George Bazalgette

Photograph courtesy of BC Archives
Call Number B-00934

With sincere gratitude for work graciously shared by  Mr. Charles
Bazalgette, who provided the names and birth dates of George's parents and  siblings, as well as George's wedding date.

The bulk of this work was kindly provided by Dr. Mark Hanus.

Notes on the Life of George Bazalgette

George was born to Joseph William Bazalgette (b. 15 Dec. 1784) and Sarah Crawford Magdalen Van Norden (b. 1794) in Nova Scotia sometime in the late 1820’s.  He was one of 15 children, of which 9 were boys and 6 were girls.  Seven of the boys accepted commissions in the various services.  George’s father was the adjutant general of Nova Scotia so it is likely that they lived in Halifax.  His most famous cousin, Sir Joseph Bazalgette[1], was knighted for clearing up the “big stink” of London by designing an efficient sewer system for the city. 

George Bazalgette was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant May 10 1847.  His official records state that he was 20½ when commissioned.  However, genealogical records imply that he was only 18 at the time.  To date no actual birth records or a definitive birth date has been located.

Lt. Bazalgette was assigned to Plymouth headquarters for initial training until October 2 1847 when he was transferred to Woolwich and given his first command. 

HMS Wellesley
On January 12 1848 he was transferred to the HMS Wellesley for duty on the North America and West Indies station. 

HMS Wellesley was a 1746 ton, wood, sailing ship of the Cornwallis class.  She was ordered by the Royal Navy in 1812 and launched February 24 1815.  HMS Wellesley was built in the Bombay shipyard.  She was a two deck, third rate of 74 guns.  In 1868 HMS Wellesley was renamed Cornwall for use as a training ship and was eventually sunk in the Thames by Nazi air attack September 24 1940.  In the above photograph HMS Wellesley is moored off North Shields in 1868.

In 2004, letters relating to HMS Wellesley’s time on station came up for auction.  There is no indication that they directly relate to George’s service but might shed some light on the events of Wellesley’s cruise.  I have no additional information on the disposition of the documents.

GOLDSMITH AND PRESS CORRESPONDENCE, ETC: c1840-50 envs. (6) to Commander Goldsmith on HMS Sloop "Hyacinth" and HMS "Wellesley" at Halifax & Devonport.  1847-53 covers (5) from Yarmouth to Capt. Joseph Press of the schooner "Isis" at Exeter, Tynemouth, Liverpool, London & Plymouth and another to the "Iolanthe" at Bristol.  Also 1845 EL from Hull to the barque "Sister" of Hull at Falmouth. (15 items).

The definitive source of records of the cruise is the log book of the HMS Wellesley for the period 1848 to 1851, which is housed in the National Archives of Scotland (Record reference: GD233/85, 88; NRA catalog reference NRA 8150 Cochrane). 

George was granted his step and promoted to 1st Lieutenant May 27 1848 while aboard the Wellesley.

Lt. Bazalgette returned to Plymouth headquarters in June 24 1851 where he remained until being shipped overseas via HMS Calypso on September 17 1853.  George’s records read “HMS Calypso (per Mail Packet)” this is very similar to the citation in Captain Delacombe’s records when he was dispatched to assume command of San Juan in 1867 (“HMS Sutlej p Mail Packet”).  From this, I conclude that George was not assigned to HMS Calypso but conveyed by Calypso to an unknown duty station.  Since HMS Calypso (launched May 1845) was a sixth rate (sloop), wood, sailing ship of 731 tons (20 Guns) they probably did not require a 1st Lieutenant of Marines.  A search of the log books of HMS Calypso has failed to turn up details of this voyage. 

Records show that HMS Calypso was assigned to the south Pacific from 1846 through 1848.  Mention of Calypso’s activities resume in 1857 when the vessel was assigned the mission of investigating Russian activities at the mouth of the Amur River.  In 1858 she was sent to the Fraser River in response to James Douglas’ frantic calls.  Calypso was not able to provide close support due to the lack of steam motive power.  In 1860 HMS Calypso was re-fit and rated to 18 guns.  Calypso’s assignment to the Pacific station may mean that George was assigned to the Pacific 3 years prior to his China service.

In 1853 George’s brother Evelyn joined the 95th Regiment of Foot (The Derbyshires) as an Ensign.  Evelyn carried the Derbyshire Colours in the battle of Alma where he was twice wounded.  The Colours were eventually passed on to Private Keenan, an event still marked by the regiment today.  Another interesting sidelight to this incident is that as a result of the high casualty rate among Colour bearers during the Alma the British High Command forbade the carrying of Regimental Colours into future battles.


Orders dated June 14 1855 reassigned George to Plymouth where he remained until December 30 1856 when he was assigned to HMS Impregnable, a second rate, wood hull, sailing vessel of 2406 tons.

HMS Impregnable

She carried 98 guns and was launched from Chatham dockyard August 1 1810.  HMS Impregnable was a near copy of the HMS Victory and used by the Duke of Clarence (King William IV) as his flag ship in 1812.  In 1862, Impregnable was rated a training ship.  In 1888 Impregnable was renamed to HMS Kent, and then to HMS Caledonia in 1891.  I have no records of her eventual fate.

To War in China

On July 18 1857 Lt. Bazalgette was ordered to return to Plymouth presumably in preparation for

 stationing to China.  On August 10 1857 he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion Royal Marines Light Infantry (RMLI) and left the next day for China aboard the P. & O. Imperader.  The Imperader was a steam transport ship chartered by the British government from the Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company[2].

After a record setting journey of just 80 days the Imperader arrived in China[3] on October 28 1857.  The 2nd Bt. was placed in the 1st Brigade (Holloway’s Brigade) under the command of Colonel Thomas Holloway A. D. C. the Brigade Major was Captain J. O. Travers Royal Marines.  Colonel Holloway’s Orderly officer was Captain Ellis.  The allied British and French land forces were under the command of Major-General Von Straubenzee.  Naval forces were under the command of Admiral Sir M. Seymour.  I have yet to discover to which company George was assigned so I have tracked 1st Bn./2nd Bd. in this account.

The newly arrived Marines from England were off loaded on the Wang-tong islands in the Pearl River below the city.  On December 15 1857 the 2nd Battalion was moved to Honan Island, known for its profusion of voracious mosquitoes.  Honan Island is located in the Pearl River just off shore of Canton.  It is about 1½ miles wide and 4 to 5 miles long.  Colonel Holloway assumed command of the Marines.  A magazine was quickly constructed to safely contain all of the ammunition for the troops.

On December 20 a divine service was held with most all of the men in attendance. 

 Reconnaissance patrols determined that the assault should come from the Eastern side of the city.  The Northeast and East gates and the Lin or Northeast Fort would be the points of attack.  On December 26 Chinese Commissioner Yeh was informed that he had 48 hours to accede to British demands, failure to do so would be greeted by a bombardment.

The men were in very good health for the coming assault.  The combination of cold weather, which held down the mosquito population, and the availability of fresh stocks of quinine resulted in only 15 sick men.

The attack was planned for December 28.  It would start when the ships Actaeon, Phlegathon, and sundry gunboats opened fire on the Southwest angle of the city walls; their object being to breach the walls and disrupt communication.  A second group of ships (Mitraille, Fuse, Cruiser, Hornet, Niger, and Blanche) in concert with the Dutch Folly Fort would shell the City walls opposite the Viceroy’s residence.  A large mortar installed in the Dutch Folly Fort was assigned to strike within the City and an area known as the Gough heights.  The third group of warships (Nimrod, Surprise, Dragon, Marcia, and assorted gunboats) was assigned to shell the Southeast angle of the New and Old city walls and the east city walls.  The bombardment was very slow and continued all day and all night.  Each gun in the first two groups was limited to firing 60 rounds in the first 24 hours.  The guns of the third group were allowed to fire up to 100 rounds in the same period of time.

At first light on December 29 the troops were to land at Kupur.  The plan called for the British Naval Brigade to be deployed on the right, Lieutenant-Colonel Lemon’s Marines, the 59th Regiment, the Royal Artillery, and the Royal Engineers to be deployed in the center, and the French Naval Brigade to be deployed on the left.  Colonel Holloway’s Marines would remain in reserve.

A significantly low tide delayed the landing of the force however all were in position by nightfall.  At 10 am on the 28th the French moved forward to occupy their position where they experienced hostile fire.  The 59th moved into position next to them to protect their flank as French forces drove the Chinese from the undulating ground in front of their position.  During this action the French force experienced some difficulty maneuvering owing to the swampy nature of the paddy fields and the large number of graves on the higher ground. 

Under cover of British howitzer fire the 59th moved to the Joss house, within 300 yards of the walls of the Lin Fort.  A 9 pr. field gun was brought up and put into action battering the walls of the Lin Fort.  Allied forces partially surrounded the Fort and the Chinese fled up hill to Gough’s Fort out of range of the heavy guns.  This action allowed British and French troops to bivouac within the walled city.

In the morning troops were formed up for the assault on Canton, the French Naval Brigade was positioned on the direct road to the East gate, the 59th to the rear under the walls of the Lin Fort, and the provisional RMLI battalion to the right on a range of hills fronting the NNW as if to advance on Gough’s Fort.  The 3rd division of the Naval Brigade was placed to the rear and to the right of Joss house.  One battalion of Col. Holloway’s RMLI was deployed to the left and the other guarding the landing site and the ammunition depot.  The artillery was positioned in front of the Lin Fort.

Positioning of the 3rd division served to decoy the Chinese commander into thinking that the target of the assault was Fort Gough.  The Chinese commander shifted his forces to counter this feint.  When it was perceived that the threat to Fort Gough was a ruse these troops moved to intercept the assault by attacking the flank.  Colonel Lemon’s troops were required to repulse this attempt and to hold the flank, which they did so well that it was difficult for the officers to restrain the men’s enthusiasm and call them back to their positions guarding the flank of the assault.

The guns opened fire on the East wall of Canton to clear the defenders.  Their fire was to stop at 9 when the assault was to start.  However, the French got off 20 minutes early and it was only by the quick action of Major Schomberg that the fire stopped before any French sailors were struck.  The assault was successful on the wall about ½ mile North of the East gate.  There the attackers turned north and cleared the walls.  The assault by the provisional brigade on the wall near the northeast gate was successful about 200 yards south of the Northeast gate.

During the assault a squadron of Chinese cavalry (Tartars) attacked Holloway’s Marines.  They were driven off but Colonel Holloway was wounded in the skirmish.  The Marines dropped their packs and charged after the Chinese but were quickly recalled by the General.

By 9 A.M. the majority of the attacking forces were on the walls of Canton and Chinese resistance was crumbling.  The Naval Brigade and the Royal Marines advanced to the North gate where resistance was stiff.  A swift charge by the Naval Brigade put the Chinese to rout.  Brigadier Graham with the 59th and 38th Native Infantry took the East gate and proceeded around the walls nearly to the South gate of the City.

About 2 pm Gough’s Fort was assaulted and taken.  In expectation of a counter-assault British troops remained on the walls of the City for the next 3 or 4 rainy days.  The exposure resulted in a great deal of sickness.

After the battle Gough’s and Bluejacket’s Forts were destroyed without effect on the Chinese.  The British/French forces paused to allow the Chinese to surrender, which they failed to do.  On January 5 operations were resumed.  Elements of the Naval Brigade advanced on the Yamen and captured the Tartar general.  Two companies of the 1st RMLI with 2 howitzers forced their way into the Yamen of the Governor of Kwang Tung and took him prisoner.  The provisional Battalion with 2 guns marched to the Temple where it was rumored that the Imperial Commissioner was hiding.  They did not find Yeh but they did find a considerable quantity of silver.

The Imperial Commissioner Yeh was captured by the Naval Brigade later in the day.  Since Yeh remained recalcitrant he was eventually sent to India.  Administration of the city was conducted by a council consisting of the Governor Pek-Wei, Col. Holloway, Capt. Martineau, and Mr. Parkes (British consul).

Casualties in the Royal Marine Artillery were Col. Holloway, 1 Sergeant, and 2 Gunners wounded, Colonel Lemon’s Provisional Battalion had 10 wounded, 1st RMLI Lieutenant Portlock-Dadson severely wounded and 1 Sergeant and 2 privates wounded. 

After this action the 2nd Bt. was quartered in the monastery of Celestial Bliss.  On a day when all the senior officers were out on a reconnaissance, a Chinese priest presented an order from General Von Straubenzee allowing him to recover personal property.  Under this authority he carried off an unknown amount of treasure that had been hidden in the idols prior to the assault.  Given that the priest was in possession of an order from the commander the guards were powerless to stop him.

Supplement, April 10, 1858]         THE ILLUSTRATED LONDON NEWS             373


(Top picture caption: Officer's quarters, provisional battalion Royal Marines on the walls of Canton.  Bottom picture caption: The old landing place, Canton.)

The cozy quarters of the officers of the Provisional battalion of Royal Marines given above were perched on the walls of Canton.  It was here that our Artist spent a few days and nights, as he says, "very picturesquely."

The Old Landing-place, Canton, with its Babel-like confusion , is then described by the Times correspondent:--"The point is where a shallow streamlet or drain falls into the river, about a mile to the east of the south-eastern corner of the city wall.  Suburban water-side hovels once covered the area upon which the promiscuous crowd now raging, and shooting, and pushing, and struggling; but those hovels are now only heaps of rubbish.  Twenty or thirty ships' boats have their bows against the bard: the Commissariat lords, the General's chop-boat (which in the confusion was once seized upon by a French ship-of-war and taken down the river), several gun-boats, and the Commissariat lie off the river.  Packages innumerable, baggage and bales, barrels and cases, munitions of war and munitions for the stomach, are piled about in mountains . . . . Everybody wants and escort, and everybody wants a troop of coolies.  Oh those patient, lusty, enduring coolies!  It was a valuable legacy which Colonel Wetherall left us, that Coolie Corps.  They carried the ammunition on the day of the assault close up to the rear of our columns, and when a cannon shot took off the head of one of them the others only cried "Ey yaw!" and laughed, and worked away as merrily as ever . . . .

The French are already passing in strong bodies, carrying up their heavy baggage to the front.  Ever and anon some gaping Chinaman is urged by curiosity to approach the crowd.  Quick as lightning Johnny Frenchman seizes him by the ear, pops the end of a bamboo pole upon his shoulder, gives him a kick in the rear, and makes him trot off, a pressed porter, amid the jeers of our Commissariat coolies. When a long pile of baggage-carriers has been formed an escort is given and away they go through the dangerous débris of wrecked houses which intervene between the landing-place and the East-gate." A new landing has been made at the south-east point of the city by Capt. Hall, which, by way of compliment to that energetic officer, is called Hall's terrace.

On June 2 1858 troops under the personal direction of Major-General Van Straubenzee conducted a reconnaissance of the White Cloud Mountain where Chinese forces had been reported.  They discovered an encampment and applied for reinforcements.  By 7 p.m. 1400 men had started to the area.  Among these reinforcements was Col. Holloway with a force of about 600 Marines and 100 men of the 59th with 4 guns.  An additional force consisting of the Naval Brigade, Royal Artillery, and the 2nd Sepoys, embarked in gunboats and traveled down river landing the next morning. 

The advance began at daybreak however it was soon found that only the two Royal Marine Artillery rocket tubes could accompany them.  At 11 am the enemy camp was sighted and the advance guard pushed on, 3 officers and 8 men being wounded.  Due to the great heat the troops halted until the evening.  The Marines occupied a village in which they were able to shelter.  When the force was able to advance again they crossed the 1200 foot mountain, but found the Chinese camp deserted.

They returned to Canton on the 4th, having burnt 3 villages in the campaign.  The force suffered Lieutenant Rokeby and 26 men were wounded, and many men incapacitated by sunstroke.  The following men were mentioned in the London Gazette: B. Major R. Boyle, Lieutenants G. McCallum, W.H. Clements, H.H. Norton (Atr.), H.B. Savage (Atr.), 2nd Lieutenants W.W. Allnutt, and H.T. Cooper.  It is likely that Lt. H.T. Cooper is the same Henry Cooper who accompanied George to San Juan Island in 1859.

In August George was sent with another expedition to the walled town of Nantow.  They proceeded by water in gunboats and landed at 11 a.m. on the 10th, to the southwest of the city, the covering party being provided by the Naval Brigade.  This entailed an advance through a populous suburb.  The advance was made in two parallel columns; 40 officers and 289 Naval Brigade formed the outer column; 3 officers and 64 men Royal Artillery, 3 officers and 22 men Royal Engineers, 5 officers and 104 men 104th Regiment, 2 officers and 100 men from the 12th Native Infantry, 5 officers and 140 men RMLI forming the inner column.  The RMLI troops under Captain Foote were held in reserve.  They moved along the canal in great heat under constant fire from the right flank.

After a reconnaissance, ladders were placed and the Naval Brigade stormed the walls, covered by the 59th and the 12th Native Infantry, whilst the Royal Marines covered the right flank.  During the escalade of the walls “the force under Colonel Graham was attacked by several hundred Braves who were most gallantly repulsed by Battalion Major Foote and the Royal Marines” though not without loss.  The wall was gained and the enemy fled.  The gate was blown in and after burning the city they returned to Canton the following morning.  Unfortunately 3 officers were killed by the accidental discharge of the seamen’s rifles.

George was promoted to Captain August 11 1858 perhaps due to losses incurred during the fighting.  The Royal Marines lost 8 wounded, one mortally.  On 23rd August Lieutenant-Colonel Walsh was invalided, and on October 1st Colonel Lemon assumed command of the 1st RMLI.

After recovering from the wounds he suffered in the Crimea, George’s brother Evelyn rejoined the 95th as a Captain.  In India, the 95th Regiment of foot assaulted mutinous Sepoys in the city of Kotah on March 30 1858.  Evelyn was wounded during the assault.  He was blown up when something went terribly wrong as a detachment from the 95th was attempting to destroy a Sepoy magazine.  The resulting explosion was so loud and the blast so intense that Mrs. Fanny Duberly who was still more than a mile from the city wrote of hearing the explosion and feeling the ground shake.  Evelyn died on April 1 1858.  The same Colours stained with the blood he shed at the Alma were used to drape his casket at the burial ceremony.  The 95th Regiment has honored his memory by having his name etched in the memorial stone at their headquarters.

British Columbia

On November 27 1858 Captain Bazalgette, 6 officers (Captain Thomas Magin, Lieutenants; G.L. Owen, R.P. Henry, G.L. Blake, E.C. Sparshott, and H.T.M. Cooper), and 80 men were transferred to British Columbia.  They made the voyage in the HMS Tribune under the command of Geoffrey Phipps Hornby.  The men of the BC contingent were all volunteers probably lured to the colonies for the extra colonial pay.  The trip to BC was a disaster.  It took 33 days just to reach Nagasaki Japan, where they spend 17 days refitting.  Another 6 weeks were required to cross the Pacific and arrive at Esquimault Harbor.

Upon arrival the Marines were moved to land bases and assigned duties under the direction of Colonel Moody of the Royal Engineers.

In the colonies the Marines assumed the duty of guarding the road building activities, training the militia, and garrisoning San Juan Island.

Having arrived in British Columbia with the Volunteer Marines from China, Captain Bazalgette. Though Major Magin RMLI, was the commander of the Marine Detachment, they both found himself under the overall command of Colonel RC Moody, commanding the RE Columbia Detachment. Colonel Moody, as Commander of Land Forces, initially used the RMLI officers in the Colony for reconnaissance missions. Bazalgette was sent out with a Royal Marine Artillery Officer, Lt. Blake (who also worked as Moody's Aide-de-camp until the official arrival of the Columbia Detachment).

Royal Marine Camp, Queenborough, 25 April, 1859

To His Excellency
Colonel Moody
Royal Engineers


            I have the honour to inform you that according to your order, I proceeded last Monday in charge of an exploration expedition consisting of Captain Bazalgette, RM, one Private, RM, and three Indians with rations for five days for the purpose of ascertaining the relative position of Burrard Inlet with regard to Queenborough.

            The route I pursued for the purpose of affecting this was by the small River Brunette to Burnaby Lake, making the latter my Head Quarters.

The distance from Queenborough to the lake I ascertained to be by the River about 6 miles. The river is exceedingly tortuous in its course, and its stage at the time that I proceeded up it was very low, but perfectly navigable for small canoes the portages owing to the fallen timber are numerous; but these obstacles might easily be removed. 

The Lake is two miles and a half in length by one in breadth and the deepest part that I could find, I sounded at two fathoms, its entire shores are also very swampy – its bearing is N.70 W. from where the Brunette running to the Fraser flows out of it – and is about N.70 W. of Queenborough. On the Second day I despatched Captain Bazalgette R.M., to reconnoiter the head of the lake and he discovered a river which he followed up on a Westerly course for 3 miles (Still Creek). 

This river runs into a lake but with an almost imperceptible motion, it is also much deeper than any other part of the latter that I sounded. Its average depth being three fathoms, it also winds in small turns of every fifty of sixty yards but its general bearing is West, its shores are swampy and covered with alder, its general appearance might be likened to a Canal. 

On the same day I started with an Indian and two days provisions and took a course due North from the eastern point of the lake over a Mountain 600 feet above the level of the sea – covered with dense forest – on reaching the summit I found Burrards Inlet to be immediately beneath it on the opposite side branching off into two arms the Southern most one of which bore to the eastward and appeared to terminate within a short distance. The Northern most one hugging the base of the opposite high range of mountains was shut out from any observation. The mountain I ascended had an exceedingly steep descent to the Northward the breadth of the inlet was at the broadest part two miles: observing on this occasion that the mountain a short distance from where I had crossed it terminated abruptly to the Eastward and that a comparatively cleared valley about a mile in width skirted it in the direction of the Inlet, I devoted my third day to endeavouring to find out the nearest and most direct point from the latter to Queenborough and by returning about a mile and a quarter down the river Brunette from the Lake, I entered the valley and found it lead over a perfectly level and nearly cleared Country direct to the termination of the Southernmost branch of the inlet the distance from River to the latter being about two and a half miles and I compute the distance that exists between that part of the river and Queenborough to be about three miles in a direct line this would make the nearest point of the Inlet five and a half miles from Queenborough.

On the fourth day I tried to get up the River at the head of the Lake further than Captain Bazalgette had been but after three miles the snags were so numerous from the fallen trees that I found the labour of getting the Canoe over

Too great to proceed much further than he had already been the depth of the River continued the same at this point – it also flows through a perfectly unbroken valley which heads due West to Burrard Inlet. From the head of the lake and the distance across the former I should  say to be about eight miles. 

I have the Honour to be
Your Most Obedient Servant
G.S. Blake
Lt. , R.M.L.I.

Having returned from this rather arduous Duty of exploration, Bazalgette, who appears to not have had Leave for some time, requests Leave from Colonel Moody.

Queenborough, 2nd May 1859

"...obliged to postpone Leave which Captain Bazalgette solicits there being insufficient Officers for District Court Martial..."

The RE and the RMLI begin to work together during the Spring of 1859 on various Public Works projects in New Westminster.  When the Queen's Birthday celebrations occurred in Queenborough,  the two units planned and organized the event.

From The British Colonist, 30 May 1859

The Celebration of the Anniversary of Her Majesty’s Birthday at Queenborough 

The 24th of May was a day of general rejoicing and festivity in Queenborough, the capital of British Columbia, in honour of the anniversary of Her Majesty’s birth, and what rendered the day so peculiarly interesting was its being the first time Her Majesty’s subjects in this distant part of the world have had an opportunity of expressing their loyalty and devotion to their beloved Sovereign. The sports and games went off with éclat, amid the applause of a large concourse of people. The weather lowered opinions at the dawn of the day, but changed towards noon to one of those bright, sunny days, which are so well known in dear old England as “Queen’s days”. 

            To the stroke of time, the bugle summoned the troops of the garrison to the place of rendezvous, whilst loud hurrahs followed in their wake, giving to the parade ground of the North Camp, a very animated appearance, which was moreover graced by the attendance of Mrs. Moody, Mrs. Grant, Mrs. Spaulding and others of the fair sex. 

      The troops were drawn up in line at 11:30. A field piece manned by the blue jackets of Her Majesty’s Ship Plumper, which ship, by the way, had been gaily dressed in flags, occupied the extreme right. The Royal Engineers on the left under the command of Captain Grant. The Royal marine light Infantry on the left under the command of Captain Bazalgette, R.M.L.I., Major Magin having been unfortunately indisposed. The Lieutenant Governor Colonel Moody, R.E., and staff, having inspected the troops, a Royal Salute of 21 guns was fired at noon, accompanied by a feu-de-joie from the forces. He then addressed the troops in very feeling and soldier-like terms, after which, the national Anthem was sung by all present in a strain that filled many with emotion. 

Some time after the Queen's Celebrations on the 24th of May, 1859, Bazalgette at last receives his Leave. Upon his return -

Queenborough, 18th June, 1859.

"...Captain Bazalgette RMLI, returns from Sick Leave today and takes up command of the Detachment of Royal Marines at Port Douglas at work upon the Road..."

- letter from Captain Luard, RE

Captain Bazalgette and his Marines work on the Douglas-Lilooet road from the 18th of June until the 1st August of 1859. During their first year in the colonies there was a constant battle to get the colonial pay that they were promised in China.  Many letters were exchanged between the command and the Admiralty asking that such pay be remitted. 

San Juan Island

The essence of the boundary dispute was a disagreement over where the last piece of the southern Canadian border should lie[4].  The Oregon Treaty of 1846 established the 49th parallel as the boundary between the two countries.  It stated that the boundary should run from the crest of the Rocky Mountains along “the forty-ninth parallel of north latitude to the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver’s Island; and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of Fuca’s Straits to the Pacific Ocean…”.  The writers of the treaty were unaware that multiple channels satisfy that description.  The western-most channel is Haro Strait, while the eastern-most channel is Rosario Strait.  The British claimed that the Oregon treaty referred to Rosario Strait while the Americans claimed that it referred to Haro Strait.

To strengthen British claims to the islands the HBC established a fishing camp on San Juan Island in 1850.  In 1853 this was expanded into a sheep ranching operation.  In 1854 the Americans included San Juan Island in Whatcom County, Washington Territory.  The ground was laid for a potentially dangerous dispute.

The British Admiralty assigned HMS Plumper under the command of Captain George H. Richards and HMS Sattelite under the command of James C. Prevost to survey both the straits.  Prevost also acted as Commissioner in the boundary dispute.

The difficulties in negotiating a settlement to the boundary dispute between the United States and Great Brittan were as much an issue of personalities as policy.  The American General W. S. Harney and the B.C. Governor James Douglas were both excitable men given to irrational outbursts. 

Those Marines that participated in the aborted re-invasion of San Juan Island soon found themselves back in Victoria. Some of the enlisted men were soon transferred onto men-of-war in the Pacific Squadron. many, including the officers whiled their time away in Victoria at their barracks at the Colonial Offices on the site of the present day Provincial Parliament buildings.


The October Race meeting of Victoria, came off on Thursday last, on the race course at Beacon Hill. Although the threatening aspect of the weather in the morning may have deterred numbers from attending, yet the concourse of people was both numerous and respectable. The plentiful sprinkling of Marines and men-of-War men gave an animated and pleasing appearance to the scene. The ground was in beautiful condition, and although the horses could scarcely merit the title 'racers' yet their general appearance, with one or two exceptions, was credible. The first race, which was the Queen's Plate, for a purse of $129, weight to stone - heats - commenced about 1 o'clock.

The following horses were entered:- Mr. Skinner's "Red Fern", Mr. Parker's "Moustache", Captain Henry's "Old Rake", Captain Bazalgette's "Badger", Mr. Wallace's "White Stocking" but only "Red Fern" and "Moustache" took the field. The latter, however, distancing his competitor, won in a heat.

--1st November, 1859 - The New Westminster Times

It was agreed by both countries that Britain would station 100 Marines on San Juan Island.  George was given command of the detachment.

Royal Marines, Commanding the Detachment
Landed on the Island of San Juan:

The object of placing you there is for the protection of British interests, and to form a joint military occupation with the troops of the United States. As the sovereignty of the island is still in dispute between the two Governments, you will on no account whatever interfere with the citizens of the United States, but should any offense be committed by such citizens which you may think it advisable to notice you will send a report of it immediately to Captain Hunt, or officer commanding the U.S. troops. American citizens have equal rights with British subjects on the island. Should the officer commanding the U.S. troops bring to your notice offenses committed by any of Her Majesty's subjects you will use your best judgment in dealing with the case, and I authorize you, if you deem it necessary, to send them off the island by the first opportunity. If any doubts arise as to the nationality of an offender you will not [decide] in the case before you have consulted with the U.S. commanding officer, and not even then unless your opinions coincide. You will place yourself in frank and free communication with the commanding officer of the U.S. troops, bearing in mind how essential it is for the public service that the most perfect and cordial understanding should exist between you, which I have every reason to feel assured you will at all times find Captain Hunt ready and anxious to maintain.

Rear-Admiral and Commander-in-Chief

Since Bazalgette was given command of the garrison at San Juan Island, Major Magin, being the senior officer, must have turned it down.  It is interesting to speculate why.  A search of his records might provide some indication.  Unfortunately there is a single record matching the string “Magin” in the BC Archives call number GR-1372.

The Detachment were landed from HMS Satellite on March 21 1860. They brought along the necessary materials to erect the first building, a commissary. Bazalgette also placed an requisition, when they arrived,

"84 tin pannikins, 36 tin plates, 3 'dishes', 10 camp kettles, 18 lanterns, 1 measures set and a small quantity of stationary."

The command consisted of:-
2 Subalterns
1 Assistant Surgeon
83 Other Ranks

After clearing the shore of its thick growth of trees, they erected the commissary and planted a small garden. Barracks, Cooking houses and other vital structures were all erected, especially after the visit in June 1860, of Rear Admiral Robert Lambert-Baynes, who declared extra pay for the men to prepare the camp for winter.

In the summer of 1861, a Volunteer Rifle movement started in Victoria. The RMLI from the Garrison were sent out to assisst.


The Victoria Rifle Volunteers will commence drill today, at the barracks formerly occupied by Capt. Bazalgette's company, James Bay. Hours of drill from 6 to 8 am, and from 6 to 8 pm, daily, until further orders. An order from Lt. Col. Foster, will be found among our advertisements. It is understood that the drill serjeants provided by Admiral Maitland will take up their quarters permanently at the barracks. We are very glad to learn that a movement for placing the corps on an efficient footing has at length been made, and trust and believe that there will be no shirking of duty on the part of the members.

--24th July, 1861 - The Daily British Colonist

The photograph below, of George Bazalgette and C. W. Wallace comes from a Tolmie family photo album.  Charles W. Wallace married Catharine Work.  It is likely that George and Charles were acquainted through the local militia which the RMLI was training.

There is some discussion over the pronunciation for the Bazalgette family name.  My current preference is “Basil (as in Rathbone) jate” this is based upon a name written across a contemporary photograph from the British Columbia Provincial Archives.  The inscription reads “Capt. Basiljate + C.W. Wallace”. 
I assume that the individual that inscribed the photograph was not one of George’s close friends and wrote the name phonetically.

In 1862 the Royal Marines stationed at San Juan were carried on the victualling list of HMS Bacchante.

On April 16 1862, Captain Lyman Bissell of the US 9th Infantry at Camp Pickett, sent a letter to Major R. C. Drum, Asst. Adjutant-General in San Francisco.
It referenced to a meeting with residents of San Juan Island forming a committee to regulate their land claims until sovereignty of the island could be established.
He recognized the name of some of them namely:- Higgins - the postmaster, who made his living from selling liquor to soldiers and Indians and Offutt, secretary to the meeting, who also made a living selling whiskey. Higgins claimed that he only sold it to his men and they in turn sold it to the Indians.

"The San Juan difficulty still remains unsolved and three Marine Officers that I know have been wasting their existence there for three years and still no prospect of relief".

-- Lt. Anderson RE, 2nd May 1862

In the Autumn of 1862 Hibbard , another of the residents at the meeting, tried to stir up trouble between the British and American forces on the island by writing a dictatorial letter to Captain Bazalgette because Bazalgette had ordered two of his Marines out of his camp that were there for the purpose of selling whiskey to his men.

On August 15th 1862 Bazalgette made an official complaint against a man called Andrews who had a claim about one mile from the English Camp. The Indians reported to him that Andrews had disposed of a large amount of whiskey to them the evening before and that one of their number had been murdered.

Captain Bissell and Lieutenant Cooper  RMLI, together with a NCO went to the Indian camp and found this to be true. The chief had three men who could identify "Bill" as Andrews was known to them and sent them with Bissell. They found him in a lime kiln with Hibbard. The Indians recognized Andrews straight away as the man who sold them the whiskey. Bissell knowing that to get a conviction against Andrews, ordered him to leave the island, he also notified the criminal element that they also had 24 hours to leave the island, on the expiration of the time they would be placed in charge of the guard.

Much of the above information was taken from:

One of the RMLI bugler's by the name of George Hughes went AWOL.  He reappeared in the American ranks in December of 1866.  After seeking the advice of Navy Captain Oldfield, the senior officer at Esquimault, George drafted a letter to Captain Thomas Grey, commander of the American forces on San Juan Island, demanding his return.  Captain Grey declined to comply and both letters made their way through the chain of review to their respective governments.  The political desire for peaceful joint occupation was so strong that Richard Temple-Grenville, the Duke of Buckingham and Chandos and Lord President of the Privy Council directed the Admiralty to ensure that a similar event never occurred.  Being brought to the attention of the Admiralty in this manner effectively ended George’s career in the Marines.

Captain Bazalgette was relieved of command of the San Juan garrison on July 24 1867.  He returned to Plymouth for another three years.  On February 22 1870, after 23 years of service, he retired from active duty in the RMLI.  This didn’t stop him from accepting a position at the recruiting station in Exeter on April 15 1867.  In June 1870 he married Louisa Seville (b. Feb. 1835) in Marylebone near where their families lived.  Interestingly, after their marriage Louisa Seville used the name Louise Bazalgette on legal documents.  Perhaps this was done to avoid name confusion with George’s sister Louisa.

Vessels upon which George Bazalgette, RMLI traveled
HMS Wellesley 01/48 - 06/51 to North America
HMS Calypso 09/53 - 07/55   mail in Atlantic
HMS Impregnable 12/56 - 07/57    
HMS Imperador 08/57 - 11/58   China
HMS Tribune 11/58 - 07/67   San Juan Island

The Bazalgette Home on Upper Glouster Road, Marylebone, London

George continued at the recruiting station until April 15 1872 when he asked to be placed on the retired list.  He was granted an honorary Majority June 26 1872.  We can only speculate why.


I, George Bazalgette, a major in Her Majesty's Service, declare this is my last Will and Testament.

I give all my estate and effects whatsoever and wheresoever, to my wife Louise, for her own uses and benefit and I appoint her Executrix of this my Will.  I witness whereof I have herewithin signed my name this nineteenth day of June A.D. one thousand eight hundred and eighty five, - Geo: Bazalgette -

Signed and published by the above named as his Will in the joint presence who in his presence and in the presence of each other have hereunto signed our names as witnesses

- Evelyn Bazalgette, 14 Devonshire Place, W.
- Janet Duncan, 52 Upper Gloucester Place.

On the 29th Day of September 1885 Probate of this Will was granted to Louisa Bazalgette, widow, the sole Executrix.

George Bazalgette
Kensal Green Cemetery
- Plot 29852
- Grave 6' 6" at 8 ' Depth.
Reserve 78/3 2' 6" at 8' depth.  Granted 26 Aug 1885 for 5 pounds 5 shillings to Evelyn Bazalgette of 14 Devonshire Place Cavendish Square.

Notation to it:

Buried George Bazalette 1885 29th Aug
Removed to plot 32071 1st May 1890

Louisa and George Bazalgette
Kensal Green Cemetery
- Plot 32071
- Grave Size 9' at 7 ' Depth.
Reserve 64/p.s. 4' at 7' depth.  Granted 29 April 1890 for 15 pounds 15 shillings nr.  29852 exhumed by order to Louise Bazalgette of 5 Bryanston St., Marylebone.

George Bazalgette 1885
Remains from nr. 29852 1 May 1890
Louise Bazalgette 1918 13th March

Probate of the above granted 17th of April 1918 to Mary Russell (widow sister of deceased)

At the time of his death George’s personal estate amounted to £284 3s. 11d.  His will was executed by Louise September 20 1885 “The will of George Bazalgette late of 52 Upper-Gloucester-place Dorset-square in the County of Middlesex a Major in Her majesty’s Army who died 24 August 1885 at 52 Upper-Gloucester-place was proved at the Principal Registry by Louise Bazalgette of 25 Dorset-square Widow the Relict the sole Executrix[5]”.

According to cemetery personnel, George Bazelgette's headstone is somewhere in the above photograph.  As he had no children, and no local relatives to maintain his gravesite, time and the elements have made identifying his headstone impossible.

George was buried in grave 29852 of the Kensal Green Cemetery.  At Louise’s request his casket was transferred to from grave 29852 to grave 32071 on May 1 1890.  Louise was buried with him in this plot March 13 1918[6].

George and Louisa had no descendants.  However descendants of their cousin have collected some genealogical records that include them[7].

1) What are the names of the Captains of the ships on which Capt George Bazalgette served?
2) How many Marines were assigned to Royal Navy Ships?  How many Marine officers?
3) How concerned was George with his trade?  Did he consider knowledge of battle tactics and strategy as important to his future?
4) How did he view the assignment to San Juan?  How did he see it in relation to his career?

If you know the answer to any of these questions, please drop us a line, or sign our Guest Registry

[1] The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis. Stephen Halliday 1999
[2] Despite the claims of Sir H.E. Blumberg P&O disclaims ownership of any ship named either Imperador or Imperader.
[3] Descriptions of the China Campaigns taken from: History of the Royal Marines 1837 – 1914 General Sir H.E. Blumberg K.C.B., RM.  Royal Marines Historical Society.
[4] The Royal Navy and the Northwest Coast of North America 1810-1914.  Barry M. Gough 1971
[5] Obituary in the “Morning Post” August 28 1885.
[6] Records of the Kensal Green Cemetary.
[7] Personal communication with Mr. Charles Bazalgette of Toronto(?) CA.