[Home]Grant, Sir James Hope

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If you needed something done, something important, something tough, you sent Hope Grant. He racked up a battlefield record second to no one – Alexander, Patton, McArthur, certainly Montgomery – take your pick. Today Hope Grant is known to few, probably because he kept his own counsel and in the process offended seniors who couldn't argue with his successes; but there can be little doubt that Hope Grant's military successes greatly enhanced the reputations of some very recognizable names in British colonial history. Hope Grant (1808-75) served in the Sikh Wars, the 1857 India Mutiny, and China.

That Grant survived the Sikh Wars and 1857 mutiny in India was itself a miracle, for an account of his campaigns and feats reads like a history of the wars themselves; he seemed to be everwhere, often in fiercly contested hand-to-hand combat. And everywhere Grant accomplished what he was sent to do, often more, often against great odds (being outnumbered tenfold never stopped him): the desperately contested battles of Cillianwallah and Goojerat; Umballa, Delhi (twice), Lucknow (twice). Cawnpore, Mossa Bagh, Koorsie, the Baree road, Sirsee, Sooltanpore, Trans-Ghorgra … as well as minor skirmishes so numerous that most remain unrecorded. (Had he been there, one is tempted to think Grant might have averted the British disaster at Isandhlwana during the Zulu War in January 1879.)

In China, Grant defeated the Chinese army three times in the open in three months, and dispersed it after battling not just the Chinese, but his recalcitrant French 'allies' as well. The strong forts of Taku, mounting 600 guns, were captured. Peking surrendered. The China campaign was universally deemed the most successful and the best executed of England's little wars.

In his later years Hope Grant literally rewrote the book on British Army tactics, dragging the army kicking and screaming into a new and successful approach that lasted well past his untimely death in 1875.

On top of all this he was the most successful Mornington Crescent player of his era – perhaps any era. While it is admitted that one or two of his games may have been lost due to the ravages of time those records which do remain are without precedent. He won them all. When playing at the 1851 Great Exhibition he won to general acclaim. In fact it is his military triumphs that did for his Mornington Crescent career. Take 1857; Grant made to the semi-finals of the all England Cup only to be called up to the Sikh Wars. So he tried to play by letter. With his opponent knocked down by a Hansom cab in November mists, and Grant's third move still in the post the game was declared void creating one of the great game's few draws. Grant continued to play games by post, frequently playing up to six games at once. Given that he had to rely on a slightly erratic postal service it is astounding more games weren't written off as unplayable or simply lost.

He is also a relative of the slightly less successful – and infamous – Gregor Grant.


Categories: A to Z, Famous Players

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Last edited September 15, 2007 9:02 pm by Simons Mith (diff)