|COLONEL ARTHUR GEORGE WEBSTER, C.B.
(late Bengal Cavalry)
Arthur George Webster was born at Cheltenham on the 9th
of February, 1837, the third son of James Webster, D.L.
and J.P., of Hatherley Court, Cheltenham, a former officer
in the Madras Army, and his wife Emily Anne.
Arthur entered Cheltenham College in 1851, receiving a
classical and mathematical education. At the request of
Arthur’s father, on the 3rd of December, 1856, Arthur was
nominated a direct cadet for the Bengal Cavalry by HEIC
Director Lieutenant-Colonel Oliphant. Arthur departed for
India by the overland route on the 20th of December, 1856,
having that day been commissioned a Cornet in the Bengal
Arthur arrived at Fort William in Calcutta on the 2nd of
February, 1857. He was posted to the 8th Bengal Cavalry on
the 6th of February and on the 10th of March he was
promoted to Lieutenant. On the 27th of March Lieutenant
Webster transferred at his own request to the 3rd Bengal
Light Cavalry which was then stationed at the military
cantonment at Meerut in Northern India. This was to be a
On Saturday the 9th of May, 1857, a punishment parade was held at Meerut for 85 native sowars of Arthur’s new regiment,
the 3rd Light Cavalry. The sepoys had previously been court-martialed for refusing to load their new Enfield rifles due to
a false rumor that the cartridges had been greased with animal fat in violation of the sowars’ religious taboos. The men were
sentenced to five to ten years of incarceration, shackled and marched off the Parade Grounds in front of their fellow
sowars. Lieutenant Arthur Webster, one of the officers known to have been present with the 3rd L.C. in Meerut that
day would undoubtedly have participated in the punishment parade.
Sunday, the 10th of May, 1857, was to go down in history as the start of the Great Indian Mutiny when the native regiments
stationed at Meerut broke into open mutiny against their European officers. On the evening of the 10th, the first act of
violence occurred when sepoys of the 11th Native Infantry shot to death their commanding officer, Colonel Finnis, after
being encouraged to do so by a sowar of the 3rd L.C. Sowars of the regiment had galloped to the goal and secured the
release of their 85 brethren who had been held there since the previous day’s punishment parade.
Meerut was soon a virtual killing ground as native soldiers roamed through out, indiscriminately killing any Europeans they
came across. It was a scene unimaginable to many of the European officers who believed their troops would remain true to
their salt. Officers like Colonel Finnis sacrificed their lives testing their belief in the loyalty of their men. How
Lieutenant Webster managed to escape being injured or killed is unrecorded. However, several European officers of
the natives regiments were killed, and the wives and children of some of the officers and NCOs of the native regiment
were also brutally butchered by the mutinous mob. The native troops subsequently marched off unopposed towards Delhi.
With the 3rd L.C. having ceased to exist, Lieutenant Webster volunteered to join the Meerut Volunteer Horse, the famed
Khakee Ressalah, which had been quickly raised to help meet the urgent need for loyal cavalry following the revolt of
virtually all of the Bengal light cavalry regiments. Lieutenant Webster records confirm that he was present with the
Meerut Volunteer Horse in the actions at Seekree, the Barote (or Burout), and Guloutee and given the history of the
Regiment was probably with them at the numerous other smaller engagements they were involved in that went unrecorded.
Lieutenant Webster received a letter of thanks from the Government for his service with the Meerut Volunteer Horse
and was mentioned in despatches.
On the 18th of May, 1858, Lieutenant Webster was posted to do duty with Lind’s Mooltanee Horse, an irregular native
cavalry regiment raised during the Mutiny. Lieutenant Webster served with Lind’s Mooltanee Horse at the action at
Kakraole, the operations before, and the capture of, Bareilly, the action at Shahjehanpore, and in the capture of
Mohundee. Lieutenant Webster is shown in the July, 1859 Quarterly Bengal Army List as a Lieutenant with the Left
Wing of the newly formed 1st Bengal European Light Cavalry, but still doing duty with the Lind’s Mooltanee Horse.
For his services during the Indian Mutiny, Arthur Webster received the Indian Mutiny medal without clasp, named to him
as a Lieutenant in the 1st European Light Cavalry. In addition, as occasionally happened with officers who had served in
more than one regiment during the Mutiny, Lieutenant Webster also received a duplicate officially impressed Mutiny medal,
this time named to him as a Lieutenant in the 3rd Light Cavalry, the regiment he was serving in at Meerut when the Mutiny
Following the transfer of the military forces of the East India Company to the Crown after the suppression of the Mutiny,
a decision was made to no longer maintain European forces for only local service, i.e., service solely in India. In May of
1861, the officers and men of the 1st European Light Cavalry were asked to volunteer for general service, which included
the possibility of service outside of India, which they did almost to a man. On the 17th of August, 1861, the officers who
had volunteered for general service were transferred to the newly formed 19th Light Cavalry. The Regiment was soon re-
designated as hussars and the name of the regiment changed to H.M. 19th Hussars. Along with several other officers with
whom he had served in the 3rd Light Cavalry, Lieutenant Arthur Webster was gazetted one of the original officers in the
newly formed 19th Hussars. The 19th Hussars soon received orders to move to Lucknow.
On the 28th of November, 1863, the regiment moved to Meerut where it remained until ordered to Benares in 1867. In
September of 1869 Arthur Webster obtained his troop when he was promoted to Captain. In January of 1870, the regiment
was ordered to proceed to England, embarking on the 14th of February on board the Jumma and a little over a month later
landing at Dover.
In July of 1881, Arthur was promoted Major. In June of the following year the regiment received orders to proceed to
Egypt on active service. The London Gazette records that on the 4th of July, 1882, Lieutenant-Colonel C.M.S.
Fairbrother retired, Lieutenant-Colonel K.J.W. Coghill was appointed to command the regiment, and Major Arthur
George Webster was promoted Lieutenant-Colonel. Given the timing of these changes, they appear to have been part of
preparing the 19th Hussars for war service.
The 19th Hussars was one of the last regiments of the expeditionary force to leave England, embarking on the 10th of
August at Southampton for Alexandra on board the Assyrian Monarch and the Montreal. The total strength of the regiment
under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Coghill was 33 officers, 553 non-commissioned officers and men and 464 horses.
The role of the 19th Hussars in Egypt is well recorded in "The Nineteenth and Their Times", by Colonel Biddulph, (London,
1899 at page 236):
… They (the 19th Hussars) reached Ismailia on the 24th, and completed their disembarkation by the evening of the 26th.
The duty assigned to them was to act as Divisional troops ; the Right Wing, consisting of two squadrons under Lieutenant
Colonel Coghill, formed part of the 1st Division under Lieutenant General Willis; the remaining two squadrons, under
Lieutenant Colonel A. G. Webster, formed part of the 2nd Division under Lieutenant General Sir E. Hamley. One troop was
detailed as escort to Sir Garnet Wolseley throughout the campaign. The Right Wing joined the Head Quarters of the 1st
Division at Tel-el-Mahuta, on the evening of the 27th.
On the 28th, a demonstration was made by the enemy against Graham's force at Kassassin. The Right Wing of the 19th was
ordered in support to Mahsamah; but, on its being ascertained that no serious attack was intended they returned to Tel-el-
Mahuta. Graham, having been reinforced, and expecting the Heavy Cavalry Brigade to join him, made a general advance
after sunset. The orders for the heavy cavalry had, however, miscarried, and did not reach Major General Lowe for
several hours. Making a wide sweep into the desert, Lowe fell upon the left of the enemy in the dark, and charged,
rolling up their infantry; the darkness made pursuit impossible. The sound of the heavy firing, caused the Division at
Tel-el-Mahuta to turn out again, but after a brief advance they returned to camp, with the exception of the 19th
Hussars, who pushed on to Kassassin, which they reached at daybreak. It was not till noon, after visiting the scene
of the previous night's encounter, that they were able to off-saddle and rest.
The following twelve days were spent in preparing for the advance on Tel-el-Kebir, 13 miles from Kassassin, where
Arabi's army had constructed a formidable line of entrenched works. During these days, the 19th Hussars and the
Indian Native Cavalry were employed in continual outpost and reconnoissance duties. On the 5th, Lieutenant Holland was
By the 8th, all was ready for massing the whole force at Kassassin preparatory to the advance on Tel-el-Kebir. Early on the
9th, Arabi advanced in force on Kassassin, attacking in two separate bodies simultaneously, one in front from Tel-el-Kebir,
and the other in flank from Es Salihiyeh. Willis repelled the double attack with ease, and pushed the enemy back to within
cannon shot of Tel-el-Kebir, capturing four guns.
Soon after dark on the 12th, the whole force consisting of 17,000 men, with 61 guns, moved out of camp to some high ground
in front of Kassassin, in preparation for an attack on Arabi Pasha's entrenched lines. At 1.30 in the morning, the troops
moved silently forwards through the desert, their march directed by a naval officer steering by the stars. The four
infantry brigades, in two lines, led the way, supported on the right by the heavy cavalry brigade and horse artillery, and on
the left by the naval brigade. In (the) rear of the naval brigade, followed the 19th Hussars under Lieutenant Colonel Coghill.
One troop of the regiment remained at Mahsamah, and another at Tel el Mahuta, to guard those points. At five in the
morning the attack was delivered; after half an hour's severe fighting, the British infantry was in complete possession of
the lines. While the heavy cavalry pushed on to Zagazig to cut off fugitives, the 19th, under Coghill, passed through an
opening in the entrenchments, and seized the Tel-el-Kebir railway station and bridge, cutting off a great number of
fugitives. Thence the pursuit was continued for three hours, when the 19th returned to the enemy's late camp. In the
afternoon they started again in the track of the heavy cavalry, leaving a troop to protect burial parties, and reached Belbeis
that evening. On the following evening Cairo was taken possession of, and Arabi surrendered himself. The only casualty in the
regiment was Lieutenant Barclay who was struck by a fragment of shell from one of the first guns fired by the enemy at Tel-
el-Kebir. The war was over…
|Oil painting of Arthur George Webster, |
dated 1885, in the uniform
of a Colonel of the 19th Hussars.
Used by permission of
The Light Dragoons Museum.
Colonel Webster, in addition to being mentioned in despatches, received
the Egypt medal with clasp for Tel-el-Kebir, the fourth class of the
Order of Osmanleh and the Khedive’s Star.
On the 7th of August, 1883, the London Gazette contained the following
19th Hussars, Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur George Webster has been
appointed to command the Regiment. Dated 25 July, 1883.
Although the Regiment had expected to return to England following the
British victory at Tel-el-Kabir, their service in Africa was to be far from
over. In May of 1881, a new challenge to the British control of Egypt
arose when in the central Sudanese province of Kordofan, a religious
leader by the name of Mahomed Ahmed proclaimed himself the Mahdi
(the Messiah), raised an army from his followers and declared a religious
war against the British. In April of 1883, the British initially sent an
Egyptian force under the command of Major-General Hicks against the
Mahdi and his army of followers. Hicks’ force was utterly destroyed
and it was soon realized that the re-conquest of the Soudan would
require a military operation that was then impractical. A complete
withdrawal from western Soudan was ordered and General Gordon was
ordered to Khartoum.
Soon, eastern Soudan was also threatened by forces loyal to the Mahdi.
In early February of 1884, another Egyptian force under the command of
Major-General Baker, which had been sent to oppose the Madhi’s forces in
the area of Suakin, was also destroyed while advancing to the relief of the
besieged garrison at Tokar. The garrison at Sinkat quickly fell and only
the presence of British men-at-war saved Suakin from a similar fate.
Finally, a British force, organized at Cairo and under the command of
Major-General Gerald Graham, V.C., C.B., was dispatched from Suez. The
19th Hussars, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Arthur G.
Webster, left Cairo on the 17th of February on board the Osiris and
the Neera. Joining Major-General Graham’s forces at Trinkitat, they
moved with the force to Fort Baker on the 28th of February, but not
before having received news of the fall of Tokar.
On the 29th of February, at El Teb the force under Major-General Graham advanced against the enemy occupying an
isolated ridge covered with bush scrub and protected with parapets and rifle pits. The cavalry’s role in the battle of
El Teb is well stated in The War in Egypt and Soudan, Vol. II, by Thomas Archer (London 1886 at page 279):
During the early part of the battle the cavalry had been kept well in the rear of the infantry, but when the square was seen
to be forcing its way into the enemy’s lines, and the Arabs were seen to be withdrawing from their position, General
Stewart, who was in command of the cavalry division, swung round far to the right of the infantry, and let his men against a
large body of Arabs visible in the plain beyond the ridge.
They had halted after pursuing the flying for some little distance, when the news reached them that Colonel Webster, who
with a hundred men had formed the third line, had been attacked by a great number of the enemy on the right; the order
“let about” was sounded immediately.
The enemy soon showed in great force, some mounted, some on foot. As the cavalry neared them the footmen threw
themselves among the tufted hillocks and little mounds of which the whole plain was made up. As the cavalry swept over
them, the horses leaping the little hillocks and swerving at the sight of the dark figures lying among them, the Arabs sprang
to their feet in the intervals of the horsemen, and discharged their spears, or as they lay thrust them into the horses, and
then as the animals fell sprang upon the riders, and cut them down before they could gain their feet.
The enemy was now in full retreat, and although Colonel Webster, who with his squadron had made several brilliant charges
at the enemy, now joined the rest of the cavalry, it was not deemed prudent to press the pursuit further, as many thousands
of the defenders of the intrenchments (sic) were now moving across the plain.
The force next advanced on town of Tokar which it took without opposition. Embarking at Trinkitat, the force landed at
Suakin on the 7th. On the night of the 12th of March, the entire force bivouacked at Tamai, near Suakin, in front of the
enemy’s position with the infantry about one mile away and the cavalry in the rear. Returning to The Nineteenth and Their
Times, (at page 244):
… At eight the next morning, the advance commenced: the two infantry brigades in squares, the cavalry in rear of the left.
The Arab skirmishers, who had pelted the British encampment with rifle fire during the night, fell back, increasing in
numbers as they retired. Seeing a great number of the enemy in front of them, massed in a ravine, the front line of the 2nd
brigade charged with the bayonet, destroying the formation of their square. The active Arabs broke into the opening,
stabbing and slashing at close quarters. Numbers followed, and for a few minutes a catastrophe was imminent. The cavalry
galloped forward on the left, dismounted, and poured volley after volley into the flank of the advancing Arabs, while the
bayonet and spear contended for victory within the square itself. The 1st brigade, which had repulsed a similar charge,
swept the right face of the 2nd brigade square with its fire, and, in a few minutes, the last surviving Arab who had
penetrated the square had paid the penalty. The ranks were reformed, and the infantry advance was resumed, the cavalry
clearing away the numerous small parties of the enemy who still clung to the broken ground. The battle was over…
With the Madhi’s forces defeated, the campaign was over. For his services during the Soudan campaign Lieutenant-Colonel
Webster was made a Companion of the Order of the Bath (London Gazette, 21 May 1884) and received the additional clasps
El Teb and Tamai for his Egypt medal.
On the 9th of September, 1884, the London Gazette reported:
“Lieutenant-Colonel George Arthur Webster, C.B., half-pay, retires on retired pay, with the honorary rank of Colonel.
Dated 10th September, 1884.”
Upon his retirement at which time he was only 47 years old, Colonel Webster left India and returned to England. In 1889 he
married for the first time, to Mona, the third daughter of the late Colonel Wyatt, C.B. of the 65th Regiment. Arthur and
Mona were not to have children. They are shown in the 1891 census as living in Harwick, Essex. In 1901, the census shows
the couple living in New Forest, Southampton.
On the 17th of May, 1916, The Times reported the death of Colonel Arthur George Webster, C.B. at his residence at
Ravenswell, Banister’s Park, Southampton. He was 79 years old.