Sir Colin Campbell

Posted in Scottish Military Figures

Born in Glasgow 20 October 1792, the son of a carpenter called MacIver, he probably assumed his mother's name, Campbell, when advised by the Duke of York that Campbell was a good name, should he be a soldier. He duly received the commission of ensign in 1807, aged 15.

He served first in the Peninsular War, showing great bravery, and being promoted to Captain. Lacking the valuable social standing, his subsequent promotions relied more on merit, and as a consequence were slow. He served in the war against the United States (1812), in the West Indies (1820), and in 1841 was a Lieutenant-Colonel when he set out for China and the Opium Wars.

From there he was posted to India (1846), serving with distinction in the second Sikh War of 1848-49 as well as on the North-West Frontier. He was knighted for his service in the Second Sikh War. He returned home in 1853, when 60, but perhaps his greatest tests were yet to come.

In the Crimea he was in charge of the Highland Brigade, where he won the Battle of Alma and inspired his troops to hold 'the thin red line' which held back the Russian cavalry at Balaclava. Following hard on this was the Indian Mutiny, with Campbell being appointed commander in chief. His reputation was sealed with the relief of Cawnpur and the second relief of Lucknow in 1857.

Perhaps the greatest British soldier of the mid-19th century, his men were devoted to him. He was created Field-Marshall in 1862. He died on 14 August, 1863, in Chatham, Kent, and is buried in Westminster Abbey.