A Chronology of William Arden Crommelin

[With A Map and Arrows Pointing to Places Pertinent to Crommelin Activity]

[Note: the red numbers below match the numbers next to the arrows on the map above...]

1. Ghazipur (Ghazepore) near Benares [today known as Varanasi] is where William's uncles George Russel Crommelin, Thomas Lake C. and Henry Blyth C. were born. Another uncle, James Arden C., painted a nice sketch of the fort at nearby Allahabad.

2. Goruckpore - William Arden Crommelin was born May 21, 1823 at Goruckpore, India and died in 1886 at Brightlands Gypsy Lane, Putney, England. Various other Crommelins were born at Goruckpore on the banks of the Rapti River.

3. Calcutta - Having graduated as First Engineer of his term at Addiscombe Military College in England, (February 1840 - December 10, 1841), William proceeded to Chatham to complete his professional studies in the grade of a gazetted "Ensign". While there he paid special attention to the course of Boating and Pontooning Operations which stood him in good stead when he went to India. William arrived at Calcutta in November 1842 where he became Assistant Garrison Engineer at Fort William.

4. Gwaliore - On December 29, 1843 the Battle of Maharajpore in the Gwalior campaign took place in which William's uncle, Major George Russel Crommelin (1803-1844), sustained a grievous gunshot wound. He died a few days later at Camp Danaila on January 1, 1844.(See Also:)

5. Hazareebagh - In 1844 William was transferred to Hazareebagh (Jharkhand) where he was the Executive Engineer.

6. Ferozepore - After the Battle of Ferozeshah (December 21, 1845) he was called upon to join the Army of the Sutlej in the Punjab. He arrived just after Sobraon (February 10, 1846) and was sent to join the Engineers engaged at Kunderghat, in front of Ferozepore who were preparing to pass over the army. He then had to prepare two bridges of boats at Nagarghat, nine miles further up, for the return of the troops.

British troops crossing the River Sutlej by a bridge of boats after the Battle of Sobraon

7. Kote Kangra - In March 1846, William became one of the two Executive Engineers of the new province of Jullundur and commenced to provide cover for troops at three cantonments. Then he was ordered to proceed with the expedition to Kote Kangra where 18-pound cannons had to be hauled some 40 miles along the bed of the River Beas (crossing it some 50 times) up to the lofty plateau of Kangra using 3 large elephants per cannon. This was accomplished in one week and brought about the surrender of the fort by the Sikh Sirdars.

8. Lahore - Following this operation William became garrison engineer at Lahore.

9. Multan - In 1847 the Second Sikh War began with the troubles in Multan (Mooltan). William made two boat bridges across the Sutlej and Ravee. He served throughout the campaign in Northern Punjab and was present at the action of Ramnuggur, Sadoolapore, Chillianwalah, and at the crowning victory of Gujerat. After the battle he was sent in charge of a pontoon train to follow Sir Walter Gilbert in pursuit of the defeated Sikhs at which time he made a bridge over the Jhelum and one over the Indus. Thus, during the campaign he bridged all the great rivers of the Punjab namely the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej.

10. Peshawur - After the war William was Chief Engineer at Peshawur. In 1850 he went home on furlough, returning in 1853 to become Civil Engineer of the Peshawur district. While there he designed a great suspension bridge over the Indus but it was never built having been superseded by the tunnel project. In 1854 William was attached as Assistant to Col. Napier (later Lord Napier of Magdala), then Chief Engineer of the Punjab.

3. Calcutta - In 1856 he was transferred to the Public Works Office in Calcutta as a Deputy Consulting Engineer and held that post when the Indian Mutiny (Sepoy Rebellion) broke out.

11. Cawnpore (Kanpur) - Throughout the gruelling hot season and the torrential monsoon rains of 1857, the British in India fought to put down a rebellion spearheaded by the Indian Soldiers of the army known as 'Sepoys'. In Lucknow, the capital of the recently annexed state of Oudh, a small garrison of 1,800 British men, women and children--supported by 1,200 loyal Indians--withstood a siege of almost three months against rebels numbering between 20,000 and 50,000.

On July 2, Sir Henry Lawrence mortally wounded 3 days into the Siege, handed over command to John Inglis. Meanwhile William Crommelin was ordered to join Gen. Havelock to relieve the siege of Lucknow, arriving at Cawnpore on July 25, 1857 after successfully crossing the Ganges in full flood. Havelock remained at Cawnpore until Sept. 15 when Gen. Outram arrived with reinforcements. Arrangements were then made to cross the Ganges again.

A bridge of boats across the Ganges

12. Lucknow - On Sept. 25 the combined force marched into Lucknow to relieve the besieged British garrison that had sought refuge for several months in a stately government building known as 'The Residency'.

The Residency in better times before 1857.

Waving his white helmet, Gen. Havelock (center-right) relieves Lucknow on September 26, 1857

Lucknow Residency - In the final rush up to the Residency where Havelock's troops suffered severely, William Crommelin was shot above the right ankle while a second bullet cut his scabbard in two and a third mortally wounded his horse. After 5 weeks gangrene set in but his leg was saved by the judicious application of nitric acid. Despite his injury, Outram and Napier insisted that he retain the Chief Engineership of the force.

The Residency in shambles - a mute reminder of the terrible Siege of Lucknow in 1857.
(Photos Source:)

A Sermon preached by Charles H. Spurgeon October 7, 1857 regarding the situation in India.

Since Havelock's relieving force was too small to liberate Lucknow, the siege would continue until the middle of November when a second liberating force would arrive at Lucknow. Until then the defenders faced mining and counter-mining operations in which tunnels were dug toward the Residency compound by the enemy. Using explosives in the tunnels they attempted to create a breach in the walls by which to enter the Residency compound. Some twenty shafts were dug but with William in charge of the counter-mining operations only five were exploded with no loss of life. The defenders held out until Sir Colin Campbell arrived with forces sufficient to liberate the garrison. By then half of the 3000 original occupants were dead.

Post Script

William held the post of Chief Engineer of Oude until 1864 when he was specially selected to supervise a scheme for the provision of barracks under the title of Inspector-General of Military Works.

He then became Secretary to the Government of India in the Public Works Department. In 1878 he had a severe illness and in January 1879 his resignation was accepted in a gracious letter which acknowledged his valuable services: first, as a Military Engineer in the Punjab, and in the Mutiny of 1857; and secondly, as Chief Engineer in Oude, and afterwards as Inspector-General of Military Works, and as Secretary to the Government.

In 1875 he was awarded a pension for distinguished services. Soon after his return to England he settled at Putney where he died on October 29, 1887 having been seized with apoplexy the previous day.

He was three times married: first, in his youth to Miss Charlotte Cooper; secondly, to Miss Anne Hankin; and lastly to Miss Florence Voyle, daughter of Major-General Voyle, R.A.

13. Darjeeling - Located in the foothills of the high Himilayas, Darjeeling is where William's uncle James Arden Crommelin (also a Royal (Bengla) Engineer) settled to become a landholder and pioneer in the Darjeeling Hill Railway.