|Allegiance United Kingdom|
Name George White
Service/branch British Army
Role Military officer
|Years of service 1851–1905|
Place of burial County Antrim
Rank Field Marshal
Awards Victoria Cross
|Born 6 July 1835
Low Rock Castle, Portstewart, Ireland (1835-07-06) |
Buried at Broughshane Presbyterian Churchyard, County Antrim
Commands held Commander-in-Chief, India
Died June 24, 1912, Royal Hospital Chelsea, London, United Kingdom
Education Royal Military Academy Sandhurst
Battles and wars Indian Rebellion of 1857, Second Anglo-Afghan War, Third Anglo-Burmese War, Mahdist War, Second Boer War
Similar People Redvers Buller, Piet Joubert, Louis Botha, Christiaan de Wet, Hubert Gough
Field Marshal Sir George Stuart White (6 July 1835 – 24 June 1912) was an officer of the British Army. He was stationed at Peshawar during the Indian Mutiny and then fought at the Battle of Charasiab in October 1879 and at the Battle of Kandahar in September 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War. For his bravery during these two battles, he was awarded the Victoria Cross. He went on to command a brigade during the Third Anglo-Burmese War in 1886 and became commander of Quetta District in 1889 in which role he led operations in the Zhob Valley and in Balochistan. He was commander of the forces in Natal at the opening of the Second Boer War and fought at the Battle of Elandslaagte in October 1899. He commanded the garrison at the Siege of Ladysmith: although instructed by General Sir Redvers Buller to surrender the garrison he responded "I hold Ladysmith for the Queen" and held out for another four months before being relieved in February 1900. He finished his career as Governor of Gibraltar and then as Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.
White was born at Low Rock Castle, Portstewart, County Londonderry. He was the son of James Robert White of Whitehall, Broughshane, County Antrim, and Frances Ann Stewart (daughter of George Stewart (d.1808), Surgeon-General to the British Forces in Ireland, and his wife Frances Stewart of Killymoon Castle). He was educated at Bromsgrove School in Worcestershire and later at King William's College on the Isle of Man and then at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He was commissioned as an ensign in the 27th (Inniskilling) Regiment of Foot on 4 November 1853.
White was sent to India in 1854 and, having been promoted to lieutenant on 29 January 1855, was stationed at Peshawar during the Indian Mutiny in 1857. He was promoted to captain on 10 July 1863 and transferred to the 92nd Regiment of Foot on 4 August 1863. He returned to England before being further promoted to major on 24 December 1863. After five years in England he went back to India with his regiment in 1868. He was given command of his battalion in 1875 and then fought at the Battle of Charasiab in October 1879 and at the Battle of Kandahar in September 1880 during the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
He was 44 years old when the following deeds took place in Afghanistan for which he was awarded the VC:
For conspicuous bravery during the engagement at Charasiah on 6 October 1879, when, finding that the artillery and rifle fire failed to dislodge the enemy from a fortified hill which it was necessary to capture, Major White led an attack upon it in person. Advancing with two companies of his regiment; and climbing from one steep ledge to another, he came upon a body of the enemy, strongly posted, and outnumbering his force by about 8 to 1. His men being much exhausted, and immediate action being necessary, Major White took a rifle, and, going on by himself, shot the leader of the enemy. This act so intimidated the rest that they fled round the side of the hill, and the position was won.
Again, on 1 September 1880, at the battle of Candahar, Major White, in leading, the final charge, under a heavy fire from the enemy, who held a strong position and were supported by two guns, rode straight up to within a few yards of them, and seeing the guns, dashed forward and secured one, immediately after which the enemy retired.
White's Victoria Cross is displayed at the Gordon Highlanders Museum, Aberdeen, Scotland.
Appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in February 1881 and promoted to lieutenant colonel on 2 March, White was briefly Military Secretary to the Viceroy and Governor-General of India before being given command of the 2nd Battalion of the Gordon Highlanders in October that year. He then joined the staff in Egypt as assistant-adjutant and quartermaster-general in February 1885 with promotion to colonel on 2 March 1885.
In September 1885 White was given command of a brigade of the Madras Army and led it as the 2nd Brigade of the British Burma Division during the Third Anglo-Burmese War in November 1885. Promoted to local major general on 1 April 1886, he led the subsequent occupation of Burma as Commander of the Upper Burma Field Force in mid-1886 and was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath. Promoted to the substantive rank of major general on 1 July 1887, he was given command of Quetta District in April 1889 and led operations in the Zhob Valley and in Balochistan. In the 1890 New Year Honours List White was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire. Upgraded to a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Indian Empire in March 1893, he became Commander-in-Chief, India with the local rank of lieutenant general in April, which was made substantive on 1 April 1895. Made a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath in June 1897 and a Knight Grand Commander of the Order of the Star of India the following January, White became Quartermaster-General to the Forces in October 1898.
White became commander of the forces in Natal in September 1899 at the opening of the Second Boer War and fought at the Battle of Elandslaagte in October 1899. He then withdrew to Ladysmith where he took command of the garrison during the Siege of Ladysmith with his aide-de-camp Clive Dixon (later portraying the siege in watercolour): when his position there became untenable he was instructed by General Sir Redvers Buller to destroy the guns and surrender the garrison on the best terms he could. White responded "I hold Ladysmith for the Queen" and held out for another four months before being relieved in February 1900. For this he was appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George later that year, having earlier been made a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in May 1900.
White became Governor of Gibraltar in May 1900 and, in that role, was promoted to full general on 9 October 1900 and to field marshal on 8 April 1903. In 1905 he was appointed to a Commission of Inquiry into contracts placed with private contractors during the Second Boer War; he was appointed a Member of the Order of Merit later that year. He was Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 17 June 1905 until his death there on 24 June 1912. He was buried at Broughshane, a village in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. A statue of White is currently located at Portland Place, London, while the Sir George White Memorial Flute Band still operates in Broughshane, Ballymena.
White was also honorary colonel of the 2nd Volunteer Battalion the Prince Albert's (Somersetshire Light Infantry) and, later, of the Gordon Highlanders.
In 1874 White married Amelia Baly, daughter of the Venerable Joseph Baly, Archdeacon of Calcutta, with whom he had one son and two daughters. His son Jack White, after service in the British Army, became an Irish republican and socialist who co-founded the Irish Citizen Army along with James Connolly and James Larkin.