Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford
|General The Right Honourable
The Lord Chelmsford
Thesiger in about 1870
|Born||31 May 1827|
|Died||9 April 1905 (aged 77)
Westminister, London, England
|Years of service||1844-1905|
|Commands held||Lieutenant of the Tower of London
Colonel of Sherwood Foresters
Colonel of the 2nd Regiment of Life Guards
1868 Expedition to Abyssinia
|Awards||Crimea Medal, Order of the Medjidie, Indian Mutiny Medal, GCB, GCVO|
General Frederic Augustus Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford Order of the Bath (GCB), Royal Victorian Order (GCVO), (31 May 1827 – 9 April 1905) was a British general, best known for his commanding role during the Anglo-Zulu war. The centre column of his forces was defeated at the Battle of Isandlwana, a crushing victory for the Zulus and the British army's worst ever defeat against a technologically inferior indigenous force. He would avenge his defeat at the Battle of Ulundi, which effectively ended the Zulu campaign. He was awarded the GCB in August 1879.
He wished to pursue a military career, and after unsuccessfully trying to obtain a place in the Grenadier Guards, he purchased a commission in the Rifle Brigade in 1844. In 1845, he served with the Rifles in Halifax, Nova Scotia before purchasing an exchange into the Grenadiers as Ensign and Lieutenant in November of that year. He was promoted Lieutenant and Captain in 1850, and became aide-de-camp to the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Eglinton, in 1852, and then to the Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, Sir Edward Blakeney, from 1853 to 1854.
In May 1855, he left for the Crimean War, in which he served firstly with his battalion, then from July 1855 as aide-de-camp to the commander of the 2nd Division, Lieutenant-General Edwin Markham, and finally from November 1855 as deputy assistant quartermaster general on the staff at Headquarters, being promoted brevet Major. He was mentioned in despatches and received the fifth class of the Turkish Order of the Medjidie and the British, Turkish and Sardinian Crimean medals.
In 1857, he was promoted Captain and Lieutenant-Colonel, and transferred, as a Lieutenant-Colonel, to the 95th (Derbyshire) Regiment in 1858, serving with that regiment at the end of the Indian Mutiny, for which he was again mentioned in despatches. From 1861 to 1862 he served as deputy adjutant general to the forces in Bombay, and was promoted brevet Colonel in 1863. During his time in Bombay he befriended Sir Henry Bartle Frere who was the Governor there and this relationship would be important later when serving in South Africa. He served, again as deputy adjutant general, in the 1868 Expedition to Abyssinia, for which he was awarded the Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) and made an aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria in 1868. He was adjutant general in the East Indies from 1869 to 1874.
He returned to England in 1874 as colonel on the staff, commanding the forces at Shorncliffe Army Camp, and was appointed to command a brigade at Aldershot, with the temporary rank of Brigadier-General, in 1877. He had however requested a posting overseas in order to benefit from the cheaper cost of living.
He was promoted Major-General in March 1877. In February 1878 he was appointed to command the forces in South Africa, with the local rank of Lieutenant-General, and in October succeeded his father as 2nd Baron Chelmsford. He brought the Ninth Cape Frontier War to an end in July 1878, and was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) in November. His experiences fighting against the Xhosa confirmed his low opinion of the fighting capabilities of black Africans, a mistake that would come back to haunt him.
In January 1879 his friend Sir Bartle Frere engineered a war against King Cetshwayo (previously an ally of the British) and Chelmsford began the invasion of Zululand with three columns. However, the centre column of his forces was defeated at the Battle of Isandlwana after Chelmsford split his forces and permitted the Zulus to concentrate their army against the poorly defended camp. The battle was a crushing victory for the Zulus and caused the defeat of the first British invasion of Zululand. The British army had suffered its worst ever defeat against a technologically inferior indigenous force.
Because an invasion of Natal seemed likely as a result, Chelmsford was relieved of his command, to be replaced by Sir Garnet Wolseley. Chelmsford was ordered by Her Majesty's Government to "...submit and subordinate your plans to his control." Chelmsford ignored this and various peace offers from Cetshwayo in order to strike while the Zulu were still recovering from their defeats and to attempt to regain his reputation before Wolseley could remove him from command of the army. In the event Chelmsford defeated the Zulus at the Battle of Ulundi, just before Wolseley's arrival, a battle which effectively ended the campaign. Lord Chelmsford left for England in July 1879, but Wolseley ensured in his despatches that Thesiger receive all the credit for Ulundi, and he was awarded the GCB in August.
Lord Chelmsford became Lieutenant-General in 1882, Lieutenant of the Tower of London from 1884 until 1889, colonel of the 4th (West London) Rifle Volunteer Corps in 1887, full General in 1888, and colonel of the Derbyshire Regiment in 1889. He exchanged the colonelcy of the Derbyshires for that of the 2nd Life Guards in 1900, and was made GCVO in 1902. 
His sister, Julia (1833–1904) was married to Sir John Eardley Wilmot Inglis (1814–1862)  who commanded the British forces during the Siege of Lucknow in 1857. She later wrote of her experiences during the siege including extracts from her diary.
Death and legacy
He left four sons, the eldest of whom succeeded as 3rd Baron Chelmsford and later became Viceroy of India and first Viscount Chelmsford. Another son was Lieutenant-Colonel Eric Thesiger who served in the First World War and was also a Page of Honour for Queen Victoria. The diplomat Gilbert Thesiger, who served in Addis Ababa in 1916, was another son, and father of the author and explorer Wilfred Thesiger. 
- Doyle, Peter; Bennett, Matthew R. Fields of Battle, Kluwer Academic Publishers, 2002, ISBN 1-4020-0433-8, essay by Tony Pollard The Mountain is their Monument, pp. 118 ff
- Colenso, Frances Ellen (1880). History of the Zulu War and Its Origin. London: Chapman & Hall.
- Greaves, Adrian (2011). Isandlwana: How the Zulus humbled the British Empire. South Yorkshire: Pen & Sword Military Ltd. ISBN 978-1-84884-532-9.
- Knight, Ian (2003). Zulu War 1879. Osprey Publishing. ISBN 1-84176-612-7.
- Thompson, Paul Singer (2006). Black soldiers of the queen: the Natal native contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War. University of Alabama Press. ISBN 0-8173-5368-2.
- "Thesiger, Frederic Augustus" (Subscription required). Oxford DNB. Retrieved 17 May 2011.
- Greaves 2011, p.161-163
- Thompson (2006), p.75 "Thus ended the first British invasion of Zululand."
- Knight (2003), p. 27 Map titled: "First invasion of Zululand".
- Doyle (2002), p. 118
- Colenso (1880), p.455
- Colenso (1880), p. 456
- Colenso (1880), p. 461, "... everyone understood that he would try and end the war before he was superseded ... that 'poor Lord Chelmsford' might get a chance, win a battle ...".
- "Hon. Julia Selina Thesiger". thepeerage.com. 13 February 2011. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
- Inglis, Julia Selina (1892). "The Siege of Lucknow: a Diary". A Celebration of Woman Writers. James R. Osgood, McIlvaine & Co.,. Retrieved 16 April 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Frederic Thesiger, 2nd Baron Chelmsford.|
- Hansard 1803–2005: contributions in Parliament by Lord Chelmsford
Sir Daniel Lysons
|Colonel of the Sherwood Foresters
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|Peerage of the United Kingdom|