Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Chamberlain, Neville Bowles

CHAMBERLAIN, Sir NEVILLE BOWLES (1820–1902), field-marshal, born at Rio de Janeiro on 10 Jan. 1820, was second son of Henry Chamberlain, consul-general and chargé d'affaires in Brazil, by his second wife, Anne Eugenia (d. 1867), daughter of William Morgan of London. His father was created a baronet in 1828, on account of the negotiation of a treaty of commerce with Brazil, and died in London on 31 July 1829, when he was about to go to Lisbon as minister (Gent. Mag. 1829, ii. 274). He was succeeded in the baronetcy by Henry, the elder son of his first marriage (with Elizabeth Harrod of Exeter), which had been dissolved in 1813. By his second marriage he had five sons and three daughters. The eldest of these sons, William Charles (1818–1878), became an admiral; the other four entered the East India Company's service and distinguished themselves as soldiers. The third son, Sir Crawford Trotter [q. v. Suppl. II], was closely associated with Neville throughout his military career. The fourth son, Thomas Hardy (1822–1879), was major-general, Bombay staff corps. The fifth son, Charles Francis Falcon, C.B. (1826–1879), was colonel in the Indian army, Bombay staff corps. At thirteen Neville entered the Royal Military Academy as a cadet; but he proved more combative than studious, and was withdrawn at the end of his probationary year. On 24 Feb. 1837 he was commissioned as ensign in the East India Company's army. He reached Calcutta in June, and after being temporarily attached to other regiments, he was posted to the 55th Bengal native infantry, and joined it at Lucknow early in 1838. On 28 Aug. he was transferred to the 16th Bengal native infantry, which was at Delhi, and his brother Crawford was attached to the same regiment. Sir Henry Fane [q. v.], the commander-in-chief in India, had been a friend of his father, and wished the two sons to take part in the expedition to Afghanistan, which was then in preparation.

The 16th formed part of the Bengal column of the army of the Indus, which reached Kandahar on 27 April 1839, and was joined there by the Bombay column. At the end of June the army marched on Kabul and on 23 July Ghazni was stormed. Chamberlain distinguished himself in the fighting which preceded the assault. His regiment was left at Ghazni as a garrison when the army moved on to Kabul. In the autumn of 1840 some of the sons of Dost Mahomed (including Shere Ali, the future Ameer) were sent to Ghazni as prisoners on parole, and the Chamberlain brothers became intimate with them. In June 1841 the 16th was relieved of its garrison duty by the 27th, in which John Nicholson [q. v.] was a subaltern. He and Neville Chamberlain at once became warm friends.

On 25 Aug. the 16th arrived at Kandahar, and on 8 Nov. it set out on its march back to India ; but the outbreak at Kabul led to its immediate recall to Kandahar. During the next nine months the force there under General (Sir) William Nott [q. v.] had repeated encounters with the Afghan levies, and Chamberlain took a prominent part in these actions. He was temporarily appointed to the 1st cavalry of Shah Sujah's force, and soon made himself a name as a skilful swordsman and a daring leader of irregular horse. In the action of the Urghundab (12 Jan. 1842) he was wounded in the knee, but nevertheless took part in the pursuit. In March his men failed him, and he had to fight hard for his life (Forrest, p. 106). On 29 May he was again wounded, being stabbed in the thigh by a Ghazi, who sprang upon his horse. He was given a gratuity of twelve months' pay on account of his wounds.

In August 1842 Nott's force marched from Kandahar on Kabul. Chamberlain went with it, and took part afterwards in the capture and burning of Istaliffe on 28 Sept., which made him 'disgusted with myself, the world, and, above all, with my cruel profession' (Forrest, p. 149). The combined forces of Nott and Pollock left Kabul on 12 Oct. They were harassed by the Afghans on their homeward march as far as Peshawar, and Chamberlain, who was with the rear-guard, was twice wounded by a bullet near the spine on 16 Oct. and a bullet in the leg on 6 Nov. He had been nearly four years in Afghanistan and had been wounded six times. He had earned the 1839 medal for Ghazni and the 1842 medal for Kandahar, Ghazni, and Kabul. General Nott spoke so highly of him that on 2 Jan. 1843 he was appointed to the governor-general's bodyguard. This did not remove him from his regiment (the 16th), in which he had become lieutenant on 16 July 1842.

Though still suffering from his last wound, he took part in the Gwalior campaign and in the battle of Maharajpore on 29 Dec. 1843, for which a bronze star was awarded. On 20 Feb. 1845 he left Calcutta for England, very reluctantly, for the first Sikh war was imminent, but as his only chance of cure. He returned to India at the end of 1846, having partially recovered the use of his leg. He was military secretary to the governor of Bombay till May 1848, and was then employed for a few months under the resident at Indore ; but on the outbreak of the second Sikh war he applied for active service, and was appointed brigade-major of the 4th cavalry brigade (irregulars).

In the operations preceding the passage of the Chenab Lord Gough [q. v.] called for a volunteer to swim the river and reconnoitre the right bank. Death was certain, if the Sikhs were still there ; but Chamberlain swam across with a few men of the 9th lancers, found that the Sikhs had gone, and was greated by Gough on his return as 'the bravest of the bravo.' At Chillian-walla his brigade was left to protect the baggage, but at Gujarat it was actively engaged. Chamberlain distinguished himself in the pursuit, and Gough promised him the command of the first regiment of irregular cavalry that might be in his gift. He received the Punjab medal with two clasps, and when he became captain in his regiment on 1 Nov. 1849, he was given a brevet-majority.

In May 1849 he was appointed assistant adjutant-general of the Sirhind division, but he soon tired of office routine. He asked for civil employment, and in December he was made assistant commissioner in the Rawul Pindi district, whence he was transferred to Hazara in June 1850. He was entrusted with the organisation of the military police for the Punjab, and at the beginning of 1852 he was appointed military secretary to the board of government at Lahore, which supervised the police. Within three months he wished to throw up this post in order to take part in the expedition to Burmah, but Lord Dalhousie objected that such volunteering would be to the detriment of the government he was serving (Forrest, p. 255).

In the autumn his health broke down, from malarial fever caught in Hazara. He went to South Africa on sick leave and spent a year and a half hunting lions north and south of the Vaal. He returned to India at the end of 1854 to take up the command of the Punjab irregular force, which Lord Dalhousie had reserved for him. This force, modelled upon the Guide corps raised in 1846 by (Sir) Harry Burnett Lumsden [q. v. Suppl. I], numbered 11,000 men and had to guard 700 miles of frontier against turbulent tribes. Chamberlain was only a captain in his regiment, but he was made brevet lieutenant-colonel (28 Nov. 1854) and was given the local rank of brigadier. In April 1855 he led an expedition into Meeranzie, and in August against the Orakzais, for which he received the thanks of the governor-general. In the autumn of 1856 he had to go again to Meeranzie, and in March 1857 it became necessary to penetrate the Bozdar country, which no European had visited. By skilful handling he maintained a certain degree of order on the frontier with a minimum of bloodshed and exasperation.

In May 1857 came the Indian Mutiny. On the first news of it a movable column was formed to crush any outbreak in the Punjab, and Chamberlain was given command of it, with lieutenant (now Earl, Roberts as his staff-officer. But he soon handed over this command to John Nicholson, being appointed adjutant-general of the Bengal army, and he joined the force before Delhi on 24 June. He took a leading part in repulsing the attacks of the mutineers on 9 and 14 July. In the latter action, seeing that the men hesitated before an enclosure wall which was lined by the enemy, he set them an example by leaping his horse over it. They followed him, but he got a ball in his shoulder which partially disabled him for the rest of the siege. He helped, however, to stiffen the wavering purpose of the British commander during the storming of the city, and on 16 Sept. he took temporary command of the force, to allow General (Sir) Archdale Wilson [q. v.] some much needed rest. He received the thanks of the governor-general and the mutiny medal with Delhi clasp, and was made C.B. on 11 Nov. 1857. Chamberlain was disabled by his wound from taking part in the relief of Lucknow, and was obliged to decline Sir Colin Campbell's offer of command of the cavalry in the Rohilla campaign of 1858. He resigned the post of adjutant-general and was reappointed to the command of the Punjab irregular force with the rank of brevet-colonel on 27 Nov. 1857, and the local rank of brigadier-general. In August 1858 he nipped in the bud a dangerous conspiracy among the Sikh troops at Dera Ismail Khan, and received the thanks of the secretary of state. In December 1859 he led an expedition against the Kabul Khel Waziris, and another in April 1860 against the Mahsuds, forcing his way to Kaniguram, which they boasted that hostile eyes had never seen. His force was composed entirely of native troops, and included tribesmen under their own chiefs. The India medal with a clasp for north-west frontier was afterwards granted to the men who took part in these expeditions or in those to Meeranzie and the Bozdar country. On 11 April 1863 Chamberlain was made K.C.B. In the autumn of 1863 he was called upon to lead a force of 5000 men against the Wahabi fanatics, who had found shelter at Sitana and had been persistently troublesome. He decided to take one column from Peshawur over the Ambela pass into the Chamla valley, while another column co-operated from Hazara. He reached the top of the pass on 20 Oct., but found that the Bunerwals meant to dispute his advance and that other tribesmen were gathering from all the country between the Indus and the Afghan frontier. His force was not strong enough to overcome such opposition, and pending reinforcement he took up a defensive position on the top of the pass, with outlying picket posts on commanding heights. These posts were assailed again and again, taken and retaken. On 20 Nov. Chamberlain himself led three regiments (the Highland light infantry, 5th Gurkhas, and 5th Punjab infantry) to recover the Crag picket ; he succeeded, but received a wound in the forearm, which obliged him to hand over command. The governor-general, Lord Elgin, died on the same day, and his council decided to withdraw the expedition. Chamberlain thought such a step most inadvisable ; eventually reinforcements were sent up, and under General Garvock the Yusafzai field force completed its task. Those who served in it received the India medal with clasp for Ambela. Chamberlain went home as soon as he was fit to travel, and joined his mother and sisters at Versailles in July 1864. His mother died there on 28 Dec. 1867. He was promoted major-general on 5 Aug. 1864, and was made K.C.S.I. on 24 May 1866. Towards the end of 1869 he accompanied the Duke of Edinburgh, by Queen Victoria's wish, on his visit to India. He was promoted lieutenant-general on 1 May 1872, G.C.S.I. on 24 May 1873, and G.C.B. on 29 May 1875. Chamberlain returned to India in February 1876, to take command of the Madras army. When it was decided, in August 1878, to send a British mission to Kabul, he consented to go as envoy, being personally known to Shere Ali ; but the mission was stopped at Ali Musjid on 21 Sept. by the Ameer's orders. Chamberlain agreed with Lord Lytton that it must be shown 'that the British government loses no time hi resenting a gross and unprovoked insult,' and he acted for some months as military member of council. But he did not wholly approve of the treaty of Gandamak ; still less of the policy of disintegration which Lord Lytton adopted after the second occupation of Kabul. In July 1879 he wrote: 'I have lived sufficiently long on the frontier to know that a time does come when one feels the benefit of not being committed to a single outpost more than is indispensable for internal security' (Forrest, p. 492). He strongly deprecated the retention of Kandahar in 1880.

His term of command at Madras came to an end on 3 Feb. 1881, and he bade farewell to India. He spent the rest of his life at Lordswood near Southampton. He had become general on 1 Oct. 1877, was placed on the unemployed supernumerary list on 3 Feb. 1886, and was made field-marshal on 25 April 1900. He died at Lordswood on 18 Feb. 1902, and was buried beside his wife at Rownhams near Southampton. Sir Charles Napier called him 'Cœur de Lion.' He was 'the very soul of chivalry.'

On 26 June 1873 Chamberlain married Charlotte Cuyler, sixth daughter of Major-general Sir William Reid [q. v.]; she died on 26 Dec. 1896 without children.

[G. W. Forrest, Life of Chamberlain, 1909; The Times, 19 Feb. 1902; W. H. Paget, Record of Expeditions against the North-west Frontier Tribes, 1884; Daly, The Punjab Frontier Force, in United Service Institution Journal, 1884; Lord Roberts, Forty-one Years in India, 1897; Adye, Sitana, 1867; Lady B. Balfour, Lord Lytton's Indian Administration, 1899.]

E. M. L.