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The Dictionary of Australasian Biography/Jervois, Lieut.-General Sir William Francis Drummond

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Jervois, Lieut.-General Sir William Francis Drummond, G.C.M.G., C.B., R.E., F.R.S., late Governor of New Zealand, son of the late General William Jervois, K.H., colonel 70th Foot, and Elizabeth Maitland his wife, was born at Cowes, I.W., on Sept. 10th, 1821, and entered the Royal Engineers from Woolwich in 1839. In 1841 he went out to the Cape, and served there for seven years, making surveys and roads, and building bridges, etc. He acted in 1842 as brigade-major in an expedition against the Boers; in 1845 he was appointed acting-adjutant to the Royal Engineers; and in 1846 was brigade-major at Cape Town until the arrival of Sir G. Berkeley as commander-in-chief. He subsequently served against the Kaffirs. In 1847 he became captain, and in the following year he was appointed to the command of a company of sappers at Woolwich and Chatham. From 1852 to 1855 he was specially employed at Alderney in designing and executing fortifications. In 1854 he became major, and in 1856 was appointed assistant Inspector-General of Fortifications on the staff of the War Office. This office he held till 1875. From 1857 to 1875 he was secretary of the Committee on the Defence of the Empire, and in 1859 was appointed secretary to the Royal Commission on National Defences. In 1861 he became lieut.-colonel, and in 1862 he was Deputy Director of Fortifications; and he was also at various times a member of the Commission on the application of Iron to Ships and Forts, and on other Government commissions and committees relating to Imperial defence. He was engaged in fortification work in England, Malta, Gibraltar, Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Bermuda, India, and Burmah; and having become colonel in 1867, was in 1875 made Governor of the Straits Settlements, and during his term of office, which lasted for two years, successfully quelled an insurrection of Malays in the states of Perak and Sungei Ujong, besides preparing a plan for the government of the protected Malay States. In 1877 he became major-general, and was selected by the Government to proceed to the Australian colonies to advise upon a scheme of defence for the Australian ports. In October of the same year he was appointed Governor of South Australia in succession to Sir William Cairns. This office he held till Feb. 6th, 1883, when he was transferred to New Zealand as Governor and Commander-in-Chief, replacing Sir Arthur Gordon. Sir William's recommendations on Australasian defence were of great importance, and have in the main been carried into effect. At Port Phillip he was the first person who proposed that, in addition to artillery, at the Heads of Queenscliff and Point Nepean, the forts, batteries, and submarine mines for the defence of the estuary and of the City of Melbourne should be concentrated at the Shoals near the entrance. He pointed out that Port Phillip thus defended and the shores of the estuary thus secured, defensive forces might act on the left flank of a hostile body, if attempting to advance upon Melbourne from the harbour of Westport. At Sydney he suggested that the forts, batteries, and submarine mines for the defence of Port Jackson should be arranged so as to keep an enemy out of the harbour, instead of fighting him—on the principle previously designed—after he had effected an entrance. He further planned a work and other means for the defence of Botany Bay, by which Sydney might otherwise be attacked from the southward. At Newcastle he proposed a fort for the defence of that important coaling station. At Brisbane he recommended that the approach to the town by the river should be barred by a battery bearing on submarine mines to be placed across the channel, and that the waters of Moreton Bay should be defended by gun-vessels. At Adelaide he suggested the establishment of batteries on the coast near the port, and the purchase of gun-vessels to defend the gulf up which a hostile ship must advance to the attack of the place. In Tasmania he proposed batteries and other means for the defence of Hobart and the Derwent. At Auckland, Wellington, Lyttelton, and Dunedin in New Zealand, he planned forts, batteries and submarine mines for the defence of the harbours at those places. He further suggested many improvements in the organisation of the forces in the Australasian colonies. These outlines may be gathered from the reports of Sir William Jervois, which were, from time to time, presented to the several local Legislatures, and the recommendations made by him for the defence of the chief ports in Australasia, in the year 1877 and subsequently, have mainly been carried out. Sir William Jervois also suggested—so early as the year 1881—that the Imperial Naval Squadron in Australasian waters should be doubled, and that the colonies should bear half the cost of maintaining the entire naval force there. Subsequently, during the period when Sir George Tryon was Admiral on the station, this proposal was, at the investigation of the Admiral, carried into effect. It should never be forgotten that the defence of Australasia and of Australasian commerce is really a naval question, and the protection of the ports, which are now defended according to Sir William Jervois' recommendations, are indeed part of the naval defence. In 1889 Sir William Jervois retired, and was succeeded by Lord Onslow. He has since lived in London. In 1882 he was placed upon the retired list as lieut.-general. In Nov. 1863 he was created C.B., in May 1874 K.C.M.G., and in May 1878 G.C.M.G. Sir William Jervois married in 1850 Lucy, daughter of the late William Norsworthy. It is understood that Sir William Jervois would not have been unwilling to accept the agent-generalship of New Zealand in 1891 on Sir F. D. Bell's retirement, and his name was mentioned for reappointment for a second term as Governor of New Zealand on the resignation of Lord Onslow in 1892, later in which year he revisited New Zealand on a pleasure trip.