|16th General Officer Commanding, Ceylon|
1839 – ?
|Preceded by||John Wilson|
|Succeeded by||Colin Campbell|
|Born||19 November 1773
Rockfleet Castle, County Mayo
|Died||6 May 1853 (aged 79)
Hanover Lodge, Regents Park
|Spouse(s)||(1) Susan Vesey
(2) Harriet Smith
|Relations||Son of John Arbuthnot of Rockfleet Castle; Brother of Rt Rev Alexander Arbuthnot and General Sir Thomas Arbuthnot and Charles Arbuthnot|
|Unit||76th Regiment of Foot|
|Commands||General Officer Commanding, Ceylon|
General Sir Robert Arbuthnot, KCB, was born at Rockfleet Castle, County Mayo, Ireland, on 19 November 1773 fourth son of John Arbuthnot Senior of Rockfleet, Co Mayo. He was a General in the army, a colonel in the 76th Regiment. He was a Brigadier General in the Portuguese Service and was appointed a Knight of the Tower and Sword of Portugal (KTS). He married his first wife, Susan Vesey in Belfast on 1 February 1802 (who died in Teddington, Twickenham on 30 June 1822). Susan was the only child of Colonel William Vesey of Farm Hill. Sir Robert married second at St James's Church, Piccadilly, 4 January 1826, Harriet Smith (dsp 5 December 1861), daughter of and co-heir of Thomas Smith of Castletown Hall, Lancashire. Sir Robert died in Hanover Lodge, Regent's Park on 6 May 1853, a house in which Admiral of the Fleet Sir Thomas John Cochrane and David Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty, as well as the collector, Matthew Uzielli later lived. [A plaque at St Boniface Church, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight states that he died at Bonchurch].
He was awarded the Army Gold Cross, with three clasps, for the battles of Busaco, Albuera, Badajoz, Nivelle, Nive, Orthez, and Toulouse, and the Military General Service Medal, with two clasps, for Corunna and Ciudad Rodrigo.
He was lieutenant-general, was the brother of the Right Honourable Charles Arbuthnot and of Lieutenant-general Sir Thomas Arbuthnot. He entered the army as a cornet in the 23rd light dragoons on 1 Jan. 1797, and was present at the battle of Ballynamuck in the Irish rebellion on 8 Sept. of the following year. He subsequently served with his regiment at the capture of the Cape of Good Hope in 1806, and in South America as aide-de-camp to General (afterwards Lord) Beresford, with whom and the rest of the troops under General Beresford's command he was made a prisoner of war, and remained a prisoner for eighteen months, until released under the convention made by General Whitelock. On his return from America, Arbuthnot, then a captain in the 20th light dragoons, resumed his position on General Beresford's staff at Madeira, and served with him as aide-de-camp, and afterwards as military secretary, throughout the greater part of the Peninsular war.
Few officers have taken part in so many general actions. Besides the battle of Ballynamuck, two at the Cape, and three in South America, Sir Robert was present at the battle of Corunna, the passage of the Douro, the battle of Busaco, the lines of Torres Vedras, the siege and reduction of Olivenza, the first siege of Badajoz, the battle of Albuera, the siege and storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, the third siege and storming of Badajoz, the battles of the Nivelle, Nive, passage of the Adour, and the battles of Orthes and Toulouse. He received the gold cross and three clasps for Busaco, Albuera, Badajoz, Nivelle, Nive, Orthes, and Toulouse, and the war medal and two clasps for Corunna and Ciudad Rodrigo. He also received Portuguese and Spanish orders, including the special star given by the Portuguese government to all English officers of superior rank engaged at Albuera. He brought home the despatches regarding Albuera, and on that occasion was appointed a brevet lieutenant-colonel. He was created a knight of the Tower and Sword by the government of Portugal, and in 1815 was appointed a K.C.B. In 1830 he attained the rank of major-general, and in 1838 was appointed to the command of the troops in Ceylon, after which he commanded a division in Bengal until his promotion as lieutenant-general in 1841. In 1843 he was appointed colonel of the 76th foot. He lived at Hanover Lodge, Regent's Park where he died on 6 May 1853. [A plaque at St Boniface Church, Bonchurch, Isle of Wight states that he died at Bonchurch].
- Sir Robert Arbuthnot entered the army, as Cornet, in 1797, and served in Ireland during the Rebellion. In 1 805, he was at the Capture of the Cape of Good Hope ; and in the following year, he was taken prisoner at Buenos Ayres, and marched more than a thousand miles into the country. On hifl return to Europe, he went with Lord Beresford to Portugal ; was present at the battle of Corunna, and at the capture of Oporto, in 1809 ; at the battle of Busaco in 18i0 ; that of Albuera, in mi, at the storming of Ciudad Rodrigo, and Badajos, in 1812 ; and the capture of Salamanca, in the same year. Compelled by ill health to return to England, he did not rejoin his regiment till 1813; but he was present at all the battles, from that of Nivelle to that of Toulouse, inclusive ; and, afterwards at Waterloo.
Sir Robert Arbuthnot was an officer of conspicuous gallantry, and was remarkable for his quickness of eye and readiness of resource. At Albuera he distinguished himself by galloping between two regiments, the British 57th and a Spanish regiment, and stopping the fire which by mistake they were exchanging — a feat which he performed without receiving a single wound. In the same battle, at a critical moment, he was enabled by his quickness of sight to discern a retrograde movement on the part of the French, which Marshal Beresford had not perceived, and induced the latter to recall an order which he had just given for the retirement of two batteries of artillery. At an earlier period, in South America, when he and General Beresford were prisoners in the hands of the Spanish, and when all the officers were about to be searched for papers, he contrived by a clever stratagem to secrete in an orchard an important document, viz. the convention which had been executed between General Beresford and the Spanish general Linieres, and of which the Spanish were anxious to regain possession.
- Arbuthnot, Mrs P S-M (1920). Memories of the Arbuthnots. George Allen & Unwin.
|General Officer Commanding, Ceylon