Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Henn, Thomas Rice

HENN, THOMAS RICE (1849–1880), lieutenant royal engineers, third son of Thomas Rice Henn of Paradise Hill, co. Clare, esq., J.P. and D.L., recorder of Galway, by Jane Isabella, daughter of the Right Hon. Francis Blackburne, lord chancellor of Ireland, was born in Dublin on 2 Nov. 1849. He was educated at Windermere College, and entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, second in the list of successful candidates, at the age of seventeen. On 7 July 1869 he obtained a commission in the royal engineers, and after the usual course of study at Chatham was sent to India. He was posted to the Bombay sappers and miners at Kirkee, the second company of which he commanded in the Afghan war of 1880. He was present in the Bolan Pass, and also at Kandahar, when he was appointed brigade major of royal engineers. In July 1880 he took part in the advance of the brigade under General Burrows to the Helmund, and fell in the disastrous battle of Maiwand. When the battle became a rout Henn and his sappers were alongside the battery of horse artillery. Its commander, Major Blackwood, had been mortally wounded, and Captain Slade, who succeeded him, ordered the battery to limber up and retire. Henn, already wounded in the arm, successfully covered the operation with his handful of men, firing volleys upon the crowd of Ghazis pouring down upon them. Henn then fell steadily back, carrying the wounded Blackwood, and following the line of retreat of the 66th regiment across the nullah to a garden on the other side. Behind the wall of the garden Henn and the remnant of his company of sappers, supported by a gallant party of the 66th and some native grenadiers, took up their stand. Here they held the enemy at bay, fighting till every man was killed to cover the retreat of their comrades. Around the spot were afterwards found, lightly buried, the bodies of Henn and fourteen sappers, forty-six men of the 66th regiment, and twenty-three native grenadiers. In General Primrose's despatch of 1 Oct. 1880 he describes, on the authority of an eye-witness—an artillery colonel of Ayub Khan's army—the gallant stand made by this little party. A stained-glass window in Henn's memory has been placed in Rochester Cathedral by the corps of royal engineers.

[Despatches; Corps Records; Shadbolt's Afghan Campaigns of 1878–80.]

R. H. V.