Pears, Thomas Townsend (DNB00)

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PEARS, Sir THOMAS TOWNSEND (1809–1892), major-general royal engineers, son of the Rev. James Pears, head-master of Bath grammar school, and brother of Steuart Adolphus Pears [q. v.], was born on 9 May 1809. He went to the East India Company's Military College at Addiscombe in 1823; received a commission as lieutenant in the Madras engineers on 17 June 1825, and, after the usual course of professional study at Chatham, sailed for India towards the end of 1826. He was employed in the public works department, and became a superintending engineer as early as 1828. Invalided to England in 1834, he returned to India overland through Persia in 1836, and was appointed commandant of the Madras sappers and miners. He was promoted second captain on 15 Sept. 1838. In 1839, while still commanding his corps, he was appointed chief engineer with the field force employed in Karnul. At the close of this expedition, which resulted in the seizure of the fort and town of Karnul and the subsequent capture of the nawab, he was despatched as field engineer with the force in China, and took part in the capture of the island of Chusan on the east coast in 1840.

In the following year he was appointed commanding engineer with the army in China under Sir Hugh Gough, and highly distinguished himself. In Sir Hugh Gough's despatch of 3 Oct. 1841, reporting the capture of the city of Tinghai, he observes that ‘the scaling-ladders had been brought up in most difficult and rugged heights by the great exertions of the Madras sappers, and were gallantly planted under the direction of Captain Pears, who was the first to ascend.’ After the capture of the fortified city and heights of Chapoo, Pears was again honourably mentioned for his judgment and gallantry in placing the powder-bags which blew in the defences of a fort where a desperate resistance was offered. With the exception of the attack on Canton and the bombardment of Amoy, Pears was present as commanding engineer in every action of Sir Hugh Gough's China campaign of 1841–2. He was repeatedly mentioned in despatches, and at the close of the war was rewarded with a brevet majority on 23 Dec. 1842, and the companionship of the Bath.

On Pears's return to Madras he was employed in the public works department, as superintending engineer at Nagpúr, and in various other responsible situations, chiefly in the inception and development of the railway system. From 1851 to 1857 he was the consulting engineer for railways to the government of Madras. He was then appointed chief engineer in the public works department for Mysore, and was the trusted adviser of Sir Mark Cubbon [q. v.]

Pears was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 1 Aug. 1854, and colonel in the army on 1 Aug. 1857. He retired on a pension on 8 Feb. 1861 with the honorary rank of major-general, but, on his arrival in England, was offered, unsolicited, the appointment of military secretary at the India office in succession to Sir William Baker.

When Pears took office under Sir Charles Wood (afterwards Lord Halifax) the duties were formidable and delicate, consequent on the reorganisation of the whole military system after the abolition of the East India Company. Vested interests, often extravagantly asserted, had to be defended against attacks often unreasonable in their character. He gained the implicit trust of the several statesmen under whom he served—Sir Charles Wood, Sir Stafford Northcote, the Duke of Argyll, and Lord Salisbury. The organisation at home of the arrangements for the Abyssinian expedition was entrusted to him, and Sir Stafford Northcote wrote to him expressing the highest appreciation of his labours. On 13 June 1871 his services were recognised by the honour of a civil K.C.B. He retired in 1877 from the public service. He died at his residence, Eton Lodge, Putney, on 7 Oct. 1892, and was buried in Mortlake cemetery.

Pears married, at Madras, on 31 Dec. 1840, Bellina Marianne, daughter of Captain Charles Johnston of the Madras army. She died at Putney on 17 Jan. 1892. By her he had seven children, of whom six survived him. His eldest son, in the Bengal civil service, collector of Budáon, died at Allahabád in 1883. His second son, Major T. C. Pears, Bengal staff corps, became political agent at Ulwar, Rajputana. One daughter married Loraine Estridge, vicar of Bursledon, Hampshire; and another, J. H. Etherington-Smith, barrister-at-law and recorder of Newark. A portrait of Pears, by W. W. Ouless, R.A., passed to Mrs. Etherington-Smith.

[Despatches; private information; Vibart's History of the Madras Engineers, 1883, and his Addiscombe, 1894; Ouchterlony's Chinese War, 1844; India Office Records; Royal Engineers' Journal, November, 1892.]

R. H. V.