Belford, William (DNB00)

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BELFORD, WILLIAM (1709–1780), artillery officer, was born in 1709, and entered the royal regiment of artillery on its formation as a cadet on 1 Feb. 1726. The regiment of artillery was not yet of much importance as a component part of the army, for Marlborough had always employed Danish, Dutch, and German adventurers as gunners, and had not laid much importance upon securing English artillerymen. King George I, Lord Stanhope, and Sir Robert Walpole all saw the importance of this branch of the service, and Albert Borgard [q.v.] was allowed to raise the royal regiment of artillery in 1726. Young Belford soon showed his aptitude for learning all that was then to be learned of the science of artillery, and was promoted fireworker in 1729, second lieutenant in 1737, first lieutenant in 1740, and captain-lieutenant or adjutant in 1741. In that year he served in the expedition to Carthagena, and gave such satisfaction that he was promoted captain in 1742. He then served in the campaigns in Flanders in 1742-45, and was present at the battle of Dettingen, and was promoted a major in the army by brevet in 1745. He next commanded the small force of artillery attached to the Duke of Cumberland's army at Culloden, and 'by his spirit and boldness checked the vigour of the clans, and gave the victory,' for which signal service he was promoted lieutenant-colonel in the army by brevet. He then commanded the artillery in Flanders in 1747-8 and at the battle of Fontenoy, and was promoted lieutenant-colonel in his regiment in 1749, and succeeded Albert Borgard, the founder of the regiment, as colonel commandant at Woolwich in 1751. He held this important post till he was promoted major-general in January 1758. He had then to surrender the command of the regiment, but received the command of the Woolwich district, with the important charge of the Warren, as the arsenal was then called. He was promoted, in due course, lieutenant-general in 1760, and general in 1777. On the outbreak of the Gordon riots, says the 'Gentleman's Magazine,' the rioters meant to burn the Warren. 'But General Belford had made such dispositions that 40,000 men could not have forced the arsenal. This important service, and the despatching trains of artillery to the different camps, kept him on horseback day and night. Such extraordinary fatigue, such unremitting application, burst a blood-vessel, and brought on a fever, which carried him off in a few days' (Gentleman's Magazine, vol. 1., 1780, p. 347). General Belford died at the Warren, Woolwich, on 1 July 1780, and was succeeded in his command by his eldest son, who was also an officer in the artillery. Belford seems to have been a very competent officer, and to have greatly contributed to the high position since taken by the royal regiment; he contributed a curious little pamphlet, 'Colonel Belford's March of the Artillery,' to Muller's 'Treatise on the War in Flanders,' published in 1757, and he was the first officer to introduce the fife into the English army by bringing over a Hanoverian fifer, named Johann Ulrich, in 1748, who taught the fifers of the royal artillery.

[Gent. Mag. 1780; Kane's List of Officers of the Royal Regiment of Artillery, 2nd ed. 1869, p. 166 note.]

H. M. S.