Entering the Royal Dragoons as a private, he gained, while in the service, considerable practical experience of military life and affairs. Being invalided from his regiment, he settled in London, and became a journalist. When the Franco-Prussian War broke out in 1870, Forbes was sent to the front as war correspondent, and in this capacity he gained valuable information as to the plans of the Parisians for withstanding a siege. Transferring his services to the Daily News, his brilliant feats in the transmission of intelligence drew worldwide attention to his dispatches. He was with the German army from the beginning of the campaign, and he afterwards witnessed the rise and fall of the Paris Commune.
Thereafter, Forbes proceeded to Spain, where he chronicled the outbreak of the second Carlist War; but his work here was interrupted by a visit to India, where he spent eight months upon a mission of investigation into the Bengal famine of 1873–74. Then he returned to Spain, and followed at various times the Carlist, the Republican and the Alfonsist forces. As representative of the Daily News, he accompanied the Prince of Wales in his tour through India in 1875-1876. Forbes went through the Serbian campaign of 1876, and was present at all the important engagements.
In the Russo-Turkish campaign of 1877 he achieved striking journalistic successes at great personal risk. Attached to the Russian army, he witnessed most of the principal operations, and remained continuously in the field until attacked by fever. His letters, together with those of his colleagues, MacGahan and Millet, were republished by the Daily News. On recovering from his fever, Forbes proceeded to Cyprus, in order to witness the British occupation. The same year (1878) he went to India, and in the winter accompanied the Khyber Pass force to Jalalabad. He was present at the taking of Ali Musjid, and marched with several expeditions against the hill tribes. Burma was Forbes's next field of adventure, and at Mandalay, the capital, he had several interviews with King Thibaw. In 1879, he left Burma hurriedly for South Africa, where, in consequence of the disaster at Isandlwana, a British force was collecting for the invasion of Zululand. He was present at the victory of Ulundi. Forbes subsequently delivered many lectures on his war experiences to large audiences. His closing years were spent in literary work. After the Franco-Prussian War, he had published My experiences of the war between France and Germany, and a military novel entitled Drawn from Life (1871). These were followed by numerous publications after his retirement from active journalism, including Glimpses through the Cannon Smoke (1881); Chinese Gordon, a succinct record of his life (1884); Souvenirs of some Continents (1885); William I. of Germany: a Biography (1888); Havelock, in the English Men of Action Series (1890); Barracks, Bivouacs, and Battles (1891); The Afghan Wars (1892); Czar and Sultan (1895); Memories and Studies of War and Peace (1895), in many respects autobiographical; and Colin Campbell, Lord Clyde (1896).
He died on 30 March 1900.
- "Archibald Forbes Dead. War Correspondent Expires in London After a Long Illness". New York Times. March 30, 1900. Retrieved 2013-12-06.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
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