Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Massy, William Godfrey Dunham

MASSY, WILLIAM GODFREY DUNHAM (1838–1906), lieutenant-general, born at Grantstown, co. Tipperary, Ireland, on 24 Nov. 1838, was eldest of four sons of Major Henry William Massy (1816–1895) of Grantstown and Gonmaine, co. Tipperary, by his wife Maria, daughter of Patrick Cahill. Educated at Trinity College, Dublin, he graduated B.A. in 1859, and was made LL.D. in 1873.

Meanwhile he had entered the army as ensign on 27 October 1854, and was promoted lieutenant on 9 February 1856. Going out to the Crimea, he served at the latter part of the siege of Sevastopol, was under fire at the battle of Tchernaya and commanded the grenadiers of the 19th regiment at the assault of the Redan on 8 Sept. During the last engagement he showed great gallantry. Returning to the trenches for reinforcements, he was dangerously wounded by a ball which through his left thigh, shattering the Being left on the ground, he fell during the ensuing night into the hands of the enemy, who abandoned him, believing him to be mortally wounded. He was finally rescued, and recovered after a confinement to his camp stretcher of nearly six months. His courage was commended in a special despatch by Sir James Simpson [q. v.] and he became popularly known as 'Redan' Massy. Promoted captain on 20 Feb. 1860, he was awarded the 5th class of the Legion of Honour and Turkish medal.

In 1863 he obtained his majority, and served as assistant adjutant-general in India. On his promotion as lieutenant-colonel he commanded in India the 5th royal Irish lancers from 1871 to 1879. On 4 Sept. 1879 Massy was proceeding with a small escort to Kabul, when the news of the massacre of Sir Louis Cavagnari [q. v.] reached him at Shutargarden; and he at once telegraphed the news to Sir Frederick (afterwards Lord) Roberts. During the Afghan war of 1879-80 he commanded a cavalry brigade and took a prominent part in the battle of Charasiab on 6 Oct. 1879, capturing 75 pieces of Afghan artillery. During the subsequent operations in the Charde Valley, Massy was despatched in pursuit of the enemy (7 Oct.), but he failed to cut off the Afghan line of retreat. Next taking part in the actions round Kabul, he was ordered (11 Dec. 1879) to start from Sherpur with the cavalry under his command and effect a junction with General Macpherson's brigade. Advancing too far, Massy was cut off by 10,000 Afghans at Killa Kazi, and after an unsuccessful charge and the abandonment of guns he was extricated from a difficult position by the timely arrival of the main body. General Roberts in his report laid the responsibility for the disaster on Massy, who was severely censured and removed from his command. General Roberts's strictures were regarded as unduly harsh, and Massy was soon reappointed to a brigade by George, duke of Cambridge, the commander-in-chief (Despatches, Lond. Gaz. 16 Jan. and 4 May 1880). He received the Afghan medal with two clasps.

He became major-general on 23 Aug. 1886 and was nominated C.B. on 21 June 1887. He held the command of the troops in Ceylon from 1888 to 1893, when he attained the rank of lieutenant-general. On 4 Oct. 1896 he obtained the colonelcy of the 5th royal Irish lancers, and on 1 April 1898 was placed on the retired list. He received the reward for distinguished service. He was a J.P. and D.L. for co. Tipperary, and high sheriff in 1899. He died on 20 Sept. 1906 at the family residence, Grantstown Hall, Tipperary. He married in 1869 Elizabeth Jane, eldest daughter of Major-general Sir Thomas Seaton, K.C.B., of Ackworth, Suffolk, and widow of George Arnold, by whom he left issue one daughter, Gertrude Annette Seaton, who married in 1893 Colonel James George Cockburn (d. 1900).

[The Times, 21 and 22 Sept. 1906; Lord Roberts, Forty-one Years in India, 30th edit.; H. B. Hanna, The Second Afghan War, iii. 1910; S. P. Oliver, The Second Afghan War, 1908; J. Duke, Recollections of the Kabul Campaign, 1883; Septans, Les expéditions anglaises en Asie, Paris, 1897, p. 213 seq.; Burke's Landed Gentry of Ireland, 1904; Hart's and Official Army Lists.]

H. M. V.