Page:Dictionary of National Biography volume 01.djvu/217

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Airey
Aislabie
203

tion. He was the strongest man on the staff. Lord Raglan placed the greatest confidence in him, and followed his advice in most things. He was an officer after Wellington's own heart, never shirked responsibility, and delighted in work. He was always at Lord Raglan's side, and as quartermaster-general wrote the order for the charge of the light brigade at Balaclava in accordance with his duty, and at the command of Lord Raglan. Nevertheless, the quartermaster-general's department bore in the sight of the English public the responsibility for the bad condition of the troops before Sebastopol. He despised the correspondents in the Crimea, and suffered accordingly. The whole blame of the inefficiency of the commissariat department and the incompetence of the officers in his own department fell upon him, and most unjustly. At first he received nothing but praise and rewards. He was promoted major-general in December 1854, and made a K.C.B., and in November 1855 appointed quartermaster-general at the Horse Guards. On reaching England he discovered the amount of blame cast upon him, and demanded a military inquiry. In consequence of his demand a board of general officers, presided over by Sir A. Woodford, met at Chelsea Hospital in 1856, to examine Sir Richard Airey's defence against the accusations brought against him by Sir John McNeill and Sir A. Tulloch, who had been sent to the Crimea to report on the breakdown of the commissariat and transport there. He quite exonerated himself, and indeed the causes of failure were directly due to the officers of the commissariat there, and not to him; and he proved his case by the testimony of Sir J. Simpson, who had been sent to report on the officers of the staff in the Crimea, and who not only reported favourably on Sir Richard Airey, but also maintained him in his office when he succeeded Lord Raglan. The defence was most able, and triumphant from the point of view of an officer trained in the ideas of Wellington, but according to modern ideas, by which the quartermaster-general is responsible for the commissariat, was by no means so successful.

That Sir Richard Airey had not suffered in the opinion of his military superiors was proved by his subsequent official employment. He was quartermaster-general at the Horse Guards from 1855 to 1865, lieutenant-general in 1862, governor of Gibraltar from 1865 to 1870, G.C.B. in 1867, colonel of the 7th regiment in 1868, general in 1871, adjutant-general at the Horse Guards from 1870 to 1876, and on his retirement from office after fifty-five years' service, was created Lord Airey in 1876. His last service to the army was as president of the well-known Airey commission, appointed in 1879, to inquire into the results of the new short service system. The commission consisted of seven general officers and three colonels, and presented its voluminous report in March 1880. In it is clearly perceptible Lord Airey's opinion of military reform. He recommended a service of eight years with the colours, which would effectually destroy the advantages of the short service system. Yet the report is full of valuable statistics and suggestions, and must form the basis of future army legislation. Not long after this service Lord Airey died, on 14 Sept. 1881, at the Grange, Leatherhead, the seat of Lord Wolseley, and thus the last supporter of the old Wellington system died at the house of the principal originator and supporter of the new military organisation. Lord Airey had been bred in the school of Wellington, and forms the best link between him and Lord Wolseley. He tried to carry on at the Horse Guards the old ideas, and though they have been shelved, his own ability has never been denied; even Dr. Russell, the most distinguished critic of the Crimean maladministration, has recently acknowledged that the ‘whitewashing’ board at Chelsea Hospital had not done wrong to ‘whitewash’ Lord Airey's military character.

[For Lord Airey's life and character, the Times obituary notice, 16 Sept. 1881. For the Crimean controversy, Opening Address of Sir R. Airey before the Board of General Officers at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea, London, 1856; Kinglake's History of the War in the Crimea; Dr. Russell's Letters from the Crimea, and more particularly his The Crimea, 1854–5, published 1880; Sir A. M. Tulloch's The Crimean Commission and the Chelsea Board, 1881.]

H. M. S.

AISLABIE, JOHN (1670–1742), statesman and politician, was baptised at Holy Trinity Church, Goodramgate, York, 7 Dec. 1670. He was the fourth son of George Aislabie, principal registrar of the archiepiscopal court of York, by his second wife, Mary, the eldest daughter of Sir John Mallorie, lord of the manor of Studley Royal. His father was killed in a duel with Mr. (afterwards Sir) Jonathan Jennings, 10 Jan. 1674. On the death of his eldest surviving brother, George, in 1699, John Aislabie succeeded to the Studley Royal estates, which had come into the possession of the family through his father's second marriage. In 1695 he was elected member of parliament for Ripon, which then returned two mem-