Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Crossman, William

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CROSSMAN, SIR WILLIAM (1830–1901), major-general, royal engineers, born at Isleworth, Middlesex, on 30 June 1830, was eldest son of Robert Grossman of Cheswick House, Beal, and Holy Island, Northumberland, by his wife Sarah, daughter of E. Douglas of Kingston-on-Thames. After education at Berwick-on-Tweed grammar school and Mr. Jeffery's at Woolwich, he entered the Royal Military Academy at the head of his batch in January 1847. He received a commission in the royal engineers as second lieutenant on 19 Dec. 1848. After professional instruction at Chatham and duty at Woolwich, Grossman was employed on the organisation of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and next year was sent to Western Australia, to superintend the construction of public works by the convicts [see Du Cane, Sir Edmund Frederick, Suppl. II]. He was a police magistrate for the colony and a visiting magistrate for the ticket-of-leave stations, being stationed principally at Albany in King George's Sound and at Perth, the capital of the colony. He was promoted first lieutenant on 17 Feb. 1854. His services were commended by the governor, but the exigencies of the Crimean war necessitated bis recall in February 1856.

After employment at Aldershot and Chatham he joined the war office for special duty under the inspector-general of fortifications, and was engaged in surveys and designs for new defences of dockyards and naval bases, for which parliament had just sanctioned a loan. Several of the sea defences of Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, of Hilsea lines and the detached forts of the Gosport advanced line, of the Verne Citadel at Portland, and Scraesdon and Tregantle Forts at Plymouth, were subsequently his work. Meanwhile he was promoted second captain on 12 Aug. 1858 and first captain on 5 Feb. 1864; was a member of the committee on the equipment of coast batteries (Jan. 1860); went to Canada (Dec. 1861) to aid in preparing quarters for troops from England in view of the menace of war with the United States of America over the Trent affair; and afterwards acted as secretary to the royal commission, of which Sir J. W. Gordon [q. v.] was president, on the defences of Canada, visiting every post on the frontier.

Between 1866 and 1870 Crossman was engaged by the treasury to report on the legation and consular buildings in Japan and China and to arrange for new buildings where necessary. In the course of his mission he secured for the admiralty the site for a new dockyard at Shanghai; and he accompanied both the naval expedition to Nanking and Yung Chow in 1869 and the force of sailors and marines which was landed in Formosa and at Swatow in 1868 and 1869. Varied service occupied him after his return to England. Promoted regimental major on 5 July 1872 and lieutenant-colonel on 11 Dec. 1873, he became assistant director of works for fortifications at the war office on 1 April 1875, but on 6 Sept. following he joined a special commission appointed by the colonial office to inquire into the resources and finances of Griqualand West. In recognition of his services he was made C.M.G. (May 1877). From 1876 to 1881 he served as the first inspector of submarine mining defences and as member of the royal engineers committee for submarine experiments and stores, visiting all the defended harbours at home and also at Halifax (Nova Scotia), Bermuda, and Jamaica abroad. Under his auspices submarine mining became a valuable part of harbour defence. During 1879 and 1880 he was also president of an important committee on siege operations, which conducted many practical experiments with a view to remodelling siege operations to meet improved artillery. In 1881–2 he visited Esquimalt, Fiji, Hong-kong, Singapore, Penang and Labuan and the Australian colonies, making full reports on their defences and requirements. On his return (July 1882) he was commanding royal engineer of the southern military district with headquarters at Portsmouth, but was absent in 1883 on a commission of inquiry with Sir George Smyth Baden-Powell [q. v.] into the financial condition of Jamaica and other West India islands. He was made K.C.M.G. on rendering the final report (March 1884).

Crossman, who was promoted brevet colonel on 11 Dec. 1878 and regimental colonel on 6 May 1885, resigned his command at Portsmouth in order to stand for parliament. He was returned in June 1885 as liberal M.P. for Portsmouth. Refusing to accept Gladstone's home rule policy, he joined the liberal unionists and retained the seat till 1892. He had retired from the army with the honorary rank of major-general (6 Jan. 1886), and in Jan. 1883 had succeeded to his father's estate in Northumberland. He was a J.P. for the county, alderman of the county council, and served as sheriff in 1894–5. He was for many years chairman of the River Tweed commission and president of the Berwick Naturalists' Club. He was also an associate member of the Institution of Civil Engineers. He died at the Hotel Belgravia, in London, on 19 April 1901.

Crossman was twice married: (1) at Albany, King George's Sound, Western Australia, on 3 March 1855 to Catherine Josephine (d. 1898), daughter of John Lawrence Morley of Albany; and (2) in London, on 29 June 1899, to Annie, eldest daughter of Lieut.-general R. Richards, Bombay staff corps, who survived him. By his first wife he had two sons and three daughters.

[War Office Records; Royal Engineers Records; Blue Books; W. Porter's History of the Royal Engineers, 2 vols. 1889; The Times, 22 April 1901; Royal Engineers Journal (notice by General Sir E. F. Du Cane), Oct. 1901.]

R. H. V.