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THE REAL SIR HENRY RAWLINSON

Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (April 11, 1810 – March 5, 1895) was a British soldier and orientalist.
Rawlinson was born at Chadlington, Oxfordshire. In 1827 he went to India as a cadet under the British East India Company. After six years with his regiment as subaltern, during which time he had become proficient in the Persian language, he was sent to Persia in company with other British officers to drill and reorganize the Shah's troops. It was at this time that he was first attracted to the study of inscriptions, more particularly those in the hitherto undeciphered cuneiform character. In the course of the two years during which he was in its immediate neighbourhood he transcribed as much as he was able of the great cuneiform inscription at Behistun. But the friction between the Persian court and the British government ended in the departure of the British officers.

Rawlinson was appointed political agent at Kandahar in 1840. In that capacity he served for three years, his political labours being as meritorious as was his gallantry during various engagements in the course of the Afghan War; for these he was rewarded by the distinction of C.B. in 1844.

A fortunate chance, by which he became personally known to the governor-general, led to his being appointed, at his own desire, as political agent in Ottoman Arabia. Thus he was enabled to settle in Baghdad, where he devoted much time to the cuneiform studies which attracted him. He was now able, under considerable difficulties and with no small personal risk, to make a complete transcript of the Behistun inscription, which he was also successful in deciphering and interpreting. Having collected a large amount of invaluable information on this and kindred topics, in addition to much geographical knowledge gained in the prosecution of various explorations (including visits with Sir Austen Henry Layard to the ruins of Nineveh), he returned to England on leave of absence in 1849.

Rawlinson remained at home for two years, published in 1851 his memoir on the Behistun inscription, and was promoted to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He disposed of his valuable collection of Babylonian, Sabaean, and Sassanian antiquities to the trustees of the British Museum, who also made him a considerable grant to enable him to carry on the Assyrian and Babylonian excavations initiated by Layard. In 1851 he returned to Baghdad. The excavations were carried on under his direction with valuable results, among the most important being the discovery of material that greatly contributed to the final decipherment and interpretation of the cuneiform character.

An accident with which he met in 1855 hastened his determination to return to England, and in that year he resigned his post in the East India Company. On his return to England the distinction of K.C.B. was conferred upon him, and he was appointed a crown director of the East India Company.

The remaining forty years of his life were full of activity — political, diplomatic, and scientific — and were mainly spent in London. In 1858 he was appointed a member of the first India Council, but resigned in 1859 on being sent to Persia as envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary. The latter post he held only for a year, owing to his dissatisfaction with circumstances connected with his official position there. Previously he had sat in Parliament as M.P. for Reigate from February to September 1858; he sat again as M.P. for Frome, from 1865 to 1868. He was appointed to the Council of India again in 1868, and continued to serve upon it until his death. He was a strong advocate of the forward policy in Afghanistan, and counselled the retention of Kandahar.

His views were more particularly expressed in England and Russia in the East (1875). He was a trustee of the British Museum from 1876 till his death. He was created G.C.B. in 1889, and a Baronet in 1891; was president of the British Geographical Society from 1874 to 1875, and of the Asiatic Society from 1878 to 1881; and received honorary degrees at Oxford, Cambridge, and Edinburgh. He married Louisa Caroline Harcourt Seymour in September 1862, with whom he had two sons. He was widowed in 1889 and died in London six years later.

His published works include (apart from minor contributions to the publications of learned societies) four volumes of cuneiform inscriptions, published under his direction between 1870 and 1884 by the trustees of the British Museum; The Persian Cuneiform Inscription at Behistun (1846-51) and Outline of the History of Assyria (1852), both reprinted from the Asiatic Society's journals; A Commentary on the Cuneiform Inscriptions of Babylon and Assyria (1850); Notes on the Early History of Babylonia (1854); England and Russia in the East (1875). He contributed articles on Baghdad, the Euphrates and Kurdistan to the ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, together with several other articles dealing with the East; and he assisted in editing a translation of The Histories of Herodotus by his brother, Canon George Rawlinson.
See G. Rawlinson, Memoir of Henry Creswicke Rawlinson (1898).

Portrait from Men of Mark: a gallery of contemporary portraits of men distinguished in the Senate, the Church, in science, literature and art, the army, navy, law, medicine, etc.

Photographed from life by Lock and Whitfield, with brief biographical notices by Thompson Cooper.

 

His son, Henry Seymour Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson (February 20, 1864–March 28, 1925) was a British First World War general most famous for his role in the Battle of the Somme of 1916.

General Henry Rawlinson at Fourth Army HQ, Querrieu Chateau.
Photograph probably taken in July 1916 and probably photographed by Lt. J.W. Brooke.

Rawlinson was born in Trent Manor, Dorset in 1864. His father, Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, was an army officer (and a reknowned scholar on the Middle East). Young Henry attended Eton and Sandhurst and entered the army in 1884 as an officer in the King's Royal Rifles in India. His first military experience was serving in Burma during an 1886 uprising.

In 1889, Rawlinson's mother died and he returned to England. He transferred to the Coldstream Guards and was promoted to Captain. He served on Kitchener's staff during the advance on Omdurman in 1898 and served with distinction in a field command in the Boer War in 1899 to 1902. Rawlinson was promoted to Lieutenant General in 1903 and named as commandant of the Army Staff College.

At the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Rawlinson took command of the British IV Corps . In 1915 he was elevated to command of the British First Army but was taken off the front after questioning higher ranks about the tactics being used. Rawlinson was assigned to Gallipoli to organize the withdrawal of British forces that had become entrenched there. He performed this task better than others had thought possible and he was recalled to the Western Front to assume command of the Fourth Army in 1916 as the plans for the Allied offensive on the Somme were being developed. For a period in 1917-18 he also commanded the Second Army.

During the war, Rawlinson was noted for his willingness to use innovative tactics. He organized one of the first major night attacks by a modern army in 1916. For a 1918 offensive, he combined attacks by airplanes and armoured units with the infantry. Rawlinson's tactics often achieved success in their area but were too localized to have a decisive affect on the war.

Following the Armistice, Parliament passed a vote of thanks to Rawlinson for his service. In 1919 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Rawlinson. He was again called on to organize an evacuation, this time of the Allied forces that had been sent to Russia to intervene in the Civil War there. In 1920 Rawlinson was made Commander-in-Chief of the British Indian Army, a post he held until his death. Rawlinson died when he took ill after playing polo and cricket on his 65th birthday in 1925.

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