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General Arthur Phelps
1837-1920

OBITUARY

An interesting personality has passed away in Lieutenant-General Arthur Phelps, Bombay Army, who died on Monday night at his residence, Woodbourne Grange, Edgbaston, in his 83rd year.

General Phelps was born in Funchal, Madiera, in 1837, and was the son of Mr Joseph Phelps. He was educated at Market Bosworth School, under his uncle, Dr A B Evans, and afterwards, with a view to his entering the Indian Army, at Woolwich, under Dr Bridgman. In 1853 he was posted to the 11th Bombay Native Infantry, and two years later passed an examination as a surveyor. He entered the Poonah Military College, and, qualifying as a civil engineer, joined the Public Works Department until, the Mutiny breaking out in 1857, expenditure on public works ceased, and military officers returned to regimental duty. During his stay, however, he had made such good use of his time that he was able to pass as interpreter in Mahrati, one of the Indian languages, and in 1861 passed also in Hindustani. In 1858 young Phelps entered the Commissariat, and was almost immediately sent in charge of the commissariat branch of the Jaulna Field Force. After a year's service he returned to Bombay, and later joined the Kattiwar Field Force. He saw service in nearly all the military stations of the Presidency, and had varied experience in matters of transport and supply. He did a considerable amount of work as commissariat officer at Bombay, and besides preparing a scheme for the division of the work of his department, remodelled the system of shipping stores. He also helped to set up a homeopathic dispensary in the city. The outbreak of the Afghan War in 1878 gave the officer a lot of work, and on the death of the then holder of that post Lieutenant-Colonel Phelps was appointed executive commissariat officer. In the immense work of supplying the needs of the army in the field his department distinguished itself. In 1880 he was made Commissary-General.

THE MARCH TO KANDAHAR.

When the disaster at Maiwand took place, and General Primrose was besieged in Kandahar, an enormous amount of work devolved upon the Commissariat in provisioning Kandahar and the Boland Pass. The supplying of the needs of the fresh army under General Roberts in the famous march from Cabul to Kandahar placed a severe strain upon the department, but Colonel Phelps's declaration to Lord Ripon that the Bombay Commissariat "had never yet failed" was made good, and the work was triumphantly accomplished. The Egyptian Expedition of 1882 was also equipped by the department, and was another feather in its cap.
Colonel Phelps returned to England in 1886, his term of service as Commissary-General having expired on his attaining the substantive rank of colonel. Then the now distinguished officer went for a tour in India.

On settling down in England, General Phelps took great interest in many movements that appealed to him. He was interested, for example, in architecture and archaeology; and occult subjects, and the study of bimetallism also attracted him powerfully. Then he found himself drawn into the anti-vaccination movement, of which he was one of the leading exponents, giving many lectures and addresses. An illustrated lecture of his on the manufacture of vaccine attracted a great deal of notice. It was whilst engaged on commissariat work in India that General Phelps became a convert to homeopathy, and he was chairman of the committee of the Homeopathic Hospital in Birmingham for many years. It was the anti-vaccination movement, however that occupied most of his time, and he lectured all over the country about it for more than twenty years. In 1897 he was elected president of the National Anti-Vaccination League. General Phelps found leisure to take a prominent part in the activities of local bodies. He was a member of the King's Norton Board of Guardians for many years; of the Birmingham and Midland Institute, of which he was auditor; and of the Speculative Club. He was the local pioneer of the movement for cremation.

Lieutenant-General Phelps was made major-general in 1888, and lieutenant-general in 1893. He leaves a family of one daughter and three sons. The latter are Colonel Phelps of the Sherwood Foresters; Captain Murray N Phelps, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (T.F.); and Captain G I De B Phelps, of the Royal Engineers, now in the Indian Public Works Department. The years of military service of the father and sons exceed 120. Mrs Phelps, who was a daughter of the late Mr Abel Peyton, died in 1904. The body of the late general will be cremated at Perry Barr on Friday.