Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Wilkins, Henry St. Clair

WILKINS, HENRY ST. CLAIR (1828–1896), general, son of George Wilkins (1785–1865) [q. v.], archdeacon of Nottingham, was born on 3 Dec. 1828. After passing through the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe, he received a commission as lieutenant in the Bombay engineers on 11 June 1847. The dates of his further commissions were: captain, 27 Aug. 1858; lieutenant-colonel, 1 March 1867; colonel, 15 Aug. 1868; major-general, 21 Dec. 1877; lieutenant-general, 31 Dec. 1878; general, 18 Jan. 1882, when he retired on a pension.

He served with the field force from Aden against the Arabs in 1858. He commanded the royal engineers throughout the Abyssinian campaign of 1868, was mentioned in despatches by Lord Napier of Magdala for his ‘invaluable and important services during the expedition,’ was appointed aide-de-camp to the queen, with the rank of colonel in the army, and received the medal.

An accomplished draughtsman and artist, Wilkins was employed in architectural and engineering works in the public works department of India, and his designs were remarkable for their fitness and beauty. Among them may be noted: at Aden, the restoration of the ancient tanks in the Tawella Valley, dating from about 600 A.D.; at Bombay, the government and the public works secretariats (he also won the first prize in a competition by his design for the European general hospital); at Puna, the Sassoon hospital, the Deccan college, the Jewish synagogue, and the mausoleum of the Sassoon family; at Bhuj, the palace of the rao of Kach; at Bhejapur, the restoration and adaptation of ancient buildings to the requirements of a new station.

Wilkins published ‘Reconnoitring in Abyssinia,’ 1868, and ‘A Treatise on Mountain Roads, Live Loads, and Bridges,’ 1879. He was engaged in the revision of the latter work when he died suddenly, on 15 Dec. 1896, at his residence at Queen's Gate, South Kensington. Wilkins married, in 1856, Violet, daughter of Colonel Colin Campbell McIntyre, C.B., of the 78th highlanders.

[Royal Engineers Records and Professional Papers, vol. xvii. (1869); Despatches; Times, December 1896; Memoir by General John Fuller, R.E., in Royal Engineers' Journal, 1897.]

R. H. V.