything which might appear to be unconventional or indiscreet. This man, it was obvious, was bursting with ideas and anxious to express them. I have observed that most British generals confine their conversation to the familiar and the expected; one realized that this man might at any moment say something very unexpected indeed.

"Who is he?" I asked my hostess in a low voice.

"Ironside," she answered.

Even in a whisper the name resounded through the room.

II

In the county of Aberdeenshire, in the highlands of Scotland, there lies a village of the name of Ironside. Around that village have clustered for centuries families of that name -- sturdy country

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