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Monday 10 March 2008

Lt Gen Markham's memorial, Morland

Sometimes when looking around an old church I discover a memorial that fires my imagination and transports me to another time - before globalisation, when the earth and its peoples were vastly more diverse than today. They commemorate men, inspired by Christian righteousness, unshakeable self belief and all too often a ravenous greed, who played out their lives against a background of European expansion that created our world with all its tensions and opportunities. They clashed arms with ancient cultures that traced their roots to Ghengis Khan and beyond, destroying many fine things and proud peoples along the way.

An example is this memorial in Morland church, near Penrith, which commemorates Lt General Frederick Markham (1805 -1855), Companion of the Bath and Aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria. He was one of a family that provided England with a host of soldiers, sailors and prelates.

The son of Admiral Markham, sometime Captain of HMS Sphinx (24) & HMS Centaur (74) and later MP for Portsmouth, and grandson of an Archbishop of York, he was the quintessential Victorian soldier. As an ensign in the 32nd Light Infantry he fought in the Canadian Rebellion of 1837 and was wounded on November 23 of that year at Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, in a skirmish against the Patriotes. This contemporary watercolour shows the action.

In 1842 he purchased the rank of Lt Colonel in the Regiment and in 1848-49 was heavily involved in the Punjab commanding the 2nd Brigade at the siege of Mooltan and Gujerat during the 2nd Sikh War. The Askali warriors of the Sikh nation, pictured here, were among the more formidable foes the British encountered in India.

Appointed Adjutant General, India, in 1854 and subsequently Divisional Commander he was on his way to Peshawur when the order reached him to take command of the 2nd Division in the Crimea. For 18 days he made a forced march through the high Indian summer to Calcutta from where, ill and exhausted, he sailed to Balaklava. Arriving in the Crimea he took command of his Division in July of 1855 and went on to lead them in the final successful attack on the Redan at Sebastopol, shown below after it was abandoned by the Russians.

However, the exertions in India and after had broken his health and he returned to London where he died on November 21, aged 50. His body was returned to Morland for burial beneath a tree of his own planting. The memorial was provided by Officers of his old Regiment, the 32nd Light Infantry, token of love and esteem for their old commander....

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