Dictionary of National Biography, 1927 supplement/Gaselee, Alfred

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GASELEE, Sir ALFRED (1844–1918), general, the eldest son of the Rev. John Gaselee, rector of Little Yeldham, Essex, by his wife, Sarah Anne Mant, was born at Little Yeldham 3 June 1844. He entered Felsted School in 1858 and Sandhurst in 1861. In 1863 he received a commission in the 93rd regiment, and almost immediately had experience of active service, taking part in the campaign on the North-West frontier of India in that year. Three years later he was transferred to the Bengal Staff Corps and joined a Punjab infantry regiment. In 1867 he went with the Indian force to Abyssinia, where he acted as assistant to the director-general of transport and was present at the capture of Magdala (13 April 1868). He took part in the affair against the Bezotis in 1869, receiving the thanks of the government of India, and served with the Jowaki expedition of 1877–1878. In the Afghan War of 1879–1880 Gaselee was a deputy assistant quartermaster-general, and accompanied Sir Frederick (afterwards Earl) Roberts [q.v.] on the march from Kabul to the relief of Kandahar, obtaining a brevet majority. For his services with the Zhob Valley expedition (1884) and the Hazara expedition (1891) he received the C.B. (1891). From 1891 until the end of the century he was almost continuously employed in fighting on the frontiers of India. In 1893 he was promoted to the command of a battalion of the 5th Gurkha Rifles, and was appointed aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria. He served with the Isazai expedition (1892), the Waziristan field force (1894–1895), and commanded a brigade in the Tirah campaign (1897–1898). For his services in Tirah Gaselee was created K.C.B. (1898). He acted in 1898 as quartermaster-general at Simla and had command of a second-class district in India (1898–1901).

In the summer of 1900, when the Boxer movement in China had brought about a critical situation, Gaselee was chosen to command the British expeditionary force sent to assist in the relief of the beleaguered foreign legations in Peking. The relieving force, under the German commander, Count von Waldersee, consisted, in addition to British, of Japanese, Russian, Italian, French, American, and German troops. There were counsels of delay, and it was due to the firm attitude of the commander of the British contingent that immediate action was taken. The British column was the first to enter Peking, reaching the legations on the afternoon of 13 August 1900. The international rivalries between the component parts of the relieving forces might have given rise to the most serious complications. Gaselee showed tact and firmness in his handling of a very delicate situation. As a reward for his services he was promoted major-general and created G.C.I.E. (1901). He became full general in 1906; was in command of the Northern army in India in 1907–1908; and was created G.C.B. in 1909. He retired from the Indian army in 1911, but remained colonel of the 54th Sikhs until his death, which took place at Guildford 29 March 1918.

Few soldiers have had greater experience of Indian warfare than Gaselee. Although not endowed with the highest intellectual gifts, he was possessed of sound judgement and proved himself equal to each of the many tasks which fell to him in the course of a military career extending over nearly half a century. Absolutely straightforward, he inspired confidence in all who served with or under him. The private soldiers were particularly devoted to him, appreciating the solicitude which he invariably showed for their welfare.

Gaselee married twice: first, in 1882 Alice Jane (from whom he obtained a divorce in 1893), daughter of the Rt. Hon. William Edward Baxter [q.v.], of Kincaldrum, Forfar; secondly, in 1895 Alice Margaret, daughter of Gartside Gartside-Tipping, of Rossferry, co. Fermanagh. There was no issue by either marriage.

[The Times, 1 April 1918; private information.]

R. J. B.