Richard Airey


General Airey was the son of Lieutenant-General George Airey who was a successful staff officer under Sir Ralph Abercromby. He is best known for writing, at Lord Raglan's dictation, the fateful note that was carried by Captain Nolan to the Light Brigade at Balaklava on 25th Oct 1854, ordering them to charge the guns. Lord Raglan had a high regard for him but he was blamed for the appalling conditions that the troops suffered through lack of supplies of clothing, food and medicine. Because of the accusations of incompetence he demanded an enquiry in England. This took place under the chairmanship of Lord Seaton, and Major-General Airey was cleared completely.

Whilst he was Commanding Officer of the 34th in Canada he took charge of a large area of land bequeathed to him. He took time off from his regimental duties to live the simple life of a pioneer settler and learned to adapt to harsh conditions. As CO of the regiment he also instigated the practice of providing an evening meal to his men. This was frowned upon by many officers as, up until then, it was regarded as acceptable that soldiers ate no food from lunchtime until breakfast the following day. He also brought in regimental canteens which became the norm throughout the army

In 1879 he presided over the Airey Commission into Army Reform which must have surprised many people because of the reputation he gained following the scandal of the badly equipped army in the Crimea, even though the real blame lay with the government and the army administration. His general demeanor was also that of an aristocratic Colonel Blimp and not what one would expect of a reformer. He was created Baron Airey of Killingworth in the county of Northumberland died 5 years later at the house of Lord Wolseley, The Grange, Leatherhead. His title became extinct on his death.

1803 Born in Newcastle-on-Tyne
1821 Entered 34th Regiment as an ensign
1825 Captain
1827 ADC to Sir Frederick Adam, Ionian Islands
1830 ADC to Lord Aylmer, North America
1834 Major
1838 Lieutenant-Colonel, commanding 34th Regiment (until 1847)
1838 AAG at Horse Guards, London
1838 Married his cousin, Harriet Talbot
1852 Military Secretary to C-in-C Lord Hardinge
1854 Brigade Command in Crimea, briefly
1854 QMG under Lord Raglan
1854 Major-General and KCB
1855 QMG in Britain
1860 Colonel of the 17th Regiment. 20th July 1860 - 30th Apr 1868
1862 Lieutenant-General
1865 Governor of Gibraltar, up to 1870
1867 Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB)
1868 Colonel of the Royal Fusiliers. 1st May (until his death)
1870 Adjutant General to the Forces at HQ
1871 General
1876 Retired and elevated to the peerage. 29th Nov
1879 The Airey Commission on Army Reform
1881 Died on 14th Sep.


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