Neville Chamberlain (police officer)

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Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain
Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain.png
Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain
Born(1856-01-13)13 January 1856
Died28 May 1944(1944-05-28) (aged 88)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branchIndian Army
Years of service1873–1901
Battles/warsSecond Anglo-Afghan War
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain, KCB, KCVO, KPM (13 January 1856 – 28 May 1944) was an officer in the British Indian Army. He was later Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary, and resigned in the aftermath of the 1916 Easter Rising in Ireland. He is credited with having invented the game of snooker while serving in Jubbulpore (Jabalpur), India, in 1875.

Early life[edit]

Chamberlain was born into a military family, the son of Charles Francis Falcon Chamberlain and his wife Marianne Ormsby Drury. He was also the nephew of Neville Bowles Chamberlain. He was educated at Brentwood School, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst.[1]

Military career[edit]

Chamberlain was commissioned a sub-lieutenant in the 11th Foot on 9 August 1873,[2] and promoted to lieutenant on 9 August 1874.[1] In 1878, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, he joined the staff of Field Marshal Sir Frederick Roberts, Commander-in-Chief of the British Army in Afghanistan. He was wounded slightly at the Battle of Kandahar.[1][2][3] He served with Roberts at Ootacamund between 1881 and 1884.[4] He was promoted to captain on 9 August 1885,[5] to brevet major on 7 November 1885,[6] and to brevet lieutenant-colonel on 1 July 1887.[7]

In 1890 he became Military Secretary to the Kashmir Government.[1] He was promoted to brevet colonel on 6 January 1894,[8] while his actual rank was still that of captain. Substantive promotion to major followed on 9 August 1894, and the promotion to colonel was made substantive on 6 February 1899,[9] when he was appointed Colonel on the Staff in Delhi.[7]

Following the outbreak of the Second Boer War, Lord Roberts had been appointed Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in South Africa. Chamberlain rejoined Lord Roberts in South Africa in December 1899, as "First Aide-de-Camp and Private Secretary",[3][10] and was highly commended by Roberts in despatches from the war (despatch dated 31 March 1900[11]). He was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) in 1900.[1]

Royal Irish Constabulary[edit]

In 1900 Chamberlain was appointed Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), the armed police force for the whole of Ireland except Dublin. The force was under the direct control of the British Administration in Ireland, based in Dublin Castle. It was responsible for intelligence gathering as well as maintaining order, and was seen as the "eyes and ears" of the government.[12] He formally resigned from the British Army on 1 November 1901.[13] He was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB) during a royal visit to Ireland in August 1903,[14] Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order (KCVO) in 1911[1] and Knight of Grace in the Venerable Order of Saint John in April 1914,[15] and was awarded the King's Police Medal in the 1915 New Year Honours.[16] Chamberlain's years in the RIC coincided with the rise of a number of political, cultural and sporting organisations with the common aim of asserting Ireland's separateness from the UK, which were often collectively referred to as Sinn Féin,[17] culminating in the formation of the Irish Volunteers in 1913.

In reports to the Chief Secretary for Ireland, Augustine Birrell, and the Under-Secretary, Sir Matthew Nathan, Chamberlain warned that the Volunteers were preparing to stage an insurrection and proclaim Irish independence.[18] However, in April 1916, when Nathan showed him a letter from the army commander in the south of Ireland telling of an expected landing of arms on the south-west coast and a rising planned for Easter, they were both "doubtful whether there was any foundation for the rumour".[19] The Easter Rising began on Easter Monday, 24 April 1916, and lasted for six days, ending only when much of O'Connell Street had been destroyed by artillery fire. Although the Royal Commission on the 1916 Rebellion (the Hardinge commission) cleared the RIC of any blame for the Rising, Chamberlain was eventually forced to resign following continued criticism of the force's intelligence handling.[1]

Later life[edit]

After his retirement Chamberlain lived in Ascot, Berkshire, England. On 19 March 1938 he had a letter published in The Field in which he claimed to have invented the game of snooker at the officers' mess of the 11th Devonshire Regiment in Jubbulpore (Jabalpur), India in 1875. His claim was supported by the author Compton Mackenzie in a letter to The Billiard Player in 1939, and has been accepted ever since.[3]

The Oxford Dictionary of National Biography describes the circumstances in which the new game came about:[1]

While serving at Jubbulpore in 1875 Chamberlain developed a new variation of black pool by introducing coloured balls into the game. It was dubbed snooker—a derogatory nickname given to first-year cadets studying at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich that Chamberlain had heard about from a young Royal Artillery subaltern visiting the mess. Chamberlain later retorted to a fellow player who had failed to pot a coloured ball: "Why, you're a regular snooker". While explaining the term to his fellow officers Chamberlain, to mollify the officer concerned, remarked that they were all "snookers at the game" and the name snooker or snooker's pool immediately stuck.

Chamberlain died on 28 May 1944 aged 88.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i T. R. Moreman, ‘Chamberlain, Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald (1856–1944) (subscription required), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, September 2004; online edition, May 2006, doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/73766. Accessed 11 February 2008
  2. ^ a b "No. 24909". The London Gazette. 3 December 1880. p. 6539.
  3. ^ a b c Peter Ainsworth, The Origin of Snooker: The Neville Chamberlain Story Archived 27 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine, International Billiards and Snooker Federation
  4. ^ "No. 25096". The London Gazette. 18 April 1882. p. 1741.
  5. ^ "No. 25520". The London Gazette. 16 October 1885. p. 4787.
  6. ^ "No. 25527". The London Gazette. 6 November 1885. p. 5081.
  7. ^ a b Hart′s Army list, 1901
  8. ^ "No. 26591". The London Gazette. 22 January 1895. p. 416.
  9. ^ "No. 27085". The London Gazette. 2 June 1899. p. 3521.
  10. ^ "No. 27146". The London Gazette. 22 December 1899. p. 8542.
  11. ^ "No. 27282". The London Gazette. 8 February 1901. p. 844.
  12. ^ W. J. McCormack, The Blackwell Companion to Modern Irish Culture, Blackwell, 1999, ISBN 0-631-22817-9, p. 477
  13. ^ "No. 27380". The London Gazette. 26 November 1901. p. 8095.
  14. ^ "No. 27586". The London Gazette. 11 August 1903. p. 5058.
  15. ^ "No. 28818". The London Gazette. 29 December 1914. p. 2874.
  16. ^ "No. 29024". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 April 1914. p. 4.
  17. ^ Brian Feeney, Sinn Féin. A Hundred Turbulent Years, O'Brien, 2002, ISBN 0-86278-695-9, p. 38
  18. ^ Michael Foy and Brian Barton, The Easter Rising, Sutton, 2004, ISBN 0-7509-3433-6, p. 51
  19. ^ Leon Ó Broin, Dublin Castle and the 1916 Rising, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1966, p. 79