Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Loch, Henry Brougham

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LOCH, HENRY BROUGHAM, first Baron Loch of Drylaw (1827–1900), born on 23 May 1827, was the son of James Loch, M.P., of Drylaw in the county of Midlothian, by his wife Ann, the daughter of Patrick Orr. He entered the royal navy in 1840, but left it as a midshipman in 1842 and was gazetted to the 3rd Bengal cavalry in 1844. Though only seventeen years of age, he was chosen by Lord Gough as his aide-de-camp, and in that capacity served through the Sutlej campaign of 1845. In 1860 he was appointed adjutant of the famous irregular corps, Skinner's Horse. On the outbreak of the Crimean war his gift of managing Asiatic soldiery led to his being selected in 1854 to proceed to Bulgaria and assist in organising the Turkish horse. He served throughout the war, and at its close he was signalled out for the employment which was destined to close his military career. In 1857 James Bruce, eighth earl of Elgin [q.v.] was despatched on a special embassy to China to arrange, as was supposed, the final terms of settlement of the war that was then raging, and Captain Loch was attached to his staff. He was present at the taking of Canton on 28 Dec. and the seizure of Commissioner Yeh, and he subsequently proceeded with Lord Elgin on his mission to Japan, and in 1868 he was sent back to England with the treaty of Yeddo, concluded by Great Britain with that country. In 1860 the failure to obtain the ratification of the treaty of Tientsin and the repulse of the English gunboats before the Taku forts had involved the Anglo-French expedition under Sir James Hope Grant [q. v.] and General Montauban, afterwards Count Palikao. Lord Elgin was again sent out as minister plenipotentiary, and mindful of Captain Loch's services he took him with him as private secretary. In conjunction with Mr. (afterwards Sir) Harry Smith Parkes [q. v.], Loch conducted the negotiations which led to the surrender of the Taku forts, and he shared in the advance on Pekin.

On 18 Sept. he formed one of the small party which was treacherously seized by the Chinese officials on returning from Tungchau, whither they had been to arrange the preliminaries of peace. Loch had actually made his way through the enemy's lines to the English camp and had given warning of the intended treachery, but he chivalrously returned in order to try and save his comrades. For three weeks he endured the most terrible imprisonment, loaded with chains, tortured by the gaolers, and herded with the worst felons in the common prison. So frightful was the state of his surroundings that a single abrasion of the skin must have led to a terrible death from the poisonous insects that swarmed in his cell. His situation was rendered more deplorable by his inability to speak the Chinese language with any fluency. Fortunately the loyalty and determination of his fellow-prisoner, Parkes, led first to the amelioration of his condition, and eventually to their joint release. They anticipated by only ten minutes the arrival of an order from the emperor imperatively commanding their execution. On 8 Oct. they rejoined the British camp, but, with the exception of a few Indian troopers, the rest of the party—French, English, and native—died in prison from horrible maltreatment, and Loch himself never fully recovered his health.

In 1860 he was sent home in charge of the treaty of Tientsin, and in the following year he finally quitted the army, and was appointed private secretary to Sir George Grey [q. v.], who was then secretary of state at the home office. In 1863 he was made governor of the Isle of Man, a post which he occupied to the great satisfaction of the islanders until 1882. In 1880 he had received the distinction of a K.C.B. In 1882 he was transferred to a commissionership of woods and forests and land revenue, and his career outside the somewhat narrow bounds of the English civil service seemed at an end. In 1884, however, he was sent to Australia by Gladstone as governor of Victoria. During his five years' tenure of that office his kindness and tact endeared him to all classes of the population, and he left the most affectionate remembrance behind him when in 1889 the Marquis of Salisbury, the conservative prime minister, chose him to succeed Sir Hercules Robinson (afterwards Lord Rosmead) [q.v. Suppl.], who had just completed his first term of office as governor of the Cape and high commissioner in South Africa.

It was during Loch's residence at the Cape that the South African question first began to assume the threatening proportions which led to the war of 1899. In the Cape Colony itself matters were peaceful enough, owing to the temporary combination of Mr. Cecil Rhodes with the Afrikander party. There were few constitutional difficulties, and Sir Henry found himself generally in accord with his constitutional advisers, and able to work with them with but little friction. Outside the borders, however, the elements of unrest were beginning to ferment, and Loch had scarcely the requisite knowledge of South African problems to enable him to adequately master the situation. He was alive, however, to the greatness of Mr. Rhodes's conceptions, and to the danger that would inevitably attend any expansion of the Transvaal Republic. He assisted the expeditions which led to the annexation of Mashonaland and Matabeleland, and he allowed the Bechuanaland police force to be sent up to threaten the Matabele from the west on the outbreak of the war of 1893.

The most striking episode in his South African career was his mission to Pretoria, in 1894, to interfere on behalf of the British subjects who had been commandeered by the Boers in their operations against Malaboch, the Matabele chieftain. He was successful in obtaining the abandonment of the claim of the Boer government; but it was thought he had hardly pressed the English case with sufficient vigour. It was from the rough treatment accorded to President Kruger at Johannesburg on this occasion, in contrast with the enthusiastic reception accorded to the high commissioner, that much of the former's hostility to Great Britain and to the Johannesburgers is said to have arisen.

Earlier in his term of office Sir Henry had succeeded in putting strong pressure on President Kruger to prevent the incursions to the north and west of roving Boer filibusters. He had, however, made to the Transvaal government an offer of a way of access to the sea-coast on condition that the president should moderate his attitude of hostility and join the Cape customs union, which it was fortunate for the empire that Kruger refused.

Loch's Transvaal policy failed locally to create the impression of any great strength or decision. Fortunately for his peace of mind his term of office expired at the beginning of 1895, and he left Africa before the disasters of the Jameson raid.

On his return to England he was raised to the peerage, but he took small part in politics, voting with the liberal unionists. When, in December 1899, the reverses to the British arms in Natal and Cape Colony at the hands of the Boers gave rise to the call for volunteers from England, Loch threw himself heartily into the movement, and took a leading share in raising and equipping a body of mounted men who were called, after him, 'Loch's Horse.' He lived to see the decisive vindication of British supremacy by the occupation of Pretoria, but his health had been failing, and he died after a short illness in London, of heart disease, on 20 June 1900.

Loch married, in 1862, Elizabeth Villiers, niece of the fourth earl of Clarendon, and had by her two daughters and a son. The latter, Edward Douglas, second baron, entered the grenadier guards and served with distinction in the Nile expedition of 1898 and in the Boer war of 1899-1900, receiving a severe wound in the latter campaign.

There is a painting of Loch by Plenry W. Phillips, an engraving of which is appended to the third edition of his 'Personal Narrative of Occurrences during Lord Elgin's Second Embassy to China.' Originally published in 1869, this little book is a most admirable account of the expedition, and, written in a simple and unaffected style, gives a highly pleasing impression of the courage, loyalty, and ability of the writer under circumstances of great danger and hardship. It is much to be regretted that by Lord Elgin's desire Loch abandoned his intention of publishing a detailed account of the proceedings of the embassy of 1860.

[There is no memoir yet published of Loch. See the Personal Narrative above referred to; Times, 21 June 1900; Froude's Oceana; Fitzpatrick's Transvaal from Within; Speeches of Cecil J. Rhodes, ed. Vindex.]

J. B. A.