Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Dundas, James (1842-1879)

DUNDAS, JAMES (1842–1879), captain royal engineers, eldest son of George Dundas, one of the judges of the court of session in Scotland, was born on 12 Sept. 1842. He was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and the East India Company's military college at Addiscombe, received a commission in the royal (late Bengal) engineers in June 1860, and, proceeding to India in March 1862, was appointed to the public works department in Bengal.

In 1865 he accompanied the expedition to Bhootan under General Tombs, and was awarded the Victoria Cross for his distinguished bravery in storming a block-house which was the key of the enemy's position, and held after the retreat of the main body. Fearing that protracted resistance might cause the Bhoteas to rally, General Tombs called upon a body of Sikh soldiers to swarm up the wall. The men, who had been fighting in a broiling sun on very difficult ground for upwards of three hours, hesitated until Major W. S. Trevor and Dundas of the Royal Engineers volunteered to show the way. They had to climb a wall fourteen feet high, and then to enter a house occupied by some two hundred desperate men, head foremost, through an opening not more than two feet wide. After the termination of the Bhootan expedition Dundas rejoined the public works department, in which his ability and varied and accurate engineering knowledge won for him a high position. In 1879, on the fresh outbreak of the Afghan war, he found his way to the front, and was killed with his subaltern, Lieutenant Nugent, R.E., on 23 Dec. 1879, in attempting to blow up a fort near Cabul. A general order referring to the services of the royal engineers in this campaign, issued by Sir Frederick Roberts contained an appreciative notice of Dundas's services. A monument is in Edinburgh Cathedral, and his brother officers placed a stained glass window in Rochester Cathedral.

[Official Records, Corps Papers.]

R. H. V.