Grant, William Keir (DNB00)
|←Grant, William James||Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 22
Grant, William Keir
GRANT, Sir WILLIAM KEIR (1772–1852), previously Grant-Keir and Keir, general, son of Archibald Keir, H.E.I.C.S., was born in 1772, and on 30 May 1792 was gazetted to a cornetcy in the 15th king's light dragoons (now 15th hussars), in the name of William Keir. He became lieutenant in 1793, and accompanied part of his regiment to Flanders, where he fought at Famars, Valenciennes, and elsewhere in the campaigns of 1793–4. He distinguished himself personally on 17 April 1794, when a squadron of his regiment saved the Prince of Schwartzenberg from the enemy's hussars during a reconnaissance, and was present at Villiers-en-Couche, 24 April 1794, where two squadrons of the 15th and two of the Austrian Leopold hussars, although they found themselves unexpectedly without supports, overthrew a much superior force of French cavalry, pursued them through the French infantry, and captured three guns, an action which saved the emperor of Germany, who was on his way to Coblentz, from being taken by the French (see Cannon, Hist. Rec. 15th Hussars; also Randolph, Life of Sir Robert Wilson, pp. 60–102). Keir was promoted to a troop in the 6th dragoon guards (carabineers), with which he served in Germany in 1795 and Ireland in 1798. In the latter year Keir received permission from George III to wear the large gold medal given by Francis II in commemoration of the action at Villiers-en-Couche. Only nine of these medals were struck, one being given to each of the eight British officers present, and the ninth placed in the Imperial Museum, Vienna. These officers were also made knights of the military order of Maria Theresa, which, as in the case of other foreign orders of chivalry previous to 1814, carried the rank of a knight-bachelor in England and other countries. It also gave the wearer the rank of baron in Austria. Keir ‘joined the Russian and Austrian armies in Italy early in 1799, and served the campaigns of 1799–1800–1. He was present at the battles of Novi, Rivoli, Mondovi, and Sanliano; he served in the gunboats at the siege of Genoa, in which he was frequently engaged, and in several actions in the mountains of Genoa, when the Austrians and Russians lost nearly thirty-three thousand men; also at the battle of Marengo and the sieges of Alessandria, Sanaval, Tortona, Cunio, Savona, Genoa, &c.’ (information supplied by the War Office 7 Dec. 1887). On 3 Dec. 1800 Keir was appointed lieutenant-colonel in the 22nd light dragoons, with which corps he landed in Egypt after the cessation of hostilities in 1801. The regiment was disbanded on the peace of Amiens, and Keir was placed on half-pay. For a short time he was aide-de-camp to the Prince of Wales, and afterwards was first aide-de-camp to Lord Moira, commanding in North Britain from December 1804 to May 1806, when he was appointed adjutant-general of the king's troops in Bengal. He commanded the advance of Major-general St. Leger's force on the Sutlej in 1810. Subsequently, while on the Bengal staff, Keir, who became colonel in 1810 and a major-general in 1813, was appointed to command a small force of cavalry and grenadiers sent against Ameer (Amir) Khan (a noted Pathan freebooter, afterwards nawab of Tonk) in 1814. In 1815 he was made commander-in-chief and second member of council in the island of Java, a position he held until the island was restored to the Dutch after the peace. In 1817 he was appointed to the Bombay staff and commanded the Guzerat field force, part of the army of the Deccan, in the operations against the Pindarrees. In February 1819 he was in command of a force assembled on the frontier of the Sawunt Warree state. The latter proving intractable the troops entered the country, carried the strong hill fort of Raree by storm and marched to the capital, where a treaty was signed with the regency, which met with the full approval of the governor-general. In March the same year he commanded a force sent against the rajah of Cutch, which, after defeating the enemy and capturing the hill fortress of Bhooj, received the submission of that province. In October 1819 Grant-Keir, as his name was then written, was despatched by the Bombay government with a strong armament for the suppression of piracy in the Persian Gulf. The attack was specially directed against the Joasmi, a tribe of maritime Arabs of the sect of Wahabees or followers of the Arab religious reformer, Abd-ul-Wahab (Bestower of Blessings), whose pirate craft had long been the terror of the coasts of western India. Rhas-ul-Khymah, their stronghold, had been destroyed by a small force from Bombay in 1809, but their power was again in the ascendant. Rhas-ul-Khymah was captured with small loss on 9 Dec. 1819, and on 8 Jan. 1820 Grant-Keir signed a general treaty of peace on the part of the British government with the chiefs of the tribes of maritime Arabs of the Persian Gulf, by whom it was subsequently signed at different times and places. It provided for the entire suppression of piracy in the Gulf. For his services Grant-Keir received the thanks of the governor-general in council and the Persian decoration of the Lion and Sun. He returned home on the expiration of his staff service, and assumed later the name of Keir Grant. He was made K.C.B. in 1822, lieutenant-general in 1825, G.C.H. in 1835, colonel 2nd royal North British dragoons (Scots greys) in 1839, and general on 23 Nov. 1841.
He married in 1811 a daughter of Captain Jackson, R.N. He died at his residence, Chapel Street, Belgrave Square, London, 7 May 1852, aged 80.[War Office Records; Dod's Knightage, 1851; Philippart's Royal Military Cal. 1820, iii. 267–269; H. T. Prinsep's Transactions in India (London, 1825, 2 vols.); Mill's Hist. Brit. India, ed. Wilson, vol. viii.; Low's Indian Navy, chap. vii.; Gent. Mag. 1852, i. 619.]