Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Stotherd, Richard Hugh

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STOTHERD, RICHARD HUGH (1828–1895), major-general royal engineers, director-general of the ordnance survey of the United Kingdom, son of General Richard J. Stotherd (1796–1879), colonel commandant royal engineers, by his first wife, Elizabeth Sydney (d. 1853), daughter of Hugh Boyle, of Dungiven, co. Londonderry, was born at Angler Castle, co. Tyrone, on 25 Nov. 1828. His father, who came of a Lincolnshire family, was long employed upon the ordnance survey of Ireland, was commanding royal engineer in succession at Limerick, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and at Dover, and was promoted general 19 June 1872.

Educated at University College school, and at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, Stotherd received a commission as second lieutenant in the royal engineers on 2 May 1847, and first lieutenant on 28 Oct. He went through the usual course of professional study at Chatham, and then served at Woolwich and at Gibraltar, and on his return home was posted to the ordnance survey of Great Britain and sent to Dumfries. He was promoted to be second captain on 21 May 1855, and first captain on 17 May 1860. After quitting the ordnance survey in 1861 Stotherd went to Weymouth, and then, in connection with the Trent affair, to North America, where he acted as brigade major and assistant to the commanding royal engineer. He was commended for his services during the four years he served in Canada and New Brunswick.

On Stotherd's return to England on 13 Feb. 1866 he was appointed instructor in electricity, chemistry, and photography at the school of military engineering at Chatham. There he took up the question of the application of electricity to mining and to submarine mining (then in its infancy), and he also organised the first field telegraph. In 1867 he was sent to the Paris Exhibition to report on military telegraph apparatus and engineering exhibits. In 1868 Prince Arthur (afterwards Duke of Connaught) was under his instruction.

While at Chatham Stotherd took great interest in the system of army signalling, of which he was the chief instructor, and the army is indebted to him for his advocacy of the Morse system now in use. He was promoted to be brevet major on 22 Nov. 1870, regimental major on 5 July 1872, and regimental lieutenant-colonel on 3 Aug. 1872.

In 1871 Stotherd accompanied Colonel C. C. Chesney of the royal engineers to the continent to report upon the military operations of the Franco-German war, and of the siege of Paris by Marshal MacMahon during the Communist insurrections. In April 1873 he was appointed to the war office in London, to advise the inspector-general of fortifications on the subject of submarine mines and of military telegraphs. He was from 1873 to 1876 president of the first war office torpedo committee, which became a standing committee and still exists. In 1876 Stotherd was appointed commanding royal engineer of the Belfast military district, where he remained for five years. He was promoted to be brevet colonel on 3 Aug. 1877, and regimental colonel on 26 April 1882. In September 1881 he was appointed to the charge of the ordnance survey in Ireland, residing at the Mountjoy Barracks, Phœnix Park, Dublin. After the assassination of Lord Frederick Cavendish, Stotherd had extra work thrown upon him as a military justice of the peace for the city of Dublin in charge of troops in aid of the civil power.

On 1 April 1883 Stotherd was appointed director-general of the ordnance survey of the United Kingdom, and went to its headquarters at Southampton. The time was a busy and important one for the survey. Large augmentations of staff had been made under his predecessor, Lieutenant-general A. C. Cooke, and increased work in all branches was in full swing, the result of a recommendation of the parliamentary select committee of 1878, that, in order to facilitate the transfer of land, the original large-scale surveys should be completed in 1890, instead of 1900. There was also the difficult question of the general revision of the national survey, for which, in the case of the large towns and cities—London in particular—the need was most pressing. Stotherd placed before the government a comprehensive scheme with an estimate for many years in advance, and urged strenuously the paramount importance of a systematic organic revision. He pointed out that as the field work of the ‘primary detail survey’ was all but finished, and the ‘trig.’ hands running out of work, the time was opportune for making a commencement, and so avoid a wholesale discharge of useful men taken on at a time of pressure. The result was treasury sanction to a tentative commencement.

In 1884 Stotherd prepared at Southampton special maps for the boundary commission in connection with Mr. Gladstone's Redistribution of Seats Bill. By working day and night nearly half a million of maps were prepared. Special thanks were accorded by the government to Stotherd for his promptitude in meeting their requirements, and he was made a C.B. In the adaptation of photography and electricity to the production of maps, Stotherd introduced practical improvements. On 25 Nov. 1886 he was compelled by the age rule to retire from the army and from his appointment, receiving the honorary rank of major-general. He died suddenly, from heart disease, on 1 May 1895 at Camberley, Surrey, where he resided.

Stotherd married first, on 11 June 1861, at St. George's, Hanover Square, London, Caroline Frances Wood (d. 17 Feb. 1872), by whom he had a large family; and secondly, on 29 Sept. 1875, at Edinburgh, Elizabeth Janet Melville, who survived him. He contributed articles to ‘The Professional Papers of the Corps of Royal Engineers,’ vols. xvii. and xviii., and was the author of the first text-book published in England on submarine mining, entitled ‘Notes on Defence by Submarine Mines,’ 8vo, Brompton, Kent; the second edition is dated 1873.

[War Office Records; Royal Engineers Records; Royal Engineers Journal, 1879 and 1895 (obituary notices); Minutes of Proceedings of the Institution of Civil Engineers, vol. cxxi. (obituary notice); White's Ordnance Survey of the United Kingdom; Blue Books.]

R. H. V.