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Chief Engineer of the Lucknow Relief Force - A Set of Prize Drawing Instruments
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Chief Engineer of the Lucknow Relief Force - A Set of Prize Drawing Instruments

Circa 1840

Measurements: 4.25cm (1.75in) 20cm (8in) x 14.75cm (5.8in)



Rosewood, nickel silver, steel and ivory. A cased drawing instrument set, comprising proportional dividers by Troughton & Simms; articulated joint compass with interchangeable divider, pencil, and ink inserts; dividers with screw for fine adjustment; compass expansion bar; two ink point drawing pens, four small spring bows, all contained in a velvet lined tray, inset over a compartment for a sector, an architect’s rolling parallel rule and a rectangular protractor; (lacking one spring bow and one drawing pen, the lock now defective). The hinged case lid applied with a nickel silver plaque inscribed 'Presented at the Public Examination on the 10th Dec 1841, to Gentleman Cadet W. Arden Crommelin by the Honourable Court of Directors of the East India Company, as a mark of the Courts approbation of his attainments in Fortification while at the Military Seminary’.

Lieutenant-General William Arden Crommelin, C.B., (1823-1887) entered the East India Company’s military academy, Addiscombe, near Croydon, for engineer and artillery cadets in February 1840 and, as the present prize set of instruments attest, passed out as First Engineer of his term in December 1841. Gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Bengal Engineers, he landed at Calcutta in 1843 and was appointed Assistant Garrison Engineer at Fort William. The next year he joined the Army of the Sutlej in the Punjab. During the Second Sikh War (1848-49) he bridged all the great rivers of the region  and was present at the actions of Ramnuggur, Sadoolapore, Chillianwalah and the crowning victory over the Sikh Empire at Gujerat. Following the annexation of the Punjab, he was Chief Engineer at Peshawar.

At the outbreak of the Great Mutiny in Bengal in May 1857, Crommelin was ordered to join the General Havelock’s force of 1500 men advancing to the relief of the besieged British garrison at Lucknow. During Havelock’s enforced halt at Cawnpore, Crommelin made frequent reconnaissances of the surrounding rebel infested countryside and completed arrangements for crossing the Ganges in full flood. During the final advance into the Residency compound the would-be relief force suffered severely from the enemy forces estimated at 30,000-strong. Crommelin was shot in the right ankle. Another bullet smashed into his scabbard and a third mortally wounded his horse. After Havelock’s force became themselves besieged in Lucknow, Crommelin continued in his role of Chief Engineer, overseeing the extensive mining and counter-mining beneath the Residency defences and the mutineers’ lines notwithstanding the onset of gangrene that almost cost him his leg. During these operations Crommelin participated in subterranean fire-fights and blew in several enemy mines.

Crommelin was widely praised for his services at Lucknow and subsequently became the Chief Engineer of Oudh, being responsible for the design of several military cantonments and barracks. A subordinate described him as ‘a kind and courteous chief and friend and a most hospitable host … He was fond of private theatricals and was himself an excellent actor …’ He was thrice married and retired to England in 1875 with a pension for distinguished services.