|COLONEL GEORGE CADOGAN THOMSON
(1ST BENGAL CAVALRY, FORMERLY 1ST BENGAL IRREGULAR CAVALRY)
George Cadogan Thomson was born the 13th of April, 1835, and baptized at St. George
Church, Cape Town, Cape of Good Hope on the 28th of June. He was the son of
Alexander Thomson, Esq., a Cape Town merchant and his wife, Olivia Elizabeth.
George received the usual classical and mathematical education, with an emphasis on
mathematics. He attended Cheltenham College, which had only recently opened in 1842.
George was nominated for a commission in the Bengal Infantry of the Honorable East
India Company for the 1850/51 Season by Lord Broughton at the recommendation of the
Honorable Charles Pelham Villiers, M.P. At that time, George stated that his father,
Alexander Thomson, was deceased and his mother was remarried to William Gordon
Thomson, residing at 33 Gloucester Road, Hyde Park Gardens, London. Whether Willian
Gordon Thomson was a brother or other relative of George’s late father can only be
Passing the examination on the 14th of May, George was commissioned an Ensign on the
19th of July, 1851. He was posted to the 51st Bengal Native Infantry on the 16th of
February, 1852. He continued to serve with that regiment, being promoted to
Lieutenant in September of 1854. He was appointed to the acting command of Fort
Michnee, near Peshawar in Northern India (now Pakistan), in October of 1856 and
confirmed Commandant in January of 1857.
In May of 1857, following the outbreak of the Mutiny at Meerut on the 10th of the
month, Lieutenant Thomson was appointed to command a native levy raised for the
protection of the lines at Peshawar. He remained in command of the levy until June,
when he was ordered to do duty with the Kumaon Battalion, which was then part of a
column in route to Delhi.
The Kumaon Battalion, later to become the 3rd Queen Alexandra’s Own Gurkha Rifles, was a native regiment, recruited
from the Gurkhas of the Kumaon District in Northern India, which stayed loyal to the British during the Mutiny. Lieutenant
Thomson joined the regiment as it marched towards the old walled city of Delhi. Delhi was under the control of the mutineers
who had installed the old Mogul King of Delhi as the titular leader of the Mutiny. The British, believing Delhi to be the key
to the retaking of Northern India, had assembled a large force on the Ridge above Delhi, laying siege to the city. The
Kumaon Battalion joined this assembled force when the column reached Delhi on the 1st of August.
Upon arriving at the Ridge, the Battalion was posted to the 1st Infantry Brigade under General Showers. Lieutenant
Thomson was quickly given a chance to distinguish himself. On August 12th, General Showers gave the order: “Move up
silently and take the guns at Ludlow Castle.” Ludlow Castle was literally under the very walls of the Delhi fortress and
the guns (artillery) of the mutineers had been inflicting severe damage on the British forces camped on the Ridge.
Lieutenant Thomson was placed in command of the 100 men of the Kumaon Battalion which took part in the commando style
raid, forming part of the force assigned to the “Centre Attack”. The attacking force made their way silently before dawn
to the perimeter of the Castle grounds and when finally challenged by an enemy sentry, let loose with a volley of rifle fire
and then charged with the bayonet. The defenders were either killed or fled and the charge resulted in the capture of
four field guns.
General Showers, erroneously believing there were more guns yet to be captured, ordered Lieutenant Thomson to move
his detachment of the Kumaon Battalion into the Orange Garden on their left and then sweep down as far as the building
called the Koodsee (or Kudsia) Bagh on the banks of the Jamna (or Yamuna) River. “Energetically” making their way as far
as the Koodsee Bagh and finding no additional guns, Lieutenant Thomson lead his party back upon the route they has just
The attack on Ludlow Castle was not only a military victory for the British, but also a psychological one, providing a much
needed morale boost to the troops on the Ridge. Lieutenant Thomson was specially mentioned in General Shower’s
dispatches for his actions during the attack, and in the same dispatch also received the customary thanks given to the
officers in command of the various units taking part in the action (Note: Lieutenant-Colonel E. Greathed, H.M. 8th Regiment,
commanded the detachment of his Regiment which took part in the attack on Ludlow Castle and assumed overall command
of the troops when General Showers was forced to retire due to a severe wound. In addition, Captain O. H. St. G. Anson,
commanded the Squadron of H.M. 9th Lancers which took part in the attack on Ludlow Castle, and it is probable that
Lieutenant Thomas Shelley, Coke’s Rifles, also took part in the action.)
It does not appear that Lieutenant Thomson continued to serve with the Kumaon Battalion at the final assault on Delhi
on the 14th of September, 1857. According to his service record, he left the regiment on the 1st of September, as his
temporary assignment to the Kumaon Battalion ended when the officer permanently assigned to the regiment reported.
Lieutenant Thomson was appointed the 2nd in Command of the 17th Bengal Irregular Cavalry in December of 1857. He
served under Lord Clyde at Futtehghur, in command of a Squardon of the 17th Irregular Cavalry and remained in that
capacity until appointed to command a detachment of that regiment on Field Service, serving with several different
Columns in the Jumna Doab. He also was present at Cawnpore under the command of Sir John Inglis during the operations
leading up to the final capture of Lucknow.
Lieutenant Thomson also served in the Rohilcund Campaign, including the capture of Bareilly, and several other
engagements. He was Mentioned in the Despatch of Lord Clyde of the 8th May, 1858.
George Thomson was appointed Adjutant and Officiating 2nd in Command of the 1st Irregular Cavalry (the famed
Skinner’s Horse, raised by the legendary cavalry commander Col. James Skinner) on the 9th of August, 1858, under
the Command of the experienced cavalry commander, Major Crawford Trotter Chamberlain. (G.O.C.C. 23rd September
1858, pg. 1289.) Lieutenant Thomson was appointed 2nd in Command on the 8th of February, 1859.
For his services during the Mutiny, Lieutenant Thomson received the Indian Mutiny with clasp for Delhi, named to him as
a Lieutenant in the 1st Regiment Irregular Cavalry. This was the only campaign medal he was to receive during his
In 1861 the designation of the 1st Irregular Cavalry was changed to the 1st Bengal Cavalry. Lieutenant Thomson continued
as 2nd in Command with Colonel Crawford Trotter Chamberlain (later General Sir Crawford Trotter Chamberlain, G.C.I.E,
C.S.I.) as Commandant.
George Thomson was admitted to the Bengal Staff Corps as a Lieutenant on its formation in 1862. (London Gazette, 2 Dec.
1862, pg. 6158). He continued to serve with the 1st Bengal Cavalry and was promoted Captain on the 19th of July, 1863.
(London Gazette, 23 Oct. 1863, pg. 5022.) He was promoted Major on the 19th of July, 1871 and Lieutenant-Colonel on the
19th of July, 1877 (London Gazette, 9 Oct. 1877, pg. 5551)
George Thomson of the Bengal Staff Corps, 2nd in Command of the 1st Bengal Cavalry retired on the 20th of July, 1879,
and as was customary, was promoted to Colonel on the same day. (London Gazette, 5 Sept. 1879, pg. 5358.) Upon his
retirement, Colonel Thomson returned to England.
The Journal of the Royal Geographical Society for 1879 reported that Colonel George Cadogan Thomson, then residing at
21 Holland-Park-Gardens, Uxbridge-Road, Bayswater, W., was elected a member of the Society.
Colonel Thomson and his wife, Hannah (who was a British Subject born in India) are shown in the 1881 Census as living at
“The Vicarage”, 23 Holland Park Bedford, Kensington, Chelsea. His daughter Edna, age 8, was also residing with them. The
1891 Census shows Colonel Thomson and his wife then living at 34 Argyll Road, Kengsington, London. Their daughter Maud,
age 27, who had been born in Fyzabad, India.
Colonel George Cadogan Thomson died on the 21st of September 1896, at his home at Little Thurlow Park, Suffolk. He was
61 years old. His obituary was reported in the Times of 22 September 1896, with a request that it be picked up and copied
by the Indian papers.
His son, Major J.B.C. Thomson of the Somersetshire Light Infantry, died at the Cambridge Military Hospital, Aldershot, on
the 25th of August, 1913, at the age of 44 years old. His mother, Colonel Thomson’s widow, was at that time living at
Fairview, South Farnborough.
|George Thomson (third from right) in a group photo of the 1st Light Cavalry|
|Copies of the two photos to the right of a high-ranking officer|
of Skinner’s Horse, stated to be photos of G. C. Thomson,
accompanied his Indian Mutiny medal. While all indications
point to these being photos of George Thomson, there was
no way to validate that claim. However, all doubt has been
removed by the acquisition of the large format photo of the
officers of the 1st Bengal Cavalry shown below.
In the large format photo, as second in command of the
Regiment, Lt. Colonel Thomson is sitting center right with
Crawford Trotter Chamberlain, Commandant of the 1st
Bengal Cavalry, sitting to his left. As in the smaller photos,
although it appears dark in the photo, Thomson is wearing
the yellow alkalak, which under the Dress Regulations could
still be worn by officers of the 1st Bengal Cavalry. The gold
Russian braid on his sleeve reflects his rank. His Indian
Mutiny medal is clearly shown on his uniform. It appears
likely that all three photos of G.C. Thomson shown on this
page were taken on the same day.