British Empire Books

General Sir William Stephen Alexander Lockhart Soldier of the Queen Empress

AuthorMartin Smith

This biography charts Lockhart's life from his birth in the Manse at Inchinnan, Scotland in 1841; joining the 44th Bengal Native Infantry in Calcutta as a Cadet in 1858 through to his untimely demise in 1900 having risen to become Commander in Chief, India. 'Often known as one of Queen Victoria's most unremembered Generals this is the first in depth study of his life in 110 years, and connects him with other eminent members of the Lockhart family and his own, hitherto unknown, children; 'the Maxwell family and his nephew Frank Maxwell VC ; and many others including his good friend Lord Curzon. 'The book vividly describes life in India, the rigours of military campaigns and the unimaginable logistics required for thousands of soldiers on the march and includes over 60 illustrations, maps and photographs. The author has amassed a collection of rare images of the General, and also brings to our attention a number of memorials which should remind us of the achievements of this brilliant soldier who, after the Tirah Expedition, stood alongside Kitchener in the imagination of the British public. ''

Foreword by Major General Robert Staveley: "I was both daunted and honoured when Martin Smith asked me to write a foreword to his book on General Sir William Lockhart. Daunted because I did not feel any words of mine could add anything of value to this excellently researched and crafted book. Honoured because, although I am an old soldier whose family is connected to the Lockharts and who has lived and served in India, I am no blood relation of William Lockhart.

My family interest is twofold, General Sir Charles Staveley, mentioned in the chapter on Abyssinia, the campaign which was to make General Napier's name, is a distant cousin from another branch of my family. But much more closely, my wife Airlie is the eldest child of the eldest child of William Lockhart's nephew, Frank Maxwell, to whom chapter 27 is devoted. Frank Maxwell's mother Violet was sister to William Lockhart. She had six sons who were serving in the Army at the same time in World War 1; the most famous was Frank, who was ADC to his uncle William Lockhart during the Tirah Expedition and went on to win the VC and two DSOs before being killed on the Western Front in 1917. Frank Maxwell is of course a family hero and when Martin got in touch early in his research on William Lockhart, Airlie and her sister Juliet Lambert dug out everything they could find on the Lockharts and Maxwells. I like to think their contribution helped.

But what of the book? I understand that Martin, who is not a trained historian and had no previous knowledge of his subject, only started this task to follow up an interest his wife Tricia had in her grandfather's service in the Tirah Expedition. The excellent result we have here.

I feel Martin has done a wonderful job; he makes British India come to life and he helps us understand the Raj and the East India Company and also army life in British India; the uncertainties and dangers faced not only by the soldiers but by their families.

But his real success of course is how he brings to our attention, with a great grasp of detail, the sadly under recorded tale of the service of this splendid soldier, William Lockhart, as we follow his exploits' through India, Bhutan, Abyssinia, Sumatra, Afghanistan, Burma and the North West Frontier. He was often in terrible climates which undermined his health and was to lead to his untimely death, from tropical disease, at the early age of 58. He served in the turbulent second half of the Nineteenth Century with bravery, military skill and a considerable grasp of higher command.

I am filled with admiration at the research Martin has done, following up endless quotes and clues ' often alas into cul de sacs; no relative was too distant to be painstakingly pursued, no thought too obscure to be followed up. He became fascinated and spent months tracing unlikely sidelines in the history of different branches of the Lockhart family; much does not appear here unless directly relevant to General Lockhart's story, but it has been a revelation to other Lockhart descendants to learn so many details, of which they had no knowledge, about their family.

Martin's account of the stirring events of 2nd Afghan War shows that the responsibilities Lockhart carried there stood him in good stead in Tirah. Indeed Lockhart's knowledge of the North West Frontier and the tribes there and his taste for intelligence work ' and skilful negotiation (as shown in the Gilgit Campaign) was great preparation for the climax of his service in the field, the Tirah Expedition. In passing I must pay tribute here to Martin's deep knowledge of the background of Afghanistan; he understands well their history and tribal society. One wishes western politicians did.

I have learned a great deal about British India and about the Lockhart family from Martin; I am proud to be associated with the family of this great Victorian hero who was truly a servant of his Queen, rising to become her Commander in Chief in India. I commend this book." '

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by Stephen Luscombe