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William Francis Drummond Jervois

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Lieut-General Sir William Francis Drummond Jervois (1821-1897)

1897 Obituary [1]

LIEUTENANT-GENERAL WILLIAM FRANCIS DRUMMOND JERVOIS, G.C.M.G., C.B., F.R.S., Colonel-Commandant Royal Engineers, died on the 17th August, 1897, at Bitterne Court, Hants, from the effects of a carriage accident.

He was the eldest son of the late General Jervois, and was born at Cowes, in the Isle of Wight, in 1821. He was educated at Dr. Burney’s school at Gosport, and at Woolwich Academy, and entered the Royal Engineers in 1839, becoming Captain in 1847, brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1861, Colonel in 1872, Major-General in 1877, and Lieutenant-General in 1882.

For seven years from 1841 he was actively employed at the Cape of Good Hope.

In 1842 he acted as Brigade-Major in an expedition against the Boers, and during the three following years was professionally engaged at various frontier stations, making roads, building bridges and establishing military posts. In 1845, having been appointed acting Adjutant to the Royal Engineers, he accompanied the Chief Engineer over the whole frontier of the Cape Colony and the settlement of Natal, and in the earlier part of 1846 he was Major of brigade in the garrison of Cape Town, until the arrival of Sir Henry Pottinger as Governor and of Sir George Berkeley as Commander-in-Chief, with whom he proceeded to the frontier against the Kaffirs.

During the Kaffir war he made a military survey and map of Kaffraria, a work of great difficulty in the midst of the military operations.

In 1852, he was ordered to the island of Alderney for the purpose of designing plans for the fortifications and the superintendence of their execution, a work strongly advocated by the great Duke of Wellington. In 1854 he was promoted to the rank of Major, and in 1855 he was transferred to the London District and was nominated by Lord Panmure a member of a Committee on Barrack Accommodation, the labours of which contributed much to the improvements that have of late years been effected in the construction of barracks as well as in the sanitary condition of the troops.

In 1856 Major Jervois was appointed Assistant Inspector- General of Fortifications under Sir John Burgoyne, and on the appointment in 1859 of a Royal Commission to report upon the defences of the country, he was selected by the Government to be Secretary. He was at the same time secretary to the Permanent Defence Committee, under the presidency of the Duke of Cambridge.

He became the confidential adviser of Lord Palmerston and of several Secretaries of State on matters relating to defence, and designed the fortifications of Portsmouth, Plymouth, Pembroke, Portland, Cork, the Thames, the Medway, and other places. During long service, of nearly twenty years in the War Office, he was also a member of the Special Committee on the Application of Iron to Ships and Fortifications.

In 1861 he attained the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel, in 1862 was appointed Deputy Director of Fortifications, and in 1863 was nominated a Companion of the Bath and was sent on a special mission to report on the defences of Canada, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, on which occasion he visited the fortifications at the principal ports on the seaboard of the United States.

In 1864 he was sent again on a special mission to Canada to confer with the Canadian Government on the question of the defence of the Dominion. On his return to England, his report was laid before Parliament, and the Imperial Government undertook to carry out the defences of Quebec on the plan recommended by him. He was also sent on special missions to Bermuda, Halifax (N.S.), Malta and Gibraltar, and planned improvements and additions to the fortifications of those places.

In 1871-72 he was ordered to India to advise the Government of India respecting the defences of Bombay, Aden, the Hooghly and other places. He was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George in 1874, and was appointed Governor of the Straits Settlements in 1875. He held the latter post for two years and during that period he quelled a formidable insurrection in the Malay Peninsula. The subsequent prosperity and quiet of the Malay States resulted mainly from this action. In April, 1877, he was appointed to advise the Governments of the Australian colonies on the defence of their chief ports. He was then selected to be Governor of South Australia.

He was promoted to G.C.M.G. in 1878, and in December, 1882, he was appointed Governor of New Zealand, where, on his advice, the fortification of the principal ports was undertaken by the Colonial Government. Throughout his stay in Australasia, till the year 1889, he continued to be the chief adviser of the Governments there on matters relating to defence. Since his retirement from the public service in 1889, he strenuously advocated that naval stations and coast defences should be handed over to the Naval Department.

He was elected an Associate on the 3rd February, 1857.

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