Silhouette Portrait of
General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth, K.C.M.G.
By Francis Smyth Baden-Powell
From the Collection of the National Portrait Gallery

General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth, K.C.M.G.

General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth, K.C.M.G.
by Francis Smyth Baden-Powell

Sir Henry Augustus Smyth (1825-1906), FSA, FRGS, Governor of Malta, general and colonel commandant Royal Artillery, born at St James’s Street, London, on 25 Nov. 1825, was third son in the family of three sons and six daughters of Admiral William Henry Smyth (1788-1865) by his wife Annarella, only daughter of Thomas Warington, British consul at Naples. His elder brothers were Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth (1817-1890) and Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900). Of his six sisters, Henrietta married Prof. Baden-Powell, and Rosetta married Sir William Henry Flower.

Educated at Bedford school from 1834 to 1840, Smyth entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich on 1 Feb. 1841. Receiving a commission as second lieutenant in the Royal Artillery on 20 Dec. 1843, and being promoted lieutenant on 5 April 1845, he was on foreign service in Bermuda from 1847 to 1851. Promoted second captain on 11 Aug. 1851, he was quartered at Halifax, Nova Scotia, till 1854, and at Corfu from February 1855. On becoming first captain on 1 April, he was sent in May to the Crimea to command a field battery of the second division of the army which supported the right attack on Sevastopol. Smyth and his battery did arduous work with the siege train in the trenches. He took part in the third bombardment, was present at the fall of Sevastopol, and remained in the Crimea until July 1856. For his services he received the British war medal with clasp for Sevastopol and the Turkish medal.

After he had spent over five years at home stations, principally at Shorncliffe, hostilities threatened with the United States over the Trent affair, and Smyth took his field battery of the Crimea out to New Brunswick in December 1861, landing his horses fit for service after an exceptionally tempestuous voyage. While still in Canada Smyth obtained a brevet majority on 12 Feb. 1863, and on promotion to a regimental lieutenant-colonelcy on 31 Aug. 1865 he returned home. While on ordinary leave of absence in Canada he visited the scenes of the American Civil War, saw the capture of Richmond, and was the only foreigner present in the subsequent pursuit of the southern army. At a later period he attended, while on leave from India, some of the operations of the Franco-German war. His observations in both cases were commended by the authorities and partly published in the Proceedings of the Royal Artillery Institution.

From 1867 to 1874 Smyth served in India. He became a brevet colonel on 31 Aug. 1870. In 1872 he presided over a committee at Calcutta which condemned the bronze rifled guns then proposed for adoption for field service and conducted valuable researches into the explosive force of Indian gunpowders. His services were eulogised by the governor-general in council in May 1874. On 16 Jan. 1875 Smyth succeeded to a regimental colonelcy and was deputed to attend the German army maneuvres in the autumn. He commanded the artillery at Sheerness in 1876, and from 1877 to 1880 the artillery in the southern district. He served on various professional inquiries, such as the revision of siege operations in view of the adoption of more powerful rifled guns and howitzers. In 1876 and 1887 he was awarded the gold medal of the Royal Artillery Institution for essays respectively on Field Artillery Tactics and Training of Field Artillery.

From 1881 to 1883 Smyth served on the ordnance committee at Woolwich. During that time steel was introduced into the service on the recommendation of the committee as the material for rifled guns. Promoted major-general on 1 Nov. 1882, Smyth was commandant of the Woolwich garrison and military district from 1882 to 1886. He became lieutenant-general on 1 Nov. 1886, and went out the next year to command the troops in South Africa.

Soon after his arrival at the Cape he rapidly crushed a rising in Zululand, which had been formally annexed in May 1887. The Zulus fled into the territories of the South African republic, where they dispersed. Dinizulu and his chiefs ultimately surrendered to the British, and were banished to St. Helena. For some eight months in 1889-90 Smyth acted as governor of Cape Colony between the departure of Sir Hercules Robinson, afterwards Lord Rosmead, and the arrival of Sir Henry Brougham Loch, afterwards Lord Loch. Smyth was created C.M.G. in January 1889, and K.C.M.G. in 1890, when he was appointed governor of Malta. He was promoted general on 19 May 1891, and on 20 Dec. 1893 his jubilee in the Royal Artillery service was celebrated at Malta. He left the island at the end of the year on retirement, and settled at his father’s house, which he had inherited, St. John’s Lodge, Stone, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire.

Smyth became a colonel commandant of the royal artillery on 17 Oct. 1894. He was honorary colonel of the royal Malta militia, a J.P.for Buckinghamshire, and fellow both of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Geographical Society. He died on 18 Sept. 1906 at his own house, and was buried in Stone churchyard. He married at Lillington, near Leamington in Warwickshire, on 14 April 1874, Helen Constance, daughter of John Whitehead Greaves, of Berecote, near Leamington. His widow survived him without issue. A portrait painted by Lowes Dickinson is in Lady Smyth’s possession. Memorial tablets have been erected in the garrison church at Woolwich and in the church at Stone.

Adapted from: "Descendant Report for Benjamin Smyth" prepared by Robin Baden Clay (11th July 2002):

Brothers and Sisters of Henrietta Grace Smyth (Children of Admiral William Henry Smyth and Eliza Anne "Annarella" Warington, Uncles and Aunts of Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell):

  1. Elizabeth Smyth (1816-1820?).

  2. Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth (1817-1890). Geologist. Lecturer at the Royal School of Mines, Married Anna Maria Antonia Storey-Maskelyne. Father of Major-General Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth, V.C. and H. Warington Smyth, author of Five Years in Siam.

  3. Charles Piazzi Smyth (1819-1900). Astronomer Royal of Scotland.

  4. Elizabeth Anne Smyth (1819-1821?)

  5. Jane Phoebe Smyth (1821-1842).

  6. Henrietta Grace Smyth (1824-1914). Mother of Robert Baden-Powell.

  7. General Sir Henry Augustus Smyth, K.C.M.G. (1825-1906). Commandant of Woolwich, 1882; crushed Zulu rising, 1887; Governor of Cape Colony, 1889 and of Malta, 1890. B-P served as his Military Secretary in Natal and in Malta.

  8. Josephine B. Smyth (1826-1847).

  9. Ellen Philadelphia Smyth (1828-1881). Wife of Captain Henry Toynbee. Meteorologist. F.R.A.S. Marine Superintendent of the Meteorological Office, 1867-1888. Merchant Captain.

  10. Caroline Mary Smyth (1834-1859).

  11. Georgiana Rosetta Smyth (1835-1923).

  General Smyth’s father, Admiral William H. Smyth, rose through the ranks of the Royal Navy to retire as an Admiral in 1863. He was a noted hydrographer and astronomer and was Vice President of the Royal Society. According to his great-grandson, his charts of the Mediterranean were still in use in 1961. His "Cycle of Celestial Objects" remains a classical text in the history of astronomy and was republished in 1986.
B-P’s Mother: Henrietta Grace Smyth Baden-Powell, 1824-1914 was the daughter of Admiral W. H. Smyth (B-P’s grandfather) and other members of the Smyth family including: Charles Piazzi Smyth, Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth, H. Warington Smyth, General Sir Nevill Maskelyne Smyth and Nevil Maskelyne.
  Sir Warington Wilkinson Smyth, M.A., F.R.S. was a son of Admiral W. H. Smyth and Uncle to B-P. He was Professor of Mining and Mineralogy at the Royal School of Mines, President of the Geological Society of London in 1866-1868 and a Fellow of the Royal Society. After university, he spent more than four years in Europe, Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt, paying great attention to mineralogy and mining. Among his published works were A Year with the Turks (1854), and A Treatise on Coal and Coal-Mining (1867). He was knighted in 1887.
  Charles Piazzi Smyth was a son of Admiral W. H. Smyth, elder brother of General Smyth and Uncle to B-P. He was well known as an astronomer (he was Astronomer Royal of Scotland) and was considered an authority on the pyramids of Giza.
  Baden-Powell Family History. A series of links based on the research of Robin Baden Clay, a grandson of Baden-Powell. They are focused on the genealogy of the Powell family. The author is extremely grateful to Mr. Clay for sharing the results of his labors with the Scouting community. Links are provided to pages for three of B-P’s brothers: Baden, Warington and Sir George Baden-Powell as well as to the genealogy of the Smyth and Warington families.
  Baden-Powell Home Page

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Last Modified: 8:46 PM on August 24, 2012