Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Norman, Henry Wylie
NORMAN, Sir HENRY WYLIE (1826–1904), field-marshal and administrator, was born in London on 2 Dec. 1826. His father, James Norman, exchanged an adventurous life at sea for business at Havana in Cuba, and then married Charlotte Wylie of Dumfries. He subsequently moved to Calcutta, carrying on his business there until his death in March 1853. His widow died at an advanced age at Sandgate on 13 Sept. 1902. Henry Norman did not enter Addiscombe College (as stated in The Times, 27 Oct. 1904), but after a very imperfect education joined his father in Calcutta in 1842 with a strong desire to go to sea, meanwhile taking such clerical work as offered itself. Even at this age, however, he impressed others with the qualities which Earl Roberts regarded as his special gifts, 'extraordinary memory' and 'a natural liking and aptitude for work.' The 'soldierly instincts' within him were kindled by news of Sir Charles Napier's campaign in Sind in 1843, and of Sir Hugh Gough's victories at Maharajpur and Gwalior, and fortune favoured him by bringing him a direct appointment as cadet in the infantry of the Company's Bengal army (1 March 1844). In April he joined the 1st Bengal native infantry as ensign, devoting his whole heart to his regimental duties; and in March 1845 he was transferred to the 31st native infantry (afterwards 2nd Queen's own Rajput light infantry), which remained loyal in 1857. He thus escaped the cruel fate of his brother officers in the 1st native infantry. Throughout his active service he seemed to possess a charmed life, and was constantly unhurt when men were struck down by his side.
His regiment was stationed at Lahore after the first Sikh war in 1846, as part of the force under Colin Campbell (afterwards Lord Clyde) [q. v.]. He became lieutenant on 25 Dec. 1847, and was soon made adjutant. When Vans Agnew and Anderson were murdered at Multan on 20 April 1848, Norman was on sick leave at Simla, but was at once recalled to his regiment, then stationed at Ferozepore. In the 'war with a vengeance' that followed Norman shared in every incident and battle. He witnessed the opening scene at Ramnagar, took part in Thackwell's inconclusive operations at Sadulapur on 3 Dec. 1848, joined in the confused and bloody melee at Chilianwala on 13 Jan. 1849, and shared the conspicuous honour won by his regiment in the decisive attack on Kalra at the crowning victory of Gujarat on 21 Feb. 1849. He was present at the grand svirrender of the Sikh army at Rawalpindi, and helped to chase the Afghans back to their hills, finally receiving the Sikh war medal and two clasps. In December 1849 he was brigade-major at Peshawar to Sir Colin Campbell. In 1850 he accompanied Sir Charles Napier on the Kohat pass expedition, and afterwards took part in expeditions against the Afridis, the Mohmands, and the Utman Kheyls. While he was at Panjpao on 15 April 1852 he was specially mentioned in despatches. Becoming deputy assistant adjutant-general and A.D.C. to General Sir Abraham Roberts [q. v.], he was credited in divisional orders (15 Dec. 1853) with 'all the qualifications for a good soldier and first-rate staff officer.'
A brief interlude in Norman's service on the staff occurred when the Santals in 1855 rose against the extortionate money-lenders. He at once joined his regiment, taking part in the suppression of disturbances. In May 1856 he was at headquarters in Calcutta as assistant adjutant-general, and in the following year he reached Simla with the commander-in-chief, General George Anson [q. v.], a few days before news of the outbreak at Meerut and of the arrival of the mutineers at Delhi simultaneously reached headquarters. General Sir Henry Barnard [q. v.] took command of the relief force on the death of Anson (27 May 1857), united his forces at Alipur with those of Sir Archdale Wilson [q. v.] on 7 June, and next day defeated the rebels at Badli-ki-Serai, establishing himself on the Ridge of Delhi in sight of the walled city filled with some 10,000 mutineers and soon receiving 20,000 more trained sepoys. Chester, the adjutant-general, lay dead amongst the 183 killed and wounded, and upon Norman devolved his duties. From 8 June to 8 Sept., when the arrival and establishment in position of the siege guns enabled the assault to be delivered, Norman was invaluable to the several commanders of the Delhi field force: first to Barnard until he died of cholera on 5 July, then to (Sir) Thomas Reed [q. v.] until he left with the sick and wounded on 17 July, and then to Archdale Wilson until he established his headquarters in the palace of captured Delhi on 21 Sept. Neville Chamberlain [q. v. Suppl. II] arrived on 24 June to assume the duties of adjutant-general, but on 14 July he was severely wounded.
Notwithstanding the strain and sufferings of the siege, Norman without any hesitation left Delhi with Greathead's column, and took part in the fighting at Bulandshahr, Aligarh, and Agra. He was able early in November to report his arrival to Sir Colin Campbell, commander-in-chief, and proceed with him as deputy adjutant-general to the relief of Lucknow. In the attack on the Shah Nujeef on 16 Nov., his horse was shot under him, but he rallied and led some soldiers on the point of retreating; and when the relief was accomplished he was present at the battle of Cawnpore and took part in the defeat of the Gwalior troops (6 Dec. 1857). Then followed the final capture of Lucknow in March 1858, the Rohilkhand campaign (April to May), and the battle of Bareilly (5 May), at which he received his only wound. The cold season campaign in Oudh, 1858-9, found him present at the engagements of Buxar Ghat, Burgudia, Majudia, and on the Rapti, and at the close of these operations the commander-in-chief brought his merits to the notice of the viceroy. Up to this time, indeed, he had been mentioned twenty-three times in despatches or in general orders. But his rewards lagged, because his years were fewer than his services. Even so late as 2 Dec. 1860 he was gazetted as a captain in the new staff corps, on the heels of which followed a brevet majority, 3 Dec., and then a brevet lieutenant-colonelcy on 4 Dec. He became C.B. on 16 August 1859, and A.D.C. to Queen Victoria on 8 Sept. 1863, an honour which he held until 22 March 1869, when he was promoted major-general. Worn out by all he had endured, he proceeded home in December 1859, and was at once welcomed by the press and invited to Windsor Castle. On 1 Oct. 1860 he was made assistant military secretary to the Duke of Cambridge, who always entertained a high regard for him. In the following year he was ordered back to India to take part in the great scheme of army reorganisation.
From this time his career, which promised so much success in the military service, was gradually diverted to civil administration. As first secretary to the government of India in the military department (12 Jan. 1862-31 May 1870), he had to endure the criticism and attacks of many vested interests affected by the financial stress and the reorganisation schemes of the period following the Mutiny. Stricken with fever, he was sent home in December 1865. Returning to India in 1867, he resumed his secretarial duties and became a major-general on 23 March 1869. From 1 June 1870 to 18 March 1877 he was member of the council of the governor-general of India, and took a prominent part in the discussion of Afghan affairs and the scientific frontier. He advocated on every occasion friendly relations with Russia, forbearance towards the Amir, and scrupulous avoidance of any advance beyond existing frontiers. He never forgot 'the dangers of our position in India,' and urged measures of economy and internal administration in order to keep our forces concentrated and our subjects contented. These views were not in harmony with Lord Lytton's forward policy, and he resigned his office in March 1877. He had been made K.C.B. on 24 May 1873, and was promoted lieutenant-general on 1 Oct. 1877. On 25 Feb. 1878 he was appointed member of the council of India, and when Lord Hartington [q. v. Suppl. II] became secretary of state for India on 28 April 1880 his strenuous opposition to the retention of Kandahar was rewarded with success. On 1 April 1882 he became general, and he was deputed to Egypt to settle various financial questions as to the liability of Indian and British revenues for the Indian contingent. On 30 Nov. 1883 he resigned his post at the India office to take up a colonial appointment as governor of Jamaica, where Lord Derby warned him that 'there will be a great deal to do' (Letter, 27 Sept. 1883).
Norman was received coldly on arrival. He bore unknown instructions on the constitutional crisis which had succeeded the resignation of the non-official members of the legislative council owing to the obligation imposed on the island for paying damages arising out of the seizure of the Florida. Queen Victoria's order in council of 19 May 1884 at least terminated uncertainty if it failed to satisfy hopes. But the introduction of the new representative scheme of legislation was so firmly and tactfully effected that 'the people were satisfied with even the little they had received' (speeches of the chairman of the standing committee for raising funds and others March 1886). For his services he received in May 1887 the G.C.M.G., and the military distinction of G.C.B. in the following month. In 1889 he disinterestedly accepted the governorship of Queensland in order to relieve the home government of a difficulty caused by their unpopular appointment of Sir Henry Blake. In Queensland quiet times succeeded to angry constitutional controversies. The colony was, however, soon involved in financial troubles, and Norman showed his public spirit in offering to share the reduction of salary to which the members of the legislative assembly had to submit. The responsible ministers freely sought his advice, and when he retired after the close of 1895 Mr. Chamberlain expressed his high appreciation of the governor's long and valuable services.
During Norman's term of office in Queensland Lord Kimberley, secretary of state for India, offered him, through Lord Ripon, secretary of state for the colonies, on 1 Sept. 1893, the post of governor-general of India on the resignation of that office by Lord Lansdowne. On 3 Sept. Norman accepted the office, but in the course of the next few days he found that the excitement and anxieties so upset him at the age of nearly sixty-seven years, that he could not expect to endure the strain of so arduous an office for five years. On 19 Sept. he withdrew his acceptance. After his return to England he was employed on various duties and commissions of a less onerous but important character. In December 1896 he was appointed president of a royal commission to inquire into the conditions of the sugar-growing colonies in West India. This involved a cruise round the islands and gratified his taste for the sea, cruising and voyaging having been Norman's chief recreation during his life. His views in favour of countervailing duties on bounty-fed sugar imported into the United Kingdom were not shared by his colleagues. In 1901 he was made governor of Chelsea Hospital, being raised to the rank of field-marshal on 26 June 1902. In the following year, despite his failing health, he took part in the South African war commission. On 26 Oct. 1904 he died at Chelsea Hospital, and was buried with full military honours at Brompton cemetery. Norman was thrice married: (1) in 1853 to Selina Eliza, daughter of Dr. A. Davidson, inspector-general of hospitals; she died on 3 Oct. 1862 at Calcutta, having had issue four daughters, and one son, Henry Alexander, who died at sea in March 1858; (2) in September 1864 to Jemima Anne (d. 1865), daughter of Capt. Knowles and widow of Capt. A. B. Temple; and (3) in March 1870 to Alice Claudine, daughter of Teignmouth Sandys of the Bengal civil service. By her he had two sons, Walter and Claude, who both entered the army, and one daughter. Mural memorial tablets were erected by public subscription in Chelsea Hospital, at Delhi, and in the crypt of St. Paul's cathedral. This last, unveiled on 3 June 1907 by Lord Roberts, bore the simple legend 'Soldier and administrator in India, governor of Jamaica and Queensland, through life a loyal and devoted servant to the state.'
A portrait in oils, painted by Lowes Dickinson for the city of Calcutta, was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1879. A cartoon portrait of Norman by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1903.
[W. Lee-Warner, Memoirs of Field-Marshal Sir Henry Norman, 1908; Narrative of the Campaign in 1857 at Delhi, by Lieut. H. W. Norman, 2nd Asst. Adjutant-General; Selections from state papers preserved in the Mil. Dept. of the Govt. of India, 1857-8, ed. G. W. Forrest, 3 vols. 1893-1902; Kaye and Malleson's History of the Sepoy War in India; Parliamentary papers, including Mutiny of Native Regiments, 1857-8, Organisation of the Indian Army, 1859, Afghan campaign, 1878-79; G. W. Forrest, Field-Marshal Sir Neville Chamberlain, 1909]