Sir Arthur Binny Scott, 82, a much-decorated soldier, died when his home Red Lodge (now Red Leys) took a direct hit. His wife, Lady Scott, was rescued from the wreckage and taken to hospital but she escaped serious injury. Somewhat ironically, the couple had moved out of London to escape the Blitz at the start of the war. For many years Arthur Scott had enjoyed a comfortable retirement in Kensington since his last posting as Divisional Commander in Lucknow, India.
Arthur Scott was born in Scotland in 1862, the second of four children (three boys and one girl). His grandfather, James Scott had a small farm (60 acres) on the east coast of Scotland, north of Dundee. When he was born his parents had recently returned from Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) where his father had made his fortune as a merchant trading in East Indian goods. The family then settled in Lansdown Road Cheltenham in some luxury with a butler and five servants. Arthur was just 11 when his father died leaving him to be raised by his formidable mother, Isabella. He entered Cheltenham College with a mathematical scholarship before joining the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Like his brothers, Arthur was destined for the army. He joined the Royal Artillery as a lieutenant in 1881 but quickly rose through the ranks.
He was posted to India where he met Amy Byng Hall, the daughter of General Charles Henry Hall who was the commissioner of Rawalpindi. In 1894 they were married in the romantic city of Agra, home of the Taj Mahal. As a major he served in the Boer War from 1899 to 1902. He was mentioned in dispatches twice for bravery and awarded the Distinguished Service Order.
Back in India more success followed and by 1911 he was in command of the Royal Artillery. In 1914 he was knighted by George V as a Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) for exemplary military service. In India, the Scotts would have enjoyed all the privileges of the Raj with Indian servants, exclusive clubs, polo and elaborate hunting trips. Arthur was a member of Masonic lodges in Cawnpore (now Kanpur) and Meerut.
During WWI he served as Brigadier General of the Royal Artillery and the Indian Army Corps in France before becoming Divisional Commander of the 12th Division. He was mentioned in dispatches five times and in 1917 he was awarded the Croix de Commandeur of the Legion of Honour by the French President. The following year he was awarded Knight Commander of the Bath (KCB) by King George V before returning once again to India for his final posting.
Sir Arthur Scott’s position as Divisional Commander in Lucknow would have been extremely challenging in 1918. India had played a significant part in WWI. Around 1.3 million Indian soldiers served in the war and were some of the first troops on the Western Front in 1914. The Indian Army Corps won 13,000 medals for gallantry including 12 Victoria Crosses. Scott was himself awarded for his Indian troops’ bravery. Over 74,000 Indian soldiers died. In addition to men, India supplied food, ammunition and cash which was collected by taxation and donations from the nominally autonomous princely states.
India expected to be rewarded with a major move towards independence or at the least self-government, but it soon became obvious that this wasn’t going to happen. With the economy pushed to near bankruptcy, high inflation and the flu epidemic claiming many more lives, India was wracked by mass political upheavals and the British imperial system seemed to be on the verge of collapse.
Limited political reform was introduced but repressive new laws gave the colonial government unprecedented powers and any protests were ruthlessly crushed. The worst incident, which reverberated throughout the empire, was the Amritsar Massacre. 13 April 1919 Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire without warning on 20,000 unarmed men, women and children demonstrating peacefully in an enclosed garden, Jallianwala Bagh. As many as 1000 may have died that day (the number is disputed) but the youngest was six months old and the oldest in his eighties.
Back home opinion was completely divided. Widely denounced and criticised in parliament, Dyer was hailed a hero by the popular press and a huge sum was raised by public subscription when he lost his position and had to return to Britain. India felt betrayed and this event marked the final rupture between British imperialism and its Indian subjects. Nationalism was given a strong impetus and Mahatma Ghandi’s successful campaign for India’s independence started here.
Whilst Sir Arthur Binny Scott’s opinion of the massacre is not known, his love affair with India ended soon after. Within a year he decided to take early retirement, and in 1920 returned to Britain with his wife. Initially they lived in Kensington, but at the start of WW2 decided to escape the Blitz by moving out of London. They chose Chesham Bois.