Captain Alexander William Bradfield Caldecott had the beginning of a prestigious military career, serving in India. Sadly, it was tragically cut short at the age of 29 in the most dramatic way. Here is his story.
Alexander William Bradfield Caldecott was born in either Jul or Aug 1837 in Bradfield, Berkshire to Charles Marriott Caldecott, gentleman and Margaret Smith. His grandfather was Abraham Caldecott, Lord of the Manor of Rugby.
He was baptised on 27 August 1837 at St Andrew’s Church, Bradfield in Berkshire, which incidentally is also the church where Kate, Duchess of Cambridge and her sister, Pippa Matthews were christened.
He entered the 103rd Foot Regiment of the Royal Bombay Fusiliers in January 1857 and went to India to serve. He played an active part in the Indian Mutiny along with his regiment in August 1858 and was awarded the Indian Mutiny medal for his service in subduing the uprising.
His father, Charles Marriott had worked for many years for the East India Company and his uncle and two of his brothers, John Alexander Caldecott and Charles Thomas Caldecott also served in the military in India.
His military career was glowing and he worked his way through the ranks very quickly. In July 1859 he was promoted to Lieutenant. Four years later, in July 1863 he was promoted to Adjutant. By Nov 1866 he had reached the rank of Captain.
Sadly, this was to be cut short in a dramatic accident involving a Bengal tiger.
In April 1867, he embarked on a tiger-shooting expedition with Lieutenants Hare and Neill in the jungles adjacent to Supree. The expedition had been in progress for about a month and the party had killed about 9 tigers.
On the morning of the 27th May 1867 they were about 30 miles from Supree and were watching for a tiger in a well-known beat. The three officers were about 30 yards apart positioned in low trees and beaters started to drive towards them.
A cub came out of the undergrowth followed by a tigress, presumably the cub’s mother. Lieutenant Neill fired at the tigress and hit her in the body, but he was too far back for his shot to have impact.
The tigress roared and then went towards Captain Caldecott. He shot at the tiger but missed and she attacked him. Lieutenant Hare said he saw the tiger standing over Caldecott’s head and shoulders.
She dragged Caldecott with her mouth around his right arm near the shoulder. The tiger then let go of Captain Caldecott and ran off with her cub.
The wounds to Alexander’s arm were severe. The arm was bitten through in three or four places, and the flesh and muscles dreadfully torn.
A trooper was immediately sent to get medical aid from a detachment of the 93rd Highlanders based at Supree, which was situated 48 miles away from where the attack had taken place. As soon as they arrived, a doctor departed to find the group, but after several hours of wandering the jungle was unable to locate them.
In the meantime, Caldecott was put on a litter and his companions undertook the journey carrying the patient through the jungle. However, the journey was arduous. Alexander was in a lot of pain and the jostling of the litter increased his blood loss and so the party had to stop several times to allow him to rest.
On the 29th May 1867, they arrived at Supree, 48 hours after the accident had occurred.
A doctor dressed the wounds, but two days later, on 31st May 1867, gangrene had set in to Caldecott’s arm. A surgeon was sent for from Alexander’s own regiment who were situated at Gwalior and he amputated the gangrenous limb at the shoulder.
Sadly, the shock and blood loss had proved to be too great and Captain Alexander William Bradfield Caldecott passed away at 3:50 am on 2nd June 1867.
He was buried at Supree Cemetery by officers of the 93rd Highlanders.
A memorial was subsequently laid at St Botolph’s Church at Newbold-upon-Avon in Warwickshire which was where his parents lived at nearby Holbrook Grange.
The inscription on the stone reads:
ALEXANDER WILLIAM BRADFIELD CALDECOTT CAPTAIN AND LATE ADJUTANT OF THE 103RD ROYAL BOMBAY FUSILEERS THIRD SON OF CHARLES MARRIOTT CALDECOTT ESQ. OF HOLBROOK GRANGE HE DIED AT SEEPREE CENTRAL INDIA ON THE 2 JUNE 1867 AGED 29 THIS TABLET IS ERECTED BY THE OFFICERS, NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND PRIVATES OF THE REGIMENT AS A TRIBUTE OF THEIR LOVE AND ESTEEM AND TO MARK THEIR DEEP REGRET AT THE LOSS OF ONE WHOSE WORTH AND MANY NOBLE QUALITIES HAD SO MUCH ENDEARED HIM TO ALL RANKS (not exact wording)
(Photo to follow)