b. 09/10/1831 Calcutta, India. d. 02/11/1907 London.
William Spottiswoode Trevor (1831-1907) was born on 9th October 1831 in Calcutta, India, the second son of Captain Robert Salusbury Trevor of the Bengal Cavalry. William would have a traumatic childhood, with his father being murdered in Kabul, Afghanistan at the time of the assassination of the British Envoy, Sir William MacNaughton, by Akhbar Khan in December 1841. At the age of 10, he, his mother and his six siblings, were then taken as hostages by Akhbar Khan, and were only released nine months later when Sir George Pollock’s force arrived to avenge the murder of the envoy and the destruction of the Army of Occupation. Whilst in captivity, William learnt how to write Hindustani and Persian.
After their release, the familt returned to England, and three of Trevor boys, including William, obtained cadetships to Addiscombe, where he gained his first commission on 11th December 1849 in the Bengal Engineers. After a period of training at the Royal Engineer Establishment at Chatham, he travelled to India in 1851. He was immediately detailed for active service in the “Army of Ava” under General Godwin. He served throughout the Second Burmese War, and was mentioned in despatches for his actions in the storming of the White House Picket Stockade at Rangoon on 12th April 1852.
He remained in Burma following the War until October 1857, when he was transferred to Bengal. While employed at Darjeeling, he constructed barracks for European soldiers on a site at Senchal, and would later join the Darjeeling Field Force under Captain Curzon, who were sent to intercept the mutineers from Decca. In April 1861, he was appointed Garrison Engineer at Fort William in Calcutta, though he was not present to complete the work, as in February 1862, he was appointed Superintending Engineer of the Northern Circle, and under his supervision completed the Ganges and Darjeeling Road.
In February 1865, William was attached to the Bhutan Field Force, and a few months later would be involved in the incident which would lead to the award of the VC. On the 30th April 1865, the Field Force were involved in an assault on a blockhouse at Dewan-Giri. A party of the enemy, numbering 180-200, had barricaded themselves in the blockhouse and continued to defend it despite the fact the main body of the enemy was retreating. The commanding officer, Major-General Tombs VC, ordered two officers (William Trevor and James Dundas) to lead the assault on the blockhouse. They had to climb over a 14 foot wall and enter the house through an opening which was just two feet wide. Tombs had ordered the Sikh soldiers around him to swarm up the wall, but they were reluctant as they could not see the way forward until shown by Trevor and Dundas. Both men were wounded in the assault which ultimately was successful.
He was gazetted for the VC on 31st December 1867, and would receive his medal on 23rd March 1868 from Major-General C F Fordyce in Calcutta. He would be promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in August 1874, and was made Special Chief Engineer for Famine Relief Works north of the Ganges, under Sir Richard Temple. From December 1875 to 1880, he was Chief Engineer, British Burma.
In 1880, he succeeded his brother as Director-General of Railways, and in February 1882, was appointed Secretary to the Government of India in the Public Works Department. He held this position for five years, until he retired in February 1887. He then returned to England, where he settled in London. He died at his home, 11, Queen’s Mansions, Victoria Street, on 2nd November 1907 aged 76. He was buried in Kensal Green Cemetery. His medals are held by the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL ENGINEERS MUSEUM, CHATHAM, KENT.
BURIAL PLACE: KENSAL GREEN CEMETERY, LONDON.
William Trevor's medals including his VC on display at the Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham, Kent (April 2014).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
SQUARE 179/RS, GRAVE 31775
William Trevor's Calcutta Medal in Royal Engineers Museum, Chatham