Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Trevor, William Spottiswoode

TREVOR, WILLIAM SPOTTISWOODE (1831–1907), major-general, royal (Bengal) engineers, born in India on 9 Oct. 1831, was second son of Captain Robert Salusbury Trevor, 3rd Bengal cavalry, by his wife Mary, youngest daughter of William Spottiswoode, laird of Glenfemate, Perthshire, N.B. His father was one of the party of three murdered with Sir William Macnaghten [q. v.] at Kabul in 1841. The widow and children were detained in captivity by Akbar Khan for nine months in Afghanistan. After their release and return to England William was educated at the Edinburgh Academy and at the East India Company's military seminary at Addiscombe. He obtained a commission as second-lieutenant in the Bengal engineers on 11 Dec. 1849. While under professional instruction at Chatham, he was for some months on special duty at the Great Exhibition of 1851. He arrived in India in 1852 in time to take part in the Burmese war; was severely wounded in the escalade and capture of the White House Picquet stockade in the operations before Rangoon on 12 April 1852, and was mentioned in despatches. In the autumn he had sufficiently recovered to join the force under Sir John Cheape [q. v.] in the Donabew district, and was present in several actions, ending with the attack on the entrenched position at Kym Kazim on 19 March 1853. For his conduct on this occasion, when he was again wounded, Trevor received the thanks of government in a 'notification' dated 22 April 1853 and the medal with clasp. He was promoted lieutenant on 1 August 1854.

After the conclusion of the Burmese war he was employed on the Pegu survey, and later on the Bassein river in Burma, with a view to constructing a sanatorium at the mouth of the river. The country was in an unsettled state and Trevor's position most insecure. Transferred in October 1857 to Bengal, he accompanied the Darjeeling field force, to intercept the mutineers of the 75th native infantry from Dacca, and engaged them at Cherabandar on the Bhutan frontier. Promoted captain on 27 Aug. 1858, Trevor was employed in the construction of the Ganges and Darjeeling road. In 1861 he was appointed garrison engineer at Fort William, Calcutta, and converted a tract of waste land on the bank of the Hooghly into the pleasure resort known as the Eden Gardens. In Feb. 1862 he officiated as superintending engineer of the northern circle, and completed the Ganges and Darjeeling road to the foot of the mountains. In May 1863 he was appointed controller of accounts, and improved the method of keeping them.

In Feb. 1865 Trevor joined the Bhutan field force as field engineer under Major-general (Sir) Henry Tombs [q. v.]. At the attack on Dewan-Giri on 30 April following, Trevor and a brother officer, James Dundas [q.v.], greatly distinguished themselves in forcing their way alone ahead of their Sikh soldiers into a barely accessible blockhouse, the key of the enemy's position, in which some 180 to 200 of the enemy had barricaded themselves after the rest of the position had been carried. His gallantry was rewarded by the V.C. He was suffering from illness at the time, and was five times wounded in the desperate encounter. After being treated at Gauhati he went on long leave of absence, and on his return became superintending engineer at the Bengal Presidency. He was made brevet major on 15 May 1866, and received the medal and clasp for his services in the campaign.

Promoted lieut.-colonel on 19 Aug. 1874, Trevor was appointed special chief engineer for the famine relief works north of the Ganges. He received the thanks of the government for his work. After serving as inspector-general of military works he was transferred as chief engineer to Central India, and in Dec. 1875 was appointed chief engineer of British Burma. In this post, which he held for five years, he helped to draft a scheme for the reorganisation of the engineer establishment, for which he was again thanked by the government. He attained the rank of brevet colonel on 19 Aug. 1879. From Feb. 1882 to Feb. 1887 Trevor was secretary to the government of India in the public works department. He retired with the honorary rank of major-general on 20 Feb. 1887. He was a steady shot with a revolver, to which on several occasions he owed his life, an expert swordsman, and a daring rider. He died on 2 Nov. 1907 at 58 Victoria Street, London, and was buried at Kensal Green.

He married on 19 June 1858, at Darjeeling, India, Eliza Ann, daughter of the Rev. H. Fisher, Indian chaplain. She died in 1863, leaving two daughters, the elder of whom died in 1878. The younger daughter, Florence Mary, married in 1882 Colonel Maule Campbell Brackenbury, C.S.I., royal engineers.

A painting by Miss G. Brackenbury (1901) belongs to his daughter.

[Royal Engineers' Records; Royal Engineers' Journal, 1908; The Times, 4 and 7 Nov. 1907; Vibart's Addiscombe; India Office Records; private information.]

R. H. V.