Sir Henry Marshman Havelock-Allan VC GCB

b. 06/08/1830 Cawnpore, India. d. 30/12/1897 Khyber Pass, Afghanistan.

Sir Henry Marshman Havelock-Allan (1830-1897) was born on the 6th August 1830 in Chinsurah, near Cawnpore, India, the son of Major General Sir Henry Havelock KCB and his wife, Hannah née Marshman – herself the daughter of the eminent missionaries Joshua Marshman and his wife Hannah. When he was just 15, he was commissioned as an ensign into the 39th Regiment of Foot (Dorset) before becoming a lieutenant by purchase with the 86th Regiment of Foot (Royal Ulster). He then transferred into the 10th Regiment of Foot (Lincolnshire Regiment) as an Adjutant in 1852, and was soon appointed to his father’s staff as an Aide de Camp during the Persian War, and later the Indian Mutiny.

Sir Henry M Havelock-Allan VC GCB

Towards the end of the Battle of Aherwa, more commonly known as the First Battle of Cawnpore on 16th July 1857, Nana’s forces had pulled back to a position where they were supported by a 24 pounder gun. The British attack had begun to falter and casualties mounted from this well-positioned gun. With the 64th and 78th Regiments having to take cover from the gun, General Havelock called for one last attempt to take the gun.

Accounts of what happened next widely differ, as the 64th was chosen to head the attack, led on foot by their commander, Major Thomas Stirling, whose horse had been shot. Harry Havelock, the General’s ADC, also placed himself at the front of the regiment on horseback and at walking pace headed directly for the enemy’s cannon. All the time the Regiment was under heavy fire but when it got within range, it charged with the bayonet and soon captured the gun, making Nana’s men flee. For his prominent involvement in the charge, Harry was provisionally recommended for the Victoria Cross by his father, and this was later endorsed by General James Outram, who arrived in Cawnpore on 16th September 1857 to take overall command.

Havelock’s citation for the Victoria Cross appeared in the London Gazette on 15th January 1858. There is little dispute that Havelock performed an act of gallantry, but the award of the VC did as Brian Best in his recent book “The Victoria Crosses that Saved an Empire” eloquently puts it “reeks of nepotism and caused much resentment among other officer, particularly those of the 64th.” The officers of the 64th Regiment when they read the citation believed it reflected badly on them and they wrote to the new Commander in Chief in India, Sir Colin Campbell. Campbell was not a great advocate of the Victoria Cross himself, and when he passed their letter to the Adjutant General, added his views on Havelock’s award….”to them life is of little value compared with the gain of public honour”.

Havelock was promoted to Captain and took part in the First Relief at Lucknow. On 25th September 1857, he joined the Volunteer Cavalry in their charge to the Charbagh Bridge, but a shower of grapeshot left Havelock as the only survivor although severely wounded. The column finally reached the Residency and Havelock and his father joined the defenders until they were relieved by Campbell’s Relief Column in November. Havelock, once recovered from his wounds, then commanded the 1st Hodson’s Horse, and by the end of the Mutiny had been brevetted Lieutenant Colonel at the age of 30.

Havelock received his Victoria Cross from the Queen on 8th June 1859. He also succeeded to the baronetcy bestowed on his father, who had died of dysentery at Lucknow within hours of the Residency being relieved by Campbell’s force. Parliament also awarded an annual pension of £1,000 to both Harry and his mother. Havelock went on to serve in the New Zealand War (October 1863 to January 1865). He then served as ADC to the Governor General of Canada from 1867 to 1869. He had a gift for writing and took a leave of absence from the Army to act as a war correspondent in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71 and the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. Ill health forced his retirement in 1881, but when the Anglo-Egyptian War broke out in 1882, he made his way to the British HQ in Ismailia, telling a war correspondent he knew: “Don’t for goodness sake mention me in your despatches, for my wife thinks I’m somewhere on the Riviera, but I could not resist coming here to see the fun!” He petitioned the British commander, Sir Garnet Wolseley for a role, but he refused. Publicly, Wolseley had described Havelock in the Mutiny as the “bravest man in India” but was his usual waspish self when he wrote to his wife “Havelock is still here as mad as ever: he is not sane enough to argue with.”

Despite the rejection, he somehow managed to take part in the Battle of Tel-el-Kebir, followjng the Highland Brigade and riding into the Egyptian defences armed with just a riding crop. He then became a Liberal Unionist MP in South East Durham and championed the local coal miners. He inherited the estates near Darlington from his cousin, Robert Allan, and as a condition of the will, he had to change his name to Havelock-Allan.

At the age of 67, Havelock, now created Colonel of his old Regiment, the 18th (Royal Irish) Regiment, visited them on the North West Frontier. They were part of the Malakand Expedition under General Sir William Lockhart, who provided an escort for his visitor. Promising not to take any unnecessary risks, but unable to resist danger, Havelock rode ahead of his escort and disappeared. His body was discovered soon afterwards having been shot dead by the Afridis on 30th December 1897. Havelock’s body was taken to Rawalpindi, where he was buried in Harley Street Cemetery.

At some point during Sir Henry Havelock-Allan’s lifetime his Victoria Cross went missing. Family legend is that it was lost or stolen during his career after leaving India. This is entirely believable as he never loaned his VC to any public or regimental institution, and he was also a very wealthy man, and never had any need or occasion to sell it.

On his death he left the original medals of his father ( Major General Sir Havelock ) to his eldest son, together with his own GCB and a medal group comprising a ‘copy’ Victoria Cross and three other medals, which were not originally his, but replacements with the names rubbed off the rim. For the 1956 VC Centenary Exhibition the Havelock-Allan family were asked to loan the Victoria Cross group to the exhibition where the VC was confirmed as a ‘copy’. The medals were also loaned to the National Army Museum for about twenty years where they were also confirmed as ‘not original’. The original VC is still listed as “missing”.





Brigadier Sharif – Images of Havelock-Allan VC’s grave in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.