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Surgeon Major General A. F. Bradshaw

A few years ago acquired a Victorian rifle in a trade show. It was interesting and the first rolling block I had ever owned so I was more than happy enough to get it, I saw there was a bit of an inscription which I didn't really pay much attention too, it being far too dark and early plus me being far too uncaffinated.

When I studied the piece it was nicer than I remembered, there was a damaged section of hand guard but for the most part it was in good shape with a lovely yellow maple effect finish and after the metalwork was cleaned up it was blued and nicely nickel plated. That was when I removed a leather binding around the pistol grip that too far gone to save so to better maintain the rifle I removed it and underneath I found a name!

With a fair amount of polishing and carefully removing corrosion that had bubbled over the plating I managed to get to both inscriptions which read:

"Hazara Field Force, India, 1895" on the side of the blockplate.

Then on the back of the grip, "Presented to Surgeon Major General Sir A. F. Bradshaw K. C. B. from your indebted comrades".

After a little research I found the man in question but there is so little written about people perceived as non combatants that it was an uphill struggle to find what I wanted and if i'm being honest there is still one piece I am desperately searching for.

This wasn't helped by the incredible humbleness of Sir Bradshaw who upon his death in Oxford in 1923 surprised even his neighbors with his exploits.

So to start at the beginning, Alexander Frederick Bradshaw was born in London 1834 and became a doctor after studying and serving with St.Bartholomew's Hospital, London and gained his rank of Assistant Surgeon with the India Medical Staff on May 27th 1857, just 17 days after the outbreak of the Mutiny and was then attached to the Rifle Brigade in July being send directly to Lucknow with his orderlies Hogger and Lawrence, accompanied by his batsman Wade.

What little he wrote about the campaign tells that the dust was unbearable, the officers of The Rifles never rode as their men walked, the Riflemen were constantly joking and having fun, with a war going on the men didn't have enough time to come to him to help preventable diseases and that the Native soldiers were excellent companions, even going so far as to defend the native Company mutineers so sure was he that the atrocities of the war were being carried out by religious fanatics. He was present at Lucknow and treated the wounded constantly throughout the siege being one of only a handful of surgeons to treat untold numbers of soldiers and civilians.

After the Mutiny the regiment traveled the country and Bradshaw witnessed the mourning both by Indian and British born people of India even noting that his faithful orderly Hogger couldn't survive the hardships and was taken by disease, he said in an article to fellow officers that it was a relief that he could treat the day to day ailments of the men again.

With fourteen years as an Assistant Surgeon (albeit being the Garrison Surgeon at Delhi for years) he moved to the Chestnut Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery to gain promotion (being the only officer to serve in both interestingly), something more common among the staff and incredibly hard to come by as a medical officer in Regimental service.

After regimental life he became the personal medical officer to Lord Sandhurst, Lord Napier and Sir Haines the Commander in Chief of HM Forces in India, during this time he was still an active service officer participating in the Afghan War of 1879, being the Principal Medical Officer for the Zhob Valley Expedition (mentioned in dispatches for being involved in action, no further details seem to exist but this is the only time we can confirm Surgeon Bradshaw saw combat personally), he was the P.M.O. of the Egyptian Frontier Force and the P.M.O. and Chief Surgeon of the Hazara campaign.

Bradshaw retired in 1895 and this is presumably was given this rifle as a retirement present by his fellow officers from the Hazara campaign. After his retirement he taught medicine at Oxford and was honourary surgeon to Queen Victoria, King Edward VII and George V.

Whilst not taking a commission I have found Bradshaw serving as an active Doctor in 1918 dealing with war wounded and presumably the rest of the War giving him a total medical career of near 70 years following the greatest period of change in warfare ever seen.

Sadly killed by a motor car at the wedding of one of his children in 1923 and the ripe old age of 89 being known simply as a kindly Oxford teacher and doctor.

Hopefully I have done some justice to Surgeon Major General Sir Alexander Frederick Bradshaw K.C.B, he had a career dedicated to healing lasting seventy years, most of that dedicated to his army service.

The article is dedicated to Surgeon Major General Bradshaw and every non combatant often left to the sidelines in histury.


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