|Colonel Adolphus Ulick Wombwell
|12th (Prince of Wales) Royal Lancers
Adolphus Ulick Wombwell (pronounced ‘Woomwell”) was born on the 17th of May
1834. He was the second of the four sons of Sir George Wombwell, 3rd Baronet,
of Newburgh Priory, Coxwold, Easingwold, Yorkshire, and his wife, Georgiana
Mary, youngest daughter of Orby Hunter, Esq. of Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire.
Sir George was a wealthy landowner. Having served with H.M. 10th Hussars, he
was a veteran of the Peninsula Campaign and the Battle of Waterloo. Sir George
was an inseparable companion of Lord Adolphus “Dolly” FitzClarence, a Naval
officer and the illegitimate son of William IV. Sir George and Dolly were not
just dandies but in their day the acknowledged arbiters of male fashion. Members
of London society, they could often be seen walking arm in arm on London streets.
Named after Lord Adolphus FitzClarence, through out his life, like his namesake,
Adolphus was known by the nickname Dolly.
The Wombwell family was one of great antiquity. Their first recorded ancestor
was Robert de Wombwell, who lived in England during the reign of King Stephen,
the grandson of William the Conqueror, who derived his surname from the place
of his residence, Wombwell, near Barnsley, where he owned a large tract of land.
The Wombwell family is listed in The Plantagenet Roll of Blood Royal and the
Tudor Roll of The Blood Royal of Britain. Dolly’s great-grandfather, Sir
George Wombwell, 1st Bt., served as a member of Parliament and as a member
of the Board of Directors of the East India Company, serving as Chairman of
the Board of Directors from 1775 to 1778.
The Wombwell’s historic family seat at Newburgh Priory in North Yorkshire was originally the site of an Augustinian Priory.
King Henry VIII granted it during the Dissolution to Antony Belasyse, from whom Sir George Wombwell was descended; his
mother having been the daughter and heiress of the last Lord Fauconberg. The Priory is famed for its collection of
Cromwellian relics, Mary Cromwell (a daughter of Oliver) having been the wife of the second Lord Fauconberg.
The Pall Mall Gazette of 16 September 1898 reported:
“After the restoration, Charles II avenged his father by causing the body of Oliver Cromwell to be exhumed from
Westminster Abbey and sending it to Tyburn, to be first hanged and then decapitated and quartered at the foot of the
gallows. Cromwell's daughter, Lady Fauconberg, whose husband at that time owned Newburgh Priory, is asserted, by means
of bribing the guards, to have succeeded in substituting another corpse for that of her father, and to have obtained
possession of his remains, which she conveyed to the priory. At any rate, in the uppermost story of Newburgh Priory,
at the end of a small chamber, there is a massive stone built into the wall, with an inscription, setting forth that the lord
protector's body lies behind it.”
In 1913, many years after Dolly’s death, The Times reported that there was no record of Cromwell’s vault ever having been
opened, even through King Edward VII, when the Prince of Wales, attempted on one of his many visits to the Priory to verify
the legend, saying that he would never be satisfied that the bones of the great Lord Protector lay within unless the vault was
opened and requested that Dolly’s older brother, Sir George, send for workmen to open it. Sir George declined, saying:
“ No, Sir, I have been brought up in the belief – I shall die in the belief – and I will not open it for anybody.”
Dolly was raised in a life of wealth and privilege. At age 14 in August of 1848, he entered Rugby School where he
received the usual mathematical and classical education under Headmaster Archibald Campbell Tait, D.C.L. Towards the
end of April 1852, like many boys of that age, a local policeman in Birkshire arrested Dolly and some of his mates on a
charge of drunk and disorderly. The local mayor, sitting as a judge, quickly dismissed the charges, no doubt due to the
identities of the boys’ parents. Within the month, Dolly’s father sent a letter to his friend, Lieutenant General Lord Fitzroy
Somerset, G.C.B., enquiring about the possibility of obtaining a commission for Dolly, writing: “(Adolphus) is a fine, high
spirited, loving chap just one of the sort to make a good soldier, but as you are aware these accomplishments when not
actively employed, get youths into all manner of mischief…, he cares not what regiment I can purchase him a commission
in (Infantry) but would much prefer one on active service.” Believing that his son would soon come to ruin if not afforded
the opportunity to enter the Army, in August of 1852 Sir George purchased a commission for Dolly as an Ensign in H.M.
62nd (Wiltshire) Regiment, a regiment recently returned from India where it had seen action at the sharp end during the
Second Sikh War in the battles of Ferozeshah and Sobaron.
In December of 1853 Dolly was promoted Lieutenant by purchase and in the following year his desire for active service was
fulfilled when the 62nd received orders for service in the Eastern Campaign. While Dolly’s regiment was in route to the
Crimea, his older brother, George Orby Wombwell (later Sir George Wombwell, 4th Bt.), was already serving in the Crimea
as a Cornet in the 17th Lancers. By the time Dolly arrived in the Crimea on the 14th of November 1854, his brother George,
by then a Lieutenant, had already achieved a form of immortality by having wounded on the 25th of October in what is
remembered as the Charge of the Light Brigade.
Landing with his regiment at Kamiesh Bay, Dolly served with the 62nd Regiment in the siege of Sebastopol, surviving the
terrible first Russian winter of 1854-55 in which many Englishmen died without ever been in action against the enemy. Dolly
was in action in the sortie in the trenches on the 6th of April 1855, and in the attack on the Quarries on the 7th of June
when the Commanding Officer of the 62nd Regiment was mortally wounded. In May of 1855, Dolly purchased his Captaincy
in the regiment. Due to the effects of disease and the enemy, almost half of the officers and men of the 62nd Regiment
failed to survive the war.
Dolly’s entitlement to the Crimean medal with clasp for Sebastopol was reflected on a nominal roll for the Crimean War
medal submitted by the 62nd Regiment to the War Office. In response to the receipt of the medal roll, a batch of un-named
Crimea medals was dispatched to the regiment in the Crimea. Upon receipt in September of 1855, the un-named medals were
distributed without ceremony to the officers and men of the regiment. However, next to Dolly’s name on the medal roll there
is a handwritten notation “H & R”, indicating that Dolly’s medal had not been provided to him but had been sent to the firm of
Hunt & Roskill for naming, no doubt at Dolly’s expense. Unfortunately, the location of Dolly’s named Crimean medal is unknown.
In addition to a Crimea medal, Dolly would also have received an un-named Turkish Crimea medal, which is also missing.
Perhaps because he was aware that the 62nd Regiment was soon to leave the Crimea bound for Canada, in August of 1855
Dolly exchanged with Captain A.W. Williams to become a Captain in the 12th (Prince of Wales’s) Royal Lancers, a cavalry
regiment which had only recently arrived in the Crimea from India. As the purchase price of a captain’s commission in a
cavalry regiment was considerably higher than the cost of one in an infantry regiment, Dolly would have had to pay a
significant sum to Captain Williams to accomplish a transfer into the 12th Lancers.
The 12th Lancers served in the Crimea until April of 1856 when the regiment returned to England, arriving in Portsmouth on
the 2nd of June. The 12th Lancers’ stay in England did not last long, as the regiment soon received orders to return to Madras
to complete the standard tour of duty in India that had been interrupted by the regiment’s service in the Crimea.
In January of 1856 Dolly’s youngest brother, Henry Herbert Wombwell, was commissioned a cornet in the 11th Light
Dragoons, immediately thereafter exchanging into the 7th Light Dragoons. Like their father before them, three of the four
Wombwell sons were then serving in one of Her Majesty’s cavalry regiments.
The Indian Mutiny erupted on the 10th of May 1857 at the large military cantonment at Meerut in the Bengal
Presidency. In November the Left Wing of the 12th Lancers was ordered to form part of the Cavalry Brigade of the Saugor
and Nerbudda Field Division (in contemporary records usually referred to simply as the Saugor Field Division) commanded
by Major-General G. C. Whitlock. Acting in concert with the Central India Field Force, the Saugor Field Division was
ordered to cross Bundelkhand from Jubbulpore to Banda, while the Central India Field Force under the command of
Major-General Sir Hugh Rose was to sweep the country from Mhow to Kalpi on the Jumna, relieving Saugor and
recapturing the fort at Jhansi.
The Saugor Field Division left Kamptee for Jubbulpore in January of 1858, where in early February the strength of the
column was greatly increased when it joined up with the Nagpore Movable Column. Even though General Whitlock had
received intelligence that the Nana Sahib and his large rebel force had crossed into Bundelkhand, General Whitlock waited
for the 4th and 6th Madras Light Cavalry regiments to join his column before marching out of Jubbulpore on the 17th of
A cautious commander, some said an overly cautious one, General Whitlock avoided contact with the enemy as the column
marched, refusing to divide his force or to detour from his route in order to attack rebel strongholds along the way,
thereby passing up important opportunities to help pacify the surrounding countryside. General Whitlock, however,
quickly changed his tactics on the 9th of April when he received word from his spies that approximately 2,000 rebels
were massing at Jhigan, a rebel stronghold known to be a major depot for rebel loot.
Diverting from his planned route, General Whitlock decided on a night march and at 8:00 P.M. on the evening of April 10th
ordered his force to begin a march towards Jhigan. At 5:00 A.M. the next morning the force was within four miles of
Jhigan when General Whitlock ordered an attack by the Horse Artillery, two detachments of the Hyderabad Contingent
Cavalry and two squadrons of the 12th Lancers, including Captain Wombwell’s squadron. In the face of the advancing force,
the rebels quickly evacuated their position, but suffered heavy casualties when the Horse Artillery and the cavalry quickly
moved forward to intercept the rebel’s flight into the surrounding dense jungle. Despite heavy matchlock fire from the rebels,
the cavalry caught up to the fleeing rebels and cut them up.
On the 17th of April, resuming its march towards Banda before daylight, General Whitlock’s force was surprised when
twenty-four miles west of Banda at a town call Kabrai the rebels opened a heavy fire on the column. The cavalry and horse
artillery were immediately ordered to the front, but darkness soon allowed the rebels to slip away with little loss.
General Whitlock continued his advance towards Banda and on the 19th of April the column engaged approximately 9,000
rebel troops under the command of the Nawab of Banda. The Nawab had chosen a strong, very defensible position for the
battle with nullahs covering his front and with his artillery commanding the road on which the Saugor Field Division was
traveling. General Whitlock’s main attacking force encountered desperate resistance from the rebels, often involving
The 12th Lancers distinguished themselves by attacking the rebel’s left flank. The Lancers crossed deep nullahs in single file,
and upon reforming, charged the rebels who did not wait to receive the onslaught of the charging Lancers. With rebels
dispersing in all directions, the Lancers followed up the retreating mutineers as far as the banks of the river Ken. Later
in the battle the main rebel force rallied, regrouping and occupying a new defensive position. The 12th Lancers again
advanced on the left flank of the rebels and again inflicted heavy losses. Adolphus had his horse shot from under him during
the action, but he was uninjured. By the conclusion of the battle, the Nawab’s forces had suffered over a 1,000 casualties.
The city of Banda itself was taken without a fight; the Newab and his followers having fled after the battle outside the city.
In June the Saugor Field Division captured the town and palace of Kirwi (or Kirwee) without significant rebel resistance,
taking possession of a huge amount of rebel treasure. General Whitlock ordered the column to continue its march, leaving
behind a small detachment to garrison Kirwi. Just before Christmas in 1858, the commander of the detachment at Kirwi
received intelligence that a body of 5,000 to 6,000 rebels was advancing towards them. The rebels attacked the small
force holding Kirwi on the afternoon of December 25th, but failing to take the town by dusk, abandoned the assault.
General Whitlock’s main force was at Mahoba when he received word of the attack upon Kirwi. A small relief force that
included Captain Wombwell’s squadron was quickly assembled and marched the 87 miles to Kirwi in only 37 hours. Learning
of the approach of the relief force, the rebels quickly retired to the surrounding hills. The relief force soon received
reinforcements from the main column and in order to cut off all lines of retreat for the rebels, on the morning of the 29th
General Whitlock divided his troops into three columns and attacked the rebels, completely surprising them. With over 300
of the rebels killed during the conflict, the few survivors quickly dispersed and fled the district. The effect of this action
was decisive, clearing the district of the rebel presence.
During the Central India campaign the Saugor Field Division captured a large quantity of plunder. Even though the
Central India Field Force and the Saugor Field Division were supposedly acting in concert within Central India, in a
decision that was litigated for almost a decade and which caused hard feelings for years to come, a decision was announced
in the London Gazette on the 24th of September 1867 that General Sir Hugh Rose and the men of the Central India Field
Force were not entitled to share in the £700,000 of prize money of realized from treasure captured by the Saugor Field
Above:The family estate at Newburgh Priory, Yorkshire
Right: His London Residence at 10 Upper Brook Street,
Dolly commanded the regiment until after a leave of absence due to ill health; Lieutenant Colonel Wombwell retired from
the Army in June of 1875. Following his retirement, Dolly and his family returned to London, residing at 10 Upper Brook
Street, Grosvenor Square. Dolly was again active with the horses and in managing his extensive real estate holdings.
However, his health continued to deteriorate. On the 21st of June 1886, Lieutenant Colonel Adolphus Ulick Wombwell died
at his London residence. Formerly Lieutenant Colonel commanding the 12th Royal Lancers, a veteran of the Crimean War and
the Indian Mutiny, at the time of his death Dolly was only 52 years old. While the Times published his obituary on June 24th,
the Dundee Evening News printed a far more personal and interesting obituary:
A gallant and true soldier, a good sportsman, and cherry good fellow has passed away, at the early age of fifty-two, after
years of distressing ill health: Adolphus Ulick Wombwell, better known as “Dolly,” formerly Captain in the 62nd Regiment,
and afterwards in the 12th Lancers, from which regiment he retired as Lieutenant-Colonel. He stuck to the Crimea with
bulldog determination, though he had chances of coming home. The same spirit took him to India with the 12th Lancers,
where he served though the Mutiny, again with distinction. He then retired from the service and devoted himself to sport,
and in that line rode and won the Grand Military Steeplechase in 1860. He married Miss Biddulph, who survives him, with
one child, a daughter and he was next brother to the present Sir George Wombwell, Bart.
A correspondent writes:- “Poor ‘Dolly’ Wombwell’s death recalls the Crimean times and the fight in the Quarries. He then
served in the 62nd, which had a good deal of it, and Wombwell had his share of knocks and glory. Someone of the Highland
division asked him about the brush, and ‘Dolly’ replied- “It was really a d----ed unfortunate affair; only fancy, a dirty
Russian actually broke my oldest clay-pipe before they shot the fellow!’ In the Mutiny he did a lot more fighting with the
12th Lancers, of which fine regiment he came to be the prime favourite. Though he did not go well with the hounds, he loved
hunting, and bought the nicest horse at the biggest prices.”
Adolphus Ulick Wombwell’s estate was valued at almost £18,000. His will, dated April 3, 1886, was proven on August 3rd
of that year. Dolly left a bequest to his wife of £5,000 and a guaranteed income of £2,000 per year, but Mary Caroline
Wombwell was only to survive her husband by four years, dying on the 20th of September 1890. Dolly will also provided
annuities for his two younger brothers and a trust for his daughter.
Dolly was survived by his older brother, George Orby Wombwell, who was to live another 27 years after Dolly’s death, not
dying until October of 1913 at the age of 81. George had succeeded to the Baronetcy upon the death of his father in January
of 1855, becoming Sir George Orby Wombwell, 4th Bart. and High Sheriff of Yorkshire. Prior to his death in 1913, Sir
George was reputed to have been the last surviving officer to have ridden in the Charge of the Light Brigade and was “a great
figure in the social life of London.”
Henry Herbert Wombwell, Dolly’s next younger brother succeeded to the Baronetcy in 1913 upon the death of his older
brother, Sir George, becoming Sir Henry Herbert Wombwell, 5th Bart. A great sportsman, he was commissioned into the
7th Hussars, later transferring to the Royal Horse Guards from which he ultimately retired as a Captain in 1872. He was
the founder of the Orleans Club in London and Brighton and was a member of Boodles, a gentlemen’s club located on St.
James Street in London. Sir Henry died in 1926 at the age of 85 and was succeeded by his great-nephew, Frederick Philip
Alfred William Wombwell.
Dolly’s youngest brother, Frederick Charles Wombwell, did not survive Dolly, having died at the age of 23 in July of 1869.
However, he left a son, Frederick Philip Alfred William Wombwell, who was to become the 6th Baronet upon the death of his
uncle, Sir Henry. Frederick’s son, George Philip Frederick Wombwell is the current 7th Baronet.
Sir George Philip Frederick Wombwell, 7th Bart, resides with his family at Newburgh Priory.
Hart, H.G., The New Army List, various editions, London.
Hobson, G.W., Some XII Royal Lancers, The “King’s Stone” Press, Shipston-On-Stour, 1936.
The Blood Royal of Britain, Tudor Royal, Genealogical Pub. Co. 1093, pg. 358
The Plantagenet Roll of Blood Royal, Genealogical Pub. Co., 1994, pg. 402
Chichester and Burges-Short, The Records and Badges in the British Army, 1900, London, 1900, Greenhill Books Reprint, 1986.
Pine, L.G. Editor, Burkes Peerage, Baronetage & Knightage. Burke’s Peerage
Dolby, I. E. A. The Journal of the Household Brigade for the Year 1869, W. Clowes and Sons, London, 1869
A.T. Mitchell, Rugby School Register, Vol. II, A.J. Lawrence, Rugby, 1902, pg. 78
Intelligence Branch, The Revolt in Central India 1857-59, Government Monotype Press, Simla, 1908.
Stewart, P. F., History of the XII Royal Lancers, Oxford University Press, London, 1950.
K. H. Asplin, Indian Mutiny Medal Royal 1857-1859 (British Forces), 1998.
The Pall Mall Gazette, 16 September 1898.
The Times, 25 September 1967; 18 October 1913; 24 June 1886; 5 Feb. 1926
Dundee Evening Telegraph, 28 June 1886, pg. 2, col.2
Various Census Returns.
Various London Gazette entries.
Nominal Roll for the Crimean Medal for H.M. 62nd Regiment, WO 100/31
Correspondence from Sir George Wombwell, Bart. to Lt. Gen. Lord Fitzroy Somerset, G.C.B., dated 21 July 1852, W/)
Statement of Services of Lt. Col. Commanding 12th Royal Lancers Adolphus Ulick Wombwell, 21 Nov. 1872, WO 211/68.
sitting in the
center on the
a large mustache
Whether due to illness or from having been wounded, at some point following the battles of Banda and Kirwi, Dolly was
invalided to England. The Great Indian Mutiny was officially declared at an end in December of 1859 and in the April
of 1860, the 12th Lancers sailed from Calcutta bound for England. The regiment received the Battle Honour Central India
for its role in the suppression of the Indian Mutiny and Dolly received the Indian Mutiny medal with clasp for Central India
to wear along side his medals for the Crimean War. Upon arriving in England, the regiment disembarked at Gravesend and
from there marched to Liverpool where it was stationed.
Back in England, Dolly was again active in London social scene. He was a member of the Army Navy Club in London and
although not interested in fox hunting, was said to have been “active on the turf”. Dolly enjoyed steeplechase, purchasing
expensive horses for when he was riding and betting large sums when a spectator. In 1860 he won the Grand Military
Steeple Chase on his favorite horse, “My Mary”.
Adolphus was promoted Major by purchase in July of 1862. In September he married Mary Caroline, daughter of Colonel
Robert Myddelton Biddulph, M.P., of Chirk Castle, Wales. Mary’s father was a Member of Parliament, a wealthy landowner and
an aide-de-camp to the Queen.
In the years that followed, little of note occurred in Dolly’s career until 1865 when the 12th Lancers received orders for
police duty in Ireland. Called out by the civil authorities at Dungarvan in order to put down a riot on Election Day in
Waterford County, the Regiment gained the pejorative sobriquet the “Dungarvan Butchers”. On 29 December1866 a troop
of lancers under Major Wombwell’s command ignored his orders and charged a group of civilians throwing rocks at them,
killing and injuring several rioters, with women and youths among the dead. Although a formal Inquest found Dolly to have
been without fault in the incident, the civilian deaths were widely reported in the newspapers and even though the riot was
alleged to have been the work of Fenian provocateurs, the attendant publicity caused severe damage to the reputation of the
Dolly accompanied the regiment when it returned to England in 1869. In October of the following year, Mary gave birth to
what was to be their only child, a girl they named Mary Alexina Florence.
In March of 1871, Dolly was promoted Lieutenant Colonel and assumed command of the 12th Royal Lancers. Unquestionable
brave in battle and a fine cavalry officer when on active service, as an administrator, Dolly was best described
As one solder wrote:
Colonel Wombwell had a beautiful chestnut charger named Charlie, and he took a delight in trying to catch the Guard
unprepared to turn out on his approach. He lived in a private house some distance from the Barracks, and he would walk his
horse up quietly to the end of Barrack Street which was not more than 100 yards in length. He would then turn up the street,
put his horse to a gallop and pass through the gate at that pace, turning to see if the Guard were turned out, which they
invariably were, for until the Colonel entered the Barracks, the Guard were always formed up ready under the Verandah,
and on the sentry shouting “Guard turn out”, which he always did in good time, turned out at once.