Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Sir. Henry Lawrence founder of first military asylums in India

Sir_Henry_Montgomery_Lawrence. commons.wikimedia.org

Brigadier-General Sir Henry Montgomery Lawrence KCB (28 June 1806 – 4 July 1857) was a British soldier and statesman in India, who died in the Siege of Lucknow during the Indian Rebellion. He is remembered in the Indian subcontinent as founder of the four Lawrence Military Asylums.
 

Lawrence,  born in 1806 into an Irish family at Matara, Ceylon  was the eldest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander William Lawrence and the brother of John Lawrence, 1st Baron Lawrence, was educated at   Foyle College, Derry and then at East India Company's Addiscombe Military Seminary.  After his education and training, he decided to pursue his career in military and in 1823 he joined the Bengal Artillery in Dum Dum, a suburb of Calcutta. In the first Burmese War, Lawrence and his battery was part of the Chittagong column  led by one  General Morrison  where the soldiers had to fight in the highly wooded hills of  Arakan, infested with wild animals and bad mosquitoes. It was a tough terrain where military operations required skill and endurance. Unfortunately, the European solders, unaccustomed to such hot tropical forest conditions, were stricken with nasty fever that decimated them. As for Lawrence, very much affected by fever, he was back in  Britain to recuperate. Because of the severity of the disease, he could not completely recover from its effects. Back India in 1829, he took up the job of  revenue surveyor  offered by Lord William Bentinck at Gorakhpur. While working, he married his cousin Honoria Marshall, and  soon he had to join the  brigade during the outbreak of the First Afghan War towards the close of 1838.

Being an  assistant to Sir George Russell Clerk, he now got a chance to gain  political experience in the management of the district of Ferozepore. When disaster struck the British military in Afghanistan  in November 1841, he was deputed to take care of  supports for the relief of Sale and the garrison of Jalalabad. 
Unlike numerous British officers  who had least concern for the natives, Lawrence attitude toward Indian was different. A devout Christian, with good knowledge of Indian languages, he was reported to have been "sympathetic and kind-hearted," with an unusual "disregard for money or personal luxury," which endeared him to his men despite his rather "fiery temper" (Moreton). On many an occasion, he impressed on the government to pay serious attention to the welfare of the Indian population and because of his insistence in this particular matter, he earned the ire of the  higher authorities and was unpopular.  The period  December 1843 to 1845  saw him as the British Resident Minister in Nepal.
After the end of the First Anglo-Sikh War,  Lawrence  by the Treaty of Bhairowal (1846), became the Resident at Lahore as well as Agent to the Governor-General for the North West Frontier. While here, he governed the area with the help of a group of officers, later known as Henry Lawrence's "Young Men"

Henry Larence died here Lucknow. www.findagrave.com
Henry Lawrence. www.findagrave.com
In 1856, when he was posted as the Chief Commissioner in the newly annexed  province of Awadh, the relationship with the military higher ups and the Indian soldiers was not good and it hit the rock bottom. Already the British higher ups got a bad  name over  annexing Indian states using various ruses. In 1857, it led to the culmination of the Sepoy mutiny, also known as the first war of independence. The rebellion across the northern part of India became hellbent. Among the worst rampages,  the Siege of Lucknow  was one  and the British community, including the garrison of some 1700 men, took refuge in the British residency when the siege began on 30 June. During  uprising, Lawrence defended the  Residency at Lucknow to hold out until relief arrived. Commander Henry Lawrence was one of the first casualties, being wounded by an exploding shell on 2 July and dying two days later.  He was buried quietly  and his death was not reported for several days. The visiting artist and caricaturist, Leonard Raven Hill sketched every thing in the room where Lawrence died and the remains in the room had not been disturbed till the arrival of the artist.  (Mukherjee and Kapoor 85). When Lawrence was critically injured, he is supposed to have said to those around him: "Put on my tomb only this; Here lies Henry Lawrence who tried to do his duty." This epitaph appears on his tombstone at the Residency graveyard, Lucknow.
Henry Lawrence. www.victorianweb

Henry Lawrence. victorianweb
He had also written a number of highly popular books on Indian affairs. Further, he supported opening of  asylums for soldiers' children. The relief on the base of his monument by J. G. Lough in St Paul's Cathedral, London, shows Lawrence and his wife welcoming some youngsters.

 He is well remembered in India as the founder of Lawrence Schools for the education of the children of British soldiers, known as the Lawrence Military Asylums, at four  places.Three of these institutions survive today as the prestigious Lawrence School, Sanawar, near Shimla (HP, India), Lawrence School, Lovedale, 
Nilgiri Hills, (Tamil Nadu, India) and Lawrence College, Ghora Gali (Murree, Pakistan): the fourth, which does not survive, was at Mount Abu, in present-day Rajasthan. They are  known with their impressive  motto, "Never Give In." One historian considered Lawrence  one among the "extraordinary  commanders" who "possessed in abundance that greatest of all virtues, courage" (Featherstone 12). Lawrence's wife had died in India in 1854, but he was survived by three of their four children. 

Lawrence in 1843, along with Sir James Outram, supported Rev. Alexander Duff in founding the Free Church Institution in Kolkata
(after the split in the Scottish Church). Later it  merged to form the Scottish Church's College, known since 1929 (when the Church of Scotland was unified) as Scottish Church College.
Ref: 
http://www.victorianweb.org/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_Montgomery_Lawrence