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Charles Edmund Webber

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Major-General Charles Edmund Webber (1838-1904)


1905 Obituary [1]

CHARLES EDMUND WEBBER, C.B,, MAJOR-GENERAL R.E. retired, died at Margate on the 23rd September, 1904, at the age of 66. Born in Ireland on the 5th September, 1838, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1853, and 2 years later received a commission as lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers.

After receiving further instruction in the military art at Chatham, he returned to Ireland, where he was occupied on the construction of barracks at Lough Swilly. Proceeding thence to India, in the troublous times of the Mutiny, he served 2 years with the colours, taking an active part in many engagements.

In 1861, shortly after his return to England, he was appointed Instructor in Surveying and Topography at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. During the Austro-Prussian war of 1866 he was despatched to the front to report to the British military authorities on the engineering and telegraphic operations. Attaining the rank of captain in 1867, he was employed for 3 years chiefly on military duty at home.

In 1870 Captain Webber’s services were placed at the disposal of the Postmaster-General, who appointed him Divisional Engineer in command of the Royal Engineers employed in the Postal Telegraph Service. His past experience and training in th6 field here stood him in good stead, and his appointment was amply justified by the able and resourceful manner in which he carried out his task. His qualities as an organizer were exceptional, and in training over 300 non-commissioned officers and men in the work of telegraphy, he rendered a very valuable public service.

His work for the Post Office was completed in 1879, and subsequently he took part in three military expeditions, first to South Africa in 1879, when the first Boer War broke out, and afterwards to Egypt in 1882 and again in 1884, when he was Director of Army Telegraphs.

In 1885 he retired from the service with the honorary rank of Major-General. During the course of his military career, Major-General Webber received three medals with clasps and was mentioned several times in despatches. For his services in Egypt he was made a Companion of the Bath, and was also decorated with the Order of the Medjidieh.

Major-General Webber, while still in the public service, undertook for a time the engineering management of the Bell Telephone Co and of the United Bell and Edison Telephone Co, of which he became a Director.

After his retirement he engaged in private practice and became Consulting Engineer to the City of London Pioneer Electric Light Co, the Chelsea Electricity Supply Co, the Anglo-American Brush Electric Light Corporation, and other companies. Of the Brush Company and the Chelsea Supply Company he was also a Director.

Major-General Webber was one of the founders of the Society of Telegraph Engineers, now the Institution of Electrical Engineers, of which he was afterwards elected President. He was also a Member of the British Association, and of the Royal United Service Institution and a Fellow of the Society of Arts, and made many valuable contributions to the proceedings of those bodies.

He was elected an Associate Member of this Institution on the 9th January, 1872, and was transferred to the class of Members on the 1st December, 1891.


1905 Obituary [2]

MAJOR-GENERAL CHARLES EDMUND WEBBER, C.B., Past President and Honorary Member of the Institution, died on September 23, 1904, at Margate, at the age of 66 years.

There was thus terminated, to the deep regret of many friends professional and social, a career which was characteristic for its activity and its great and varied services to electrical science, and particularly to the development of telegraphy. General Webber was the son of the Rev. T. Webber, of Leekfield, County Sligo, and he entered the Military Academy of Woolwich in 1853, passing out in the Spring of 1855 as a Lieutenant in the Corps of Royal Engineers. He served in this branch with more than usual distinction for thirty years, and was fortunate in having many opportunities on active service of developing interesting problems, building up a practical experience which jenabled him, after leaving the army, to attain in the commercial world a large degree of success.

After taking his Commission he was sent to Chatham, where he received instruction for several months in connection with military works. He proceeded at the end of 1857 to India, where he served with the colours for two years, doing signal service, during the Mutiny, at the sieges of Chandaree and Jhansi, and in the battles of Betvva, Koonch, Calpee, and Gwalior, and in many minor engagements. On his return home he was engaged on the designs and plans of Newhaven fortifications. Then from November, 1861 until May, 1866 he was Instructor in Surveying and Topography at the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and afterwards was attached to the Headquarter Staff of the British Army in the Austro-Prussian War, 1866, for the purpose of reporting on the engineering operations, including the Military and National Telegraphs. In 1867 he attained the rank of Captain.

The most important civil service which he rendered to the nation was during the time he was employed on Postal Telegraph Service from 1870 to 1879, when he was placed by the Postmaster General in command of the Royal Engineers employed by the Department as Divisional Engineers, first in the Eastern and subsequently in the Southern Division of England. It was here that his special training in the field, and particularly his great resource in connection with difficulties, proved of invaluable service. He possessed a faculty of imparting information which made him an exceptionally excellent educator. While an officer under the Postmaster General he trained over three hundred non-commissioned officers and soldiers in the work of telegraphy.

When the first Boer War broke out in South Africa in 1879, General Webber accompanied Sir Garnet Wolseley in the capacity of Adjutant-Quartermaster-General, and during the two years there he did signal service in connection with the operations.

Soon after his return he proceeded with Wolseley on the Egyptian Expedition in 1882 as Staff Officer for Telegraphs, with the rank of Quartermaster-General, and he was present at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir. On the subsequent Nile Expedition of 1884-1885 he was Director of Army Telegraphs, and on completion of these operations he retired from the service in 1885 with the honorary rank of Major-General. He was mentioned six times in despatches, and earned three medals with clasps. The order of C.B. was conferred upon him in connection with his work in Egypt, and he earned the further distinction of the decoration of Medjidieh. Upon his retirement he became the first Managing Director of the Anglo-American Brush Electric Light Corporation, and in this capacity was intimately associated with the early application of electric lighting, not only in London but in other centres. General Webber continued his association with electric lighting in the Metropolis up till 1892 as Consulting Engineer of the City of London Pioneer Company and of the Chelsea Electric Supply Co., as well as of other companies throughout the country. He also rendered valuable services in connection with many of the Exhibitions which twenty and twenty-five years ago had an important influence upon scientific and commercial developments.

His important services to the Institution, which, in fact, owes its inauguration largely to his efforts, are of course well known to all members. In co-operation with Colonel Sir Francis Bolton he founded the Society of Telegraph Engineers in 1871, which in 1889 became the Institution of Electrical Engineers. With the exception of a few short intervals he was a Member of Council from the time of its foundation, and for a number of years he held the offices of Honorary Treasurer and Trustee.

In 1882 he was elected President, and in 1904, in recognition of his distinguished services to Electrical Science, the Council elected him an Honorary Member. He contributed nine papers to the Institution dealing with the Military Telegraphs in Egypt, in the Nile Expedition and in Field Manoeuvres, with the application of electricity in the City and Metropolis, and with the electro-chemical treatment of ores containing precious metals; all his papers being essentially practical and informing.

Up to the time of his death he continued to take an active part in the management of the Institution, manifesting a keen interest in its welfare, and missing no opportunity of extending its usefulness and prestige. He was a most active member of the Library and Editing Committee, and took a keen interest in the encouragement given to writers of papers, and to Students.


1904 Obituary [3]



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