Date added: 3 Oct 2016
Thomas Fox Strangways was born in 1790.
He was the son of Charles Strangeways and Jane Haines and was a nephew of Henry, second Earl of Ilchester. Kane’s List 1365.
Strangways joined the Royal Artillery as a Gentleman Cadet on 19th February 1805 and became a Second Lieutenant on 18th December 1806; he was promoted to First Lieutenant on 1st February 1808.
Fox Strangways was a key player in the history of the first official Rocket Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery which begins in September 1811.
Despite the disappointing experimental field trials of Congreve rockets with the Army in 1807 and 1810, the Board of Ordnance placed a detachment of thirty-two Royal Horse Artillerymen, under Second Captain Richard Bogue (Kane’s List 1015), at Congreve’s disposal for further integrating rockets into the Artillery. This detachment experimented with the weapon both at Woolwich and at Bagshot, helping Congreve refine his system for eventual use by mounted or horse artillery.
After an inspection by a committee of Royal Artillery officers who recommended that it be tried in combat, on 7th June 1813 came orders designating Bogue’s unit “The Rocket Brigade”. (At this time they did not use the term ‘battery’; rather the unit was formed by bringing together a section of guns & howitzers with their ammunition wagons, plus a company of artillerymen and a detachment of artillery drivers into a ‘brigade’.)At the same time as being granted its new title The Rocket Brigade was ordered to proceed on “Active Service”, with orders to join the “Army of the North” commanded by Bernadotte, the Crown Prince of Sweden.
Before being sent overseas to Germany, Bogue’s original detachment had been significantly augmented. When the brigade departed Ramsgate on 11th June it consisted of Captain Bogue, Lieutenant Wright (Kane’s List No 1359) as the second-in-command and Lieutenant Thomas Fox Strangways with a total of 144 men plus eight officer’s horses and ninety-seven trooper’s horses.
In the Spring of 1813 Britain had agreed to aid the organisation of the new levies being raised in the north of Germany from the states that had broken with Napoleon. Having landed at Wismar, in the province of Mecklenburg on 8th August, the Rocket Brigade joined Walmoden’s Corp on the 23rd in or near Schwerin. On 7th September Bogue marched with half his brigade to join the main Army of the North, near Wittenburg. The other half of the brigade, under Strangways, joined the 4th Cavalry Division of General von Dornberg under General Wallmoden.
On 16th September the heterogeneous force of General Wallmoden, consisting of Hanoverians, Swedes, Russians, the Seventy-third British and half of a British rocket-battery, the whole numbering some twenty thousand men, manoeuvred successfully to check Davoust’s Corp at Göhrde, about forty miles south-east of Hamburg. Strangways advanced to bring the rockets into action “close under the fire of the enemy’s infantry” The 3rd KGL Hussars broke two squares and the rockets spread such terror through the retiring ranks that order could no longer be preserved, and breaking, the French fled in all directions.
Strangways marched on 27th with his half of the brigade and rejoined Bogue on 30th September. On 2nd October the brigade was attached to the bodyguard of the Crown Prince Bernadotte under the command of Colonel Lievitson (Stedinck’s Swedish Corps). The Rocket Brigade was brought into action on 18th October, the second day of The Battle of Leipzig.
Captain Bogue lost no time in advancing to take part in the second attack on the village of Paunsdorf, then in possession of five of the enemy’s battalions, upon whom he opened, in advance of the whole army a most destructive fire. Strangways brought the Rocket Brigade up in close support. The number of between two and three thousand, surrendered to the Rocket Brigade. The brigade proceeded to the attack of I believe) the village of Sellerhausen still further in advance. It was here that Capt Bogue was shot by a skirmisher.
Following the battle, in the great square of Leipzig, Fox-Strangways was congratulated by all the allied sovereigns present. The Tzar Alexander I removed the Order of St Anne from his own breast and pinned it on the tunic of Lieutenant Strangways.
Lieutenant T Fox-Strangways was also granted the following Swedish awards:
1. The medal in gold ‘FÖR TAPPERHET I FÄLT’ (For brave conduct in the field) on the battlefield or very soon after it.
2. The rank of Captain in the Swedish Army on 6th January 1814
3. The Swedish Military Order of the Sword, 4th Class, on 23rd June 1820.
By General Order of 18th December 1813, the Regent “was pleased to approve … two troops to the establishment of the Royal Artillery to be attached to the service of rockets.”Thus, when the new Troop (Eliot’s) was formed in January 1814, the original ‘Rocket Brigade’ became the 2nd Rocket Troop.
So, having been initially a ‘Brigade’, admittedly under the command of an RHA officer, they now became ‘Troops’ of the Royal Horse Artillery. As such, their perceived role would be to act in support of cavalry.
On 30th April 1815 the command of the 2nd Rocket Troop was formally taken over by Captain Whinyates, with Captain Charles C Dansey (Kane’s List 1138) as the second captain. Lieutenant Wright, who had taken over the Rocket Brigade after Leipzig in October 1813 and brought it west with the Allied Army, was still serving with the Troop, as was Lieutenant Strangways.
During the Battle of Waterloo Lieutenant Strangways had received a terrible wound, a round shot breaking his thigh and injuring his spine. The lieutenant recovered miraculously from his dangerous wound and was able to progress his career.
On the outbreak of the Crimean War, he embarked with the army as a Lieut-Colonel of Horse Artillery, later succeeding to the command of the whole of the artillery with the rank of Brigadier-General, on General Cator's resignation through sickness.On the morning of the 5th November 1854, at the battle of Inkerman, General Strangways was on horseback at Lord Raglan's right hand when a shell from the enemy burst among the staff, and carried away his left leg. The shock was so great that he died about an hour afterwards. Ironically, he was said to have been wearing the Russian Order of St. Anne that he had been awarded 41 years earlier when he was killed by an exploding shell fired by the Russian army.