George Pomeroy Colley

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Sir
George Pomeroy Colley
KCSI CB CMG
GeorgeColley.jpg
General Sir George Colley in South Africa
Born (1835-11-01)1 November 1835
Died 27 February 1881(1881-02-27) (aged 45)
Buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery, Natal
Years of service 1852 - 1881
Rank Major-General
Battles/wars Battle of Laing's Nek;
Battle of Schuinshoogte;
Battle of Majuba Hill

Major-General Sir George Pomeroy Colley KCSI CB CMG (1 November 1835 – 27 February 1881) was a British Army officer who became Governor and Commander-in-Chief of Natal and High Commissioner for South Eastern Africa.

Early years[edit]

He was third and youngest son of the Hon. George Francis Colley of Ferney, co. Dublin, by his wife, Frances, third daughter of Thomas Trench, dean of Kildare, and was grandson of John Pomeroy, 4th Viscount Harberton.[1]

He was born in November 1835, and educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he was first in general merit and good conduct at the examinations in May 1852, and was appointed at the age of sixteen to an ensigncy without purchase in the 2nd or Queen's foot. After two years' service with the depot, he was promoted to a lieutenancy without purchase, and joined the headquarters of his regiment, then on the eastern frontier of Cape Colony.[1]

In 1857-8 he held a border magistracy at the Cape, and showed great energy. On one occasion he received notice from the governor, Sir George Grey, of an insurrection which he had already suppressed. He was also employed to execute a survey of the Trans-kei country, a dangerous service in the then disturbed state of Kaffirland. When the Queen's were ordered to China, Colley rejoined his regiment, in which he obtained his company on 12 June 1860, and was present with it at the capture of the Taku forts, the actions of 12–14 August and 18–21 September 1860, and the advance on Peking.[1]

Staff College[edit]

His regiment went home, and he returned for a brief period to the Cape to complete his work there, and then entered the Staff College, Sandhurst. He came out at the head of the list the same year, having passed with great distinction in ten months instead of the ordinary two years.[1]

Colley was an accomplished artist in water-colours, and spent much of his leave in sketching tours on Dartmoor, in Normandy, Spain, and other places. His literary attainments were considerable. He was in the habit of rising early, and securing always two hours before breakfast time for some special study. He thus acquired the Russian language, and studied chemistry, political economy, and other subjects not directly connected with his profession.

In recognition of his services he was promoted to a brevet-majority on 6 March 1863. After serving for some years as major of brigade at Plymouth, the headquarters of the western district, he was appointed professor of military administration and law at the Staff College.[1]

While there he wrote the article 'Army,' extending over sixty pages, for the ninth edition of the 'Encyclopædia Britannica.' He was engaged on this work from June to November 1873. The last portion of the manuscript was sent in a few days before the author, now a lieutenant-colonel, started for the at the Gold Coast to join the Ashanti expedition under Sir Garnet Wolseley. Arriving at a time when the failure of the transport was causing serious apprehension, Colley infused new life into that service ; and the administrative skill and energy which he displayed contributed largely to the success of the expedition.[1] He became part of the Wolseley ring.

Early in 1875 Colley, who had been made a colonel for his services in Ashanti, accompanied Sir Garnet Wolseley on a special mission to Natal, where he temporarily undertook the duties of colonial treasurer, in which capacity he was instrumental in introducing many reforms into the administration of the colony. But the chief feature of this visit to South Africa was a journey that he made into the Transvaal, and thence through Swaziland to the Portuguese settlement at Delagoa Bay, which bore fruit in a valuable report, and a map, which is entered in the 'British Museum Map Catalogue,' 67075.[1]

When Lord Lytton was appointed viceroy of India, early in 1876, he took Colley as his military secretary. This appointment was subsequently exchanged for the higher one of private secretary to the viceroy. It is no secret that in this capacity Colley exercised great influence in the events which led to the occupation of Kabul and the Treaty of Gandamak.[1]

He was still holding the office of private secretary to the viceroy when Sir Garnet Wolseley, on being ordered from Cyprus to Natal, after the disasters in Zululand, asked that Colley might join him, to which Lord Lytton consented. Colley accordingly served as chief of the staff to Wolseley in Zululand and the Transvaal, until the murder of Sir Louis Cavagnari at Kabul, and the outbreak of the second Afghan war caused his recall to India, when he resumed his post of private secretary to the viceroy.[1]

Colley, who had received the distinctions of C.B. and C.M.G., was created K.C.S.I. in recognition of his official services in India.[1]

First Boer War[edit]

Sir George Pomeroy Colley at the Battle of Majuba Hill.

On 24 April 1880, he was appointed to the Natal command, with the rank of major-general, succeeding Sir Garnet Wolseley as governor and commander-in-chief in Natal, and high commissioner for South-eastern Africa. The close of that year found affairs in the Transvaal, which had been annexed since 1877, in a very critical state. On 16 December 1880, a Boer republic was proclaimed at Heidelberg, Transvaal, and with the new year Colley found himself compelled to take immediate measures for the relief of the small garrisons of British troops scattered throughout that territory, and already besieged. With the small force available about fifteen hundred men he at once proceeded to the extreme northern border of Natal, and in the course of January had several conflicts with the Boer forces, the principal being at Battle of Laing's Nek and Ingogo, the former of which was unsuccessful.[1]

On 17 February 1881, Sir Evelyn Wood, who had been appointed second in command, arrived at Newcastle with some additional troops, afterwards returning to Pietermaritzburg, and on 26 February, by a night march, Colley, with part of the troops, occupied, after an arduous climb of eight hours, a height known as Majuba, commanding the Boer camp. Next morning, after a comparatively harmless fusillade, the hill was suddenly and quite unexpectedly carried by a rush of the Boers, Colley being shot dead by a rifle bullet through the forehead.[1]

External images
Grave of Sir George Pomeroy Colley at Mount Prospect military cemetery, South Africa. (Genealogical Society of South Africa)

He is buried at Mount Prospect Cemetery, Natal.[1]

Family[edit]

Colley married, in 1878, Edith, daughter of Major-general H. Meade Hamilton, C.B.[1]

References[edit]

Attribution

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChichester, Henry Manners (1887). "Colley, George Pomeroy". In Stephen, Leslie. Dictionary of National Biography 11. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 

Sources[edit]

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