London: 1929. This collection of 1929 correspondence concerns the 1897-98 Malakand expedition on the northwest colonial Indian frontier that saw a young Winston Churchill’s first combat and was the subject of his first published book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force. The correspondence includes two holograph, signed letters from the expedition’s commander, General Sir Bindon Blood, and one holograph, signed letter from Churchill’s longtime assistant Eddie Marsh. The correspondence recipient, “Rev. E. J. F. Davies”, apparently took a keen and possibly personal interest in the expedition’s history.
The first letter from Blood is dated “12th May 1929” and fills both sides of a single sheet of “Cadogan Square” stationery, with the final lines and signed valedictory inked perpendicular to the rest of the text on the upper portion of the recto. Blood references a 10 May letter from Davies and provides three requested autographs, inked on a separate, accompanying sheet. Blood states: “No doubt you have seen Winston Churchill’s book on “The Malakand Field Force”? He gives you a good idea of the atmosphere and of the spirit of the soldiers – ‘Ever elegantly marching through the most pellucid air on the road followed by Alexander when he invaded India.’”
The second letter from Blood is dated “25th May 1929” answering a 13 April letter from Davies which Blood had kept “until I could answer it properly”. Quite lengthy, this 762-word letter fills 12 sides of stationery. Blood opens by more fully describing Churchill’s book, recommending the 1899 (Silver Library) edition and advising where it might be purchased. After telling Davies “I see you are a little mixed in your recollections of the Frontier operations of 1897-98”, Blood fills 11 pages with his own detailed personal account, including further mention of Churchill. Davies clearly took Blood’s advice and sought the 1899 edition of Churchill’s book.
The final holograph letter to Davies is from Churchill’s assistant Eddie Marsh. Inked on a single sheet of “Treasury Chambers, Whitehall, S.W.” stationery dated “8.6.29” (Churchill was then serving as Chancellor of the Exchequer), the letter reads: “Mr. Churchill desires me to thank you for your letter & to say that his “Malakand Field Force” is in print in the Silver Library. Yours faithfully, E. Marsh”. (It wasn’t, having been out of print since 1901.)
A Victorian archetype, Sir Bindon Blood (1842-1940) joined the Royal Engineers after training at the East India Company’s military college and spent thirty-five years in India, except for short periods of active service in South Africa. Churchill befriended Bindon Blood in 1896 and “extracted from him a promise that if ever he commanded another expedition on the Indian frontier, he would allow Churchill to accompany him.” (Churchill, Youth 1874-1900, p.346) True to his word, as commanding General of the Malakand Field Force expedition, Blood wrote to Churchill on 22 August 1897: “I should advise your coming to me as a press correspondent, and when you are here I shall put you on the strength on the 1st opportunity.”
Enabled by Blood, “on 16 September 1897, Churchill took part in his first real action as a combatant.” (p.358) His newspaper despatches led to his first published book, The Story of the Malakand Field Force (1898). Churchill dedicated the book to Blood and chose a photograph of Blood for the frontispiece. More than four decades later, Blood died on 16 May 1940, just six days after his one-time rashly ambitious subaltern became wartime Prime Minister. In 1905, when Churchill chose Sir Edward Howard “Eddie” Marsh (1872-1953) as his Private Secretary, Marsh was "an obscure clerk in the West African Department" and Churchill the newly appointed Under-Secretary of State for the Colonies. This appointment became the basis of a lifelong friendship. Marsh "remained at his side in every Cabinet post he held for the next twenty-five years." (Gilbert, VIII, p.794). Item #004037