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George Edward Langham Somerset Sanford

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Lieut-General George Edward Langham Somerset Sanford (1840-1901)

1901 Obituary [1]

GEORGE EDWARD LANGHAM SOMERSET SANFORD, Lieutenant-General R.E., C.B., C.S.I., who died at Bedford on the 27th April, 1901, was one of the most able and distinguished of the many Royal Engineer officers to whom India has afforded opportunities for a long and honourable career.

Born in 1840, the son of the late Mr. G. C. Sanford, he entered the Royal Engineers as a Lieutenant in October, 1856, and in 1858 saw service in the China War, being present at the actions of Naizain, Kading and Tsing-Poo, and receiving a mention in despatches. While in China young Sanford attracted the favourable notice of Gordon.

Returning home, he was for some years employed in the Ordnance Survey Department, and subsequently in the Indian Public Works Department. He acted as Executive Engineer of Military Works at Lucknow until 1878, when he left the Public Works Department to take part in the Jowaki campaign, and, later, in the Afghan War, in which Sir Frederick Roberts, who favourably noticed his services, gave him an appointment as Assistant Quartermaster-General.

He was present at the capture of Ali Masjid, and obtained a mention in despatches and a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy. Henceforth his work was purely military, and for many years in connection with the Quartermaster-General’s department.

In 1880 he was for a time Deputy Quartermaster- General of the then newly-formed Indian Intelligence Branch. Reverting to the General Branch of the department, he officiated for a year, during Sir Charles MacGregor’s absence on leave, as Quartermaster-General in India. Although only acting, he filled this important post with great thoroughness and ability, and admirably carried out the arrangements for the despatch of the Indian contingent to Egypt in 1882. It is probable that in other ways the success of the Egyptian expedition was largely due to General Sanford, who had previously prepared an excellent Intelligence Report on Egypt as a possible theatre of warlike operations.

On the completion of his tenure of the Deputy Quartermaster- Generalship at Headquarters Sanford again saw service, this time as commanding Royal Engineers in the Burmese expedition of 1885-86. For his work in that campaign he received a third mention in despatches, the thanks of the Government of India, and the Companionship of the Bath.

In March, 1886, Colonel Sanford was appointed Director-General of Military Works. in India, in which post he remained until 1893. That period was one of great activity in connection with frontier defence, and it would have been difficult to find a more highly qualified as well as painstaking Director-General than Sanford. Indeed, taking pains was one of his principal characteristics, and the comprehensive grip which he acquired of all sorts of subjects, some of them by no means generally attractive, was really astonishing. As Deputy Quartermaster-General, for instance, he acquired a mastery of the Cantonment Regulations which was at once the admiration and despair of the whole department.

In 1890, he was decorated with the Companionship of the Star of India, and, on leaving the Military Works Department in 1893, was given command of the Meerut district, which he held until 1898. Obtaining his promotion to Lieutenant-General in April of that year, his name was mentioned in connection with the Bombay command, which, however, eventually fell to an Indian officer, Sir Robert Low. A first class soldier and a highly-accomplished man, General Sanford will be widely regretted by a very large circle of friends, both in India and at home. He was at the time of his death still on the Active List. In addition to his record as a soldier and an engineer, General Sanford was a linguist and musician, and in his younger days a well-known yachtsman.

He was elected an Associate of the Institution on the 25th May, 1880.

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