Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Rawson, Harry Holdsworth

1553365Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement, Volume 3 — Rawson, Harry Holdsworth1912Leonard George Carr Laughton

RAWSON, Sir HARRY HOLDSWORTH (1843–1910), admiral, second son of Christopher Rawson of Woolwich, J.P. for Surrey, was born at Walton-on-the-Hill, Lancashire, on 5 Nov. 1843. He was at Marlborough College from Feb. 1854; to Christmas 1855. Entering the navy on 9 April 1857, he was appointed to the Calcutta, flagship of Sir Michael Seymour [q. v.] on the China station. He served through the second Chinese war, being present in the Calcutta's launch at the capture of the Taku forts in 1858, and in 1860 was landed as aide-de-camp to Captain R. Dew of the Encounter, with whom he was present at the second capture of the Taku forts, at the battle of Palikao, and at the taking of Peking. He saw much further active service against the Chinese rebels; for the capture of Ning-po, which place he afterwards held for three months against the rebels with 1300 Chinese under his command, and for Fungwha, where he was severely wounded, he was mentioned in despatches. He also was thanked on the quarter-deck for jumping overboard at night in the Shanghai river to save life. On 9 April 1863 he was promoted to sub-lieutenant, and a month later to lieutenant. In the same year he was one of the officers who took out to Japan the gunboat Empress, a present from Queen Victoria to the Mikado and the first ship of the modern Japanese navy. Rawson then qualified as a gunnery lieutenant, and after serving a commission as first lieutenant of the Bellerophon in the Channel, was appointed in Jan. 1870 to the Royal yacht, whence on 7 Sept. 1871 he was promoted to commander. In Aug. 1871 he gained the silver medal of the Royal Humane Society for saving life at Antwerp. As commander he served two commissions in the Hercules, in the Channel and in the Mediterranean, and on 4 June 1877 was promoted to captain. In Nov. following he was appointed to the Minotaur as flag-captain to Lord John Hay, commanding the Channel squadron ; and, going to the Mediterranean in 1878, he received the thanks of the Admiralty for a report on the capabilities of defence of the Suez Canal, hoisted the British flag at Nicosia, Cypus, and was for a month commandant there. Following this service he was again flag-captain in the Channel squadron until March 1882, and then was appointed to the Thaha for the Egyptian campaign, during which he served as principal transport officer. He was awarded the medal, the Khedive's star, the third class of the Osmanieh, and the C.B. From Feb. 1883 to Sept. 1885 he was again flag-captain to Lord John Hay, then commander-in-chief in the Mediterranean, and in Oct. 1885 became captain of the steam reserve at Devonport, where he remained till 1889. He was a member of the signal committee of 1886, was captain of the battleship Benbow in the Mediterranean from 1889 to 1891, and was an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria from Aug. 1890 until promoted to flag rank on 14 Feb. 1892.

Rawson was a member of the inter-national code signals committee from 1892 to 1895, in 1893 was one of the umpires for the naval manœuvres, and in May 1895 was appointed commander-in-chief on the Cape of Good Hope and west coast of Africa station, with his flag in the St. George. He held this command until May 1898, and during it organised and carried out two expeditions. In Aug. 1895 he landed the brigade which captured M'weli, the stronghold of Mburuk, a rebellious Arab chief, for which service the general Africa medal with 'M'weli, 1895' engraved on the rim was awarded; in Aug. 1896 part of his squadron bombarded the palace at Zanzibar and deposed the pretender, Rawson receiving the brilliant star of Zanzibar, first class, in acknowledgment from the sultan; his action was officially approved, and he received the thanks of the admiralty. In Feb. 1897 he landed in command of the naval brigade of his squadron, with which, together with a force of Haussas, he advanced to and captured Benin city, in punishment for the recent massacre of British political officers. He received the K.C.B. for this service in May 1897, and the clasp for Benin. On 19 March 1898 he was promoted to vice-admiral.

Rawson commanded the Channel squadron from Dec. 1898 to April 1901, after which he was appointed president of the committee which investigated the structural strength of torpedo-boat destroyers. This was his last naval service. In Jan. 1902 he was appointed governor of New South Wales, 'a post for which his tact, kindliness, and good sense were sturdy qualifications.' Sir Harry was a successful and popular governor, and in 1908 his term of office was extended by one year to May 1909. He was promoted to admiral on 12 Aug. 1903, and retired on 3 Nov. 1908; in June 1906 he was made a G.C.B., and a G.C.M.G. in Nov. 1909. He died in London, following an operation for appendicitis, on 3 Nov. 1910, and was buried at Bracknell parish church, a memorial service being held at St. Margaret's, Westminster.

Rawson married on 19 Oct. 1871 Florence Alice Stewart, daughter of John Ralph Shaw of Arrowe Park, Cheshire, and had issue five children. Lady Rawson died in the Red Sea on 3 Dec. 1905, while on passage out to Australia.

A cartoon by 'Spy' appeared in 'Vanity Fair' in 1901.

The Times, 4 Nov. 1910. An engraved portrait was published by Messrs. Walton of Shaftesbury Avenue. Royal Navy List.]

L. G. C. L.