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Clement John Mead

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Lieutenant-Colonel Clement John Mead, (1832-1876)

1876 Obituary Age 44 years, Lieutenant-Colonal Royal Artilery, Bengal Staff Corps, Engineer in chief P.W.D. Agra. [1]

1877 Obituary [2]

LIEUTENANT-COLONEL CLEMENT JOHN MEAD, son of the late John Clement Mead, of Keppel Street, Russell Square, architect of the first General Post Office, &C., was born on the 19th of April, 1832.

After passing through Addiscombe in 1849-50, and qualifying for the Bengal Artillery, he joined his regiment at Dum-Dum in 1851, and on the breaking out of the Burnlese War, for which he afterwards received the medal, was ordered, in 1852, to Akyab and Kyouk Phoo. At this time he was selected, being then only twenty years of age, to survey and report on the Aeng Pass, by which it was intended to send troops to Burmah, and in the following year he was intrusted with the construction of the road still known as "Mead’s Road." The region thus traversed was an unknown track of hill-country, covered with dense forest jungle, and sparsely inhabited by wild and fierce tribes, in a state of chronic war amongst themselves. On one occasion, when the small survey party entered a village at the end of a tiring day's march, the head-man, or chief of the local tribe, gravely inquired if Lieutenant Mead would object to his guides being executed, as the local tribe was at deadly feud with the newcomers! As may be imagined, it was not always an easy task to maintain peace and order amongst such a barbarous and utterly lawless population. Indeed dangers and hardships, for want of the ordinary necessaries of life, food and shelter, in a most trying climate to European constitutions, were encountered, which could only have been successfully dealt with by such a firm yet always kindly and even-tempered nature. In these early days he won the respect and affectionate confidence of the natives, and never, to the last, ceased to arouse and influence their worthier feelings.

For his services at this time Lieutenant Mead was twice thanked in Public Orders by Lord Dalhousie. But clearing jungle in India is well known to be a most deadly employment : his subordinates on the work one after the other died at their post, or were invalided; and he was at last, after trying a short, ineffectual leave to the Straits for the restoration of his health, compelled to apply for sick-certificate and permission to return to Europe. On passing through Calcutta, however, at the close of 1857, his services were temporarily requested by the military authorities, and he was placed in command of a battery, hastily raised and manned by sailors of the Indian navy, stationed at Barrackpore for the protection of the inhabitants of Calcutta, in the event of disturbances, anticipated at that moment with keen anxiety. Lieutenant Mead‘s health was, however, so shaken that he was, in truth, utterly unfit for active service, and as soon as it was possible to release him from his post, the doctors insisted on his return to England as a measure of urgent necessity.

He arrived in England in the spring of 1858, and, after a short rest, adopted the unusual course of entering an engineering establishment, then largely engaged on iron girders, bridges, and general constructive work, and here he made himself practically acquainted with the details of such work, which he found later of the utmost value, since it enabled him to show with his own hands to native workmen how “riveting up” and similar work should be done.

At the beginning of 1859 Captain Mead was again in India, when he was employed in the Public Works Department, first at Patna, then at Sherghotty and Nagpore, and was mainly instrumental in constructing what is known as the "Nizam’s Railway" at Hyderabad, and furthering the objects of the Berar Exhibition as regarded the machinery department.

The last four years of his life were spent on the survey, laying out and arranging, as Engineer-in-Chief, for the construction of the "Sindia Railway" from Agra to Gwalior, which, among other works, included a viaduct of fourteen spans of 200 feet each, on piers about 115 feet high, to cross the river Chumbal. The plans and estimates for these works have been accepted by Government, and the contract taken.

He left Agra, at the beginning of July 1876, on three months’ privilege leave-perhaps his first real holiday. While crossing between Calais and Dover, during the night, he is supposed to have caught the cold which led to his illness and unexpected death on the 27th of August, at the early age of forty-four. He was gazetted Lieutenant-Colonel only a day or two before he died, and leaves a widow and seven children.

Colonel Mead was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 1st of February, 1859.

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