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Ripper: A Glimpse into the Life of General Jack Sterling

“General Jack Sterling is a character that almost seems to overwhelm the world around him. The late 19th Century was a time of war, when great generals and well remembered leaders flourished. Above them all stands General Jack ‘The Ripper’ Sterling. He was a troubled man, tormented by inner demons. He overcame more than most men will ever encounter, he was a man that all generations deserve to cherish.”

- From 'A History of the Parisian War' by Sir Winston Churchill

“General Sterling joined the army in 1872, after the revolution in France. He was commissioned at Major, he had ties to the royal family, but he proved himself in the brief time before the war. By fateful 1883 he was a General.”

- From 'The Short Biography of Jack Sterling' by Robert Sherwood

“General Sterling was one of the finest men and one of the most brilliant commanders that it has been my honor to know. Truly he will be remembered as a great man, a great General.”

- The eulogy for Gen. Sterling’s funeral by T. E. Lawrence

“General Jack; he had us all calling him General Jack by 1883, was always kind to the men. I had served under a couple of other Generals, Chelmsford, Pearson, they never showed the men the compassion that Sterling did. He knew how to keep his troops’ spirits high. People remember the ‘Ripper’ who won us the war, they don’t remember General Jack, who won his men.”

- From 'Ripping what we’ve sown: Serving under General Sterling' by Lt. Mason

“Off the record, there was one time that I really wondered about him. Jack seemed like the finest fellow to us, always cordial around the ladies, always good to his men, he was an officer and a gentleman to all appearances. There was one time, early in his career, that I wondered though, whether it was all a façade. I came to his home one evening, his butler let me in and informed me that the General, or was he still just a Major, was in his room, attending to some business. The butler retreated then to some occupation that I have yet to understand and I was left in Jack’s massive hall. I began to walk about, meaning no harm, when I heard a shriek coming from upstairs, where I found Jack, with a strange woman bound to a chair. He saw me; and it seemed as though he broke from some trance and he cut the ropes. I can only assume that that was the purpose that the knife he had on his shelf nearby intended originally, but my arrival seemed to hasten the process. Jack then pulled all of the ropes off and escorted the lady of the evening, she was giggling about the funny habits of the wealthy, to the door where he sent her on her way. He came back in and collapsed on his floor, weeping profusely. It was a weeping that spoke of more than embarrassment, these were tears of a far deeper shame and anguish.
“I realized that this man, this saving angel of out nation, was tormented by inner demons the like of which few of us could bear. General Jack fought more than just the French; they must have seemed as nothing after battling whatever devils he had.”

- From the Unpublished Notes from the London Times interview with Sir. General Buller

“After the Parisian revolution and what can only be termed the disastrous war against Prussia the government of the ‘Commune,’ which had managed to seize from France a large portion of land extending from Normandy quite nearly to Brittany, began a massive program of arming themselves. They paid the reparations that the Germans imposed on them, knowing that Bismarck wouldn’t flinch before sending in troops. But they kept on putting guns into the hands of their men, and in the hands of the prouder men of the South who wasted no time in joining the Commune. All this while they mouthed compliments to the new German Empire, to the men whose nation they had once shared to the South, to the Russians, and to the Italians. In Italy, they found an ally. The Russians were under the economic sway of German investors, Austria was Germany’s brother, France proper was tired of war. Italy alone was ambitious enough to join the Parisians, owing to a number of territorial uncertainties with Austria. Britain was, at the time, aloof, but even England hinted that it owed more favor to the Germans.”

- From "Calm Between the Storms: A History of the Parisian Commune" by Lillian Hellman

“Though the first raids against the rebels were woefully inadequate, rarely seizing any leaders and often provoking the natives more than they quelled them, upon the arrival of Major Sterling things were about to change. He began to expand our intelligence gathering operations and split up our men more and more, bringing smaller, well organized groups to bear on the Mahdia’s rebels. Within three months the Mahdia was dead and the rebellion was coming to a close. The thought is staggering that without Major Sterling we might well have lost the Sudan and what was a small rebellion might have inflamed all of Sudan against Britain and Egypt.”

- From the report of Gov. Charles Gordon on the British reaction to Sudanese rebellions.

“The Frenchmen came with gifts, investments into my faltering Kingdom; I would have been a fool to turn them out. Before long we were dependant on them, desperate for the Parisian supplies. It was at this time, in our weakest hour, that the Parisians asked us to solidify our friendship. No one else showed interest in my kingdom, I had no hope besides them, I am not so foolish as to turn out my only ally.”

- From the Memoirs of Sultan Abulhamid

“In 1883, with both the Ottomans and Italy in tow, with support pledged from dozens, if not hundreds, of rebellious groups within their opponents, the Parisians felt confident to initiate hostilities.”

- From "A History of the Parisian War" by Sir Winston Churchill

“Our neighbors to the north are a nation in their own right, and we accept no culpability for their actions. The French Republic is a state that wishes, at any cost, to avoid war and conflict. We will not stand by the blatant aggression of the Parisian government, we will not, in the same sense, offer assistance to their enemies and will rather seek the course of peace.”

- Statement of Prime Minister Leon Gambetta upon the invasion of Belgium

“The Parisian war plans called for an immediate seizure of Belgium and for the engagement of the German armies positioned along that border quickly, before we would have the chance to respond effectively. They hoped to be inside the gates before we could crush them, they were outclassed, they realized, but they hoped to be able to take us by surprise. Though General Boulanger advanced steadily though Belgium the same cannot be said for his right wing, which was so weakened that it never reached our left wing, or of his left, which lost it’s crucial element of surprise after it spent three weeks in the Battle for Rotterdam. Perhaps this bold plan might have succeeded, especially when coupled with the demands that the revolutions placed upon our allies, if General Boulanger hadn’t arrived alone at the German border.”

- Analysis of the French strategy by Alfred von Schlieffen, secretary to the Chief of General Staff

“The complete disregard of sovereignty, the disregard for human life, the simple carelessness of the warmongering Parisian State leaves the British Empire little recourse but to protect the sovereignty and liberty of Belgium and enter this war.”

- Statement of British Prime Minister Gladstone upon the Parisian invasion of Belgium

“We were stationed in Oldensburg, near enough to the border to be there in support when the fighting started but not so near as to risk bar fights with the Germans on our leave. When Gladstone declared that we would be backing up the Germans in this one, General Sterling nodded serenely and carried out the instructions he had been given, ordering us to prepare for a march.”

- From the Memoirs of Col. Baker of the BEF

“It is my duty to resign from the post of General, which I formerly occupied. I extend my sincerest apologies to the Kaiser and his family, in addition to the other families who were destroyed by my fumbling. I likewise extend my greatest thanks to the British Expeditionary Force, who saved the Fatherland when I failed.”

- From the resignation of Gen. Helmuth von Moltke

"Frogs Held at Bay!"

In the first great battle of this war the British Expeditionary Force proved itself vital to our allies the Germans when General Moltke’s line broke, leaving, among others, Prince Wilhelm II dead in the rubble. Defeat seemed imminent, with the line broken the Parisians could press the advantage back to the Rhine, when the Expeditionary force, under General Jack Sterling, ripped the French Army apart.
General Sterling, best known for his calming of the Sudanese rebellions three years ago, has been serving with the BEF for the past two years and had preached preparedness for the war, which he deemed inevitable. Thanks to this the BEF was as well, if not better, armed than the German divisions and more than capable of moving into position when Moltke’s larger army broke. The Parisians attempted to exploit their advantage as the remaining German forces scrambled to meet them when Sterling commanded his men to take a charge. The Parisian and English charges met midfield while Sterling commanded the remaining Germans to flank the French and to seize the field, which they rapidly did.
Moltke, nephew of the famous German general of the Franco-Prussian War, is expected to resign after the funeral for the Prince.
Though casualties were high, a third of the BEF was interred and another third hospitalized, with only a few looking as though they will survive, the maneuver managed to entirely decimate the French army of General Boulanger, who died in the fighting. As the Parisians search for a new leader at the front General Sterling promises to the Belgians that their time of captivity will be short lived.

- From the London Times of July 8th, 1883

“Ripping the French, with English Scissors”

-Caption of a political cartoon, depicting Sterling holding a bent pair of scissors while standing over a pile of paper shavings.

“He never liked the nickname, but he learned to tolerate it as he pushed into Belgium, restoring its glory as Gladstone had commanded. The reporters were few, and most of the men respected him too much to consider calling him the ‘Ripper.’ He considered the name dirty, vulgar. A dark look would come over his eyes; he would sometimes tremble with fear. It wasn’t a pleasant nickname for the reporters to give him, but he shouldered it.”

- From the Memoirs of Col. Baker

“The casualties seemed to eat at him, the boys could see that. Many of them despaired that their beloved general would succumb entirely to depression. It was in this spirit that as soon as the Germans regained the Belgian front and the BEF was returned to Oldensburg, in preparation for their victorious return to Britain, that the boys took the General to a German pub. Few other groups of officers would go on such an excursion with the boys, but General Sterling, as I have previously noted, promised us that we would not long serve under him if we tried to use our rank as an excuse for separation from the troops. A group of ladies of the evening apparently took residence at the pub they had selected and this lead to the most bizarre experience that I can remember having with the General.
He showed a degree of interest in one of the ladies, and so I asked him if he fancied her. He denied this, but from the straying of his eyes I could tell that my assessment was right. I went to the lady and offered her a sum which seemed reasonable, sending her over to the General. He followed her to her room, as I had expected he would, and I returned to the bar to continue my drinks.
It was a few minutes later that the screaming brought us to the door of the room, we entered to find the lady huddled in the corner, silent, while General Jack seemed engaged in an almost physical battle with a force that neither I nor the boys felt ready to confront.
At the time I blamed the affair on the beer, and informed Colonel Baker that I thought it wise to pack things in for all of the boys, but in retrospect the event begs the question, was there something deeply wrong with the General? Was there some darkness that he fought against all of his days?”

- From 'Ripping what We’ve Sown: Serving Under General Sterling' by Lt. Mason

"Mixed Crowd Greets General"

As he paraded through the streets of London General Sterling probably couldn’t tell if he would be egged or cheered at any given street corner. Though eggs were successful in their aim in the early leg of the parade the BEF quickly surrounded their General to protect him.
“General Jack is like a father to the boys,” commented Lieutenant George Mason.
General Sterling is expected to unite his force, “the remains of the BEF,” as Parliament Member Keir Hardie put it pessimistically, with the armies of General Buller, who announced that he will be, for reasons of health, unable to join the expedition. This leaves General Sterling in command, a controversial move for Prime Minister Gladstone.
Gladstone, who could be seen alongside Sterling in the parade, has thrown his full support behind the General.
“He saved the Germans, he’s fought the Parisians and won. What else can we ask of him?” replied the Prime Minister to accusations that the movement was political to win favor with the royal family, to whom Sterling is a relation. Gladstone went on to note that the BEF remained in full support of the Ripper despite the casualties that were incurred in the first battles of the present war.

- London Times September 28th 1883

“Among the more famous of the distant relations of the crown of England there is General Jack Sterling. The son of a distant cousin of William IV, Victoria‘s predecessor. The famous General stood at 5’7” and was notably pale his entire life. His dark hair, and moustache were well admired by many ladies of the kingdom, but General Jack Sterling, “The Ripper,” as the press of the day dubbed him, never took a wife. He is best remembered for his victories over rebels in the Sudan, in Ireland and his defeat of the Parisians after their invasion of Belgium. He was knighted in August of 1885.”

- From 'The Crowned Heads of Europe' by A. Dickens

“He was about 5‘6“ with a pale complexion, dark hair. He had a slight moustache curled at each end, long dark coat, collar cuffs of astrakhan, dark jacket underneath. Seemed familiar, yet implacable. I think he was probably one of the soldiers that’s coming back from Germany.”

- Description by a London prostitute of an unnamed assailant

"Irish uprising put down"

An Irish uprising, its support Parisian in source, was finally beaten after its third month. The widespread revolt caused the newly rearmed BEF, under General Sterling, to be moved to Ireland and postponed their return to the Continent. Sterling, who won his Generalship after efficiently destroying a Sudanese revolt, was deemed the best man for the job and was sent, army in tow, to end the revolt.
General Sterling, The Ripper as he is known, landed and found, as he put it, “A situation entirely outside my experience.”
Though his experience with the Sudanese might well have prepared him for whatever atrocities barbarians could imagine the Irish proved entirely too much for his first attempts at infiltration. After a week of inactivity and attempts to deal with the situation with stealth General Sterling began to arrange his forces and hammered the centers of Irish activity, Dublin and several smaller towns. Though coy remarks were made by several Parliament members about Sterling being more competent in killing our own men than the Irish he quickly subdued Dublin through sheer force and forced the main concentration of Irish to disperse across the island, where he found his infiltration tactics more effective.
With the execution of James Stephens, returned to Ireland from Paris by the Parisians the revolt was officially ended. The casualties in General Sterling’s recent campaigns were remarkably low, an exact figure, which was around 13, was sent to House of Commons member Hardie, one of Sterling’s most persistent critics, with the signature of General Sterling. Though a small force will remain behind, under Leuitenant Colonel James Smith, to maintain order on the island, General Sterling announced his hope that he would, “having dealt with that trifle,” be allowed to return to the continent and help the Germans break out of the heavy, high casualty war that they’ve been caught in in western Belgium for the past several months.

- London Times January 17th, 1884

“I was, of course, disappointed not to be joining the General as he embarked on his fateful journey. I had my duty to the queen, though, and that was in Ireland. General Sterling left me a massive operation and it was all I could do to keep it running. I discovered that he had, going against the general history of covert operations, not employed the help of the assorted prostitutes of Ireland. This struck me as odd, but perhaps the General was simply an exceptionally moral man, though he had never appeared as such to me.”

- From 'Hark! Duty' by Lt. Colonel Smith

“It was a long, cold winter. The Parisians still had the city [Brussels] and we were deep in our trenches. Artillery threatened us constantly. Bullets came periodically, and we watched friends die with the same numb pain that had witnessed a hundred other brothers die. Men slept standing, afraid to lie down. It was a long, cold winter.”

- From 'All Quiet on the Western Front' by Max Brod

“We landed in Normandy, reversing William’s journey of seven hundred years before. General Sterling had managed to keep the destination private until we were halfway across the channel. We were supposed to march immediately for Rotterdam, help the German armies to break out of the rut that had bound them since August. But glory rarely comes from doing what one is told, and though General Sterling never sought glory in his career, he chose this opportunity to seize the day for himself.”

-From the Memoirs of Col. Baker

“The Parisians weren’t about to surrender just because a large British Army had landed in Normandy. Their designs in the East would have to be rethought, especially since Germany had managed to quell the Berlin riots and was sending troops to the front at a rate that might just give them the advantage in the war of attrition that had settled in what remained of Belgium. The Germans had promised troops to the Russians who were trying to put down the Narodnaya volya revolts that would eventually drag the Tsar from power, but even with that expense they had plenty of flesh to send to the West. The real pressure was on Austria, who attempted to keep the Italians from being overly ambitious while simultaneously uniting the Balkans against the Ottomans. Neither was an easy task and in the process millions of Austrian young men spent their lives asserting the freedom of Europe from the Ottomans, proving to the awkward allies that Austria cared, and trying to keep the new Italians from marching on Vienna itself.
“In the middle of this insert the most brilliant general that the nineteenth century produced and give him command of a large British army in Normandy, right in the heart of the Commune. He realized that his arrival wouldn’t make the Parisians surrender and that merely removing them from Belgium, if his men could, would teach them nothing about sovereignty and so he marched on to Paris.
“It was at this time that France, under a new Prime Minister, decided to join the war and reclaim the Commune. They did this because of Sterling‘s bold move and these political implications of his advance alone saved him from a court-martial.”

- From "Seizing Glory" by G. Lowes Dickinson

“In a month we have lost Nice, Savoy, found Italians at the gates of Marseilles, gained a mile of land once claimed by the Parisian Commune. All of this at the cost of Two hundred thousand men. I am beginning to wonder if my decision to enter the war was a mistake.”

- French Prime Minister Charles Duclerc

"Ruin at Rouen !"

After ‘ripping’ Normandy fiercely, laying waste to Calais, to Boulogne and leaving our forces in Belgium entirely without support the English General Sterling decided to press his luck further into the Commune by making the long march from Boulogne to Rouen, where he engaged and ‘ripped’ the armies, leaving the slaughtered defenders to bury themselves. This comes with continued news of collapse on the front with the capture of Bayeux by our treacherous southern cousins.

- The Parisian Herald May 3rd, 1884

“It was at this time that he met almost constantly with a clergyman who was assigned to the army. The clergyman always came away from the meetings with shocked, terrified, looks. At first I suspected that he was feeling guilt for the thousands of men he commanded to death each day, Parisians of course, our casualties were remarkably low throughout the campaign, leaving even certain unsavory members of Parliament wordless. But I dispelled this thought after a closer look at the clergyman’s shocked expression. Surely he would be prepared, expect such a confession, the clergyman wouldn’t speak to me about the talks. He died during the campaign and so I suppose he took the secret to his grave, General Jack never took another clergyman.”

- From the Memoirs of Col. Baker

“Thankfully the German army has redoubled its efforts and recovered from the humiliations that the Parisians forced upon us for too long. Luxemburg, Rotterdam, Reims are taken. Even now the English approach Paris and the French have finally finished bumbling and have managed to do their part in the war. The main concerns yet lie in Austria, where inner strife could still lend victory to Italy and the Ottomans and in Russia, where the revolutionaries seem on the verge of victory.”

- The report on the state of the war by Alfred von Schlieffen August 17th 1884

"Ripping Paris"

The British Expeditionary Force brought an end to the Parisian Commune yesterday by marching triumphantly into Paris. The lands taken by Britain are expected to be returned to France, as per the promise of Prime Minister Gladstone, and Belgium is to be restored to autonomy.
The Ottoman Empire offered a generous peace proposal upon the capture of Paris, leaving large territories to Greece, Serbia, Romania and the newly formed Russian Socialist Republic.
Italy has also offered a peace, but it is a victors peace and the world waits as Austria contemplates its terms.
The war, only two years long and yet more consuming of life than any war before has placed a shroud over many European cities. Poets may in the days ahead glamorize our days of valor, but today we mourn. Today we salute and today we cry. Let tomorrow make some glory out of it. Let them paint the flag with pride, let them look back on these days with a proud heart. But today even the Ripper weeps

- London Times June 9th 1885

“Knighthood, what an odd thing that can encompass both myself and Jack Sterling.”

-Sir Elton John upon being knighted

“The next years would watch as General Jack fell from the public eye. He retired from the army in ‘89. He left his private estate rarely, and spent most days in meditation of the large, leather bound Bible that he always kept near him. An old friend from the army was always welcome as were almost all visitors. General Jack kept to himself mostly, praying and sometimes singing to himself for absolutely no evident reason. About this time he kept a journal and though it seems that he attempted to destroy it several passages survive. These surviving passages paint a portrait of a torn man, searching for some good in his soul, trying to defy the lusts that seized him.
“The Ripper died in 1914 of a heart condition, he was hospitalized for a month before he died.”

- From 'The Short Biography of Jack Sterling' by Robert Sherwood

“The darkness is coming. A man can feel something like that inside him, its cold, sick, familiar. I can feel it coming up inside me and I fight back at it, as I have a thousand times. I can still fight it, if anything this feebleness makes me more resilient to its allure. The fire burns warm under my mantle, its pale light shines and illuminates the walls, dancing through my library. Alfred won’t be awake anymore to bother me, these fits always bother him.
“If only he knew the cause, if only he knew the blackness of my soul, the dark desires that pull me into this. If the world knew this would I be a hero? The little boys look up to me when they visit, with eyes filled with awe, admiration. If they knew…
“I start to shudder as I pace the streets, lanterns stare at me as I pass them.
“Welcome to Whitechapel, I mutter to myself.
“There she is, shuddering in drunkenness, the beast pulls against its chains, it has dragged me this far. My mouth opens in an all too familiar snarl, my eyes start to dialate and I begin to stumble. I shudder aright, shake my head. My heart thuds, pounding out painful note after painful note.
"'Can I help you,' she calls seductively. If only she knew, if only she would run.
"I look at her for a long moment, appraising her drunken stupor. No one would know, I'd be safe forever. There's no harm in it.
"'No,' I shudder again and stumble off.
“ Victorious. Once again the hero to a nation. They may have their parades again.”

- From The journals of Gen. Jack Sterling

“He was on his deathbed, the conqueror, and he wept. I asked him why.
‘Can I be forgiven?’ he asked.
Here was this man who had laid waste to the Parisian Commune, here was the man who had conquered lands and ordered millions to their deaths, I smiled to him, ’Of course.’
I wasn’t a Christian at the time, I came about to the Christianity that my generation had adandoned after I saw this man, who had once been adorned with fame and power lying, weeping on his deathbed. He had nothing left but an estate that he couldn’t even visit anymore. He had his conquests, stories to tell to other people‘s grandchildren. He had no wife, no children, nothing to leave on this earth. He had everything, and yet nothing all at once. Everything would slip away from him in the next day, so he clung to the only anchor he had.
‘I am a horrid, horrid man.’
I smiled benignly, ’I’ve known worse,’ I promised him.
Jack the Ripper smiled from his deathbed, ’No, you haven’t.’
And he slept.”

- Memoirs of Dr. Frank Lloyd, 1914

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