The Orders and Decorations of General Sir Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner, G.C.H., K.C.
General Sir Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner, G.C.H., K.C.
Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner was born in 1764, and was appointed Ensign in the Third Foot Guards on 20 February 1782. He was promoted to be Lieutenant and Captain on 13 October 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 on 8 May, the action of Fa mars on 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 August, 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 september, the latter at Rosendael, but the covering army having been compelled to 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 October the British guards joined the Austrians across the Sambre for the investment of Landercy, 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 September, and in the retreat behind the Meuse to Nimeguen. He greatly distinguished himself at the capture of Fort StAndre, under Abercromby, 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 November 1794, when he appears to have returned to England. He was promoted to be brevet Colonel on 1 january 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 on 2 September. For his services in Egypt he was made a Knight of the Order of the Crescent by the Sultan of Turkey.
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 stonefound by the French in 1798 when repairing the ruined Fort Stjulien, 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 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 on board the Egyptienne frigate, 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 a little while before being deposited in the British Museum. 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.
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 April1807 he was transferred as a Brigadier-General to the staff in South America, where, it is thought, he was intended by the Government to become the first British Governor of the Spanish South American possessions, the capture of these being the objective of the military expeditions in 1806-07. However, with the humiliating defeat of General Whitelocke before Buenos Aires and the sybsequent withdrawal from Montivideo, by the time of Turner's arrival in South America in December 1807 all prospect of conquest had disappeared and with it all prospects of his governorship. Turner, who had been accompanied to South America by his wife and two of his four children, returned to England via the Cape of Good Hope in the spring of 1808 and was promoted to be Major-General on 25 April that same year.
General Turner was a servant of the courts of three successive monarchs, comprising George Ill and his two sons. Under what auspices, with what influence and exactly at what period of his career he began his intimacy with the court of George Ill is not known. From 1803 he was Assistant Quartermaster-General of the Home District under Prince Adolphus Frederick, Duke of Cambridge, youngest son of George Ill, with whom Turner seems to have developed a very close friendship. In 1809 he was appointed Gentleman attendant to H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, whom he accompanied on his visits to Brighton, and in 1811, when the Prince became Regent, he was appointed Groom of the Bedchamber For some years he was deputy-secretary at Carlton House under Colonel Sir John McMahon. He was appointed Colonel of the 19th Foot on 27 April 1811 on transfer from the colonelcy of the Cape regiment, which he had held for a very short period, and was promoted to be Lieutenant-General on 4 June 1813.
In the spring of 1814 Turner was appointed by the Prince Regent to attend on the Grand Duchess of Oldenburg, sister of Tsar Alexander of Russia, and to make all the arrangements for her stay in London and for a tour of some of the towns and great country houses of England. He was present at many of the state and social functions given to the Allied Sovereigns, and has left some interesting memoranda and correspondence illustrating the intrigues of the representatives of the various nations, the characters of the actors, and the open antipathy between the Prince Regent and the Duchess of Oldenburg. all contributing factors towards the eventual triple alliance of France, England and Austria, and the rape of Poland by Russia and Prussia. The difficult nature of the task entrusted to him and the diplomatic skill it required can be appreciated from General Turner's own memorandum of the event:
'The intention of the Emperor of Russia to visit England being known, Prince Metternich left Vienna for London and, fearing that the Grand Duchess might produce a still closer connection and a greater good will than existed between the Courts of London and St. Petersburg. every step was taken to create a coolness. Count Meerfeldt was strongly instructed to promote this, enabled as he was by his continual access, dining with the Grand Duchess four or five times in the week. To further this still more, General Baron Koller (a distinguished person patronised by Prince Metternich) was sent for from Austria, as known to be distinguished by the attention and favour shown to him by the Grand Duchess; he had been selected by the Austrian Government to accompany Buonaparte to Elba, and was at the head of the Staff of Prince Schwartzenburg's Army, by birth a Croat, subtle, penetrating and ready, he turned every trifling occurrence to the point enjoined him; when nothing answered this purpose he peNerted or invented whatever was conducive; as he constantly attended the Grand Duchess everywhere, he had ever, favourable opportunity.
In a short time a considerable perceivable irritation was produced by his known influence with the Emperor; several messages and communications took place to and from Carlton House and Pulteney Hotel; in these it was prudent to explain away some terms and soften down others, to prevent a result which now appeared almost unavoidable, in the various conversations at the Hotel. Unpleasant remarks or indirect observations were necessary to be combated, everything was cautiously observed and the intended object was, as much as the little means afforded, attempted to be defeated. Many of the grievances came from alledged neglect in etiquette, ceremony or forms of precedure, and essayed by misrepresentation to be heightened into acts of disregard, contempt and aversion. Little at the end of the visit was wanting to have caused a public eclat, it was highly satisfactory that none took place and, altho' it is not presumed that the humble endeavours to prevent such an improper occurrence were the cause that it did not ensue, still some approbation for those endeavours is due, and some belief, that in the intercourse as above stated, they had some effect.' (Ref Sir Hilgrove Turner, Soldier and Courtier under the Georges, Arthur F. Loveday, Alkham Press, 1964).
On 4 May 1814, whilst guiding the Archduchess Catherine on a visit to the Oxford Libraries and Colleges, Turner was made an honorary D.C.L. of Oxford. On 28 July, on conclusion of his duties in attendance on the Duchess of Oldenburg during her visit to England, he was knighted by the Prince Regent. On 1 2 June he had been appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey and to command the troops there. A lerseyman by descent Turner was greatly pleased by this appointment and it was near to the imposing Mont Orgueil Castle, looking out across the seascape towards France that in 1815 Sir Hilgrove purchased Gouray Lodge and its grounds in the Fief de Vaugaleme, Grouville. From that time, as opportunity offered, he bought land; and Gouray Lodge with its garden became his and Lady Turner's beloved home in his periods of relaxation. On the death of William IV when he retired from Court, it became their permanent residence and continued in the possession of his descendants until the death of his grandson Sir Adolphus Hilgrove Turner in 1911.
Sir Hilgrove's service in Jersey covered a critical period in the defence of the island, as is shewn in the many despatches on the subject exchanged between him and the Home Secretary in London. The period comprised Napoleon's imprisonment in Elba, his escape, the Hundred Days and the battle of Waterloo. He arrived in jersey in September and his first despatch to Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary, is dated 1 October 1814 and contains the routine quarterly report of the Jersey Militia, which at that date consisted of 5 regiments of combined infantry and artillery with a total personnel of 4,170 men and boys with 218 officers, of whom six were Colonels and six Lieutenant Colonels.
Owing to the escape of Napoleon from Elba and the expected renewal of a state of war with France, Sir Hilgrove wrote to Viscount Sidmouth pointing out that there were 300 French subjects in the island, that there were no ships of war, that the signal posts were dismantled, the four regular regiments recalled, the stores removed to England and the fortress unoccupied. As a result two frigates were sent by the Government, and General Turner on his own initiative re-established the militia guards round the whole coast of the island; Lord Sidmouth approved of this adion. General Turner called his attention, in a despatch dated 28 April 1815, to the danger of war being declared without it being known in Jersey and a surprise invasion taking place from the ports of the opposite coast.
On 18 June 1815, Sir Hilgrove suggested the formation of an emigrant corps from among the French Royalist emigres and other foreigners in the island in order to augment his garrison; he made this suggestion in despatches both to Lord Sidmouth and to Lord Palmerston, the Minister of War. This emigrant corps or French Loyalist Legion which probably contained some Jersey volunteers was collected and fitted out under the command of the Due d'Aumont. On 4 July the expedition under his command set out from St Helier and landed on 6 July at Arromanches on the coast of Normandy. The brig Bermuda, having struck the rocks, the detachment on board her was exposed to the fire of a shore battery consisting of two pieces of cannon. Captain Woolridge was ordered to storm the battery, which he did immediately and successfully. After spiking the guns the expedition reassembled in the battery and marched inland, where they came in contact with an enemy cavalry picket, which they charged and put to flight. The Due d'Aumont and four of his officers were slightly wounded in these operations. The force continued its march to Bayeux, being joined during the march by considerable numbers of royalists, and on their arrival they received the news that an armistice had taken place, and that they were in no further danger of attack.
Whilst this little known incident has been largely forgotten or overlooked by historians, it is clear that although the expedition landed after the battle of Waterloo, it may well have made an important contribution to the successful outcome of the battle, for, as Sir Hilgrove later wrote in a letter to Sir George Murray, the Colonial Secretary, '.. by the publicity given to the preparation and formation of the Due d'Aumont's Corps in Jersey, where I had the command, 6000 men were detained in Normandy, the chief part of whom would [otherwise! have been at Waterloo.'
General Turner served for two years as Lieutenant-Governor of Jersey. In 1816 he was recalled to Court and remained there carrying on his duties and residing in London, with visits to Brighton and Jersey, until his departure to take up the governorship of Bermuda in 1826. During this period he was in close attendence upon the Prince Regent who succeeded to the throne in 1820. In the following year he accompanied the King on his visits to Ireland and Scotland.
Sir Hilgrove and Lady Turner left Portsmouth early in January 1826 for Bermuda, where they arrived in February after considerable delays and some adventures, and the General took up his duties as Governor. On his arrival Sir Hilgrove found himself faced with a difficult situation both administrative and domestic. The inhabitants were in a state of discontent owing to the disputes with his predecessor Sir William Lumley, who had disregarded the rights and laws of the island's constitution and had been recalled, while he found the two Governor's residences in such a state of disrepair and discomfort that he was obliged to stay at first on board the Royal Oak, on which he had arrived. The problem of the slaves, who numbered about four thousand in all the islands, was a constant preoccupation of both the Governor and the Colonial Office with a view to their future emancipation, which eventually took place during the term of Sir Hilgrove's successor Sir Stephen Chapman.
In November 1828 Sir Hilgrove reported that the relations between the Governor and the Legislature were now excellent and that his efforts for the amelioration of the conditions of the slaves had been forwarded by an act to enable slaves and people of colour to give evidence in Courts of Law. The addresses from the Legislative Council and the Assembly and Sir Hilgrove's replies give testimony to the improved relations and also to the intention to reform the slave situation. In December Sir Hilgrove wrote to Mr Hay that 'There are hopes that a bill will pass the House of Assembly for the freedom of all children bom of a coloured female slave and a white man.' Sir Hilgrove's approach to this subject was both cautious and studious of the true interests of both the slaves and their proprietors.
Turner had been promoted to Grand Cross of the Cuelphic Order in 1827 and on 22 July 1830 he was promoted to be General. Upon his return from the Bermudas in 1832 he was appointed a Croom of the Bedchamber in the royal houshold of William IV. On the death of the King and the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne, Sir Hilgrove Turner retired from his official duties at Court to his house at Couray Lodge, near St Helier, Jersey. Here, he continued to show his interest in antiquarian subjects and in 1835 the Board of Ordinance put him in charge of Mont Orgueil Castle; he appointed a veteran artillery sergeant as caretaker, made a charge of sixpence for admission and used the proceeds for repairs; he cleared away the debris surrounding St George's Chapel and discovered the coffins of two sixteenth century governors.
Sir Tomkyns Hilgrove Turner died at Couray Lodge, Jersey, on 6 May 1843, aged 79, and is buried in Crouville Churchyard. Portraits of both Sir Hilgrove and of Lady Turner hang today in the entrance hall of the Museum of the Societe Jersiaise in Jersey.