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James Roger Western

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Colonel James Roger Weston, (1812-1871)

1842 Lieut. James Roger Western of the Bengal Engineers, became a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers.[1]


1872 Obituary [2]

COLONEL JAMESROGER WESTERN, late of the Royal (Bengal) Engineers, the third son of Mr. James Western, solicitor, was born in London on the 28th of February, 1812.

Entering the military college at Addiscombe, in the year 1827, he speedily became conspicuous for mathematical abilities, and passed first in mathematics in the following year, which secured his appointment to the corps of Bengal Engineers.

On proceeding to Chatham, his talents and acquirements attracted the notice of Captain, afterwards Sir George Everest, who was deputed to take the Indian Engineer cadets to the Royal Observatory, Greenwich, to indoctrinate them in practical astronomy, and in the use of the invariable pendulum for determining the figure of the earth.

Captain Everest was shortly afterwards appointed Surveyor-General of India, and on the 15th of January, 1831, Western was attached to the great trigonometrical survey, as an assistant on his staff. In this capacity he took a prominent part in the measurement of the Calcutta base line in 1831-2. In the Journal of the Asiatic Society for 1832, vol. i., page 71, there is a brief account of that operation by Mr. James Prinsep, with a sketch in which Western appears conspicuous at the ‘boning’ instrument directing the alignment.

After the completion and verification of this base line, which was the first measurement made with General Colby’s apparatus for the trigonometrical survey of India, he was deputed to conduct a meridional series of triangulation depending on the lofty mountain station of Parisnath, but was unable to continue it southwards of that place because of the disturbed state of the country. Unfortunately, ill-health, and a disagreement with his superiors about the manner of executing this work, caused him to leave a career so well suited to his tastes, after two years’ employment on the survey.

On the 22nd of September, 1834, he was ordered to join the headquarters of the sappers at Delhi, and he proceeded as Assistant Field-engineer with the force under Brigadier-General Stevenson to Shekhawati, in Rajpootana, where the Military Engineer department was employed in destroying the Toorawutti forts, which formed the strongholds of the turbulent Rajpoot chieftains.

In the cold weather of 1836-7 he surveyed a part of Ulwur, and reported his opinion upon a dispute between the native states Ulwur and Bhurtpoor, for the waters of a stream called the Rospirail, and the report was considered most creditable to his judgment. For the next four years he was engaged in draining the Nujjufgurhjheel, near Delhi, and in other public works, having been appointed Executive Engineer of Delhi on the 9th of September, 1839, and of Berhampoor on the 28th of October, 1840.

He returned to England in February, 1841, and with characteristic energy set to work to study civil engineering; but before his furlough had expired he was recalled to India on account of the Affghan war : in this, however, he took no part, but spent the next five years as Executive Engineer in Arracan, Rajpootana, Dacca, Tenasserim, and Dumdum.

About the year 1843, questions arose as to the stability of the Bengal Military Fund. On this occasion he produced a most able and exhaustive report upon the subject.

His ability as an actuary was at this time so well known, that he became the usual referee in all questions concerning shares in purchase of steps in regiments-n o slight task, since a new schedule of quotas was required in every case.

At the end ‘of 1843 he was summoned to the second Sikh campaign, and took a prominent part in the siege of Mooltan; he was also present at the battle of Goojrat ; and for these services was made a major by brevet on the 5th of June, 1849. That war having ended in the annexation of the Punjab, he became Executive Engineer of the Jullundur division, where his success in reducing building rates, and the,saving effected by his arrangements, gave the highest satisfaction. Late in the year 1852 he obtained the command of the Bengal corps of sappers and miners, which he retained till he retired from the service, on the pension of a major, on the 23rd of January, 1855.

From this time his business was the care of one daughter, left him from his brief period of married life, and the management of charities to which he contributed munificently, being Governor of Christ’s and St. Thomas’s Hospitals, an active member of the governing body of the Soldiers’ Daughters’ Home, and a regular subscriber to forty-four other charitable institutions.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 1st of March, 1842, and he died on the 13th of January, 1871, in the fifty-ninth year of his age, having shown himself in life, in the words of a brother officer, “a large-hearted, good Chistian.”


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