E. Frederick H. McSwiney

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Edward 'Frederick' Henry McSwiney, Brigadier, CB, DSO, FRGS

Also Known As: "Fred"
Birthplace: Kronstadt, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
Death: January 21, 1907 (48)
Ambala City, Ambala, Haryana, India (Dysentery)
Place of Burial: Ambala City, Haryana, India
Immediate Family:

Son of John Henry Herbert McSwiney, Rev., M.A. and Emily Sarah McSwiney
Husband of Ida Florence McSwiney (Knaggs)
Father of Brigadier Herbert Frederick 'Cyril' McSwiney, DSO, CBE, MC; Hugh Norman 'Claude' McSwiney and Ida 'Kathleen' Cooper
Brother of George H.B. McSwiney; John William Augustus McSwiney; Edith Mabel McSwiney; Arthur Cattley McSwiney; William (Billy) Daniel McSwiney, Captain, FRGS and 1 other

Occupation: Military Officer, India and Burma
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About E. Frederick H. McSwiney

Fred was born the night of February 28 or early March 1 in Kronstadt, Port of St. Petersburg, where his father was the Anglican Chaplain serving the large British population in St. Petersburg at that time.

Baptism Record

(handwriting was his father's)
  • Born 1 March 1858, Cronstadt, nr Petersburg, Russia. (A later Record of Service lists his birth as 28 February 1858)
  • Baptised 13 MAR 1858 Edward Frederick Henry McSwiney at the Chapel of the Russia Company in Cronstadt. He was later known as 'Fred'.

[Baptism recorded by his father, who conducted the ceremony, as March 1 / 13. His brother's baptism on the same page was recorded similarly with a number, a line and a number. First number is date of birth and second number date of baptism. It should be noted that the "Norfolk Chronicle" of 20 March 1858 records the birth as "on the 28th Ultimate (February), at Cronstadt": Probably he was born sometime during the night of 28th Feb/ l March. Also a later "Record of Service states his birth as 28 February 1858. ]

1871 England Census for 17 Cannon Place (School), Brighton, Sussex (Sub-registration District: The Palace, Brighton) Among the pupils was Fred'k McSwiney, Male, Aged 12, Pupil, born c. 1859. (This was his Allfree aunt or uncle's school, where his Irish grandfather Daniel McSwiney had taught the Classics).

Recreation: Polo, Hunting, Shooting, Football, Cricket and skating.

Fluent in Russian and French, as well as English.

1875 (17 years old) Graduation from Oxford Military College (Secondary School) - who later presented him with Sword of Honour as a Distinguished Old Cadet. (See history at http://www.headington.org.uk/history/war/general/barracks.html)

Dated 28th June, 1877. The (King's Own) 1st Stafford Regiment. Frederick Edward Henry McSwiney, Gent., to be Sub-Lieutenant (Supernumerary). ' [ London Gazette Issue 24480 published on the 10 July 1877. Page 4 of 56]

Dated 18th May, 1878. The (King's Own) 1st Stafford. Sub - Lieutenant Frederick Edward Henry McSwiney resigns his Commission. [THE LONDON GAZETTE, MAY 7, 1878]

Fred attended Officer training at The Royal Military College, Sandhurst, Hampshire, from which e received the Sword of Honor.

VOCALIST: 1878, 6th December: "The Reading Mercury"14 December 1878 reported that the gentlemen cadets of the Royal Military College (Sandhurst) gave a concert at which Mr. McSwiney successfully sang a Russian song, at which he was vociferously encored, as was the Tsar's Song by all the vocalists.

1879, Jan - Graduation from Royal Military College (Sandhurst), Farnborough Station, Hampshire, UK.. : Passed out 12th overall, receiving 180 out of 200 marks for riding.

"Dated 22nd January, 1879. 40th Foot, Gentleman Cadet Edward Frederick Henry McSwiney, from the Royal Military College, to be Second Lieutenant, in succession to Lieutenant W. S. Marshall, appointed a Probationer for the Indian 'Staff Corps" [London Gazette, p 285, 21 January 1879]

Qualified Interpreter in the Russian language. His Record of Service lists his languages as "French, German and Russian SSH." (Is SSH an acronym?)

He served 'at home' from 22 January to 4 March 1879.

On 03 Apr 1879 he arrived in Quetta, India.

(In the 19th century the "Fighting Fortieth" was to see action in Australia, India, Afghanistan, New Zealand, and South Africa. The name was changed in 1881 to be called, "First Battalion the Prince of Wales' Volunteers [40th South Lancashire Regiment]. His 'brother officer' in the 'Fighting Fortieth" was F. Campbell, who considered Fred his 'best chum'. Fred's father - the Rev. Herbert McSwiney - officiated at F.C.'s wedding on 10 July 1886.

1879 October 4th - Fred received for his 'promotion' to Lieutenant a set of silver goblets [Source: Historical Records of the 40th (2nd Somersetshire) Regiment;"] Goblets were 7 and 1/8" in height, in the shape of a large wine glass.

1880, Second Anglo-Afghan War (Kurram Valley at that time was part of the Peshawar Division of the North-West Frontier Province. During the second Afghan War, when Sir Frederick Roberts advanced by way of the Kurram Valley and the Peiwar Kotal to Kabul, the Turis lent him every assistance in their power, and in consequence their independence was granted them in 1880. The administration of the Kurram Valley was finally rendered to British authorities, at the request of the Turis themselves, in 1890)

Served with Kurram Valley Field Force as Sub-Assistant Commissary-General. Awarded the Medal..

1882, Jun - Appointed to 11th Bengal Infantry.

1882, Aug - Transferred to the 6th Infantry, Hyderabad Contingent (H.C.)

1884, May - Upon leaving the 6th Infantry, Hyderabad Contingent, the Farewell Order in Regimental After Orders quotes Colonel Justice, Commanding 6th Infantry "desires to place on record his appreciation of the zeal and intelligence Lieut.McSwiney has displayed in the performance of his duties as Adjutant and Quartermaster, and for the unfailing support he has always given his Commandant in upholding the discipline of the Regiment."

Main sporting activity: Polo (The Times reported in 1885 on The Bombay Polo Tournament of a bad fall and being struck with a hoof on the back of his head, which necessitated him being transported immediately to hospital)

He also started inter-regimental Rugby Football

1884, May - Transferred to the 3rd Cavalry, H.C..

1885_June His father and mother - Herbert and wife Emily - with brother WIlliam D. McSwiney and Miss Knaggs (fiancee of Fred) and the Balfour Family) were living (vacation renting?) at No.5 Westbourne Terrace, Southsea, Sussex. [Source: Hampshire Telegraph and Sussex Chronicle June 9 1885]

1885, Dec 13 - Married Ida Florence Knaggs in Bombay Cathedral, Bombay, India Announcements:

  • India Marriages" 1792-1848, also
  • Freeman's Journal and Daily Commercial Advertiser (Dublin) Thu 17 Dec 1885, and
  • The Times, Wednesday, Dec 16, 1885; pg. 1; Issue 31631; col A

"Marriages on the 13th Dec., at Bombay (Bombay Presidency, India) LIEUT. E. F. H. McSWINEY, 3d Regt. Hydrabad Cavalry (late of 40th South Lancashire Regiment), second son of the late Rev. H. McSwiney, formerly of Cronstadt (Russia) and Great Yarmouth (England), to IDA FLORENCE, second daughter of BRIGADE SURGEON H. KNAGGS, Medical Staff. Russian papers, please copy."

8 November 1886 Birth of his son, Cyril, at Bolarum, Tamil Nadu, Deccan, India

The Times of India: "McSwiney - Nov. 8, at Bolaram, the wife of Lieut. F. McSwiney, 3rd Regiment of Cavalry, Hyderabad Contingent, of a son."

1886 to 1887, Military service.


Campaign''' - Commanded 3rd Squadron, 3rd H.C.C. - defeated large bands of Dacoits at Pindin on the 3rd December, and at Chounghwa on 11 December 1886; congratulated by Brigadier General R C Stewart); 

"Completed the subjugation of Nazasin District by utterly routing the Dacoits at Theo, June 1887". Awarded Medal with two clasps and

1887, July 1 awarded Distinguished Service Order - D.S.O. [London Gazette, 25 November 1889]

Major-General Sir George White - Mandalay July 1887 - acknowledges the successful result of operations in the Nagasin District* and conveys "his approbation of the arrangements made by that officer (E.F.H.McS) for conducting the operations..." "due in great measure to the well-conceived plan and to the energy ..." [*Nagasin - the British district of the Naga Hills (the Angamis, Kacha, Ncigas, Eengmas, Semas, Lhotas, and Aos) which border Myanmar (Burma) and Assam (India)]

Mar 1888, Invalided to England on year's leave.

his knowledge of languages, especially Russian, and his marked ability

singled him out 'for staff employment'.

Aug 1888, Transferred to 4th Lancers, Hyderabad Contingent

Spoke fluent Russian from his childhood in Russia.

1889 October, a qualified Interpreter in the Russian language

1889, May - Appointed Adjutant, 4th Lancers, H.C.

1890, Jan 22 - Promoted to Captain - Recommendation from Commanding Brigadier General Cox in Burma "You are hard working and energetic, have good abilities and determination; you also have a good manner with natives, who will do anything for you." [Source: Pat McSwiney "A Family History"]

His first rung on the ladder to Staff Officer (there were no Staff Colleges to attend in those days) began as an unpaid attachment to the Intelligence Branch.

1891 Attache, Intelligence, Army HQ, India

1890-91 He was very fond of travel and adventure, and was therefore glad to be employed on reconnaissance work in the south-west region of Bakhtiari, Persia (Iran). On his return he made an excellent "Secret" report on the trade routes of that country and received the thanks of the Commander-in-Chief in India for his work: see below

1891 AUTHOR "A Reconnaisance in South-West Persia"

(a copy was donated in 1982 to Regimental Museum of 4/7 Royal Dragoon Guards, Halifax, Yorkshire, UK by granddaughter Joan McSwiney, another copy being kept with the family).

1892 he had been officially appointed DAQMG (Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General, Intelligence Branch, at Indian (British) Army HQ in Simla, northern India

1894-95 DAQMG Intelligence with the Waziristan* Field Force. (*Waziristan is an arid and mountainous region in the North-West Frontier province, n.w. Pakistan, on the Afghanistan border. The year before this appointment, in 1893 Waziristan* had become an independent territory. In 1947, it was incorporated into Pakistan, but with the support of Afghanistan it has struggled to create an independent Pushtu state.) [Source: World Encyclopedia | 2005]

1894 “A short general report upon Corea” (present-day Korea)

By Captain E F H McSwiney, Deputy Assistant Quarter Master General,Simla: Intelligence Branch, Quarter Master General's Dept, 1894 IOR/L/PS/20/138 1894 [These documents are held at British Library, Asia, Pacific and Africa Collections v, 29pp - Note: Secret - Intelligence Division, War Office/War Office Library, London]

1895 Commandant of the Pamir Delimitation (Boundary) Commission The Boundary Commission left India on the 20th June 1895. The work of the Commission was compressed into four months, of which two were occupied in marching to and from the Pamirs, and the other two in demarcating the 90 miles of "boundary line extending from Lake Victoria in the Great Pamir to the Chinese frontier on the Sarikol range above the Taghdumdash. They had been appointed to demarcate the Pamir boundary between Russia and Afghanistan. His fluency in Russian was of greatest service in maintaining friendly relations with members of the Russian Mission. He received a Brevet-Majority and thanks by the Government of India for this work.

"Through Asia, Volume 2" page 686-687, by Sven Anderson Hidin, refers to the explorer's encounter with the Boundary Commission and Fred McSwiney and describes in vivid detail both the Anglo-Indian and Russian's entourage and 16,000 feet Pamir Mountain range - the "Roof of the World".

[Royal Geographic Society collection:

  • "Pamir Boundary Commission.
  • Control Number: rgs030775
  • Description: 1 pho sepia, fair 6 x 8 in.
  • Subject(s): Afghanistan (Country) -- Photographs -- Pamir Boundary Commission 1895 -- Major General M. G. Gerard -- Captain E. F. H. McSwiney -- 1895 -- Badakshan -- Wakhan Little Pamir]

1897 25 May,

Fred wrote to his mother Emily from Simla India - just before an expected visit home...for Bombay and a voyage home on the "India" to England on 25th June 1897.  

He acknowledges his parents' letters of 6th May and says he is glad they both wrote in 'better' spirits. His wife Ida was at that time in England, but had 'problems' and he discloses his anxiety about her. She was in fact pregnant, so he is undoubtedly travelling back home to England to see her and his parents.

He mentions his brother 'Billy' (William Daniel) is now a senior subaltern and he (Fred) has not a doubt that he will get his troop all right and to tell father not to be anxious and anticipate evil (on the part of others not promoting Billy). He is glad that his oldest brother (George) and wife, Lena (Helena, nee Fells) have decided to live 'in town' (London) and hopes that he and Ida shall be able to get a house near them.

He further wishes that his mother would bury the past and have his aunt (Annie) - who is lonely and solitary - live with her at Barnoldby le Beck (UK).

1897, July 1 Having just arrived back in England he was appointed Officiating Commandant 1st Lancers, H.C. (India) and had to return.

(17 September 1897 at Heathfield, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK, his daughter Kathleen was born)

1897, 12 Oct - Appointed D.A.A.G. of the Kurram-Kohat Field Force, consisting of 59 British Officers, and 2500 men, then mobilising to take part in the general Tirah operations along the North-West frontier of India to control tribal insurrections. The total force consisted of over 1,000 officers and 35,000 men.

Fred was present at the fighting at the Uhlan Pass 27 August 1897 and operations on the Samana and in the Kurram Valley, August and September 1897; Defence of the Samana Forts, Relief of Gulistan

[1897 received the D.S.O. - Source: 1897 Whitakers Almanack]

[London Gazette, 11 February 1898 - mentioned in despatches, medal with two clasps).


Tirah Expeditionary Force.

KURRAM MOVABLE COLUMN. Major E. F. H. McSwiney, D.S.O., 1st Lancers, Hyderabad Contingent, Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General The Tirah expedition was a minor British victory and there was peace on the frontier for some time.

October 1897

Fred wrote to his mother, Emily, that he has been appointed to the War Office - a distinction. He offers advice to his brother Billy not to come out to India but to marry Ethel (Trower) - a girl with money who can provide him with a luxurious home. "Why should he go out at this time of life? Fates (illnesses) have been dead against him in his military career so let him now make a convenience of the service and take life easy. I have had a hard struggle and so far have been lucky." (He died ten years later of dysentery) Fred enclosed with that letter a letter from Ida to "shew you what a plucky little woman she has been through all her troubles" (again probably to do with her pregnancy/giving birth the month before)

1898, Jan - Intelligence Division, War Office, London - appointed Staff Captain.

1898 SW Persia

• Military Report on South-West Persia • Routes. Compiled in the Intelligence Branch of the Quarter-Master General's Department in India. • "Telegraph Routes in Persia", page 707 • Routes in Persia, • Section I • Chiefly compiled by Captain E F H McSwiney.

Content The publication, Routes in Persia, Section I was compiled in the Intelligence Branch of the Quarter-Master General's Department in India and was published by the Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, India, Calcutta: 1898. Section I contains all the routes which commence from the Persian Gulf littoral and extending to a line drawn from Burajird [Borūjerd], through Isfahan [E%C5%9Ffah%C4%81n], Yazd, Karman [Kerm%C4%81n], Khabis [Khab%C4%AB%C5%9F], Neh to Lash Juwain [L%C4%81sh-e Juwayn]; the routes have been arranged within the volume by starting from the sea base of the Persian Gulf and working up towards the line described. [https://wiki.fibis.org/w/Iran. .......Qatar Digital Library]]

1898 Fred was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society (FRGS)

Lieutenant-Colonel and Brevet-Colonel - first class field officer and exceptional staff officer.

Mar 1899, Commandant 1st Lancers, Hyderabad Contingent.

Gentlemanly Spying Trip

EXPLORATION IN CENTRAL ASIA. Anglo-Russian Courtesies ("Times" Telegrams) Allahabad, Monday: "........Lieutenant-Colonel McSwiney, the Ist Lancers of the Hydarabad Contingent, has just received permission from the Russian Government to proceed to India along...." [July 19, 1899 - Shields Daily Gazette - South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England]

July 21, 1899 edition of the Lichfield Mercury carries an account of his travels "Exploration in Central Asia" telegraphed from The Times (of London) correspondent at St. Petersburg, mentioning that Lieut.-Colonel McSwiney had received permission from the Russian Government to proceed to India along the Transcaspian Railway, through Chinese Turkestan and Kashgar.

This was a 'gentlemanly' spying trip and Fred wrote "In consequence of persistent reports being received of an intended increase of Russian troops in the Caucasus and Central Asia, it was considered by the War Office advisable to verify the information. Having just been appointed to the command of my Regiment in India, I offered to undertake the task and the Government of India approved." His account was that he travelled to India from England via Central Asia - Sweden, Russia then Turkey, Azerbaijan, Iran (Persia), Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan (Osh Province), China and then India. Places visited were St. Petersburg (met War Minister, General Kuropatkin) - Sebastapol, Baku, Askabad, Samarkand (met General Dakhovskoi), Krasnovodsk, Tashkent, Andijan, Kashgar-Kyshtak, then Russo-Chinese border, by camel in 4 days to Kashgar (where suffered a week of dysentery), then onto Ambala, India.

[See secret report - http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/rd/c7d6e6ad-fd1e-4dd0-a55a-2ff076572eb7 - Also: [Title: Summary of information obtained during a recent journey through Central Asia and Chinese Turkestan. Lt-Col * E F H McSwiney, 12 Oct 1899 Simla, Intelligence Branch, QMG Dept, Oct 1899

  • Collection Area: (British Library) India Office Records and Private Papers
  • Reference: IOR/L/PS/18/C101
  • Creation Date: Oct 1899
  • Extent and Access:
  • Extent: 5pp
  • Language: English
  • Related Resources: See IOR/L/PS/3/373: 2475/99

March, 1900, China Expeditionary Force - Special Service Officer. Adept at dealing with the Russians, who had decided to join the Expeditionary Force at the last moment.

Member of the MILITARY ORDER OF THE DRAGONS, 1900-1911 which was organized to perpetuate the memories of the China Relief Expedition of 1900, organized to provide relief for the foreign legations in Peking (Beijing), China.

1900, July - Sick Leave after leaving China Recuperated in Killarney, Ireland with Ida. Letter to his brother George reference the (McSwiney) crest and motto.. His father's cousin - Denis McSwiney, RC Dean of Cork - presented Fred with a 'very handsome silver claret jug' - one of two given by his parishioners upon his leaving Crosshaven." Letter source: John Murray (Pat) McSwiney.

19 July 1900 letter from Acting Consul for Italy "Out of the firing line, he was still doing more than his duty, and his action saved the lives of these two Italians." (Source: Pat McSwiney)

1902, Jun Commander (Lieut.Colonel) The XX Deccan Horse at Bolarum.

His young 10 year old son Claude died the same year (buried at St. Paul's (Garrison) Church Cemetery, Ambala, India) - his grave near Fred's own five years later.

1903 BRITISH LIBRARY: Title: Cavalry Tactics of To-day ... With an introduction by Brevet.Lieut.-Colonel E. F. H. McSwiney.===

Author: Albert William ANDREW; Contributor: Edward Frederick Henry MACSWINEY (sp error) Subjects: Cavalry drill and tactics; Publication Details: Bombay : Thacker & Co., 1903.; Identifier: System number 000084099 ; Physical Description: xiv, 114 p. ; 8º.; Holdings Notes: Asia Pacific & Africa T 35197 [Another copy.]***Held in OIOC. Shelfmark(s): General Reference Collection 8822.bb.24; Asia, Pacific & Africa T 35197 ; UIN: BLL01000084099

"Order of the Bath"

War Office, 26th June, 1903. "The KING has been graciously pleased, on the occasion of the Celebration of His Majesty's Birthday, to give orders for the following appointments to, and promotions in the Most Honourable Order of the Bath: Major and Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Edward Frederick Henry McSwiney, D.S.O., Indian Army. [Souce: London Gazette Issue 27568 published on the 23 June 1903]

1905 Military Companion CB - announced in 1906 Almanack as Colonel Edward Frederick Henry McSwiney

1906 Appointed Brigadier Ambala Cavalry Brigade

From 1901 to 1907 Fred was a chronic sufferer of dysentery.

1907January 21, (48) - died of dysentery.

He is buried at Ambala, Haryana, India - near his young son Claude's grave. (see the photo of his grave under 'photos' of Fred.) A memorial stained glass window in the garrison C. of E. church - St. Paul's - in Ambala was dedicated to him (Latin inscription) and shows the McSwiney crest.

The church was bombed during the Indo-Pakistani war in September, 1965, so this photo is invaluable. It is believed that the aircraft which bombed the church was hit by Air Force ground fire. Later that month, Prime Minister of India, Mrs Indira Gandhi, visited the church. The bombed church is now within the Air Force school complex.

------------------------------------------------------------------- Sources:

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E. Frederick H. McSwiney's Timeline

March 1, 1858
Kronstadt, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
March 13, 1858
Kronstadt, Saint Petersburg, Russian Federation
November 8, 1886
Deccan, India
April 3, 1891
Secunderabad, Ranga Reddy, Andhra Pradesh, India
September 17, 1897
Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, UK
January 21, 1907
Age 48
Ambala City, Ambala, Haryana, India
January 22, 1907
Age 48
Ambala City, Haryana, India