6 July 2004
Punjab 1848-49, 2 clasps, Mooltan, Goojerat (2nd Lieut. W. S. Oliphant, Engrs., 3rd Cy. Sappers) good very fine £400-500
Ex D.N.W. 20 September 2002, lot 228.
William Stirling Oliphant was born at Secunderabad, India in November 1828, the son of a Major in the Madras Engineers. He was educated at Guildford Grammar School and following attendance at Addiscombe, he was gazetted to the Bengal Engineers as a 2nd Lieutenant in December 1845 and served in the Punjab Campaign with the 3rd Company of Sappers.
Present at the first and second sieges of Mooltan, on the former occasion he participated in the capture of the enemy’s entrenched position in front of the trenches in September 1848, and on the latter occasion ‘commanded the ladder and powder bag party’ that broke through the main breach at the Khuni Bhurj and drove the enemy out. Mentioned in despatches by Brigadier-General Stalker for his part in the latter action, he went on to serve at the surrender of the fort and garrison of Cheniote and at the Battle of Goojerat.
Oliphant did not see further action in the Indian Mutiny, being ‘retained in the Punjab for the purpose of putting the Forts of Phillaur and Govindghur into a thoroughly defensible state’, but nonetheless enjoyed steady promotion in the Corps over the next three decades, attaining the rank of Major-General in December 1878, the year of his retirement. There was, however, one blot on his copy book, as evidenced by his official service record, namely the occasion on which one of his dogs mauled and seriously injured a native in Gwalior in 1860, an incident that resulted in a Court of Enquiry. Although the Court absolved him of intentional blame it resulted in him losing executive charge of the Gwalior Division. The General died at Little Shelford, Cambridgeshire in September 1888, aged 69 years. Sold with a quantity of copied papers detailing his military service.