Dictionary of National Biography, 1927 supplement/Kekewich, Robert George

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KEKEWICH, ROBERT GEORGE (1854–1914), major-general, was born 17 July 1854 at Brampford Speke, near Exeter, the second son of Trehawke Kekewich, of Peamore, Exeter, and nephew of the judge, Sir Arthur Kekewich [q.v.]. His mother was Charlotte, daughter of Captain George Peard, R.N. He was educated at Marlborough College and entered the army (102nd regiment) in 1874. He was transferred to the Buffs (East Kent regiment) in the same year, however, and soon saw active service, going to the Malay Peninsula with the Perak expedition of 1875–1876. In 1883 he received his captaincy, and afterwards served with the Sudan expedition of 1884–1885 as deputy assistant adjutant and quartermaster-general. For his services in this campaign he was awarded the brevet rank of major. Three years later he served as deputy assistant adjutant-general in the Sudan (Suakin), and in 1890 was made major in the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. In the following year he was appointed military secretary to the commander-in-chief, Madras, a post which he held until 1897. He was promoted lieutenant-colonel in command of the first battalion Loyal North Lancashire regiment in 1898, and in the Boer War of 1899–1902 served as lieutenant-colonel, commanding all the troops in Griqualand West and Bechuanaland.

With the War in South Africa Kekewich's name will live in history, for it fell to him to defend the town of Kimberley, which was besieged by the Boers from 15 October 1899 to 15 February 1900. The masterly dispositions of the small and almost entirely improvised force under his command marked him as a soldier of extraordinary acumen. The extremely difficult nature of the area besieged demanded far more than average military skill for its defence, and his conduct of it elicited admiration and commendation in the highest terms from the commander-in-chief, Lord Roberts, and from Lord Kitchener. Colonel Kekewich's task, a heavy responsibility under any conditions, was made far more exacting by the presence in the town of Cecil Rhodes and his co-directors of the De Beers Company, whose outlook seemed to be affected by personal considerations, with little regard for the actual military situation. The ready tact of the commander, however, and his steady devotion to duty, reduced the dangerous possibilities of the situation to a minimum; and, though his subsequent career was prejudiced by the influence of Rhodes, yet his reputation as a brilliant soldier suffered nothing. He was created C.B. in 1900. After the relief of Kimberley by Major-General (afterwards Earl) French, Colonel Kekewich returned to the command of his battalion which formed part of the column under Lord Methuen. It was not until December 1901 that Kekewich was given command of a column of the South Africa field force. He took a prominent part in the actions of Moedville (30 September 1901) and Rooival (11 April 1902), and as a reward for his services throughout the campaign was made major-general (1902). He died 5 November 1914 at Whimple, near Exeter. He never married.

[The Standard and Diggers' News, 10 November 1899; The Times, 6 November 1914; Lieut.-Colonel W. A. J. O'Meara, Kekewich in Kimberley, 1926; private information.]

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