Bolton, Francis John (DNB01)

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BOLTON, Sir FRANCIS JOHN (1831–1887), soldier and electrician, son of Dr. Thomas Wilson Bolton, surgeon, of London and Manchester, was born in 1831. He enlisted in the royal artillery, in which he rapidly rose to be a non- commissioned officer, getting his first step as acting bombardier at Halifax, Nova Scotia. He obtained a commission as ensign in the Gold Coast artillery corps on 4 Sept. 1857, and served in the expedition against the Crobboes in September, October, and November 1858, being present at the action of Crobboe Heights on 18 Sept. He was promoted to be lieutenant on 9 Nov. In June and July 1859 he was adjutant in the expedition against the Dounquah rebels, which resulted in the capture of all the rebel chiefs.

On his return to England Bolton was transferred to the 12th or East Suffolk regiment of foot and promoted to be captain on 21 Sept. 1860. He was for several years engaged in conjunction with Captain (afterwards Rear-admiral) Philip Howard Colomb [q. v. Suppl.] in developing a system of visual signalling, applicable to naval and military operations, which was adopted by the authorities. He also invented and perfected an application of the oxy-calcium light for night signalling. The whole apparatus fitted into a box for transport, and was admirably adapted for its purpose. The 'Army and Navy Signal Book' was compiled by Bolton and Colomb, assisted by an officer of royal engineers, and was used with good results during the Abyssinian campaign in 1867.

From 1867 to 1869 Bolton was deputy-assistant quartermaster-general and assistant instructor in visual signalling at the School of Military Engineering at Chatham under Captain (afterwards Major-general) Richard Hugh Stotherd [q. v.], instructor in telegraphy. He was promoted on 8 July 1868 to an unattached majority in consideration of his special services in army signalling. Bolton was largely instrumental in 1871 in founding the Society of Telegraph Engineers and Electricians, of which he became honorary secretary. He edited the 'Journal' of the society, and was afterwards vice-president. In 1871 he was appointed by the board of trade under the Metropolis Water Act to be water examiner to the metropolis, lie was promoted to be lieutenant-colonel on 15 June 1877, and retired from the military service with the honorary rank of colonel on 1 July 1881. He was knighted in 1884.

Bolton interested himself in electrical matters, and the beautiful displays of coloured fountains and electric lights which formed prominent features of the exhibitions at South Kensington from 1883 to 1886 were designed by him and worked from the central tower under his personal superintendence. Bolton died on 5 Jan. 1887 at the Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth, Hampshire.

He was the author of 'London Water Supply,' 1884, 8vo, of which a new and enlarged edition, with a short exposition of the law relating to water companies generally, by P. A. Scratchley, was published in 1888; 'Description of the Illuminated Fountain and of the Water Pavilion,' 1884, 8vo, originally delivered as a lecture at the International Health Exhibition.

Bolton married in 1866 Julia, second daughter of R. Mathews of Oatlands Park, Surrey; she survived him.

[War Office Records; obituary notices in the Times of 7 Jan. 1887, in the Royal Engineers' Journal of February 1887, and in the Annual Register and other periodicals.]

R. H. V.