Metcalfe, Theophilus John (DNB00)

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METCALFE, Sir THEOPHILUS JOHN (1828–1883), joint-magistrate at Meerut at the outbreak of the Mutiny, born at Delhi 28 Nov. 1828, was eldest son of Sir Thomas Theophilus Metcalfe, fourth baronet, by his second wife, the daughter of J. Browne, of the Bengal Medical Board. The father entered the Bengal Civil Service in 1813; held various appointments in the Delhi territories, and was commissioner and governor-general's agent at Delhi from 1835 to his death in 1853. One of the father's brothers, Sir Theophilus John, second baronet, was president of the select committee at Canton, and died in 1823; another brother, Sir Charles Theophilus, the third baronet, became Lord Metcalfe [q. v.]

The son, Theophilus John, fifth baronet, was intended for the army, and was sent to the East India Company's military college at Addiscombe, but was removed to Haileybury, and in 1848 entered the Bengal civil service, and joined his father at Delhi. Young Metcalfe succeeded to the baronetcy in 1853, and in 1857 was appointed joint-magistrate and deputy-collector, first grade, at Meerut, and deputy-collector at Futtepore. On the morning of 11 May 1857 Metcalfe brought information to the magazine at Delhi that the Meerut (Miráth) mutineers of the previous day were crossing the river to the city (ib. ii. 66). Many sinister native traditions attached to the family residence, Metcalfe House, Delhi, which was reputed to have been the tomb of a foster-brother of the Emperor Akhbar. It was one of the first houses that had been gutted by the mutineers, when the library, said to be the finest in India, was burned (cf. Malleson, ii. 408). Metcalfe aided the escape of the European inhabitants, and reached Anson's army at Kurnaul. On 6 June he was at Kurnaul with Mr. Le Bas, joint-magistrate at Delhi, when the guide corps arrived on its march down to join the army before Delhi. He detained the guides to punish some suspected villages, so that the corps was too late for the battle of Budlee-ke-Serai (ib. ii. 351). Metcalfe joined the army before Delhi. A brave, resolute man, who seemed to bear a charmed life, and knew every inch of the ground, he was often of great service to the besieging troops. He piloted the cavalry that fell on the enemy's rear at Mejgufghur. and at the assault of 14 Sept. Colonel George Campbell, commanding the 52nd light infantry, reported the 'invaluable assistance' he received from Metcalfe, 'who was at my side throughout the operations, and fearlessly guided me through many intricate streets and turnings to the Jumna Musjid, traversing at least two-thirds of the city, and enabling me to avoid many dangers and difficulties' (Hist. Rec. 52nd Regt. 2nd edit. p. 377). After the city fell, Metcalfe, on whose head a price had been set, was foremost in what the historian Malleson calls 'the retributive eagerness of the civilians' (Malleson, ii. 351). He appears to have been intensely hated and feared by the natives (cf. Holmes, p. 387). He was appointed assistant to the agent at Delhi and deputy-collector at Futtepore in 1858, and went home on sick furlough in 1859. Ill-health prevented his return to India. He was made C.B. in 1864, and retired on an invalid pension in 1866. He died in Paris, 10 Nov. 1883, aged 54.

Metcalfe married, first, in 1851, Charlotte, daughter of General (Sir) John Low [q. v.]; she died at Simla in 1855, leaving issue; secondly, in 1876, Katherine Hawkins, daughter of the late James Whitehead Dempster of Dunnichen, Forfarshire.

[Information supplied by the India Office; Ann. Reg. 1857 and 1883, p. 177; Malleson's Indian Mutiny, 6th edit. (1888-9); Holmes's Indian Mutiny, 3rd edit. 1884.]

H. M. C.