General Frederick Young

(This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 edition of ‘The Sirmooree’, the Regimental journal.  The author, Rachel Magowan, is a descendant of Frederick Young).

The Lal Gate in Dehra Dun, 2016

The Sirmoor Rifles was formed as the Sirmoor Battalion in 1815 – as all Sirmooris know and as the plaques on the Lal Gate at Dehradun and the Memorial at the Pokhara Museum remind us.  Constructed to mark the Gurkha centenary in 1915 and updated for the bicentenary in 2015 the Lal Gate is in the Garhi cantonment at Dehradun.  Nearby ‘Young Road’ is named after Frederick Young, who raised the Regiment and for many years was responsible for the garrison there.

Frederick’s grandfather, Robert Young, was also my direct antecedent so I am Frederick’s first cousin, six generations removed.  I have always been interested in the life of my distinguished relative and have taken a keen interest in researching it.  Much of the known detail, and many of the quotations below, come from a biography of him written by his daughter Louisa published in 1923.  While not always entirely reliable, her book provides very good insights into his story and the kind of man he was.  I also learned a lot from attending the 2015 Sirmoor Durbar in Nepal and, inspired by the account of the 2016 Sirmoor Club Nepal trip to the area in The Sirmooree #79, I visited Dehradun, Kalunga, Jaitak and Mussoorie in January 2020.

Origins and Family Background

Frederick Young, the son of the Reverend Gardiner and Catherine Young (née Richardson) was born at Greencastle, County Donegal, on 30th November 1786.  Frederick’s father, whose elder brother George had inherited the Young family’s estate at nearby Culdaff, became the Church of Ireland Rector of Moville parish.  Frederick, the fourth of seven children, was baptised at St Finian’s Church, Greencastle, on the shores of Lough Foyle, on 10th December 1786.

Early Service

Aged 15, Frederick obtained a cadetship to the Honourable East India Company, at a time when recruits were required to be ‘not less than 4’ 9” [1.45m] in height’.   On arrival at Calcutta in July 1802, Ensign Young, ‘a regular Johnny Raw from the Bogs’, learned Urdu at Barasat Cadet College, and then fought with the 1st Volunteer Battalion at Balasore, about 150 miles southwest of Calcutta, during the 2nd Mahratta War.

After becoming a Lieutenant with the 12th Native Infantry, in 1805 he participated in the unsuccessful siege of Bharatpur, a walled city with ‘massive double ramparts reinforced by eight bastions, surrounded by a wide, deep moat’.  In the general chaos he fell from a scaling ladder into a ditch of debris, and was ‘given up for lost’.  Fortunately uninjured, he managed to extricate himself and, ‘a miserable object covered with mud and blood’, rejoined his comrades.

Shortly afterwards he was transferred to the 13th Native Infantry where he served as Adjutant and Quartermaster for eight years.  In his mid-twenties he was Aide-de-Camp to Colonel Rollo Gillespie for the Java Expedition in 1810.  After landing at Cilincing (‘Chilling Ching’) he took part in the advance to Batavia, and the battles of Weltevreeden and Cornelis.  In 1812 Frederick was ‘blown up and much burnt, but not dangerously’ during an attack on the palace at Yokyakarta (‘Jokjokarta’) in Java.  Once again, he was ‘given up for lost’ but, as he later reassured his children, ‘I came back alright’.


Dehra Dun, taken from Kalunga Hill in 2020

After returning to India Frederick was seconded as Guide and Intelligence Officer to Gillespie’s 2nd Division, attempting to stabilise the 700-mile border of Bengal against repeated ‘nibbling encroachments’ emanating from the Gorkha region in Nepal.  In October 1814 he took part in the attempt to capture Kalunga Fort, one of a line of Gorkha-held hilltop beacon forts in the Doon valley.  Surrounded by dense undergrowth and a 12’ high palisade of rough-hewn logs and rocks, the fort was situated atop the 600’ Kalunga Hill, five miles outside Dehra.

Gillespie described the challenge it posed: ‘The fort stands on the summit of an almost inaccessible mountain, covered with an impenetrable jungle; the only approaches… stiffly stockaded.  It will be a tough job to take it’.  He also noted the bravery and tenacity of the 600 men in the garrison, commanded by Captain Balbhadra Kunwar.

Gillespie was killed during the attack on 31st October, reportedly dying in Frederick Young’s arms. The assault was suspended and the fort razed to the ground three weeks later, after the besieged defenders, deprived of their water supply, had escaped under cover of darkness.

The bravery, skill and steadfastness of the Gorkhas was openly admired by their British counterparts: ‘They fought us in fair conflict like men’ (James Fraser); ‘I never saw more steadiness or bravery exhibited in my life.  Run they would not and of death they seemed to have no fear’ (John Shipp).  A two-pillar memorial, erected by the British on the Sahastradhara Road in the 19th century, commemorates ‘our gallant adversary Bulbudder, Commander of the Fort and his brave Ghoorkhas’ as well as the British officers and men who died.  There is a 15m high memorial to ‘the brave Gorkhalis who fought here’, at the top of the tree-clad Kalunga Hill, erected in 2009 by ‘Gorkhas from all over India’.


By February 1815 Gillespie’s replacement, Major General Martindell, had, with great difficulty, begun blockading Jaitak, another Gorkha hilltop fort, situated about 70 miles west of Dehradun, 4,500 feet above sea level.

As Fortescue relates in ‘A History of the British Army’ Volume XI, several men laden with camp-equipment, and at least two elephants, met their deaths falling over precipices on the slippery mountain paths.  Mortars, howitzers and light field guns had a negligible effect on the stockades of the beleaguered garrison.  Meanwhile the Gorkhas, commanded by Ranjer Sing and successfully supplied by detachments of their own forces, watched with interest as roads enabling 18-pounder guns to be dragged into position were laboriously constructed down below.

On 21st February 1815 Frederick and a group of about 1400 ‘irregulars’ attempted to intercept a relief force of Gurkhas marching from Jumna to Jaitak. Caught at Chinalgurh, a village on the Sine mountain.  In a surprise attack of 400 men led by Azumber Punt Qazee, several of the irregulars panicked and ran for their lives.

According to Frederick’s daughter Louisa, he and the small group of officers were rapidly outnumbered, surrounded and taken prisoner; he spent his time in captivity learning Gurkhali, studying Gurkha customs, and developing a relationship of mutual respect with the Gurkhas.

In the absence of any documentary evidence, Louisa’s account of her father’s hillside capture has been disputed by various modern historians, including John Pemble (1971), and Turtle Bunbury (2009), the latter dismissing the story as ‘an embellished tale’ recounted to an adoring daughter by ‘a whiskery old General living back in Ballybrack’.  If Frederick was actually taken prisoner on 21st February 1815, it can only have been for a short time as within five days he had sent his superiors a report detailing the numbers of men from each of the eleven different regional groups who had been engaged in the operation, with a breakdown of the numbers from each group who had deserted, been wounded, or killed.

Ranjer Singh surrendered at Jaitak in May 1815, after his father General Amar Singh Thapa had capitulated to Major General Ochterlony at Malaun.  Both were allowed to march out of their respective forts with the honours of war, carrying their private property with them.

Currently owned by Rajah Ajay Bahadur Singh, Jaitak Fort is nowadays accessible by road, enabling visitors to appreciate the breathtaking views from this strategic site, memorably depicted in an 1820 aquatint by James Baillie Fraser.  For a full account of the Battle of Jaitak, covering the subsequent formation of both the Sirmoor Battalion and several Gorkhali units in the Nepalese Army, see the article by Brigadier General (retired) Dr Kesharbahadur Bhandari PhD, late Nepalese Army, which was published in Sirmooree #81.

Whether or not he actually spent time in captivity, Frederick had evidently become proficient in Gurkhali by 1815, when his listing in the East India Register and Directory changed from ‘Adjutant and Quartermaster’ to ‘Interpreter, 2nd Battalion’.  He had also developed a high regard for the Gurkhas and their fighting skills.

Raising the Sirmoor Battalion

Later in 1815 Frederick was placed in charge of a number of Gurkha prisoners at Paonta Sahib, a town about 30 miles west of Dehradun.  Famous for its historic Sikh Gurudwara, it is now an industrial city with 25,000 inhabitants situated on the river Yamuna, the state boundary between Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

Frederick requested permission to free the prisoners and then give them the opportunity to volunteer in the company’s service. ‘If they do – and I feel sure that many will – I undertake to raise in a short time a body of soldiers that will not disgrace you, or the country, or myself’.

His request was approved.  He spoke to the prisoners, and his proposal proved very successful: ‘I went there one man. I came back three thousand!’.  A mixture of freed prisoners-of-war, men who had served in the irregular force which Frederick had previously commanded, and men who came from other sources as voluntary recruits, these 3,000 men formed the nucleus of the Sirmoor, Nurseera and Kumaon battalions in the Gurkha Brigade.

This procedure was later formalised by the Treaty of Sagauli, signed in 1816, by means of which Britain received the right to recruit men from the Pahar hill districts into the British army in return for officially recognising the Kingdom of Nepal.

Frederick was made a Captain on 8th January 1816.  In addition to being ‘Interpreter and Quartermaster’, he was listed in the East India Company Directory as being ‘in command of the Sirmoor Battalion’, headquartered at cantonments west of Dehradun, a role which he retained until 1843.


Dehradun (also transcribed as ‘Dehra Doon’), the most northerly district in the Meerut Division, is an oblong-shaped area, about 45 miles by 15 miles, of well-wooded, undulating land, lying between the Himalayas to the North-East and the Sewalik hills to the South-West.  It is bounded by two river valleys: the Yamuna (‘Jumna’) river to the North-West, and the Ganges to the South-East.

Given the honorary title of Colonel and a free hand, Frederick, the first commander of the Sirmoor Battalion, chose his own officers and reported his soldiers operationally ready within six months.

Around this time Frederick built a house at Nalapani, about five miles northeast of the town of Dehradun.  Being a ‘well-defined object’ at Nalapani, ‘Cap. Young’s House’ was used to assist in the surveying process.  The location of ‘Cap. Young’s House’ south of the ‘crossed swords’ symbol indicating the battle site of Kalunga Hill, is shown on a map drawn by Morgan Dove Blandford, Assistant Surveyor, from a revenue survey conducted for the Board of Commissioners in 1818 by Lieutenant Alexander Gerard.

The 1818 Map of Nalapani showing ‘Cap. Young’s House’

3rd Mahratta War

The Sirmoor Battalion, the first Gurkha regiment to fight, saw action in the 3rd Mahratta War of 1817-18, where they excelled themselves in the Reserve Division, assisting Ochterlony’s Grand Army in the campaign against the Mahrattas and Pindaris.  As a reward they were nominated to escort to Delhi the 300 guns which had been surrendered by the Mahratta Army.

Dacoit Raids

Over the next few years the Sirmoor Battalion was frequently called on by Frederick Shore, Superintendent of Dehra, to protect villages in the Eastern Doon from dacoit raids.  Colonel Shakespear describes two such incidents in the first volume of the History of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles:

‘Information of an intended raid on the wealthy village of Thano, 18 miles South-East of Dehra and lying under the hills, was received by the Civil Authorities, on which Captain Young moved out with two companies, and was able to intercept them, driving them off and dispersing them in a brief fight just below the village’.

In May 1823 the presence of the Sirmoor Battalion was sufficient to deter a planned raid on Nawada:

‘On further information of a coming incursion into the district with Nawada Captain Young again moved out rapidly and blocked the north entrances of the two passes through the Sewaliks, debouching into the Doon in the vicinity of Kansrao.  The raiders, however, got wind of the preparations for their reception, and retired down the Betban Rao to the plains without coming into conflict with our men’.

Koonja Fort

In 1824 the Sirmoor Battalion received an urgent request for help from the magistrate of Saharanpore.  After marching 36 miles to Koonja, a fort in the Eastern Doon occupied by about 800 Goojars, they forced open the massive wooden door with an improvised battering ram.  In recognition of this achievement the ‘ram’s head’ symbol was added to their regimental accoutrements.

In the 1860s, long after Frederick had retired, his daughter Louisa met ‘an old man’ who lived with his wife at Muree, a beautiful hill station frequented by those posted to Rawalpindi.  In conversation she was delighted to find that the man, De Bude, had not only known her father; he had been the ‘young engineer’ who, helped by Dr Royle, had improvised the battering-ram at Koonja Fort.

Peacetime: Road-Building, Irrigation Projects and Surveying

From the mid-1820s the military activities of the Sirmoor Battalion’s early years were followed by a period of peace lasting around twenty years.  In Dehradun Frederick instigated civil works to open up the district, building roads from Dehra to Kalsi and Rajpore, and carrying out irrigation projects to regenerate disused dams, canals and water tanks.

One such project, the restoration of the Rajpore aqueduct, which was completed by Colonel Proby Cautley and Captain Henry Kirke in 1844, supplied the inhabitants of Dehra with drinking water from the head of the Raspunnah torrent at the foot of the Himalayas.

 Rajpore aqueduct

As one letter home to his family in Ireland attests, Frederick participated in surveying duties in the region, a task which he thoroughly enjoyed:

‘Sept. 1815.  I leave next month on a trip of observation from which I expect the greatest pleasure.  I am to make a sweep of 31 marches through a country little known to Europeans, and abounding in all kinds of natural curiosities.  I have got private instructions to take my surveying materials for a map of the country.  I intend to move to the bank of the Sutlej where it issues from the snows, then turn to the right and move along the bottom of the snowy range of hills to the sources of the Jumna. Can you imagine anything more delightful than such a life?’

At Dehradun Frederick continued to assist with survey work, coordinating operations for the ‘Great Trigonometrical Survey of India’ with George Everest, the ‘Kompass-wallah’ after whom Peak XV was eventually named.


In 1823 Frederick and his friend Frederick Shore, the Joint Magistrate and Superintendent of the Revenues of the Dun, built a small wattle and daub ‘shooting box’ on the Camel’s Back Road, 20 miles from Dehradun, and 6,000’ above sea level – the first such structure in the ‘Mussoorie’ region.

The splendid climate and good sport obtainable attracted other Europeans to the area, as the ‘Doon’ and the hills to the north became better known.

Mulliagoes, Mussoorie (‘The Potato Garden’; ‘Mullingar’) by L Hadow Jenkins (Frederick’s daughter) 1923

Frederick built ‘Mulliagoes’ (later renamed ‘Mullingar’), a two-storey house, in a beautiful valley at Mussoorie, where he is said to have planted the first tea plant and the first potato ever grown in the Himalayas.  This house, nicknamed ‘The Potato Garden’, became a popular place for officers wishing to escape the hot season.

A third smaller building nearby, named ‘Mullingar Cottage’, is also attributed to Frederick on a map of the area published by J P Tassin at Calcutta in 1831.

No trace remains of the shooting box that Frederick Young and Frederick Shore built in 1823.  In 1912 Colonel Shakespear described it as being on the site of ‘the present church’.  The building named Mullingar became a hotel in the early part of the 20th century.  During World War 2 it housed British evacuees from the Japanese-occupied areas and became an overflow sanatorium for wounded soldiers.  After 1947 it gradually fell into disrepair.  Located 70 miles from the border with Tibet, it became home to a number of migrant Tibetan families and now ‘prayer flags flutter in the wind every day, and Losar celebrations are held in the courtyard every year’.

Frederick loved the climate at Mussoorie, and was delighted when Charles Metcalfe, an early visitor, persuaded the Government to provide a sanatorium for convalescent soldiers at the eastern end of the Landour ridge, in 1827.  The sanatorium gradually became a full British Military Hospital with staff specialising in tropical diseases.  It was closed soon after 1947.  By 2013 the buildings, together with those of the Soldiers’ Furlough Home (a holiday location for British soldiers unable to return to Europe) were occupied by the Institute of Technology Management of the Defence Research and Development Organisation of India, while the former nurses’ home had become known as ‘Sisters’ Bazaar’.

In addition to his duties at Dehradun, Frederick became Commandant of the Hill Depot at Landour, a military cantonment to the east of Mussoorie.  He spent the hot summer months in the hills at his house at Mussoorie, while performing his duties at Landour, and the cooler winter months in the valley at Dehradun.

After Frederick Shore moved to the Central Provinces in 1829 Frederick, now aged 43, was appointed Superintendent of Dehradun whose population then was about 20,000 people.  The 23,000 inhabitants of Jounsar Bawur (Chakrata Hills, across the river Jumna) were subsequently added to his charge.  He combined his military role with the offices of Collector, Magistrate, and Postmaster of the Doon.  His responsibilities gradually became more political as his mixture of military and civilian duties increased.  He became responsible for managing relations with the Rajah of Garhwal in 1830, and was appointed Political Agent at Dehradun in 1833.

Family Life

At the age of 38 Frederick had married Jeanette Bird, the daughter of Colonel John and Mary Bird at Meerut in 1825.  Jeanette, who was born at Berhampore in 1808, was 17 years old at the time of their marriage.

Frederick and Jeanette had eight children: one son and seven daughters, six of whom survived to adulthood. Their four eldest children, Catherine (‘Kate’), Eliza, Susan and Mary, were baptised in the summer months at Mussoorie between 1827-31.  Eliza died shortly before her fourth birthday, becoming, in 1832, the 14th person to be buried at Chandranagar Cemetery, Dehradun. Louisa, the fifth child, was born at Dehradun in 1834; her brother Charles and sisters Hatton and Marion followed between 1836-39.

Frederick Young’s House, Dehra Dun

At Dehradun the family initially lived on Rajpur Road, on the site now occupied by the Astley Hall shopping complex and the office of the Central Bank of India.  Frederick eventually built a more substantial house in Dehradun, further along Rajpur Road.  The house, which faced North, had a large porch with a balcony over the front entrance from where he traced the outlines of the Great Bear and the Polar Star for his daughter Louisa.

Occupied by the Bank of Upper India in 1912, Frederick’s former residence was taken over by St Joseph’s Academy in 1934. It was demolished and replaced by a new building in 2008.

Robber’s Cave, Guchhupani

In 1837 Frederick hosted Lord Auckland, Governor-General of India, and his Viceregal party, at Dehradun, while they were travelling from Calcutta to Simla.

Already impressed by the beautiful hills and valleys of the area, Emily Eden (Auckland’s sister), described an afternoon picnic when ‘Colonel Y’ took them to the ‘Robber’s Cave’, and persuaded them to wade along the stream inside:

The Robber’s Cave in 2020

The Robber’s Cave

‘When we got near the cave, we found Colonel Y, Dr G and Captain M at the entrance of a dark grotto, through which a stream was running. ‘Nothing to walk through’, Colonel Y said, ‘not more than two feet deep, or two feet and a half at most’ and so in they all went to a beautiful cavern, about 500 yards long’.

Listed online as a ‘must-see’ attraction in the Dehradun area, Robber’s Cave at Guchhupani is now a popular picnicking, hiking and wading spot, where the Nalota stream runs through a deep, narrow gorge.  Wading visitors are warned to ‘expect to be knee-height in water’ and advised to carry ‘spare lower wear and water-friendly footwear’.

1839 Portrait of Frederick Young

Frederick was about 53 years old, and a Lieutenant-Colonel, when in 1839 his portrait was painted by John Reynolds Gwatkin, an artist born at Kissengange, India.

 This portrait of Frederick was included in the 1912 edition of Colonel L W Shakespear’s History of the 2nd King Edwards Own Goorkhas.  In 1923 Louisa Hadow Jenkins also used it as the frontispiece for her biography of her father.


Frederick had become a Colonel with his wife and children all living in Ireland when, in June 1842 he was appointed as a Brigadier, 2nd class, to command the 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Army of Reserve, for the second phase of the First Afghan War.

A few months later he was transferred to the Bundelkhand Agency, to command ‘a series of petty operations to quell disturbances which had broken out there’.

One such ‘disturbance’, the Bundela Revolt in the cities of Sagar and Damoh (550 miles south of Dehra Dun), arose in 1842 out of resentment against British land revenue policy.  A summary of ‘Tribal and non-Tribal Rebellions against the British’ (available on the website of the 2021 Civil Service exam, India) mentions that the Bundelas, led by Madhukar Shah and Jawahir Singh, murdered police officers and disrupted British administration.  The revolt was subdued when Shah and Singh were eventually captured and executed.  As the Indian Mail noted a few months later: ‘The insurgents in Bundelkhund are quieter’.

Around this time Frederick sold his Mussoorie house to Mauger Fitzhugh Monk, a Guernsey-born teacher with Irish family connections in Co Westmeath.  Monk renamed the building ‘Mullingar’ and transformed it into a school.

Furlough in Ireland

Reunited with his wife and children, Frederick, aged 58, finally spent two years on furlough in the north of Ireland.  An enthusiastic host, he relished the opportunity to catch up with the friends and relations he had not seen since leaving for India at the age of 15.

‘Up the broad carriage-drive visitors came and went, and never was there a more courteous and popular entertainer.  At the big dinner-parties he could not fail to recount at times the wondrous things he had seen and known in exploring that beautiful land, then an unknown country; they were marvels indeed to his untravelled listeners’.

From their home at Ballysally, near Coleraine, Frederick and Jeanette did their best to keep up with the news from India.  They read, with great sorrow, the recently published version of Lady Florentina Sale’s ‘Journal of the Disasters in Afghanistan 1842-43’, about the events leading up to the Retreat from Kabul in January 1842.  Louisa identified why they found the account so upsetting: ‘Nearly all the people there were well-known to my parents, and some were intimate acquaintances and friends’.

‘Colonel Young, of the Bengal Army’ met Sir Robert and Lady Sale at Corporation Hall, Derry on 6th September 1844 when together with Captain George Lawrence (a former Foyle College pupil, and a former Afghan captive), he was a top table guest at ‘the most splendid and respectably attended banquet ever held in this city’.  About 180 local members of the ‘clergy, gentry and merchants’, including two of Frederick’s County Donegal relations (‘George Young, Esq., JP, Culdaff’, and ‘Brook Young’) attended the festive event.

During Frederick’s absence the Sirmoor Battalion was commanded by John Fisher, who wrote him a long letter describing their involvement in the First Sikh War, from their march to Ludhiana to their success at the Battle of Aliwal in January 1846.  Poignantly, a fortnight after putting pen to paper, Fisher himself was killed in action at the Battle of Sobraon.  ‘The death of John Fisher was a greater sorrow than any that had gone before’, wrote Louisa, whose father had received notification of his colleague’s death some time before the cheerfully descriptive letter reached him in Ireland.


Accompanied by his wife and three elder daughters Kate, Susy and Mary, all approaching marriageable age, Frederick returned to India in 1846 and was given the command of the Ferozepore Brigade.

The significance of this posting is indicated in the following comment by ‘one who knew and loved him’, as quoted by Louisa:

‘This was a most important post, for there were murmurs of a second Sikh War [the ‘Punjab Campaign’], and as Ferozepore was our Northern Frontier in that country he had not only to keep all troops ready for instant action, but to guard carefully against surprises and conspiracies’

Frederick and Jeanette were living at Ferozepore when their daughter Susy, the first to leave home, married Lieutenant Anstruther Mactier, a young widower in the 11th Cavalry, in 1848.

The Second Anglo-Sikh war erupted in April 1848, and concluded, almost a year later, after the Battle of Gujrat.  Louisa cites Henry Lawrence (brother of George, another former Foyle College pupil) advocating that the victors should ‘deal generously with a noble, though vanquished, foe’, and quotes an (unreferenced) tribute to the fallen enemy: ‘In the hour of battle they proved themselves a worthy foe – as, in the days to come, they were to prove themselves worthy comrades-in-arms’.

Frederick’s time at Ferozepore ended in 1849 when he was given command of the Dinapore division.  In November of that year he and Jeanette were at Mussoorie and were witnesses at the marriage of their eldest daughter Kate to Charles Hamilton Fasson, an Assistant Surgeon with the 14th Light Dragoons.


While en route from Ferozapore to Dinapore, Frederick suddenly received an order to proceed directly to Darjeeling, to take up a new assignment as commander of a large force being assembled there in preparation for an invasion of Sikkim.  Ordered by Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General, this invasion was intended to punish the Rajah of Sikkim, who was demanding territorial concessions while holding Mr Archibald Campbell, the Political Resident, and Dr Joseph Hooker, a British botanist, whose father was Director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, as hostages.  Campbell had negotiated Hooker’s entry to Sikkim, after which Hooker had spent 10 months travelling in the country, as part of a 3-year plant-collecting expedition in the Himalayas.

Frederick’s experience in hill warfare was the reason why he had suddenly been chosen for this task.  But his experience, which included the painful lessons learned at Kalunga and Jaitak, only served to convince him that it would be disastrous for troops with fully-equipped cavalry and heavy guns to make any attempt to invade the ‘mighty mountains’ of Sikkim, particularly in wintertime.

His delicately modified proposal – to enter Sikkim from Darjeeling as a show of strength, but then to stall the invasion and demand concessions from (rather than ‘make concessions to’) the Rajah – was approved by Sir Charles Napier, Commander-in-Chief, on 20th February 1850.

By this time a force of 14,000 men was being assembled in Darjeeling, where the ‘Great Rungeet’ river formed the boundary between Bengal and the mountains of Sikkim.  Frederick, aged 63, met Hooker, who had returned to Darjeeling after being released from captivity.  Frederick evidently quizzed the young botanist about the terrain on the Sikkim side of the river.  In his Himalayan Journal Hooker, then aged about 33, described his encounter with ‘the old gentleman, General Young, all in the clouds as to carrying out his orders of occupying Sikkim with a military force… a very nice old gentleman, and greatly obliged to me for my counsel, maps and information’.

The decision was taken to march and take the Rungeet Bridge as soon as possible.  Hooker joined them: ‘I went down with the troops the other day and took possession of the bridge over the Great Rungeet and camped some 500 men in Sikkim’.  Popular today with rafting enthusiasts because of its ‘turbulent waters’, the Rangeet river originates in the Himalayan mountains of Western Sikkim and is ‘fed by the melting snow of the Himalayas in early summer, and the monsoon rains from June to September’.

They were unopposed; and, per Frederick’s plan, did not attempt to proceed with the invasion at this stage.  Hooker took the opportunity to resume his botanical studies but remained available to assist if his local knowledge should be required: ‘I returned to my plants at Darjiling, but expect to be summoned down very soon again’.  He understood how essential his familiarity with the Sikkim landscape would be to the military: ‘Except Campbell and myself, no one knows anything of the country, and hence the marching of the troops without good guidance would be most unadvisable’.

Eventually, the Rajah conceded some territory (a ‘submontane strip of inconsiderable extent’), and, on Frederick’s recommendation, the invasion plan was called off: ‘The expedition was abandoned because the General from his experience in the Nepaul campaign reported the country as impracticable for British troops’.

The Rajah gave Frederick a large and very useful parting gift, which Jeanette described in a letter to the younger children: ‘The Rajah has given in.  He gave your father a great big elephant, that carried some of his camp equipage through the Terai.  It was in the compound afterwards at Dinapore, and was amusing to watch’.


The Sikkim diversion over, Frederick, Jeanette and the elephant moved on to Dinapore, where Frederick took up his posting as ‘Brigadier-General, commanding the Dinapore Division’.  Louisa considered that this effectively marked his transition from active soldiering to peaceful duties:

‘When my father left Darjeeling with his staff – his camp-equipage following, the tents carried on the Rajah’s big elephant – his active soldiering was ended… but the command of the large brigade in Dinapore and the district, though it was to him more in the nature of a show-parade, was also a very responsible post’.

‘Taking the salute’ became one of his regular duties.  Jeanette, an expert horsewoman, was present at these events and described the picturesque scene in a letter to Louisa and the younger children:

‘Your papa looks very fine on parade. His charger is a handsome white Arab, and with the rich saddle cloth, and gold lace and all the corners embroidered in gold it is a very gay affair!  I attend all the reviews and inspections of troops with him and his staff.  It is most amusing to see his five Officers, all in cocked hats – dashing about after him!  My horse always fidgets as if he thought he should be leading too!’

At Dinapore Frederick acted as a witness at the marriage of his daughter Mary to Stewart Lambert Lyons-Montgomery, a Captain in the 80th Regiment, in November 1851.  He was widowed a few months later when Jeanette died, aged 44, on 10th April 1852.  His daughter Louisa, now 17, returned to India from the UK and married John Hadow Jenkins, an Ensign in the 44th Native Infantry, and Frederick’s Aide-de-Camp.  Louisa and her husband lived with Frederick at Deegah, the General’s house at Dinapore, until he retired on promotion to Major-General, aged 68, in 1854.  (For many years during the 19th Century senior officers continued to be promoted after they had ceased serving.  The promotions filled dead men’s boots on the Unemployed Supernumerary List, so it was a matter of luck whether a vacancy existed or further promotions ensued.  Frederick Young was promoted Major General on retirement on 12th June 1854, Lieutenant General on 18th February 1856, and full General on 28th March 1865.)

Retirement in Ireland

By the time Frederick retired, his son Charles was embarking on a military career with the 50th Queen’s Own Regiment of Foot.  Four of his daughters were married to army officers, and ready to live where ever their husbands’ postings took them.  A fifth daughter, Eliza, had died, aged four, in 1832.  His sixth daughter, Hatton Caroline Young, had died of cholera aged 19, at Fortwilliam, Calcutta, in 1857.

Frederick’s youngest child, Marion, his seventh daughter, was about 15 years old.  She and her father settled at Fairy Hill, near Bray Head, County Wicklow, Ireland, where they were joined by Frederick’s daughter Susy, who was widowed when, in July 1857, her husband died of epilepsy.

A painting of General Frederick Young, late in life, was completed by the well-known artist James Prinsep Beadle in 1928.  As this was 54 years after his death, the assumption is that it was copied from an earlier portrait or photographs.

James, the son of Major General James Beadle and Margaret Jenkins (the sister of Louisa Young’s husband, John Hadow Jenkins), was born at Calcutta in 1863, and died in London, aged 83, in 1947.  His uncle, John Hadow Jenkins, had served as Aide-de-Camp to Frederick Young in 1853-4.

The portrait of Frederick originally hung in the 2nd Goorkhas British Officers Mess and is currently on display at the Gurkha Museum in Winchester.  It replaced Gwatkin’s 1839 portrait in the 1950 edition of Colonel L W Shakespear’s History of the 2nd King Edward VII’s Own Gurkha Rifles.

Following the collapse of the Agra Bank, which left him in straightened circumstances, Frederick moved to Albany, a smaller home at Ballybrack, County Dublin where he died, aged 87, on 22nd May 1874.  He was buried at Deansgrange Cemetery, Dun Laoghaire, a few days later.

In 2015 representatives of the 2nd Goorkhas, including the President and Honorary Secretary of the Sirmoor Club, added a plaque to Frederick’s grave at a Service of Remembrance organised by John McCann, Supervisor at Deansgrange Cemetery, to commemorate the bicentenary of the founding of the Sirmoor Battalion.

As reported in The Sirmooree #76, members of the Royal British Legion, Ireland, The Royal Dublin Fusiliers Association and Dun Laoghaire County Council also attended, as did The O’Morchoe (Major General David O’Morchoe), Dominick Chilcott the UK Ambassador, Max Walker the Defence Attaché, John Webster the Political Secretary, a historian Shabnam Vasisht, and several friends and members of the Young family circle.

Gurkha Descendants

Three of Frederick’s great-grandsons later served with the Gurkhas:

  • Barry Hartwell (1880-1914), a grandson of Frederick’s daughter Louisa, served as a Captain in the 2nd Battalion 8th Gurkha Rifles. He was killed in action at Festubert, France, in 1914, and is commemorated on the CWGC Indian Memorial at Neuve Chapelle.
  • John Redmond (‘Rory’) Hartwell (1887-1970), another of Louisa’s grandsons, joined the 4th Gurkha Rifles in 1907, served in the 2nd Goorkhas 1928-30, and retired from army service in 1943 as an acting Major General. He donated the ‘Office Seal’ from Frederick’s time as a Major in Dehradun to the Gurkha Museum at Winchester, where it forms part of a cabinet display in the private dining room.
  • Hugh Gascoyne Lyons-Montgomery (1913-1944), a grandson of Frederick’s daughter Mary, served as a Major with the 2nd Goorkhas.  He was killed in action at Nagaland in 1944, and buried in the Kohima War Cemetery.  A photograph of Hugh’s grave accompanied an article by Major Sudan Dewan is in Sirmooree #78.


Click here to return to Distinguished Sirmooris index page.