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Field Marshal Sir George Pollock, Bt
1786 - 1872
Sir George Pollock.jpg
Sir George Pollock
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1801 - 1870
Rank Field Marshal
Battles/wars Second Anglo-Maratha War
Gurkha War
First Anglo-Burmese War
First Anglo-Afghan War
Awards GCB, GCSI
Relations Sir Frederick Pollock, 1st Baronet (brother)
Other work Constable of the Tower

Sir George Pollock, 1st Baronet, GCB, GCSI, (4 June 1786 – 6 October 1872) was a British field marshal.

George Pollock entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich on 21 January 1801. On leaving he entered the Bengal Artillery and sailed for India in September 1803.

His first action was the Battle of Deig (November 1804), against the Mahrattas under Holkar and he was present at the siege of Bhurtpore (January – February 1805).

After a period of staff appointments, he took part in the 1814–16 Nepal War. He returned to his staff duties until 1824 when he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. At this time he was ordered to take sick-leave in England but he managed to get appointed to the British forces in Burma where he played a conspicuous role which won him the CB.

He returned to England in 1827 on sick leave where he remained until 1830 when he was posted to Cawnpor. He received his King's commission as Colonel in 1835 and in 1838 became Brigadier-General in Dinapore. That same year he became Major-General at Agra.

In 1838, Lord Auckland, the Governor-General of India decided to invade Afghanistan to proclaim a pro-British former ruler as king of Afghanistan. The initial campaign was a success but at the end of 1841, faced with ever-increasing hostility from the Afghans, the military and political leaders decided to withdraw the 5,000 British and Indian troops and 12000 camp-followers, wives and children from Kabul and to return to India. The retreat was a disaster and eventually led to a massacre because of inefficient leadership, the cold and the ferocious tribes. There was now almost nothing between the Afghanistan forces and India except for the small British garrison at Jallalabad.

Legend has it that only one (Dr. Brydon) survived; in fact he was the only one to reach the British garrison at Jallalabad (or Jellalabad) in January 1842 — several others had been taken prisoner and many were later found destitute in the streets of Kabul.

After this disaster, General Pollock was given command in February of the British army in Peshawar, whose very shaky morale he restored by the strength of his personality. He advanced through the Khyber Pass to Jellalabad, whose garrison he relieved in April after defeating an enemy force of 10,000 for the loss of 135.

At this moment General Nott, who had advanced from India to Kandahar through Quetta, was authorised to retreat to India through Kabul and Pollock was authorised to do what was necessary to protect the British troops. Both generals took advantage of the badly-written orders to advance on Kabul. Pollock reached Kabul on September 15th after fighting the battles of Jugdulluck Pass and Tezeen; and Nott arrived the 17th, after fighting the battle of Ghuzmee.

Meanwhile the Afghan leader had fled towards Turkhistan with his prisoners, and Pollock ordered his military secretary, Sir Richmond Shakespeare, to rescue them, with Sir Robert Sale, the commander of the Jellalabad garrison, in support. Shakespeare caught up with them on the 17th and delivered them to Sale on the 20th. Amongst the rescued captives was Sale's own wife and daughter.

Sir George Pollock in his Field Marshal's uniform

Pollock and Nott withdrew to India in October after destroying the great Bazaar. Once again they had to fight their way through the Khyber Pass. Pollock's division passed through with the loss of one or two men, but the other divisions did not take the same precautions and suffered more, but in any case the "retreat" had been another great victory.

In 1844 the British residents in Calcutta created the Pollock Medal to commemorate Pollock's achievements. This medal was to be awarded to the "best cadet of the season" at the Addiscombe Military Academy

George Pollock retired in 1870 with the rank of field marshal and was made Constable of the Tower in 1871. He was awarded the GCSI in 1861 and the GCB in 1873, and made a baronet in 1872. Sir George died 6 October 1872 in Walmer[1], Kent, and is buried in Westminster Abbey with a memorial crafted by the sculptor E. J. Physick.

Pollock's elder brother Sir Frederick Pollock, 1st Baronet served as Lord Chief Baron of the Exchequer and was the grandfather of Ernest Murray Pollock, 1st Viscount Hanworth, Master of the Rolls.

Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir John Fox Burgoyne, Bt
Constable of the Tower
Lord Lieutenant of the Tower Hamlets

1871–1872
Succeeded by
Sir William Maynard Gomm
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of The Khyber Pass)
1872
Succeeded by
Frederick Montagu-Pollock

Sources

  • Low, Charles; The Afghan War 1838-1842 (London, 1879)
  • Low, Charles; Life and Correspondence of Sir George Pollock (London, 1873)
  • Sir JW Kaye, History of the War in Afghanistan (2 vols., London, 1851)
  • Joseph Greenwood, Narrative of the Late Victorious Campaign in Afghanistan under General Pollock, (London, 1844)
  • Anon. (probably Field Marshall Sir Linton Simmons), Memoir to Illustrate the Origin and Foundation of the Pollock Medal (Boddy and Co., Military Publishers, Woolwich, 1875). Available at http://www.pollock.4mg.com/Memoir.htm

Notes

  1. ^ Dictionary of National Biography
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