George Pollock entered the Royal Military Academy of Woolwich on 21st January, 1801. On leaving he entered the Bengal Artillery and sailed for India in September 1803.
His first action was the Battle of Deig (November 1804), against the Mahrattas under Holkar and he was present at the siege of Bhurtpore (January - February 1805).
After a period of staff appointments, he took part in the 1814-16 Nepal War. He returned to his staff duties until 1824 when he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel. At this time he was ordered to take sick-leave in England but he managed to get appointed to the British forces in Burma where he played a conspicuous role which won him the CB.
He returned to England in 1827 on sick leave where he remained until 1830 when he was posted to Cawnpor. He received his King's commission as Colonel in 1835 and in 1838 became Brigadier-General in Dinapore. That same year he became Major-General at Agra.
In 1838, the Governor-General of India decided to invade Afghanistan to proclaim a pro-British former ruler as king of Afghanistan. The initial campaign was a success but at the end of 1841 the 5000 British and Indian troops and 12000 camp-followers, wives and children withdrew from Kabul. Legnd has it that only one (Dr. Brydon) reached the British garrison at Jellalabad in January 1842. There was now almost nothing between the Afghanistan forces and India.
After this disaster, General Pollock was given command in February of the British army in Peshawar, whose very shaky morale he restored by the strength of his personality. He advanced through the Khyber Pass to Jellalabad, whose garrison he relieved in April after defeating an enemy force of 10,000 for the loss of 135.
At this moment General Nott, who had advanced from India to Kandahar through Quetta, was authorised to retreat to India through Kabul and Pollock was authorised to do what was necessary to protect the British troops. Both generals took advantage of the badly-wriiten orders to advance on Kabul. Pollock reached Kabul on September 15th after fighting the battles of Jugdulluck Pass and Tezeen; and Nott arrived the 17th, after fighting the battle of Ghuzmee.
Meanwhile the Afghan leader had fled towards Turkhistan with his prisoners, and Pollock ordered his military secretary, Sir Richmond Shakespeare, to rescue them, with Sir Richard Sale, the commander of the Jellalabad garrison, in support. Shakespeare caught up with them on the 17th and delivered them to Sale on the 20th. Amongst the rescued captives was Sale's own wife and daughter.
Pollock and Nott withdrew to India in October after destroying the great Bazaar. Once again they had to fight their way through the Khyber Pass. Pollock's divison passed through with the loss of one or two men, but the other divisions did not take the same precautions and sufferered more, but in any case the "retreat" had been another great victory.
For more information, see the "Memoir to Illustrate the Origin and Foundation of the Pollock Medal".
It is widely considered that Pollock has been treated unfairly. Many have argued that his victories for such small losses were due to the superiority of the British forces over the Afghans, and not to the care with which he planned the campaign. If this is true then we are forced to ask why the initial forces were so easily defeated with catastrophic consequences and why other campaigns in the Afghan mountains have also failed.
George Pollock retired in 1870 with the rank of Field Marshall and was made Constable of the Tower in 1871. He was awarded the GCSI in 1861 and the GCB in 1873, and made a baronet in 1872. Sir George died 6 Oct 1872 and is buried in Westminster Abby.
According to Alexander Pollock (Ref. 1), he had 6 children and another 4 apparently born between 1826 and 1829 who died in infancy and whose names are not recorded. Of the 6, 4 married and had children
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