General Sir Walter Raleigh Gilbert was born in Bodmin in 1785 He was a descendant of the Elizabethan seaman Sir Humphry Gilbert, as well as being named after another even more famous seafarer of the past. At the age of fifteen he became a cadet in the Bengal Infantry. He eventually rose to the rank of major-general and became a national hero following his conquests in Northern India. He was the only army officer whose portrait appeared on an army medal, apart from the Duke of Wellington. In spite of all these early honours, Gilbert has largely been forgotten by the country at large.
A tall, slim granite obelisk was erected to him by the citizens of Bodmin. The 144 feet high memorial stands on the hill overlooking the town. The accounts of Gilbert’s Sikh and Afghan campaigns are written on the four sides of the base. The days of empire are long past and these days the colonisers are no longer celebrated. However, General Gilbert has this lasting memorial in his own home town.