Gen. George Archimedes Searle MSc.

1827-1895, Late of 35th Native Infantry, Hon. East India Co. and and Staff Corps, Indian Civil Service

Laid to rest at St James Cemetery, Dover, aged 68

Grave restored by Military Grave Restorer/Steve Davies in summer 2023

Major General GEORGE ARCHIMEDES SEARLES MSc.

Researched by Hilary Challis

LONDON STANDARD, Thursday 24th October 1895

“Major General George Archimedes Searle, late of the 35th Infantry Regiment, died at his residence, 22 Clifton Gardens, Folkestone, yesterday, after a lingering illness. During his career the deceased served for many years in India. He was in the first Burmese War and the latter part of the Mutiny.” [Read to the end for a twist!]

George was born 16th June 1827 in Tamil Nadu, India, the second son of ten siblings which his French-Mauritian mother Elizabeth Deidamia (neé Arnaud) bore between 1818-1842.  The very youngest, born after a twelve-year gap, died aged three when their mother was 46. The age-gap was likely due to George’s father subsequently working in Eastern Europe, away from the family’s home in London. 

GREEKS and ROMANS: The couple bestowed their children with aspirational Classical middle names.

Eldest son Charles Aesculapius Searle was born in Mauritius in 1820, his middle name is the Roman god of Medicine. Charles later became a cadet with the East India Company (EIC), married at 21 and had a baby daughter, but died tragically young in India in 1843.

A younger son was bestowed with the middle name Lycurgus; a legendary Spartan credited with military-oriented reformation of Spartan society, promoting Spartan virtues of: equality among citizens, military fitness and austerity.  In adult life “Lycurgus” Searle was an Indian Navy captain, widowed young while in India; married again in Brighton and then widowed again.

Second-born son GEORGE ARCHIMEDES’ middle name honoured Archimedes of Syracuse, Ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer and inventor, perhaps most famously known for  his Archimedean screw for lifting water into irrigation ditches.

And irrigation was to be George’s future career.

BONEY’S ISLANDS: During the Napoleonic and Revolutionary Wars era, George’s parents had met and married in 1816 on the island of Mauritius while his father Charles was a Medical Officer with the EIC.

SLAVERY: In 1802 Napoléon Bonaparte restored the slave trade and slavery in French colonies. Elizabeth’s family were possibly former Mauritian plantation slave-owners. The Arnaud surname appears consistently in records of “former slave-owners” listed against the names of enslaved people.  After Napoleon was deposed, in 1817 France prohibited slave ‘trafficking’, but maintained legal structures of slavery until 1848. Napoléon was exiled to St Helena, a remote south Atlantic island 1,200 miles from the West Africa coast, where slave ships continued to pass pursued by Britain’s Royal Navy anti-slavery West Africa “Preventative” Squadron.

CULTURALLY-IMPORTANT CHOLERA-EXPERT DAD: BACKGROUND: By the beginning of the 1820s, merchant travellers to and from India and South-East Asia had begun to describe a disease with symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea, weight loss and spots on the body. Arab sailors called it kholera, “leakage of bile”.

St TRINIAN’S and CHOLERA: Cholera reached Russia, then spread west across the rest of Europe in 1830.  The disease killed hundreds of thousands of people and was especially rampant in prisons.  TRIVIA FACT: Although no relation, the professional career of artist-illustrator Ronald SEARLE (perhaps best known for his St Trinian’s School book drawings) really began while a WW2 Japanese Prisoner of War (POW), with his series of drawings documenting brutal camp conditions, which he concealed from the guards under the mattresses of prisoners dying of CHOLERA.

RUSSIAN VOLUNTEERS: The disease reached POLAND amid an unsuccessful uprising: the November Rebellion 1830 to 1831, against its Russian Tsarist rulers.  By April 1831, despite consistent military reports to them of 50 to 100 new cases daily, Polish authorities refused to acknowledge the situation’s gravity, even when offered a medical volunteer by the Russians!

THE ENGLISH EXPERT: Eventually despite long delays, of land-based communications and travel, George’s father Dr CHARLES SEARLE was enlisted to come from London to Warsaw’s Cholera Hospital. 

CULTURALLY IMPORTANT TO CIVILISATION: George’s dad, Dr Charles Edward Searle F.R.C.S.E. 1793-1868

An acute infection, Cholera remains a global threat to public health with an estimated annual 1.3 to 4.0 million cases of cholera causing 21,000 to 143,000 deaths annually [WHO stats]. Searle had studied Cholera for fifteen years in India and was now a celebrated expert. Today he is still an important medical figure with his clinical publications [quote] “selected by scholars as being culturally important and part of the knowledge base of civilisation as we know it”.

READ THE BOOK – YOU’RE WELLCOME: Searle’s 1831 book, “Cholera, Dysentery, and Fever, Pathologically and Practically Considered: Or the Nature, Causes, Connexion, and Treatment of These Diseases, in All Their Forms, as reported to the government of Poland”, by Charles Searle, Esq., of the hon. East India Company’s Madras Establishment, and lately in charge of the Principal Cholera Hospital in Warsaw”, provided his professional clinical eyewitness account of the disease.  Reprinted in 2015 it is purchasable online and downloadable from The Wellcome Trust’s website.

PANDEMICS and BODY-SNATCHERS: Dr Charles Searle travelled alone, 1,500 kilometres by rattling horse-drawn coaches to Poland.  His family of eight young children remained in England, albeit where “Cholera Riots” broke out between 1831-1832.  The infamous 1828 murder trials of bodysnatchers Burke and Hare (for supplying their freshly-murdered victims’ corpses for medical student anatomy classes) was fresh in people’s memory.  One of the rioters’ uppermost fears, directed against medical establishments, was that the disease was designed as a body-snatching scheme.

HOT SPOTS: In 1843, not long after the birth of his youngest baby sister and the death of his eldest brother Charles, George was accepted as an EIC Cadet, arriving in May 1845 at Mercara.  A hill town in southern India now called Madikeri, it is recognised as one of the World’s eight “hottest hotspots” of biological diversity and also an UNESCO World Heritage site.

BURMA RUBBER: George’s EIC service record and that of another Searle brother, also an EIC Maj-General, is held in the Asian and African Studies collections at the British Library. 

Apparently though, George served in the Burmese War 1852-1853, a brief conflict largely provoked by the EIC, hungry for new territory and resources like teak and rubber. It ended in a British victory and saw Lower Burma become a province of British India.

WHITE WEDDING: War’s end, George was back in England on 28 Sep 1853 to marry Susan White at Upton cum Chalvey, Buckinghamshire.  Their first child George, with middle names Arthur and Wellesley to honour the “Iron Duke” of Wellington, was born 27th December 1854 in Kensington and baptised on 9th March 1855 in London.

THE LONG WAY ROUND: The Searles’ voyage to India, occurred before the 1869 opening of the Suez Canal.  Sail ships were reliant on prevailing trade winds and currents, so the route  was firstly west out to St Helena in the south Atlantic, before turning east to sail past Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, calling at Arabian Peninsula ports of Aden or Socotra (Yemen), before finally reaching Bombay three to four months later.

MYSORE and MOONSHEE: The family arrived in India by 8th February 1856 when daughter Rosalind was born in Harihar, on the north-western border of Mysore. In a few months of rapid progress, George was firstly “temporarily employed as an executive officer in public works”.  In August-September he passed an exam in Canarese (the local language spoken in what is now the present-day Indian state of Karnataka) and was granted a “moonshee”(interpreter) allowance.  In the same month he became 2nd Assistant Civil Engineer with the 35th N.I. On 30th November 1856, George attained the rank of Major with the 35th, employed with the Dept. of Public Works, Bengal.

Domestically, Susan got little rest, giving birth to their third child, daughter Agnes, on 1st March 1857, in the India state of Karnataka, scarcely a year after she’d given birth to Rosalind.

UPRISING: between 1857-1859, maladministration and poor governance by the EIC led to the Indian Uprising [Indian Mutiny]. GEORGE was in North Canara, ostensibly involved with agricultural irrigation.  An overwhelming majority of the population there were rural farmers, on the whole prosperous enough to be content: the presidency came through the crisis without any general uprising.  But, as his brief obituary mentions, George apparently served during the later part of the Uprising.

Without sight of British Library military records, to know exactly how George or the family was affected by the Uprising, clues are that in March 1857 Agnes was born at Sirsi and baptised there on 26th November 1857. 

GIVE UP YOUR ARMS: In the months between Agnes’s birth and baptism, her father George’s EIC 35th Native Infantry was part of the Punjab Moveable Column – a brigade formed to quash outbreaks of mutiny in the Punjab.  The 35th was peacefully disarmed 2,000 kilometres, and an epic three-weeks’ march, away from Sirsi – at Phillour in the Punjab on the morning of 25 June 1857 by the British Army’s 52nd Oxfordshire Regiment.  Dubious of the Indian troops’ loyalties, the British Army commander ordered the EIC’s British  35th commander that his Indian soldiers, “must give up their arms!” 

Three months after Agnes’s November 1857 baptism at Sirsi, on 19th February 1858 Lt. H.P. Power of the 35th Native Infantry was killed in action near Sirsi. If George was  deployed with the 35th, on the original Punjab Moveable Column, the time between Agnes’s birth and baptism may be the reason.

GOVERNMENT of INDIA ACT 1858: During the Uprising Britain passed the Government of India Act, which brought to an end EIC rule in India, stripped the Company of all its administrative powers and handed over control of its Indian territories and armed forces to the British Crown. The twelve “old regiments” that did not mutiny, continued to serve after the Uprising and were allowed to retain traditions such as red uniforms and existing battle honours. George’s old 35th was renumbered and became the new 31st.

PREGNANT AGAIN: Politics aside, around the time of Lt. Power’s death on 19th February near Sirsi, George and Susan may have been in Bombay when she became pregnant for the fourth time. On 9th February 1858, in Bombay, it was the wedding of George’s sister Frederica and Susan’s brother James White. George and Susan’s next daughter Constance was born 4th November 1858 in Byculla, then an outlying south district of the islands that made up Bombay [Mumbai].

By then – even if not accompanying George, and the 35th, on military campaigns across India – in the space of two and half years, between giving birth to three babies, and caring for a toddler, Susan had also travelled nearly 800 kilometres through mountainous terrain with 1,400 metres altitudes, between Harihar, Sirsi and Byculla.  Between 1858 to 1865 she gave birth to four more sons, the youngest two in England, after more thousands of miles voyaged by sea.  Susan survived nine years of unbearable heat at times, with infectious disease rife, while almost permanently pregnant. Battle honours too, to this woman!

GEORGE ARCHIMEDES – IRRIGATION: In 1867, still on the Staff Corps, GEORGE became Wing Officer in the 31st Light Infantry. By 1868, records show he was Major G.A. SEARLE, MSc (Master of Science), Exec. Engineer 1st Class, Bengal. In January 1871 he became a Lieutenant Colonel on the Madras Staff Corps, after which, with completion of five years’ further service, he was appointed to Colonel by Brevet. 

Meanwhile, in the 1871 England census, George and Susan’s eight children including the youngest little boy aged 5, were all being taught and living at the home of a schoolmaster in Hampstead, London.

In 1877, George was employed as the Government of Bengal Assistant Chief Engineer and Assistant Joint Secretary to the Public Works Department (Irrigation).  While many of his skilled fellow officer-colleagues were recruited from the Royal Engineers, George’s qualification for his role was his MSc.

FAMINE TEMPLE: George’s “Guvnor” was Sir Richard Temple, 1st Bart., appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal Presidency in 1874.  That year, in one of the very few occasions that British authorities provided adequate famine relief, Temple prevented large-scale deaths during the Bengal [Bihar] famine, importing half a million tons of rice from British Burma to bring substantial relief to famine victims.  The British government, dogmatically committed to a laissez-faire economic policy, castigated Temple for interfering in the workings of the market.

READ MORE, about Temple and the famine at a time when George was directly involved at a top-level in Indian and south-east Asia agricultural development, policy and decision-making, in the Bengal region. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sir_Richard_Temple,_1st_Baronet

RETIREMENT: On 20th January 1879, George retired on Full Pay, with the honorary rank of Major-General.

Before he left India, on 18 March 1880 at Calcutta Cathedral, his daughter Agnes married the Governor’s son, Lt. Richard Carnac Temple 1850-1931, then a Cantonment Magistrate, of the Indian Army Bengal Staff.  Their first child was born in the Punjab nine months later. Temple became Chief Commissioner of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands and an anthropological writer. He inherited the Baronetcy, becoming 2nd  Baronet, on the death of his father.  He was knighted in 1888 and in 1901 Agnes was appointed a Dame, Lady of Grace, Grand Priory of the Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem (D.G. St J).  The couple finally returned to England in 1904.

Sadly, the December 1880 news of the birth of a grandchild was preceded in October by the death of SUSAN, George’s wife aged only 52, in London. The following year daughter Rosalind, 24, married a 51-year-old widowed P&O Captain. Unsurprisingly, within six years she was a widow with two small daughters. She lived in widowhood for fifty years until her own death.

BRIGHTON: In 1881, whether for a holiday visit to his and late wife Susan’s families there, or to decide what next to do after her death, GEORGE and his daughter Constance were staying at a Brighton lodging house.

THE EMPTY NEST: A decade later. One of George’s sons had emigrated to Australia; another had joined the Indian Army, now under British control, until his retirement as a Lt. Col. in 1904.  After his own 18-year-old son was killed in WW1, he moved to the south of France. Yet another son had also joined the Indian Army and spent his married life there, although dying in London fifteen years after George’s death. Even Constance was now living elsewhere, with widowed Rosalind and her two daughters at Porch House, a medieval open hall built in the 15th Century, at Thornbury in Gloucestershire.

Perhaps rather lonely, but seemingly fiercely independent, in 1891 widower George was again a “visitor” in Brighton, staying at a furnished lodging house, a mile and a half from the spacious home in Albany Villas of another brother-in-law and retired Indian Army Lt. Colonel, Susan’s brother William White.

By now George was suffering from Paralysis Agitans (Parkinsons Disease) which, combined with the bedsores which he suffered for five months, eventually killed him four years later.

ARCHIMEDES and HERCULES on a SEAFRONT BENCH: London Standard, Thursday 24th October 1895

“… Colonel HERCULES Walker-Myln, late of the Rifle Brigade, also died yesterday at his residence, 34 Castle Hill Avenue, Folkestone, from heart disease, in his sixty-fourth year. Both of the deceased gallant gentlemen were well known in the district”

ACROSS THE BLACK SEA: Perhaps, on finer days, Archimedes had strolled the two hundred yards from his Folkstone front door to gaze across the Channel to France visible on the horizon, with Hercules, with a Rifleman’s keen vision seeing that, bar the Bosphorus, from there it is a straight route on land all the way back to India.

George died with a niece-in-law by his bedside, leaving his estate to be managed by his brother-in-law William.

SONGS FOR THE WILDERNESS: George’s gravestone is inscribed:

In lovingest memory of General George Archimedes Searle. Fell asleep October 23rd 1895 in his sixty ninth year. “A few more struggles here, a few more partings o’er, a few more toils. A few more tears and we shall part no more”.

Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Hebrews VI. XIX

Au revoir

AFTER GEORGE’S DEATH: Among his bequests, spinster Constance was left a pension of £60 per annum until she married.  Constance never did marry.  Instead, in the Twenties, she took herself off across the Atlantic and lived in a heritage building in New York’s Upper West side.  Constance died in 1940 while on a trip across the border to Canada, to Westmount, an island enclave of Montreal and is buried in the city’s Mount Royale cemetery.

“A FEW MORE YEARS SHALL ROLL” The quote, on George’s monumental marble gravestone, is an excerpt from this hymn written by Scottish churchman and poet, “the prince of Scot­tish hymn write­rs”, Horatius Bonar in 1842.  Sung for the first time on New Year’s Day 1843, it was published in “Songs for the Wilderness” two weeks before a young George began his own epic life journey “into the wilderness”.

LISTEN: A Few More Years Shall Roll https://youtu.be/lbPyKMGZxJ8?feature=shared

6 thoughts on “Gen. George Archimedes Searle MSc.”

  • Hilary Cook says:

    If you’ve read to the end, thank you 🙂 and hope you enjoyed Gen. Searle’s life story.

  • Jenny Naylor says:

    Fascinating and thank you for sharing.

  • Peter says:

    Incredible depth of research. Thank you.

  • mgrestorer says:

    Thank you for reading Peter 🙂 – it was one of the toughest research assignments yet, on account of Gen. Searle being 1) an EIC officer with records not in public domain, but at the British Library; 2) not having a conventional ‘military’ career but involved in agricultural infrastructure. Your kind words are much appreciated.

  • Ramakrishna Naidu says:

    This is one of the most detailed records I have read!

  • mgrestorer says:

    Thank you 🙂 I really really appreciate hearing that. Kind regards, Hilary

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