William Stephen Raikes Hodson : biography
Brevet Major William Stephen Raikes Hodson (10 March 1821 – 11 March 1858) was a British leader of irregular light cavalry during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (also known as the Indian Mutiny or the Sepoy Mutiny). He was known as "Hodson of Hodson’s Horse."
His most celebrated action in British 19th century annals, was to apprehend the King of Delhi (also referred to as Emperor of India and Bahadur Shah II. The following day he rode to the enemy camp, heavily outnumbered by the rebels and demanded the surrender of the Mughal princes who were leading the rebellion around Delhi and killed them,.LJ Trotter, A Leader of Light Horse, pages 200-202 It needs to be noted that in the course of the Mutiny a number of male members of Bahadur Shar II’s family were killed by East India Company forces, who imprisoned or exiled the surviving members of the Mughal dynasty; furthermore, Bahadur Shah II was tried on four counts, two of aiding rebels, one of treason, and being party to the murder of 49 people – however, as Hodson had previously guaranteed his life the Emperor eventually died peacefully of old age.Charges against Mahomed Bahadoor Shah, ex-King of Delhi reprinted in Perth Inquirer & Commercial News, 7 April 1858 Hodson’s career received praise from a number of senior military commanders such General Hugh Gough Old Memories 1897 memoirs published by H. Gough (see references below) but there were certain dissenting voices from other members of the military. There were also a few politicians who felt the killing of Mughal princes by Hodson had done ‘dishonour’,From a speech delivered by Gen. Thompson, MP for Bradford, in the House of Commons, February 1858. Cited in Michael Edwardes, Red Year: The Indian Rebellion of 1857, London: Cardinal Books, 1975, p.165 however Hodson’s career received praise from more senior politicians including the Prime Minister and Minister for India.
Hodson is credited with being jointly responsible for the introduction of the khaki uniform.
Though the British Empire looked upon Hodson as somewhat of a hero, he is remembered in India mostly for his excesses while trying to curb the 1857 Revolt. He is also remembered for a number of notable achievements in his lifetime. His military career won him respect and praise from many quarters; this included recognition from the Secretary of State for India, the Prime Minister and Queen Victoria. Blackwood’s Magazine March 1899
In parliamentary speeches made on 14 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. Lord Stanley is quoted as saying:
The Prime Minister said of him
General Hugh Gough said of him,
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’. Her Majesty Queen Victoria honoured Major Hodson posthumously by granting his widow a Grace and favour apartment at Hampton Court Palace "in consideration of the distinguished service of your late husband in India".Grace & Favour; A handbook of who lived where in Hampton Court Palace, 1750 to 1950 Sarah E Parker, p39
He features as one of the main characters in James Leasor’s novel about the Mutiny, Follow the Drum (1972), which describes his part in these events and his death in some detail.
Accusations of corruption
In 1855, two separate main charges were brought against Hodson. The first was that he had arbitrarily imprisoned a Yusufzai Pathan chief named Kader Khan,As well as his young son on suspicion of being concerned in the murder of Colonel Mackeson.See Charles Allen (2000), Soldier-Sahibs, p.237, for these and various other, minor charges brought against Hodson The man was acquitted, and Lord Dalhousie removed Hodson from his civil functions and remanded him to his regiment on account of his lack of judgment and gross negligence.Allen, pp.236-237