Richard Airey, 1st Baron Airey

The Lord Airey

Lord Airey.
Born 1803
Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, England, UK
Died 1881 (aged 77 or 78)
Leatherhead, Surrey, England, UK
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1821–1876
Rank General
Battles/wars Crimean War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Commander of the Legion of Honour (France)
Relations Lieutenant General Sir George Airey (father)
Caricatured by Spy for Vanity Fair, 1873

General Richard Airey, 1st Baron Airey GCB (1803  14 September 1881), known as Sir Richard Airey between 1855 and 1876, was a senior British Army officer of the 19th century.


Born at Newcastle upon Tyne, Northumberland, Airey was the eldest son of Lieutenant General Sir George Airey and his wife Catherine Talbot, daughter of Richard Talbot and Margaret Talbot, 1st Baroness Talbot of Malahide.[1]

Military career

Airey was educated at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and entered the army as an ensign of the 34th (Cumberland) Regiment of Foot in 1821.[1] He became captain in 1825, and served as aide-de-camp on the staff of Sir Frederick Adam in the Ionian Islands (18271830) and on that of Lord Aylmer in North America (18301832).[1] In 1838 Airey, then a lieutenant colonel, went to the Royal Horse Guards as assistant adjutant-general,[2] where in 1852 he became Military Secretary to the commander-in-chief, Lord Hardinge.[1]

In 1854 he was given a brigade command in the army sent out to the East, from which, however, he was rapidly transferred to the onerous and difficult post of Quartermaster-General under Lord Raglan, in which capacity he served through the campaign in the Crimean War.[1] He was reported upon most favorably by his superiors, Lord Raglan and Sir James Simpson[3] and for his performance was made a major general in December 1854 and was awarded a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB). Following Raglan's instructions, Airey issued the fateful order for the Charge of the Light Brigade.[1] He was also criticised for incompetence in the provision of supplies and transport.[1] Airey demanded an inquiry on his return to England, which took place under Lord Seaton and which cleared him completely, but he never recovered from the effects of persecution from his critics.[1]

In 1855 he returned to London to become Quartermaster-General to the Forces at home.[1] In 1862 he was promoted to lieutenant general, and from 1865 to 1870 he was Governor of Gibraltar, being appointed a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath (GCB) in 1867.[1] In 1870 he became Adjutant-General to the Forces at headquarters, and in the following year attained the full rank of general.[1] On 29 November 1876, on his retirement, he was elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom as Baron Airey, of Killingworth in the County of Northumberland.[4] During 18791880 he presided over the celebrated Airey Commission on army reform.[1]


In 1838, he married his cousin, Harriet Mary Everard Talbot, daughter of James Talbot, 3rd Baron Talbot of Malahide.[2] Their only daughter, Hon. Katherine Margaret Airey (d. 22 May 1896) married Sir Geers Cottrell, 3rd Baronet. Airey died at the house of Lord Wolseley, at Leatherhead, Surrey,[3] when his title became extinct.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 Richard Airey at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. 1 2 Dod, Robert P. (1860). The Peerage, Baronetage and Knightage of Great Britain and Ireland. London: Whitaker and Co. p. 86.
  3. 1 2  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Airey, Richard Airey". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 445.
  4. The London Gazette: no. 24386. p. 6301. 24 November 1876.
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Military offices
Preceded by
Lord FitzRoy Somerset
Military Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Yorke
Preceded by
The Lord de Ros
Quartermaster-General, Eastern Army
Succeeded by
Percy Egerton Herbert
Preceded by
Sir James Freeth
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir James Grant
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir William Codrington
Governor of Gibraltar
Succeeded by
Sir William Williams
Military offices
Preceded by
Lord Paulet
Adjutant General
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Ellice
Preceded by
Sir Samuel Auchmuty
Colonel of the 7th (Royal Fusiliers) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
Sir Richard Wilbraham
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baron Airey
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