The South African
Military History Society

Die Suid-Afrikaanse Krygshistoriese Vereniging

Military History Journal
Vol 7 No 3 - June 1987

Major General Sir Henry Timson Lukin, KCB, CMG, DSO

by Colonel B C Judd, OBE

Henry Timson Lukin was born in 1860, the only son of Robert Henry Lukin, a barrister of the Inner Temple. Harry Lukin, as he was generally known, had a sister two years his junior; their mother died when he was sixteen years old.

In due course he entered Merchant Taylor's School, where he did not acquire much learning. As he was bent on a military career he was sent to the crammer, a Mr Winter, at Woolwich in order to prepare for the entrance examination for Sandhurst. He found the examination too much for him. However, he went through the Knightshridge riding school and completed a short course on infantry drill at Chelsea Barracks.

The year 1878 was an eventful one in South Africa, with the expectation of war there. Lukin emharked at Southampton on the Union Mailship Nyanza on 2 January 1879 and eventually landed at Durban, prepared for whatever might eventuate.

The battle of Isandlwana, a disaster for the British Army, took place on 22 January; three strong columns were ordered to advance on Zululand and there was an urgent demand at the time for labour to work on the almost non-existent roads.

Lukin was placed in charge of a party of Africans whose task it was to improve and extend the wagon road. He performed this task energetically for some weeks until troops began to pass on their way to the front, among them a battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers whose adjutant, Spurgin, happened to be a cousin of Lukin's. Spurgin informed Lukin that a native contingent was being enrolled hy Major Bengough of the 77th Regiment. On Spurgin's recommendation Lukin was appointed a Lieutenant in Bengough's Horse. Lukin was a soldier at last and served with his regiment throughout the war. He received a bullet wound in the leg during a charge in which the Native Contingent was in support of the 17th Lancers and was troubled by this for some weeks. Major Bengough reported favourably on Lukin's services and recommended him for a direct commission. As a result, Lukin was gazetted a Lieutenant in the Cape Mounted Riflemen which was the only standing unit in the Cape Colony at the time.

When Lukin joined the Cape Mounted Riflemen the Regiment was operating in two wings. The Left Wing, under command of Colonel Frederick Carrington, was engaged in operations against the Basuto and the Right Wing, under Colonel Zachary Bayly, operated both in Basutoland and Gcalekaland. At this time Lukin served under Carrington.

He later served on the Cape Frontier, in Pondoland, the Ciskei and Transkei, until the annexation of East and West Pondoland in 1894. He met his future wife, Miss Lily Quinn, at Alice and married her in 1891. Shortly thereafter he was given command of the CMR artillery troop which was then equipped with mountain guns only. In 1893 he proceeded to England to attend courses in gunnery and signalling. While there he completed a course at Hythe on the Maxim machine gun.

On his return from England Lukin was promoted to Captain and placed in command of CMR artillery and signals. In 1897 he commanded the CMR artillery and machine gun detachment in the Bechuanaland Field Force under Colonel E H Dalgety. When the Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899, Lukin went into the field, again in command of CMR artillery and signals. When the Cape Colonial Division under General Brabant and Colonel Dalgety was disbanded, Lukin commanded the CMR in Scobell's Column and later in 1 Division, Cape Colony, until the end of the war.

When Colonel Dalgety retired from the CMR at the end of 1902, Lukin was appointed to command the Regiment which he did, very ably, until the advent of Union in 1910 when he left on promotion. He was promoted to Brigadier General and appointed Inspector General of the Permanent Force.

During the First World War Lukin commanded the SAMR (South African Mounted Rifles) Brigade in the German South West Africa campaign of 1914-15 and the 1st South African Infantry Brigade in the Senussi campaign, in Egypt, in France and Flanders. In France he was, for a time, in command of the British 9th Division. Later, in England he commanded the 64th Division, Eastern Command, as a Major General.

On returning to the Cape after the War he retired on pension and was elected the first president of the BESL (British Empire Service League) in South Africa during a conference to establish the League in 1921. (The conference, under the chairmanship of Field Marshal Lord Haig, sat from 28 February to 4 March).

Most of those who were intimately acquainted with General Lukin were aware that, in common with all great men, he had certain idiosyncracies, to which the members of the Cape Mounted Riflemen were well accustomed. He usually gave every problem ponderous consideration as he was a slow thinker. However, having solved the problem to his satisfaction he would act quickly and successfully. Being quite fearless he was particularly successful as a regimental or small column commander.

He was somewhat impatient when presented with suggestions from members of his staff, but nevertheless always gave them consideration. One would frequently find that after days, or sometimes hours, had passed one's suggestions were acted upon. He could berate an erring subordinate in masterly style, yet, if he later considered that he had been unjust would send for the man and apologize. Lukin was, fundamentally, a kind and loyal man. Holding himself accountable for the success or failure of any enterprise in which the men under his command might be engaged, he would support a subordinate who in his opinion had done his best to carry out orders. Although Lukin had some imagination, he did not have a very great sense of humour. Some of his idiosyncrasies were, nevertheless, a source of great amusement to the men. He had, for example, a peculiar way of placing his feet when walking along a veld path which usually resulted, sooner or later, in a fall, from which he would rise, in accordance with the regimental motto, in increased splendour. (The regimental motto of the CMR was Aucto Splendore Resurgo, translated, 'I rise again with increased splendour.' Ed.)

Lukin was always insistent that his men should be immaculately turned out both in peace and wartime; his own turn-out, however, was frequently not what it should have been. He would often be observed to have unfastened buttons and to have neglected to remove toothpowder and blood from his face, the latter caused by his dashing efforts with a cut-throat razor!

In general, Lukin could not be described as a well-read man; he confined his reading to military history. He was intensely ambitious for his Regiment and zealous in the maintenance of its good name. He had, in South Africa, no experience of independent command over large forces and might fairly be described as the very best type of conventional soldier whose day probably passed with the cavalry and horse artillery.

Lukin never fully recovered from the shock of the disbandment of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, something which he considered to have been a mistake. Three days before he died he discussed his own funeral arrangements with the Officer Commanding at the Cape. He asked me as the Artillery commander to arrange for my gunners to haul the gun-carriage and man the saluting battery. The bearer party consisted mainly of those men who had served in the Regiment that he had loved and trained so well.

Editor's note: The author of this abbreviated biography of Maj Gen Sir H T Lukin was eminently qualified to be so. Col B C Judd was himself a member of the Cape Mounted Riflemen, having joined the regiment in 1893. He served with the CMR from that time until 1914, except for a period of four years, 1904-1908, when he was seconded to the Kaffrarian Rifles as adjutant. From 1911 to 1914 Col Judd was adjutant of the CMR and in that capacity would have been intimately acquainted with Lukin who was his Commanding Officer. He served in both the First and Second World Wars and retired in July 1942 having reached the age limit. He died on 22 March 1962. Major General Sir H T Lukin's and Colonel B C Judd's medal groups are in the possession of the Museum.

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