Bland, Humphrey (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


BLAND, HUMPHREY (1686?–1763), of Bland's Fort, Queen's County, Ireland, general and colonel of the King's dragoon guards, and military writer, belonged to a family originally of Yorkshire, settled in Ireland about 1664. According to fragmentary notices in the published records of regiments of which he was colonel, he obtained his first commission on 4 Feb. 1704; made several campaigns under Marlborough as lieutenant and captain in some regiment of horse; and was wounded at the battle of Almanara in 1710, whilst serving in Spain with the Royal dragoons. The authority for these statements is uncertain. In 1715, when Honeywood's dragoons, the present 11th hussars, were raised in Essex, Bland was appointed major in the regiment, and served with it in the north of England during the Jacobite disturbances of that year, in which he appears to have been conspicuous by his zeal and activity. Among the Duke of Marlborough's MSS. are lists of 'gentlemen and noblemen of distinction taken at Preston and carryed to London by Major Bland,' which evidently refer to this period (see Hist. MSS. Comm. 8th Report). Subsequently he became lieutenant-colonel of the King's regiment of horse, now the King's dragoon guards, and while so employed brought out his 'Treatise on Discipline,' a work which went through many editions, and for the greater part of the century was the recognised text-book of drill and discipline in the British army. His staunch loyalty to the reigning house, no less than his undouhted military ability, appears to have gained him favour, and he was appointed, in succession, colonel of 36th foot and of the 13th dragoons, then both on the Irish establishment, and afterwards of the 3rd King's Own dragoons, which regiment was long known as Bland*s dragoons. He became quartermaster-general at head-quarters in 1742, in succession to General John Armstrong, F.R.S., and in the same capacity made the campaigns in Flanders, in which he had a horse shot under him at Dettingen, and much distinguished himself at Fontenoy. He held a major-general's command under the Duke of Cumberland in the Culloden campaign. In 1749 he was appointed governor of the town and garrison of Gibraltar, in succession to Lieutenant-general Hargreaves, and proceeded thither with a special mission 'to redress the civil grievances of which the inhabitants of the city had complained' (Lansd, MSS. 1234). About the same time General Bland and the master of the rolls were nominated to assess the costs and damages ordered to be paid by General Anstruther in respect of matters in the island of Minorca (Doddington's Memoirs, p. 119). In 1752 General Bland was transferred to the colonelcy of the King's dragoon guards, and in the same year (Feb. 15) he was appointed governor of Edinburgh Castle, an office which he retained till his death. On 17 Nov. 1753 he was appointed commander-in-chief of the forces in Scotland, The remainder of his life appears to have been chiefly passed on his Irish property at Bland's Fort. He died in London in 1763, without issue, aged seventy-seven. There is a letter in the British Museum, addressed by his wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Bland, to Lord Bute about the year 1762,which shows that some attempt was made to influence the political views of the veteran general by measures then only too common. 'I abhor the thought of shocking Mr. Bland with the mean and indelicate proposal mentioned,' writes the lady; 'and if it should please his majesty to deprive him of the employments he has the honour to hold, which I flatter myself, from the king's infinite goodness and humanity and Mr. Bland's long and well-intended services, will not be the case, I will not expose my reputation to the censure of the world by accepting any mercenary consideration for the purpose' (Add. MSS. 5726 C. f. 45). Mrs. Bland, who is described in a note upon the letter as 'sister-in-law to the late Lord Stair,' survived her husband many years, and died at Isleworth, at a very advanced age, on 14 Oct. 1816, the same day as her late husband's nephew and coheir, General Thomas Bland, colonel 5th dragoon guards (see Cannon, Hist. Rec. 5th Drag. Gds.)

Bland's 'Treatise on Discipline' was first published in 1727; in the preface the author describes it as intended to record the practice followed in the recent campaigns, personal knowledge of which even then was fast dying out, and as being the only work on the subject of military discipline which had appeared in the English language since the publication, fifty years before, of the Earl of Orrery's treatise, which by that time had become obsolete. The latest edition appeared in 1762, and is marked on the title-page as the ninth, It contains, amongst other corrections and additions, some curious instructions for the drill and manoeuvre of the light troops of regiments of horse and dragoons, by Mr. Fawcett, an officer of Elliott light horse, afterwards General Sir W. Fawcett, adjutant-general of the forces.

In a miscellaneous volume preserved among the Lansdowne MSS. in the British Museum, there is an autograph book of some forty pages of which appears to have escaped the notice of historians of Gibraltar. It is described as 'An Account of Lieutenant-general Bland's Conduct during the time he was governor of Gibraltar, showing the methods he took to establish his majesty's revenue, the property of the inhabitants, and the civil police of the town in all its branches. With the methods taken by him to cultivate a good understanding with his neighbours the Spaniards and Moors. Written by himself for the information of those who may succeed to this command. Given at Gibraltar 3rd day of May 1751 ' (Lansdowne MS. 1234, p. 91). The work evinces a very comprehensive grasp of administrative detail, civil as well as political, and was written, the author states, 'that his successors may not labour under the same disadvantage as himself, to find everything in confusion, and no information of any kind left to guide them.'

[Carlisle's Collections for a Hist, of Ancient Family of Bland (London, 1826); Cannon's Hist, Records 1st Drag. Gds., 3rd. 11th, 13th Drags., 36th Foot; Landsdowne and Add. MSS. at supra; Home Office, Mil. Entry Books, 1700-50; Bland's Treatise on Discipline, various eds.; Scots Mag. 1749, 1752. 1753, 1764.]

H. M. C.