Merewether, William Lockyer (DNB00)

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MEREWETHER, Sir WILLIAM LOCKYER (1825–1880), Indian military officer and administrator, son of Serjeant Henry Alworth Merewether [q. v.], was born in London on 6 Feb. 1825. Educated at Westminster School, and destined for the military profession, he entered the Bombay army as a second lieutenant in March 1841. He served with the 21st regiment of native infantry during the Sind campaign of 1843, and was present at the battle of Hyderabad. Appointed afterwards to the irregular horse, stationed on the north-west border of Sind, he was recalled to his old regiment for service in the southern Maratha country, but rejoined the frontier force in 1847, eventually (1859) to become its commandant, in succession to General John Jacob [q. v.] His distinguished services during this period of twelve years were numerous. In 1847, with one hundred and thirty-three Sind horsemen, he defeated a body of seven hundred Bhugtis, Baluch marauders who had been proclaimed outlaws, inflicting upon them a severe chastisement, which helped to secure the permanent peace of the frontier. In 1848–9 he was second in command of Sir George Malcolm's detachment of Sind horse, serving with the army of the Punjab, and was present at the siege and surrender of Multán, the battle of Gujrát, and occupation of Pesháwar. In 1856, during General Jacob's absence in Persia, he was left in charge of the Sind frontier, and succeeded in suppressing not only rebellion of tribes, but insubordination of troops under his control. His own small force, though numerically augmented by auxiliary cavalry, had been practically weakened by the accession of untrustworthy soldiers.

Gazetted C.B. in 1860, Merewether was nominated military secretary to the government of Bombay in 1861, and political agent at Aden in 1865. In the last post he undertook active operations against the Fudhli Arabs, who sought to intercept the supplies of grain and food provided for the garrison by the inhabitants of the interior. These operations, though subsequently approved by government, were, owing to the urgency of the case, carried out by Merewether on his own personal responsibility. It afterwards fell to his lot to negotiate with King Theodore of Abyssinia; and on the outbreak of war with that potentate he took command of the pioneer force despatched from Bombay in September 1867, and rendered other valuable assistance to General Lord Napier, commander-in-chief of the expedition. For these services he was made K.C.S.I., and received the thanks of parliament (1868). Appointed chief commissioner in Sind in June 1867, it was not until July in the following year that he could be spared to take up the appointment. In 1876 he returned home to take his seat in the council of India. He died on 4 Oct. 1880. A generous, open-hearted companion and sincere friend, Merewether was universally popular, and was generally acknowledged to be a true soldier, a shrewd politician, and an enlightened administrator. In 1854 he married Harriett, youngest daughter of J. Dale, esq., of Coleshill, Warwickshire. He left a widow and three sons.

[Annual Register, 1880; Proc. Roy. Geogr. Soc. 1880; Bombay Government Gazette, 1847; private information.]

F. J. G.