Turner, Tomkyns Hilgrove (DNB00)

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TURNER, Sir TOMKYNS HILGROVE (1766?–1843), general, was born about 1766. He obtained a commission as ensign in the 3rd foot guards on 20 Feb. 1782, and was promoted to be lieutenant and captain on 13 Oct. 1789. He went to Holland in February 1793 with the brigade of guards under Frederick, duke of York, landed at Helvoetsluys on 5 March, marched to Tournay, in May camped at Maulde, took part in the battle of St. Amand (8 May), the action of Famars (23 May), the siege of Valenciennes in June and July, the assault of that place on 25 July, and its capitulation on the 28th. In August Turner marched with the British force to lay siege to Dunkirk, and on the way was present at the brilliant affair at Lincelles on 18 Aug., when the guards at the point of the bayonet drove out of a village and of an entrenched position a superior body of French who had previously captured them from the Dutch. He was engaged in the siege of Dunkirk and in the repulse of sorties, on 6 and 8 Sept., the latter at Rosendaël, but the covering army having been compelled by Houchard to retire to Furnes, the Duke of York was obliged to raise the siege, and Turner marched with the guards to Cysoing, between Lille and Orchies. On 5 Oct. the British guards joined the Austrians across the Sambre for the investment of Landrecy, but the siege was not prosecuted, and Turner, repassing the Sambre with his regiment, marched to Ghent.

On 17 April 1794 Turner was engaged at Vaux in the successful attack by the allies on the French army posted between Landrecy and Guise, when it was driven behind the Oise and Landrecy invested. He was present in several affairs during the siege, and was at the action of Cateau, near Troixville, on 26 April, after which he went with the Duke of York's army to Tournay and took part in the repulse of the French attack on 11 May and subsequent actions during the same month. He accompanied the army in its retreat towards Holland in July and behind the Aa in September, took part in the fight at Boxtel on 15 Sept., and in the retreat behind the Meuse to Nimeguen. He greatly distinguished himself at the capture of Fort St. André, under Abercromby, on 11 Oct., and accompanied the army in the retreat behind the Waal.

Turner was promoted to be captain in the 3rd foot guards and lieutenant-colonel on 12 Nov. 1794, when he appears to have returned to England. He was promoted to be brevet colonel on 1 Jan. 1801, in which year he went with his regiment to Egypt, landing at Aboukir Bay on 8 March, when he was engaged with the enemy. He took part in the action of 13 March, and in the battle of Alexandria on 21 March. He was also in the action on the west side of Alexandria with the brigade of guards under Lord Cavan on 22 Aug., and at the capitulation of Alexandria on 2 Sept. For his services in Egypt he received the medal, and was made a knight of the order of the Crescent of Turkey by the sultan, and a knight of the order of St. Anne of Russia by the czar.

By the terms of article 6 of the capitulation of Alexandria, all the curiosities, natural and artificial, collected by the French Institute were to be delivered to the victors. The French sought to evade the article on the ground that the collections were all private property, and General Menou claimed as his own the Rosetta stone found by the French in 1798 when repairing the ruined Fort St. Julien, and deposited in his house at Alexandria. Turner, who was a great antiquary, was deputed by Lord Hutchinson to negotiate on the subject, and, after much correspondence and several conferences with General Menou, it was decided that, considerable care having been bestowed by the French in the preservation of the collection of insects and animals, these should be retained, but the antiquities and Arabian manuscripts Lord Hutchinson, ‘with his usual zeal for science,’ says Turner, insisted should be given up. The French were very angry, and broke the cases and removed the protecting coverings of many of the antiquarian treasures. Turner obtained a party of gunners and a ‘devil’ cart, with which he carried off the Rosetta stone from General Menou's house amid the jeers of the French officers and men. These gunners were the first British soldiers to enter Alexandria. Having seen the other remains of ancient Egyptian sculpture sent on board the Madras, Admiral Sir Richard Bickerton's ship, Turner embarked with the Rosetta stone, determined to share its fate, on board the Egyptienne frigate, captured in the harbour of Alexandria, and arrived at Portsmouth in February 1802. At Turner's request, Lord Buckinghamshire, secretary of state, allowed the stone to be sent first to the Society of Antiquaries, where it remained for some time before being finally (in 1802) deposited in the British Museum (Archæologia, vol. xvi.). In January 1803 Turner communicated to the Society of Antiquaries a version of the inscription on Pompey's Pillar, taken by Captain Dundas, royal engineers (see Squire, John; also Archæologia, vol. xv.).

In July 1803 Turner was appointed an assistant quartermaster-general to the forces in Great Britain, and on 25 June 1804 a brigadier-general on the staff at home. In April 1807 he was transferred as a brigadier-general to the staff in South America. He embarked on 24 June and returned home in the following spring. He was promoted to be major-general on 25 April 1808, and commanded a brigade in London until 1813. For some years he was deputy-secretary at Carlton House under Colonel Sir John McMahon. He was appointed colonel of the 19th foot or 1st Yorkshire North Riding regiment on 27 April 1811 on transfer from the colonelcy of the Cape regiment, which he had held for a very short period. He was promoted to be lieutenant-general on 4 June 1813. On 4 May 1814 he was made a D.C.L. of Oxford, being then in attendance on the Archduchess Catherine of Russia. On 28 July, on the conclusion of his duties in attendance on the Duchess of Oldenburg during her visit to England, he was knighted by the prince regent. On 12 June he had been appointed lieutenant-governor of Jersey and to command the troops there, and held the post until March 1816.

In 1825 Turner was appointed governor of the Bermuda Islands, and administered the government for six years. On 22 July 1830 he was promoted to be general, and on his return from the Bermudas was made a knight grand cross of the royal Hanoverian Guelphic order and appointed a groom of the bedchamber in the royal household. He died on 7 May 1843 at his residence, Gowray, Jersey.

Turner was the author of ‘A Short Account of Ancient Chivalry and a Description of Armour,’ London, 1799, 8vo; also of a translation from the French of General Warnery's ‘Thoughts and Anecdotes, Military and Historical,’ London, 1811, 8vo. He contributed several papers to the ‘Archæologia’ of the Society of Antiquaries of London, among others: ‘Some Account, with a drawing, of the ruined Chapelle de Notre Dame des Pas in Jersey’ (vol. xxvii.); and ‘Two Views of a Cromlech near Mount Orgueil, Jersey’ (vol. xxviii.).

[War Office Records; Despatches; Cannon's Records of the 19th or First Yorkshire North Riding Regiment; Military Calendar, 1820; Military Annual, 1844; Gent. Mag, 1843, 1844; Annual Register, 1843; Allibone's Dictionary of English Literature.]

R. H. V.