Dictionary of National Biography, 1912 supplement/Bradford, Edward Ridley Colborne

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BRADFORD, Sir EDWARD RIDLEY COLBORNE, (1836–1911), Anglo-Indian administrator and commissioner of the metropolitan police, London, born on 27 July 1836 at Hambleden Cottage, Buckinghamshire, was second son (in a family of three sons and five daughters) of William Mussage Kirkwall Bradford (1806–1872), who was rector successively of Rotherfield Greys, Oxfordshire, Weeke, Hampshire, and finally from 1844 of West Meon, Hampshire. His mother, Mary (1810–1894), was elder daughter of Henry Colborne Ridley, rector of Hambleden, who was younger brother of Sir Matthew White Ridley, third baronet. His eldest brother, Henry William (1835–1907), was a bencher of the Middle Temple and a county councillor for Westminster. Edward attended a private school at Henley on Thames, and at the age of ten joined his eldest brother at Marlborough; but a dangerous illness cut short his career there, and after studying with a tutor at Blackheath he accepted a cadetship in the service of the East India Company from one of the directors, Butterworth Bayley. He sailed for India on 13 Nov. 1853 and joined the 2nd Madras light cavalry at Jalna. For the next ten years he gave abundant promise of a brilliant military career, winning the confidence of his men by his peculiar charm of manner and being distinguished for his horsemanship and quick perception of character. In 1855 he became lieutenant and joined the 6th Madras cavalry at Mhow. Throughout his service in Central India it was said of him that ‘the good sowars (troopers) loved him, while the bad instinctively feared him.’

On the outbreak of the war with Persia General John Jacob [q. v.] selected him for the duty of organising a corps of irregular cavalry in Persia. But the project was abandoned, and Bradford was attached to a troop of 14th light dragoons, serving at the capture of Muhammara, and receiving the medal and the clasp. The progress of the mutiny hastened his return to India, where he was soon engaged in three fields of operations, near Jabalpur, in the Sagar and Nerbudda districts, and in the pursuit of Tantia Topi. The mutiny of the 52nd Bengal native infantry on 18 Sept. 1857 and the rebellion of local chiefs led to frequent skirmishes, in which Bradford, as adjutant of the left wing 6th Madras cavalry, took part. More serious operations followed after his transfer to the famous corps of irregular cavalry, Mayne's horse, of which he became adjutant, and on 25 Oct. 1858 second in command. He was engaged on 19 October in the brilliant charge of seventy sabres on the rear of Tantia Topi's force, as they retired from Sindwah before General Sir John Michel [q. v.]. He was again to the front on 25 October at Korai, where, after covering sixty-four miles of difficult country in sixty hours, the British cavalry separated one wing of Tantia's force from the other and cut it to pieces. He was specially mentioned in despatches for ‘his great influence over the native soldiery, his excellent tact and judgment,’ and Lord Canning commended his ‘spirit and gallantry.’ He won fresh laurels at Rajgarh, having acted as commandant of 1st regiment Mayne's horse as well as political agent at Goona in 1859. Captain Mayne (8 June 1860) recommended him to the special notice of government for his constant ‘gallantry, discretion and energy.’ Broken down by the strain of these operations, Bradford was ordered home in September 1860, and on his return to duty he was appointed political assistant in West Malwa in addition to his military duties.

On 10 May 1863 Bradford suffered a calamity which changed the course of his career. He joined a party of officers from Goona on a shooting expedition. After eighteen tigers were killed without casualty Bradford and Captain Curtis, Inniskilling dragoons, having exhausted their leave, left for Agar. On their way near Dilanpur they heard of a tiger, and they and a trooper went in pursuit. The tiger, twice wounded, charged Bradford, whose second gun failed to fire. Bradford dropped into an adjoining pool, whence the tiger dragged and played with him ‘just as a cat does with a mouse, occasionally taking his arm in its mouth and giving him a crunch.’ A change of position enabled Bradford's companion Curtis to fire without risk to his friend, and the tiger, driven off, was despatched by the trooper. Then followed a painful journey to Agar, and at a point thirty-five miles from the station Dr. Beaumont amputated the arm without chloroform. The patient's quiet courage saved his life. As soon as Bradford's health was restored, he gradually resumed his former pursuits, hunting, shooting, and even spearing boars with his reins held between Ms teeth. Ho met in after life with frequent falls, yet his nerve never deserted him up to his death.

Returning to duty, ho filled various political offices, where his magnetic influence attracted to him the ruling chiefs and nobles of the native states under his supervision. After serving as political agent in Jaipur, Baghelkand, Bhartpur, and Meywar he was selected by the viceroy, Lord Northbrook, to be general superintendent of thagi and dakaiti (8 May 1874), an office which controlled cases of sedition as well as organised crime, and called for much tact in his relations with the various local governments and the ruling chiefs responsible for crime within their several jurisdictions. The viceroy, Lord Lytton, promoted him on 8 March 1878 to the supreme control of relations with the Rajput chiefs and the office of chief commissioner of Ajmir. There he smoothed over difficulties with the native states in the early days of railway construction, encouraged social reforms, and introduced municipal government into Ajmir. His influence with Indians was so well recognised, that he was attached to the staff of the duke of Edinburgh on Ms visit to India in 1870, to that of Edward VII when Prince of Wales on his visit in 1875, while in 1889 he accompanied Prince Albert Victor on his Indian tour. In June 1885 he was made K.C.S.I., and two years later was on the point of becoming resident at Hyderabad, when Lord Cross summoned him to the India office, London, as secretary in the political and secret departments. He refused the offer, 14 Feb. 1889, of the post of governor and high commissioner at the Cape, and was thus available when, later on, a grave crisis in London demanded the appointment of a commissioner of police endowed with sympathy and high moral courage. In June 1890 symptoms of disaffection in the ranks of the metropolitan police force were aggravated by the public announcement of grave differences between the commissioner, Mr. Monro, and the home secretary, Mr. Matthews, regarding police administration and in particular the rules of superannuation. After Monro's resignation thirty-nine men refused to go on duty (5 July), and a general strike of the men threatened unless their pay was increased and other concessions granted. Bradford_had accepted the vacant office with hesitation on 20 June 1890. But he now acted with vigour, dismissing the thirty-nine men for insubordination, and sternly enforcing discipline ; then he devoted himself to remedial measures. He visited every one of his police stations, which extended fifteen miles on every side from Hyde Park Corner, and listened to all complaints. He paid the greatest attention to recruitment and the physical and moral welfare of his men. Labour was economised by a judicious increase of stations, signal boxes, and fixed points for concentration. In their sports and recreations he took a constant interest, knowing his subordinates and being known and trusted by them. The term of Ms office included the diamond jubilee and the funeral of Queen Victoria, the coronation of King Edward VII, the wild excitement over the relief of Ladysmith and Mafeking, and several disorderly meetings and processions of the unemployed. When he retired on 4 March 1903, ho left a contented force of 14,470 effective men, excluding those on special duty at dockyards, maintaining law and order over a population of 6,700,000 souls. He was made A.D.C. to the Queen in 1889, G.C.B. on 22 June 1897, G.C. V.O. on 9 Nov. 1902, a baronet on 24 July 1902, extra equerry to King Edward VII in 1903, and to King George V in 1910.

After his retirement from the public service he acted as chairman of a committee to inquire into the wages of postal servants, but his chief interest lay in hunting and shooting. He hunted several days a week with the Bicester, Warwickshire, Heythrop, and Whaddon chase hounds. He died suddenly in London on 13 May 1911, and was buried in the churchyard at Chawton, Hampshire, beside his first wife. Eight police sergeants bore him to the grave. Bradford was married twice : (1) on 17 June 1866 to Elizabeth, third daughter of Edward Knight of Chawton House, Hampshire, a nephew of Jane Austen; by her (d. 21 May 1896) he had six children, of whom three died in India; and (2) on 25 Oct. 1898 to Edith Mary, daughter of William Nicholson of Basing Park, Hampshire, formerly high sheriff of the county and M.P. for Petersfield. She survived him with a daughter and two sons of the first marriage. His eldest surviving son, Major Evelyn Ridley Bradford, who served with distinction in the Egyptian and South African wars, succeeded him in the baronetcy. A portrait of Sir Edward, subscribed for by friends and painted by W. W. Ouless, R.A., hangs in the Mayo College at Ajmir, while another, painted by M. Benjamin Constant in 1901, is in the possession of the family. A drawing by H. T. Wells, R.A. (1900), belongs to Grillion's Club.

[The Times, 15 May 1911; Strand Mag. (portraits), Feb. 1896; Visitation of England and Wales, vol. 16, by F. Arthur Crisp; Kaye and Malleson's History of the Indian Mutiny', 1888; Sir Evelyn Wood, From Midshipman to Field- Marshal, 1906; official reports.]

W. L-W.