Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Phayre, Robert

PHAYRE, Sir ROBERT (1820–1897), general, born 22 Jan. 1820, was son of Richard Phayre of Shrewsbury, and brother of General Sir Arthur Purves Phayre [q. v.] He was educated at Shrewsbury school and commissioned as ensign in the East India Company's service on 26 Jan. 1839, being posted to the 25th Bombay native infantry, and became lieutenant on 1 Dec. 1840. He served in the first Afghan war with his regiment, was engaged with the Beloochs under Nusseer Khan at Kotra and Gandava in December 1840, and was mentioned in despatches. He took part in the Sind campaign of 1843, and was severely wounded at Meeanee. He was again mentioned in despatches for gallant conduct by Sir Charles Napier (London Gazette, 9 May 1843). In 1844 he was appointed assistant quartermaster-general in Sind, and from 1851 to 1856 was specially employed in clearing mountain roads in the Southern Mahratta country. In 1856-7 he carried out the departmental arrangements connected with the Persian expedition. In March 1857 he was appointed quartermaster-general to the Bombay army, and acted in this capacity throughout the mutiny, his services being warmly commended by Sir Hugh Rose (Lord Strathnairn) on 15 May 1860. He held this office till 1808. He had become captain in his regiment on 28 Dec. 1848. and was made brevet major on 16 June 1857, and major in the Bombay staff corps on 18 Feb. 1861.

He became brevet lieutenant-colonel on 6 Jan. 1863,and colonel five years afterwards. He took part in the Abyssinian expedition as quartermaster-general, was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 30 June 1868), was made C.B. and aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria, and received the medal.

From 1868 to 1872 he was political superintendent of the Sind frontier, and commandant of the frontier force. In March 1873 he was appointed resident at Baroda. He made strong representations of the mis-government of the gaekwar, Malhar Rao, and a commission which investigated his charges found that they were substantially proved. The gaekwar received a warning and was advised to change his minister, but matters did not improve. The friction between the resident and the gaekwar increased, and at the instigation of the latter an attempt was made on 9 Nov. 1874 to poison Phayre, by putting arsenic and diamond dust in his sherbet. The Baroda trial followed, and the deposition of the gaekwar on 23 April 1875. But the Indian government had previously decided to change the resident at Baroda, and Phayre, declining to resign, was superseded by Sir Lewis Pelly on 25 Nov. 1874.

Reverting to military employment, Phayre commanded a brigade, first in Bombay and afterwards in Rajputana, from 10 May 1875 to 4 May 1880. Having been promoted major-general on 1 Jan. 1880, he was then appointed to the command of the reserve division of the army engaged in the second campaign of the second Afghan war, and had charge of the line of communication by Quetta to Kandahar. After the disaster of Maiwand, on 27 July, he was directed to push forward to Kandahar, besieged by Ayoub Khan; but he was delayed by want of troops and transport, and Kandahar was delivered by General (afterwards Earl) Roberts from Kabul before his arrival. He was mentioned in despatches (London Gazette, 3 Dec. 1880 and 25 Jan. 1881), was included in the vote of thanks of parliament, was made K.C.B. on 22 Feb. 1881, and received the medal.

He commanded a division of the Bombay army from 1 March 1881 to 2 March 1886, when the Bombay government paid a high compliment to his services on his retirement. For some months previously he had acted as provincial commander-in-chief at Bombay. On 22 Jan. 1887 he was placed on the unemployed supernumerary list. He had become lieutenant-general on 1 Nov. 1881, and became general on 22 Jan. 1889. He received the G.O.B. on 26 May 1894. He died in London on 28 Jan. 1897. In 1846 he had married Diana Bunbury, daughter of Arnold Thompson, formerly paymaster of the 81st regiment. She survived him. He took an active part in religious and philanthropic movements, and published some pamphlets in 1890: 1. 'The Bible versus Corrupt Christianity.' 2. 'The Foundation of Rock or of Sand : which?' (in reply to Henry Drummond). 3. 'Monasticism unveiled.'

[Times, 29 Jan. 1897; Thornton's Life of Sir Richard Meade; Roberts's Forty-one Years in India; Official Record of the Expedition to Abyssinia.]

E. M. L.