Harcourt Mortimer Bengough

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Sir Harcourt Mortimer Bengough KCB
Born 25 November 1837
Died 20 March 1922 (aged 84)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1855–1899
Rank Major General
Unit 77th Regiment of Foot
Commands held 1st Infantry Brigade of the Aldershot Division
Battles/wars Crimean War
Anglo-Zulu War
Third Anglo-Burmese War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Mentioned in Despatches (2)

Major General Sir Harcourt Mortimer Bengough KCB (25 November 1837 – 20 March 1922) joined the British Army in 1855, and retired in 1899, after more than forty years of distinguished service from the Crimea to all quarters of the Empire.

Early life and career[edit]

Bengough was born on 25 November 1837, and educated at Rugby School in Warwickshire from 1851.[1]

He was added to the Commander-in-Chief’s list of potential officers in February 1853, aged barely 16. He was commissioned ensign by purchase in the 77th Regiment of Foot on 22 March 1855,[2] and promoted lieutenant on 3 October of the same year.[3] He achieved his captaincy by purchase on 30 December 1864.[4] He was granted a brevet majority on 1 October 1877[5] which was made substantive on 2 February 1878.[6]

Bengough was versed in languages and used that skill to produce a booklet on the Zulu language just before he left England.[7] The booklet was made available in the Colony.[7] And, even though the booklet was not officially required,[7] it still received publicity through a mention in the local press and in the General Orders.[7] Towards the end of the Crimean War, Bengough entered that war.[7] Bengough also served in Australia and India.[7]

The Anglo-Zulu Wars[edit]

Lt-Col Bengough arrived in Natal with the 77th Foot in December 1878. He was placed in command of the 2nd Battalion Natal Native Contingent, which formed part of Durnford’s [1] Column, and which was left to protect the frontier at Kranz Kop on the departure of that force to join Glyn’s Column.[8] He crossed the Buffalo River in command of the battalion on 22 January 1879. On receipt of the news of the disaster at Isandlwana, he hastened towards Rorke's Drift, intending to join the General’s force. En route, he received orders to proceed to Helpmakaar near Dundee, KwaZulu-Natal. Bengough was ordered to Umsinga, where, despite the desertion of large numbers of his men, he constructed Fort Bengough. He joined the division of General Edward Newdigate in May, in command of the battalion of which the numbers had increased and the discipline improved. He and the battalion took part in the advance into Zululand. He commanded the headquarters and three companies which were present at the Battle of Ulundi.[9] Bengough was Mentioned in Despatches by General Newdigate on 6 July 1879, who reported the good service rendered by the battalion in scouting and outpost duties during the action.[10] Bengough then served in command of the battalion in Russell’s Column until the capture of the King Cetewayo, when it was disbanded.[11]

Bengough visited the kraal near where the Prince Imperial was killed and recalled that he 'brought away as a memento of the sad event a knobkerry stick, which I found in the kraal, and which now hangs in the hall of my house.' In the wake of a famous battle, especially one that marked the culmination of a war such as Ulundi on 4 July 1879, every European involved in the battle appeared to want to own an object that could serve as a reminder of the event.[12]

Later career[edit]

In common with a number of other officers after the Anglo-Zulu War, Major Bengough was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel on 29 November 1879,[13] he returned to regimental duty on 21 June 1880,[14] and he received substantive promotion to that rank on 1 July 1881.[15] He was on half-pay for a period commencing on 29 April 1882, when he was appointed Assistant Adjutant General at Madras.[16][17] and was promoted colonel on the 29 November 1883.[18] He took part in the Third Anglo-Burmese War, and was Mentioned in Despatches on 26 March 1886.[19] He was given command of a Brigade in the Madras Army on 8 November 1886,[20] and was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) on 26 November 1886.[21] He relinquished command of the brigade on 13 November 1891.[22] He was appointed local major general, when he went to Jamaica on 25 October 1893.[23] The rank was made permanent on 13 February 1894,[24] and he relinquished the Jamaica command on 19 December 1894.[25]

His last command was of the 1st Infantry Brigade of the Aldershot Division with the rank of major general, he relinquished command on 1 December 1897.[26] He retired from the service on 29 November 1898;[27] Bengough himself says that he did so "a little before the Boer War of 1899".[28] He was promoted Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) on 26 June 1908.[21] He died in West Bognor on 20 March 1922.[29]


  • Bengough, HM (1913). Memories of a Soldiers Life. London: Edward Arnold. p. 211. 
  • "Mounted infantry" (translated from the "Voyennei sbornik,’ a Russian military magazine in 1883)[30]
  • Bengough, Colonel HM (1892). Lecture on Modern infantry fire tactics. (Offensive.) ... on Tuesday, December 6, 1892, in the Prince Consort's and Military ... C. Mansfield Clarke, ... in the chair. Gale & Polden. p. 108. 

Interest in sport[edit]

Whilst commanding the 1st Infantry Brigade in Aldershot in the 1890s he expressed the opinion that: "There can be no better pastime for soldiers than football, combining as it does skill, judgment, pluck. resource, activity — all soldierly qualities — and affording amusement to all, from the recruit enjoying the humble punt-about on the parade groundto the crowds of enthusiasts keenly watching a hard contested struggle for the final ties for the Army Cup."[31]

In his memoirs he gives an interesting account of his adventures in the realm of sport — pig-sticking, tiger-shooting, and pursuing other forms of game in India and elsewhere.


  1. ^ Rugby School
  2. ^ "No. 21682". The London Gazette. 23 March 1855. p. 1179. 
  3. ^ "No. 21812". The London Gazette. 9 November 1855. p. 4131. 
  4. ^ "No. 22925". The London Gazette. 30 December 1864. p. 6806. 
  5. ^ "No. 24508". The London Gazette. 2 October 1877. pp. 5462–5463. 
  6. ^ "No. 24561". The London Gazette. 12 March 1878. p. 1945. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Keith I. (October 2005). "The Commandants: The Leadership of the Natal Native Contingent in the Anglo-Zulu War" (PDF). Thesis. University of Western Australia. 
  8. ^ "No. 24699". The London Gazette. 21 March 1879. pp. 2369–2370. 
  9. ^ Bengough, Harcourt Mortimer (February 27, 2002). Memories of a Soldier's Life. Adamant Media Corporation. p. 124. ISBN 1-4021-9252-5. Retrieved 13 December 2008. 
  10. ^ "No. 24754". The London Gazette. 21 August 1879. pp. 5105–5106. 
  11. ^ The Anglo Zulu War Historical Society
  12. ^ Michael Stevenson Art: Weapons Essay
  13. ^ "No. 24787". The London Gazette. 28 November 1879. p. 6940. 
  14. ^ "No. 24861". The London Gazette. 6 July 1880. p. 3807. 
  15. ^ "No. 24999". The London Gazette. 26 July 1881. pp. 3677–3685. 
  16. ^ "No. 25128". The London Gazette. 18 July 1882. p. 3346. 
  17. ^ "No. 25142". The London Gazette. 29 August 1882. p. 4013. 
  18. ^ "No. 25297". The London Gazette. 18 December 1883. p. 6523. 
  19. ^ "No. 25599". The London Gazette. 18 December 1883. pp. 2972–2973. 
  20. ^ "No. 25668". The London Gazette. 28 January 1887. p. 466. 
  21. ^ a b "No. 28151". The London Gazette. 23 June 1908. p. 4641. 
  22. ^ "No. 26228". The London Gazette. 1 December 1891. p. 6651. 
  23. ^ "No. 26452". The London Gazette. 24 October 1893. p. 5955. 
  24. ^ "No. 26492". The London Gazette. 6 March 1894. p. 1372. 
  25. ^ "No. 26585". The London Gazette. 1 January 1895. p. 7. 
  26. ^ "No. 26917". The London Gazette. 7 December 1897. p. 7349. 
  27. ^ "No. 27026". The London Gazette. 25 November 1898. p. 7393. 
  28. ^ Bengough, HM, Memories of a Soldiers Life, Edward Arnold: London, 1913. p.213
  29. ^ "Deaths". Deaths. The Times (42995). London. 1 April 1922. col A, p. 1. 
  30. ^ Ames Library of South Asia, University of Minnesota
  31. ^ Campbell, JD (December 2003). "The Army Isn't All work. Physical Culture in the Evolution of the British Army, 1860 – 1920" (PDF). Thesis. University of Maine. 

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