Major-General John Palmer Brabazon is exceptional in so much that, as an officer, he left the army after obtaining Captain's rank, and rejoined it as a subaltern at the age of thirty-one. He was born on 12th February 1843. On 4th February 1863, “Gentleman Cadet” Brabazon, was gazetted to a Cornetcy in the 16th Lancers (about the time of the death of his elder brother Captain Luke Brabazon in China). Six months later he was promoted to the rank of Ensign and then Lieutenant in the Grenadier Guards, and finally on 10th July 1869, he was further advanced to the rank of Lieutenant and Captain. On 26th February 1870, he moved to the 69th Regiment, and then on 24th September 1870, he retired from the service by selling his commission.

He inherited the Swinford estate in 1864, being the last landlord but decided to concentrate on his army career so choose to be an absentee landlord. He returned to Ireland to manage his estates at the time of the 2nd Famine. Many estates were in dire circumstances due to lack of rents being paid. He briefly visited Swinford in 1877 with his two sisters and in 1880 he gave permission for the erection of the Ball Alley in Swinford. When Sir Garnet Wolseley was nominated, at the end of 1873, to proceed to the West Coast of Africa to conduct the Expedition to Kumassi, Captain Brabazon applied to accompany him and made known his readiness to embark in any capacity. He was permitted to go as a Special Service Volunteer, with the rank of Captain, being attached on arrival to the column under Captain (later Lieutenant-General) Butler, in Western Akim, and afterwards to the Transport Service.

He was so successful in this venture, that in addition to the War Medal, he received the offer of a commission as Lieutenant in the 10th Hussars, being appointed on 13th June 1874. He joined his regiment in India, where he served with it in the Afghan War of 1878-79, and was afterwards employed as Officiating Brigade Major and Staff Officer of Cavalry, with the Kuram Field Force, being present at the capture of the Peiwar Kotal, in the operations of the Khost Valley, in the engagement at Charasiah on 6th October 1879, and in the operations round Kabul in December 1879, including the investment of Sherpur.

He cam to the notice of Sir Frederick Roberts, and was selected to act as Cavalry Brigade Major in the march from Kabul to Kandahar, and was present at the battle before the latter Kandahar on 1st September 1880. For his services he was repeatedly mentioned in Dispatches, was promoted to Brevet Major, and received the War Medal with clasp, and bronze decoration.

In 1884 the 10th Hussars were ordered to land at Suakim on their way home from India, for Sir Gerald Graham's Soudan Expedition, that was being organised. Brevet Major Brabazon was with them, taking an active part in the actions of El Teb and Tamai, and in recognition of his services, was promoted on 21st May, 1884 to a Brevet Lieutenant-Colonelcy, and decorated with the Egyptian Medal with Clasp, and Khedives Star. When in the following year the Camel Corps was formed for the Nile Expedition, Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel Brabazon was the officer chosen to take out the 10th Hussars contingent. In this role he played a prominent part in the operations of the Desert Column, and was present in the disastrous engagement at Abu Klea, on 16th and 17th February 1885, when the lamented Major-General Sir Herbert Stewart received his death wound, and the Gallant Colonel Fred Burnaby was killed. His reward for this campaign was a Clasp only. He was made a Companion of the Bath on 3rd June 1893.

On 10th August 1889, he was promoted to his substantive majority in the 10th Hussars, and steps were taken that his professional merits be acknowledged. On the 28th August he was appointed an Aide-de-Camp to the Queen, with the rank of Colonel in the Army. He was promoted on 12th February 1891 to a half-pay Lieutenant-Colonelcy, and on 13th May following, he was gazetted to the command of the 4th Hussars, a position he retained for five years, an extra year being given him due to the superb manner in which the regiment had been brought as a fighting unit under his hands. Then came a period of inaction until 28th January 1899 when he was posted to Canterbury as Colonel on the Staff to command the Cavalry there and at Shorncliffe. On the formation of the Field Force for South Africa, he was chosen to command a Cavalry Brigade, and promoted to the temporary rank of Major-General as from 9th October 1899, and commanded the Imperial Yeomanry, mainly due to his remarkable organising powers, and personal acquaintance with many of the best known officers of the Force. He ended his life in London as a member of the Court of George V, he died in 1922.

Extract from "British Commanders in the Transvaal War 1899-1900" published by W.D. & H.O. Wills Ltd:


Was born in 1843, and entered the 16th Lancers nearly forty years ago. He has also served in the Grenadier Guards. Bearing an exceptionally fine soldierly address, and possessing cool and determinate power over his subordinates, he is a typical British Commander.

He gained great experience during the Ashanti Campaign, 1878-80, and in 1884, during the Soudan Campaign, where he was wounded. During the Nile Campaign organized in 1884, for the relief of Gordon, General Brabazon repeatedly distinguished himself.

Quite recently he was promoted to the rank of Major-General, and to the command of the Second Brigade, Cavalry Division, First Army Corps.

At the beginning of January, he took up his post at Rensburg, to assist in coping with the Boer invasion of Cape Colony, and the rebellion of the Cape Dutch in that district.

In February he was appointed to the command of the Imperial Yeomanry.

Last updated 5 February, 2009
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