Wood, Herbert William (DNB00)

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WOOD, HERBERT WILLIAM (1837–1879), major royal engineers, son of Lieutenant-colonel Herbert William Wood of the Madras native infantry, was born in India on 17 July 1837. Educated at Cheltenham College, he joined the military college of the East India Company at Addiscombe in February 1854, received a commission as second lieutenant in the Madras engineers on 20 Sept. 1855, and, after the usual course of professional instruction at Chatham, arrived at Madras on 26 Oct. 1857. He was at once posted to the Sagar field division under Major-general Whitlock acting against the mutineers, and was present at the affairs of Jhigan on 10 April 1858 and Kabrai, at the battle of Banda on the 19th, the capture of Kirwi on 6 June, the action in front of Chitra Kote, the forcing of the Panghati Pass, and subsequent action. He was promoted to be lieutenant on 27 Aug. 1858, and continued to do duty with the column until March 1859, receiving the medal for the campaign.

After employment as executive engineer in the public works department in the North-West Provinces, he was transferred to Madras in 1860. He was promoted to be captain on 15 Jan. 1864. He served as field engineer in the Abyssinian campaign from January to June 1868, succeeding Captain Chrystie in charge of the works at Zulla, was thanked in despatches, and received the war medal. In December 1872 he was appointed to Vizagapatam, and on 24 Aug. of the following year he was promoted to be major. Obtaining three years' furlough, he accompanied the Grand Duke Constantine's expedition, sent under the auspices of the Imperial Russian Geographical Society to examine the Amu Darya. He published in 1876 the results of his travels in an octavo volume entitled ‘The Shores of Lake Aral,’ which attracted attention at the time, and should be read by all who would thoroughly understand the difficulties with which the Russians have to contend in Central Asia.

Wood returned to India in June 1876, but, after serving in the Madras presidency in a bad state of health, he was seized with paralysis and died on 8 Oct. 1879 at Chingleput. Wood was a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and of the Royal and Imperial Russian Geographical societies, and a corresponding member of the Society of Geography of Geneva. He issued at Geneva in 1875 a short account in French of the bed of the Amu Darya.

[India Office Records; Royal Engineers' Records; Despatches; Royal Engineers' Journal (obituary notice), 1879; Times, 5 Nov. 1879; Proceedings of the Royal Geographical Society, 1880; Ann. Reg. 1879.]

R. H. V.