Fierce-Eyed Infantry

From The Arthur Conan Doyle Encyclopedia

Fierce-Eyed Infantry is an article written by Julian Ralph published in the Daily Mail on 10 april 1900, reproducing an excerpt of the article A First Impression written by Arthur Conan Doyle (published initially in Friend magazine on 6 april 1900).

Fierce-Eyed Infantry

Daily Mail (10 april 1900, p. 5)

Dr. Conan Doyle paints a Brigade on the march.

(From Our War Correspondent.)

Bloemfontein, April 6.

Dr. Conan Doyle sends to to-day's "Friend" "A First Impression."

"It was only General Smith-Dorrien's Brigade," he writes, "but if it could have been passed, just as it was, down Piccadilly, it would have driven London crazy.

"I watched them — ragged, bearded, fierce-eyed infantry — struggling along under their cloud of dust. Who could conceive, who has seen the prim soldier [in time] of peace, that he could so quickly transform himself into this grim, virile barbarian?

"Bulldog faces, hawk faces, hungry wolf faces, every sort of face except a weak one. Here and there a man smoking a pipe, here and there a man who smiled; but the most have their swarthy faces lean a little forward, with eyes steadfast and features impassive but resolute.

"Here is a clump of Highlanders with workmanlike aprons in front and keen faces burnt black with months on the veldt; and honoured name that they bear is on their shoulder-straps.

"'Good old Gordons', I cried as they passed me. A sergeant glanced at dirty enthusiasm in the undershirt. 'What cheer, matey?' he cried, and the men squared their shoulders and put a touch of ginger into their stride.

"Here is a clump of mounted infantry, a grizzled fellow like a fierce old eagle at the head of them. Some are maned like lions, some have young, keen faces, but all leave an impression of familiarity upon me; yet I have not seen irregular British cavalry before.

"Why should it be so familiar with this loose-limbed, head-erect, swaggering type? Of course! I have seen it in an American cowboy over and over again. Strange that a few months on the veldt has produced exactly the same man that springs from the western prairie!

"But these men are warriors amid war. Their eyes are hard and quick. They have a gaunt, intent look, like men who live always under a shadow of danger.

"Here and there are other men again, taller and sturdier than the infantry line, grim, solid men, straight as poplars. There is a maple-leaf, I think, upon their shoulder-straps, and a British Brigade are glad enough to have those maples leaves beside them, for the Canadians are the men of Paardeberg.

"And there, behind their comrades in glory, come the Shropshire Light Infantry, slinging along with much spirit after their grand sporting colonel."