W.S.R. Hodson 1821-1858, Hodson of Hodson's Horse:

William Stephen Raikes Hodson, Hodson of Hodson's Horse ~ is remembered as a Victorian cavalry commander whose military career won him recognition from many of his contemporaries. This included recognition from the Minister for India, the British Prime Minister and the Sovereign (Queen Victoria).

Contemporaries described Hodson (in their letters and memoirs) and his qualities as a cavalry officer. Among the descriptions recorded, the following was made by General Sir Hugh Gough in his memoirs about Hodson: 'A finer more gallant soldier never breathed. He had the true instincts of a leader of men. As a cavalry soldier he was perfection; a strong seat, a perfect swordsman, quick and intelligent'. Another friend and colleague General Sir Henry Daly added: 'Hodson was, as I always thought, a wondrous compound; ability high and strong; great capacity of mind; power and energy, physical and mental. He is a great loss to the service, for doubtless he had done great soldiership'.

The army's Commander-in-Chief, Lord Roberts (in his memoirs: 'Forty-One Years in India') praised Hodson's career (with only one reservation/exception, made with the benefit of hindsight). He also made a point of defending Hodson's reputation against the false rumours and the views of detractors.

Among Hodson's closest friends were Sir Henry Lawrence (Resident of Lahore and Chief Commissioner of Oudh, India) and fellow officer Lord Napier of Magdala. In a letter to the Rev. George Hodson (author) Lord Napier writes in 1883: 'I am much obliged for the perusal of the preface to the new edition of your memoir of your brother Major WSR Hodson. I am now - as I have always been - fully convinced of his honour and integrity'. Lord Napier was also at Hodson's bedside at the time of his friend's death in 1858, and (in a letter he later sent Mrs Hodson) recorded Hodson's last words as "I hope I have done my duty".

Added to the many tributes from his friends and colleagues, Hodson received special recognition after his death from HM Queen Victoria and her Prime Minister.

In parliamentary speeches made on 14th April 1859 the Prime Minister Earl of Derby, and the Minister for India Lord Stanley, singled-out Major Hodson for his unique services to the country. In a shortened account Lord Stanley is quoted as saying: 'Especially distinguished is Major Hodson who in his short but brilliant military career displayed every quality which an officer should possess. Nothing is more remarkable than the variety of services in which he was engaged...He crowded into the brief space of eleven years the services and adventures of a long life. He died when his reward was assured - the consciousness of duty done and the assurance of enduring military renown'.

And from the Prime Minister: 'Doubtless many have fallen who, if they had been spared, might have risen to greatest eminence and have held the highest stations in public service. I allude to Hodson a model of chiefs of irregular forces. By his valour, his rigid discipline, and careful attention to his men's real wants, comforts, desires, and even prejudices, he had obtained an influence which was all but marvellous. This enabled him to lead his troops so formed and disciplined into any danger and into any conflict as if they had been British soldiers.He has met a soldier's death. It will be long before the people lose the memory of Hodson'.

This recognition of Hodson by the Prime Minister was reflected in the special pension granted his widow by the Secretary of State for India in Council, who declared it was 'testimony of the high sense entertained of the gallant and distinguished services of the late Brevet-Major W.S.R. Hodson'.

Some months after the Prime Minister's speech Her Majesty Queen Victoria honoured Major Hodson posthumously by granting his widow private apartments at Hampton Court Palace "in consideration of the distinguished service of your late husband in India".


Further reading, Books:

"The Life of Hodson of Hodson's Horse" by Captain Lionel J. Trotter, 1910 edition Dent & Sons;

"Hodson's Horse: 1857-1922" by Major Francis G. Cardew, 2005 edition Naval & Military Press (~ reprint of the original 1928 Blackwood & Sons edition);

"Rider on a Grey Horse: A life of Hodson of Hodson's Horse" by Barry Joynson Cork 1958 edition Cassells;

"The Companion to British History" by Charles Arnold-Baker, edition 2001, Routledge;

"The Indian Mutiny" by Saul David, edition 2002 Viking/Penguin;

"The Indian Mutiny" by Julian Spilsbury, edition 2007 Weidenfeld & Nicholson;

"Soldier Sahibs: The men who made the North West Frontier" by Charles Allen, edition 2000 John Murray;

"At All Costs: Stories of Impossible Victories" by Bryan Perrett, editions Arms & Armour Press 1993 and Cassell Military Classics 1998.

"Military Illustrated" magazine, UK - article 'Britain's Custer' by Ian Knight, pp. 8-15; No.185; November 2003;

"Military History" magazine, USA - article 'The Siege of Delhi' by John H. Waller, March 1998.






Portrait of Hodson




hodson-of-hodsons-horse: by d.r.miller