Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/McMurdo, William Montagu Scott

McMURDO, Sir WILLIAM MONTAGU SCOTT (1819–1894), general, born on 30 May 1819, was son of Lieutenantcolonel Archibald McMurdo of Lotus, Kirkcudbrightshire. After passing through Sandhurst, he was commissioned as ensign in the 8th foot on 1 July 1837, and obtained a lieutenancy in the 22nd foot on 5 Jan. 1841. The regiment went to India in that year, and was stationed at Karachi. It formed part of the force with which Sir Charles James Napier [q. v.] took the field against the amirs of Sind in December 1842, and McMurdo was placed in charge of the quartermaster-general's department. At the battle of Meeanee on 17 Feb. 1843 he killed three men, fighting hand to hand, and three more in the battle of Hyderabad on 24 March, where he was himself severely wounded. Two days before, he had been sent with 250 Poonah horse to reinforce Major Stack's column on its march to join Napier, and he saved the baggage of the column from capture. He was three times mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 11 April, 9 May, and 6 June 1843), and received the medal with two clasps.

He obtained a company in the 28th foot on 8 July 1843, and was transferred to the 78th highlanders on 20 Oct.; but he remained at the head of the quartermaster-general's department in Sind till December 1847, performing the duties 'with great ability and vast labour' (Napier's Life, iv. 394). He took part in the operations against the hillmen on the right bank of the Indus in 1844–5, where he again distinguished himself by his intrepidity (ib. iii. 238). Napier spoke of him as 'an ornament to Scotland' (ib. p. 81), and on 4 Sept. 1844 he married Napier's daughter, Susan Sarah. He received a brevet majority on 18 Feb. 1848. When Napier returned to India as commander-in-chief in 1849, McMurdo went with him as aide-de-camp. He acted as assistant adjutant-general from November 1849 till November 1851, and took part in the operations against the Afridis, including the forcing of the Kohat pass, for which he received the medal and clasp. In 1850 he published a pamphlet, 'Sir Charles Napier's Indian Baggage Corps,' in reply to Colonel Burlton's comments on Napier's letter to Sir John Hobhouse.

He became lieutenant-colonel in the army on 21 Oct. 1853, and was assistant adjutant-general at Dublin from May 1854 to January 1855. On 2 Feb. he was appointed director-general of the new land transport corps, and was sent to the Crimea, with the local rank of colonel, to reorganise the transport service. This he did with great energy and success. On one of his demands the secretary to the treasury, Sir Charles Trevelyan, had written, 'Col. McMurdo must limit his expenditure.' McMurdo replied: 'When Sir Charles Trevelyan limits the war, I will limit my expenditure' (Hamley, p. 208). Before the war ended, his corps numbered seventeen thousand men, with twenty-eight thousand horses, mules, &c. He also took over the working of the railway. He was made aide-de-camp to the queen and brevet-colonel on 11 Dec. 1855, and C.B. on 2 Jan. 1857. He received the medal with one clasp, the Turkish medal, the legion of honour (4th class), and Medjidie (4th class).

After the war the land transport corps was converted into the military train, and McMurdo was made colonel-commandant of it on 1 April 1857. In 1859 the volunteer movement began; in February 1860 McMurdo was appointed inspector, and in June inspector-general, of volunteers. He held this office till January 1865, to the great advantage of the force. It was 'a post to which he seems to have had a peculiar call, and in which his zeal, faithfulness, and ability have been as conspicuous as his gallantry heretofore in the field' (Naval and Military Gazette, 28 Jan. 1865). On his retirement from it he received a testimonial from volunteer officers. He became colonel of the Inns of Court volunteers on 23 Jan., and of the Engineer and Railway volunteer staff corps on 9 Feb. 1865. In 1869 he published 'Rifle Volunteers for Field Service: their Arms, Equipment, and Administration,' a pamphlet of twenty-seven pages, giving his advice to the commanding officers of corps.

He commanded a brigade in the Dublin district from October 1866 to February 1870, and a district in Bengal from May 1870 to March 1873. He was promoted major-general on 6 March 1868, lieutenant-general on 10 Feb. 1876, and general on 20 May 1878. He was given the colonelcy of the 69th foot in July 1876, was transferred to the 15th foot in August 1877, and to the 22nd (Cheshire regiment) in June 1888. On 24 May 1881 he was made K.C.B., and on 1 July he was placed on the retired list. He died at Nice on 2 March 1894. His wife survived him. They had several children.

[Times. 3 March 1894; Broad Arrow, 10 March 1894; Napier's Life of Sir C. J. Napier; Napier's Conquest of Scinde; Kinglake's War in the Crimea; Hamley's War in the Crimea.]

E. M. L.