United Kingdom
20th Hussars

Carte-de-Visite, studio Edward Steele, Colchester
Captain Bird and Major Alexander, 20th Hussars

The 20th Hussars had been stationned in India since their 1862 raising from the late 2nd Bengal European Cavalry Regiment.

The Regiment was recalled to England in 1872, landing at Portsmouth on December 19th, as told the next day by the Times :
"(...) Her Majesty's screw troop relief steamship Jumna, Capt. Richards, arrived at Spithead, from Bombay, Suez, and Malta, during Wednesday nighr, and yesterday steamed into Portsmouth harbour to a berth alongside the great transport jetty of the dockyard, where she will disembark the troops she has brought home early this morning. The Jumna sailed from Bombay Nov.15, Suez Nov.28, and Port Said, Nov.30. Malta was reached on December 5, and left on the 6th. Very heavy weather - a continued succession of fierce gales - has been experienced by the Jumna since leaving Malta, and on the 15th, in a tremendous burst of weather from the N.W. to W., the vessel was hove to for several hours. The deaths on board since leaving Bombay have been only one invalided soldier and three children. The officers and troops brought home comprise:- (...) Major Cotton,
Major R.Alexander, Capts. Heath, Lockwood, Walford, and Bird ; Assist.-Surg. W.Ffolliett ; Riding-Master Willis (and lady) ; Lieuts. Budd, Baily, Lloyd, Perkins (lady and four children), 309 men, 22 soldier' wives, and 34 children, 20th Hussars. (...)"

The regiment  reached Colchester by special train on December 23rd, at 4 P.M.
The Times
tells that "the bands of the 10th Hussars and 50th Foot were present to play them to their barracks. The regiment looked very well, and not at all as if they had just landed from India".

Such courtesy would soon be repaid (The Times, Saturday, January 11th) :
"(...) The officers of the 10th Hussars dined with the officers of the 20th Hussars at Colchester on the 8th inst., the evening before their departure for India. The following officers were present :-10th Hussars- Major the Hon.C.Molyneux, Capts.
Wood and Bulkeley ; Lieuts Watkins, the Hon.C.Wood, the Hon.H.Crishton, and Montrevor ; Lieut.-Col.Montgomery. 20th Hussars-Major Alexander, Capts.Montgomerie, Heath, Lockwood, Trench, Walford, and Bird ; Lieuts. Blake, Perkin, Hemans, and Browne. The 10th Hussars left Colchester by special train at 8 30 a.m. on the 9th inst. for Portsmouth. (...)"

The 20th Hussars would not stay long in those barracks, being removed from Colchester to Aldershott by early August 1873.

Captain John Dent Bird

John Dent Bird was born on May 4th, 1842.
A Indian Army Cadet, he became a Cornet in the Madras Army on August 20th, 1859, and was promoted to Lieutenant one year later.

On September 30th, 1862, he was gazetted into the 20th Hussars, on the formation of that regiment, "from General List, Madras Cavalry".

He married Katherine-Aline-Theodosia Shortt on July 4th, 1868. Their son Wilkinson was born on May 4th 1869. Katherine would die a mere few months later, on August 1st, aged 25.

John Dent Bird was promoted to the rank of Captain on August 2nd, 1871.

As seen before, he came back from India with the regiment in December 1872. The next year, he was presented to the Duke of Edimburgh at the Levée held at St.James's Palace, on May 26th.

In 1874, he went through a course of garrison instruction and "voluntarily went up to the Special Army Examination held in June" and obtained a first-class certificate.

His career and life came to an abrupt end on September 12th, 1874 (from The Times, September 14th) :
Captain John Dent Bird, 20th Hussars, was shot by a man of his own troop, named Thomas Smith, at Aldershott, on Saturday morning; It appears that the men of "D" troop, which Captain Bird commanded, are at present engaged in going through their annual course of musketry instruction at the Camp at Aldershott, where the regiment is stationned. About 6 o'clock on Saturday morning the squad to which Private Smith belongs proceeded from the West Cavalry Barracks to the rifle ranges in the vicinity of the Royal Pavilion, for the purpose of firing a certain number of rounds of ball cartridge at various ranges. The party arrived at the firing ground about 9 30, under the command of Captain Bird, and at once commenced practice at the 250 yards range, where they fired five rounds per man. As soon as the firing had been completed at this distance the squad was marched back to the 300 yards range, for the purpose of firing another five rounds. Having halted a few paces behind the mark indicating the distance, Captain Bird stood on one of the flanks as the firing was about to commence. Private Smith was at the same moment noticed to move on one side. Immediately afterwards he brought his carbine to the "ready position" and shot Captain Bird through the body, the bullet entering under the right shoulder and passing out close by the left breast. Captain Bird fell to the ground and died almost immediately. The murderer was at once arrested, conveyed to the regimental guard room, and placed in close confinement. When the unfortunate officer was seen to fall it was at first thought that he had fainted, but, in reply to a question as to what was the matter with him, he pointed to his breast. The sergeant who had charge of the party having perceived that his captain had been shot, said to his men "Who did that ?" when Smith replied "I done it," at the same time throwing down his carbine and taking off his belt and pouch. The deceased was conveyed to the barracks on a stretcher. The sad occurrence has cast a gloom over the whole regiment. Captain Bird, who was a most courteous and amiable gentleman, was hghly esteemed by his brother officers. He entered the army as cornet in 1859, was promoted lieutenant in 1860, and captain in 1871. He was a widower, with one child, a boy, who is at present at school in Germany. The prisoner has been about 16 years in the army. He had formerly served with the 8th Hussars. He is a man of bad character. While serving in India some few years ago he was tried by a court-martial for threatening to shoot his troop sergeant-major, for which offence he was sentenced to a long term of imprisonment. About 1 o'clock on Saturday the prisoner was handed over to the civil authorities, and taken by two of the Hants Constabulary to the Aldershott Police-station. On the previous day, while at target practice, he fell out of the ranks of his squad without permission to do so,a nd for this breach of discipline was sentenced by the deceased to seven days' confinement to barracks. An inquest will probably be held to day."

Captain Bird was interred in the Aldershott Military Cemetary with full honours on September 15th.
An honour firing party of 100 men of the 20th Hussars was commanded by
Captain Onslow.

Private Smith was tried at the Central Criminal Court on October 28th. Found guilty by the jury, "his life would be forfeited", and he was "taken to the County Goal of Winchester (...) there to suffer the extreme penalty of the law".

Major Robert Alexander

Robert Alexander was the son of Lieutenant Richard Alexander, "a man of singular piety and excellence (and) a Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers, who died at an early age at Penzance, Cornwall" and Francis Eliza Charity Gayer.

Robert Alexander served in the Indian Army.
He became a Cornet on December 20th, 1848, a Lieutenant on August 10th, 1850, and a Captain on November 23rd, 1856.

He served the Indian Mutiny, and was "attached to the 7th Hussars at the siege and capture of Lucknow in March 1858 and subsequent operations in Oude (Medal with Clasp)".

He belonged to the 2nd Bengal European Cavalry and was gazetted along many of its officers on September 30th, 1862, when the 20th Hussars was formed from that regiment.

He was promoted Major on December 7th, 1867.
As seen before, he came back from India with the regiment in December 1872. The next year, he was presented to the Duke of Edimburgh at the Levée held at St.James's Palace, on May 26th.

He was in command of the Regiment (in the absence on leave of Lieutenant-Colonel Cotton)  when Captain Bird was shot.

He was given a Brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel on November 26th, 1876, and became Lieutenant-Colonel of the Regiment on June 12th, 1878, when Brevet Colonel Cotton retired on half-pay.

Robert Alexander retired on half-pay on December 14th, 1878 - retiring on a pension on the same day.
He died in early 1902.