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Jervois, William Francis Drummond (DNB01)

JERVOIS, Sir WILLIAM FRANCIS DRUMMOND (1821–1897), lieutenant-general, colonel-commandant royal engineers, son of General William Jervois, K.H., colonel of the 76th foot, and his wife Elizabeth, daughter of William Maitland, was born at Cowes, Isle of Wight, on 10 Sept. 1821. Educated at Dr. Burney's academy at Gosport and Mr. Barry's school at Woolwich, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in February 1837, and obtained a commission as second lieutenant in the royal engineers on 19 March 1839. His further commissions were dated: lieutenant 8 Oct. 1841, captain 13 Dec. 1847, brevet major 29 Sept. 1854, brevet lieutenant-colonel 13 Feb. 1861, lieutenant-colonel 1 April 1862, brevet colonel 1 April 1867, colonel 27 Jan. 1872, major-general 1 Oct. 1877, lieutenant-general 7 April 1882, colonel-commandant of royal engineers 28 June 1893.

After the usual course of professional instruction at Chatham, where his survey sheets were framed as a pattern for the survey school, and after a few months' duty at Woolwich, Jervois embarked on 26 March 1841 for the Cape of Good Hope. He was employed on the eastern frontier in the construction of defensive posts on the Fish river to keep the Kaffirs in check. Towards the end of 1842 he was appointed brigade major to a force of all arms, sent to Colesberg on the Orange river, under Colonel Hare, the lieutenant-governor, to control the Boers. He was afterwards employed in building a bridge over the Fish river at Fort Brown, and in making the main road to Fort Beaufort. In 1845 he was appointed adjutant of the royal sappers and miners. He accompanied Colonel Piper, the commanding royal engineer, to Natal, and, on his return overland via Colesberg to Cape Town, made a rough survey of the little-known country through which he passed.

At the beginning of 1847 he accompanied General Sir George Berkeley, commanding the troops, to Kaffirland, where he made a sketch survey of British Kaffraria, extending from the Keiskama river to the Kei river, and from Fort Hare to the sea, some two thousand square miles, of which eleven hundred were surveyed during the war under the protection of military escorts. This survey proved of considerable value in subsequent wars, and thirty years later was the only map with any pretension to accuracy which Lord Chelmsford could find for his guidance in that part of the country. On hs way home in the Devastation, in 1848, Jervois connected the sketch sheets of the survey, which was published by Arrowsmith. Sir Harry George Wakelyn Smith [q. v.], the governor at the Cape of Good Hope, recommended Jervois to Lord Raglan, the master-general of the ordnance, 'as one of the most able, energetic, and zealous officers I have ever exacted more than his share of duty from.' For his services in the Kaffir war Jervois received the war medal.

From 1849 to 1852 Jervois commanded a company of royal sappers and miners at Woolwich and Chatham, and in June 1852 took it to Alderney for employment on the fortifications for the defence of the new harbour in course of formation. In August 1854 Alderney was visited by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, and, in accordance with custom, Jervois received a brevet majority on the occasion. In January 1855 he was appointed commanding royal engineer of the London military district, and in the same year was a member of the committee on barracks. On 7 April 1856 he was appointed assistant inspector-general of fortifications at the war office, and commenced the work by which he is best known.

In 1857, in addition to his other duties, Jervois was appointed secretary to the defence committee presided over by the Duke of Cambridge, commanding-in-chief. In the following year a violent French outburst against England on the occasion of the Orsini attempt on the life of Napoleon III created a war scare, and Jervois was specially employed by General Jonathan Peel [q. v.], the war minister, in preparing plans for the defence of London in case of invasion. In 1859 he was appointed secretary to the royal commission on the defences of the United Kingdom, and displayed great energy and ability in guiding the commission. The report, which was mainly drafted by him and fully accepted by the members of the commission, was presented to parliament in 1860, and resulted in a loan of 7,000,000l. to buy land and carry out the works recommended.

The death of the prince consort, who took an intelligent interest in the fortifications, was the loss to Jervois of much kindness and support. The designs of the defences of the dockyards and naval bases at home and abroad were mostly made under the direct supervision of Jervois, who, in the transition state of artillery and small arms, had great difficulties to contend with. Rifling was beginning to be adopted for guns, but the 68-pounder smoothbore and the rifled 110-pounder were the heaviest guns then known, and the vital changes which were taking place in arms fundamentally affected the designs of defensive work. Iron plates were proposed both for ships and forts, and Jervois was a member of the special committee on the application of iron to defence.

On 5 Sept. 1862 he was appointed director of works for fortifications, and as such was nominally in administrative charge of all defences under the inspector-general of fortifications, but in reality he was the confidential adviser of successive secretaries of state for war on all questions of defence. In September 1863 Jervois was sent to North America, and reported upon the defences of Canada, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Bermuda. He also visited the principal forts of the eastern seaboard of the United States during the war between north and south. On 27 Nov. 1863 he was made a companion of the order of the Bath, civil division. Both in 1864 and 1865 he visited Canada and discussed defence questions with the local authorities. His reports were laid before parliament. Canada voted over a million sterling to carry out the proposals, but the money was ultimately expended in making a railway to connect the various provinces.

The works in course of construction at home met with plenty of criticism, to which Jervois replied with his usual energy and success. In 1868 he delivered a lecture at the Royal United Service Institution on the 'Application of Iron to Fortifications in special reference to the Plymouth Breakwater Fort.' In the same year the work of the engineers was attacked in the House of Commons and a committee appointed to examine the fortification works built under the defence loan. This committee approved both the designs and the execution of the works, and testified to the skill shown in adapting original designs to altered circumstances and the great advance in the power of rifled artillery.

In 1869 Jervois visited Halifax, Bermuda, Gibraltar, and Malta, to inspect the works in progress. In 1871 and 1872, at the request of the government of India, he visited Aden, Perim, Bombay, Calcutta, Rangoon, and Moulmein, reporting his proposals for defending them. While engaged in this work he accompanied Lord Mayo, governor-general of India, to the Andaman Islands, and was close behind him when he was assassinated. On 28 May 1874 he was created a knight commander of the order of St. Michael and St. George in especial recognition of his services to Canada. On the winding up of the defence loans in the following year the accounts showed a saving of 40,000l. on the voted sum of 7,460,000l., a result highly creditable to Jervois.

On 7 April 1875 Jervois was appointed governor of the Straits Settlements. On arrival at Singapore, he visited the treaty states and found Perak in a very unsettled condition he and his party were nearly massacred. He developed the able policy of his predecessor, Sir Andrew Clarke, and appointed commissioners to administer the government in the name of the sultan. The murder of Mr. Birch in November, followed by the repulse of a small British force at Passir-Sala, led Jervois to take energetic measures. All available troops in the Straits Settlements and at Hongkong were hurried to the spot, and, reinforced by troops from India, a successful campaign ensued and the sultan was apprehended. The home government expressed its approval of Jervois's energetic measures. He received the Indian war medal and clasp for his services in the Perak expedition.

While at Singapore Jervois made a valuable report upon the defences required there, which formed the basis of the scheme carried out some years later. In April 1877 he was appointed adviser to the various Australasian colonies as to the defence of their chief ports, and visited New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. While engaged in this duty he was appointed on 6 July to the government of South Australia, retaining the duty of defence adviser to the other Australasian colonies, and, after taking over his government, visited Tasmania and New Zealand. On 25 May 1878 he was promoted to be a knight grand cross of the order of St. Michael and St. George. His recommendations as to the defences of the Australasian colonies were accepted and eventually carried out, and his reports were of great assistance to the royal commission, of which Lord Carnarvon was president in 1882, on the defence of British possessions and commerce abroad.

Jervois proved a good governor, and after five years in South Australia he was transferred to the government of New Zealand in 1882, retiring from the military service on 7 April of the same year. He paid great attention to the defence of the principal ports of New Zealand, and roused public feeling in the colony by his lectures and writings. He was much aided in these endeavours by the war scare in 1885, and had the satisfaction of seeing the scheme of defence completed before the termination of his term of office. His prompt action when the king of Samoa made overtures to the colony to place his dominions under British protection, and the New Zealand ministers proposed to send an armed vessel to Samoa, saved a serious complication.

Jervois differed from the general opinion in Australasia on the question of Chinese immigration, believing that, as half the Australian continent lies within the tropics, it can only be fully developed by coloured labour, of which the Chinese is the most valuable. In 1888 Jervois attended the celebration at Sydney of the centenary of New South Wales, and delivered a remarkably able speech. He left Wellington, New Zealand, on the completion of his term of government on 18 March 1889, 'the best and most popular governor that New Zealand has ever had.'

In 1890 Jervois served on Edward Stanhope's consultative committee on coast defence duties. He had strongly advocated, on his return home, both in the press and by lectures, that the defence of naval bases at home and abroad should be in the hands of the navy. The navy, however, consistently adhered to the fundamental principle that its duty is to fight the enemy's ships, and declined to be hampered by any such charge. This somewhat whimsical proposal, which owed any significance it possessed to its advocacy by Jervois, fell through. In 1892 he revisited South Australia, and on his return to England lived at Virginia Water. He died on 16 Aug. 1897, from the effects of a carriage accident at Bitterne, Hampshire, and was buried at Virginia Water on 20 Aug.

He was a fellow of the Royal Society (7 June 1888) and of other learned and scientific societies, and an associate of the Institution of Civil Engineers.

Jervois married, on 19 March 1850, in London, Lucy (d. 17 March 1895), daughter of William Norsworthy, by whom he had two sons and three daughters. Besides the papers already mentioned Jervois contributed to vol. ix. of the Royal Engineers' Professional Papers, new series, 'Observations relating to Works for the Defence of Naval Ports,' and the following were separately published: 'The Defensive Policy of Great Britain,' 1871; 'Coast Defences of England,' 1869; 'Coast Defences and the application of Iron to Fortification,' 1868; 'Report on the Defence of Canada,' 1865, fol.; 'The Defence of New Zealand,' 1884, fol.; 'Anniversary Address to the New Zealand Institute,' 1883; 'Address to South Australian Institute,' 1879.

Two portraits of Jervois in oil, by Fisher, both in uniform one as a young lieutenant and the other as a captain are in the possession of the family. An engraving of Jervois was published about 1860 in the 'Drawing-room Portrait Gallery of Eminent Personages' in connection with the 'Illustrated News of the World.'

[War Office Records; Royal Engineers' Records; Despatches; Times, 18 Aug. 1897; Memoir by Sir E. F. Du Cane in the Royal Engineers Journal; Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, vol. cxxx.; private sources.]

R. H. V.