Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Macpherson, KCB VC

Lieutenant General Sir Herbert Macpherson was Commandant of the 2nd Goorkhas from 1861 to 1876. He had been gazetted as an Ensign to the 78th Highlanders in 1845. He was severely wounded in Aden in February 1851 when on a tour of inspection and was Adjutant of his Regiment in the Anglo-Persian War of 1857. Returning to India with them he took part in several battles of the Indian Mutiny, and was again wounded. He won the Victoria Cross at the first relief of Lucknow in September 1857 for ‘distinguished conduct’ during a counterattack by his Regiment that stormed a walled enclosure and captured two enemy guns, at some stage that day also having his horse shot from under him. In November 1857, during the second relief action at Lucknow, he was part of the force at Alambagh and was seriously wounded when acting as Brigade Major to General Sir John Douglas. For the part he played in the campaign he was promoted Brevet Major, mentioned in dispatches and granted an additional one year’s seniority.

He served briefly with the 82nd of Foot before transferring to the Bengal Staff Corps in February 1861. In March he was appointed acting Commandant of the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment when Colonel Reid was on furlough. In February 1862 he became Commandant of the 3rd Goorkha (Kumaon) Regiment but continued to act as Commandant of the Sirmoor Rifle Regiment, which had by then acquired the title of 2nd Goorkhas, and was confirmed in the latter appointment in August 1863. He commanded the Regiment during the Mohmand campaign in 1863-4 and at various actions during the Black Mountain campaign in 1868, for which he was again mentioned in dispatches and subsequently, in August 1869, made a Companion of the Order of the Bath. In 1871-2 he led them during the Looshai campaign, and was again mentioned in dispatches.  During his time in command he did a great deal to improve the Regiment’s cantonment in Dehra Dun, which in his honour was named ‘Macpherson Lines’.

After completing his 15 years in command of the 2nd Goorkhas he was given command of the Rawalpindi Brigade, which took part in the punitive expedition against the Jowaki Afridi tribe on the North West Frontier in 1877-8. In 1878 he commanded the 2nd Brigade, which included the 2nd Goorkhas, when it deployed to Cyprus, and in November that year commanded 1st Infantry Brigade when it deployed to the 2nd Afghan War. He led them in the successful assault on Fort Ali Masjid in the Khyber Pass; in the expedition to the Kama and Lugham valleys; at the battle of Charasiab on 6 October 1879, the first occasion the British had used Gatling guns; and at the battles of Doaba and Surkh Kotal which led to the eventual defeat of the Kohistanis. He was again mentioned in dispatches. He led the Brigade on the Kabul to Kandahar march and in the battle of Kandahar which earned him a further four mentions in dispatches and an enhanced service pension. At the end of the campaign he was made a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.

Promoted to local Major General and given command of the Allahabad Division, he took part in the British assault on Egypt under General Sir Garnet Wolseley in 1880, leading his troops at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, the subsequent pursuit to Zigazig and the capture of Cairo. He was mentioned in dispatches twice more, received the thanks of both Houses of Parliament, made Knight Commander of the Star of India and awarded the Ottoman Order of the Medjidie and the Khedive’s Bronze Star. Wolseley wrote of him ‘Major General Sir Herbert Macpherson….is a pillar of strength in any army in which he serves. His varied experience of war and the confidence he inspires in all under his command mark him out as a division leader to whom the honour of our arms and the lives of Her Majesty’s soldiers can at all times be safely entrusted’.

He was made a member of the Council of the Governor of the Presidency of Fort St George [the Madras Presidency] in January 1886, and in March that year was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the Madras Army as a local Lieutenant-General. He died at sea on board the SS Irrawaddy near Prome, Burma, on 26 October 1886, aged 59.

He had married in 1859 and had three children. His two sons, Duncan and Neil, served in the 2nd Goorkhas, the latter being killed in action on 31 October 1914 in France. Sir Herbert’s medals and decorations are displayed at the Highlanders’ Museum in Fort George near Inverness.

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