Major-General Sir Henry Havelock KCB

Henry Havelock was born on 5 April 1795 at Ford Hall in Sunderland. His father, William Havelock was a wealthy shipbuilder, and he was the second of 4 brothers, all of whom entered the army. The family moved to Ingress Park in Kent but his mother died there in 1811. Henry at first studied law but he was obliged to give that up and on 30 July 1815 joined the The Rifle Brigade. He served 8 years in Britain during which time he studied military history and the art and theory of war.

In 1822 he transferred to the 13th Light Infantry Regiment. With the prospect of service in India he studied Persian and Hindustani languages, and during the voyage was encouraged by a fellow officer to become more religious. He fought in Burma from 1824-26 and then returned to Britain where he married Hannah Marsham, daughter of Christian missionaries. He became a Baptist and introduced missionary ideas into the army. He gave out Bibles to soldiers and instituted bible classes.

He reached the rank of captain when the 13th took part in the First Afghan War. He was at the siege of Ghazni in May 1839. He was with Robert Sale's force in the defiles of the Ghilzais, and played a prominent part in the Defence of Jellalabad in 1841-2, and at Istalif. He acted as Persian interpreter in the Gwalior Campaign. In 1843 he distinguished himself at Maharajpur and went on to the Sikh Wars where he fought at Mudki, Ferozeshah and Sobraon. Soon after this war he tranferred to the 39th, then the 53rd Regiment. But he returned to England in 1849, spending 2 years at the Stepney Baptist Academy. He went back to India to be promoted to Adjutant-General, India in 1854.

His first campaign was in the Persian War but as that quietened down, the Indian Mutiny flared up and he commanded a column to quell disturbances in Allahabad. He led a successful campaign through Oudh and put his military studies to good use against rebel forces usually much greater in number than his own. He advanced 3 times to Lucknow but did not want to commit his tired and disease-ridden soldiers. When reinforcements arrived he was able to relieve Lucknow on 25 Sep 1857 but was still there when another rebel army turned up and recaptured the city. Whilst under siege, Havelock succumbed to dysentery and died on 24 Nov 1857. Thankfully the siege was lifted a few days before he died and he heard the praise that had been heaped upon him, and that he had been created Baronet.

There is a memorial to him at Lucknow, and in Mowbray Park Sunderland. The best known memorial is in Trafalgar Square, where a stature of him stands on a plinth. Ken Livingstone wanted it to be removed. His seven children included Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Havelock-Alan VC GCB, George Broadfoot Havelock, Hannah Jane Havelock, Alice Havelock and Joshua Havelock.

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by Stephen Luscombe