General William Mesny
1842-1919, was an adventurer, and writer born on the island of
Jersey but spent most of his childhood in Alderney, the family
home of the Mesnys.
He was the eldest of three children of
William Mesny and Mary Rachel Nicolle.
home at the age of twelve to sail the oceans until finally, after
visiting India and Australia, he settled in a turbulent China in
He served with two of the provincial armies of the
Chinese Imperial forces as a mercenary
in modern parlance, a foreign adviser.
He spent 59 years in China. He became a Major-General in the
Imperial army in 1873 when he was only 30, suggesting that his
services were greatly valued by the Chinese. He was also made a
"Knight Ying of the Order of the Pa-tu-lu", the Chinese equivalent
of the French Legion d'honneur
1890 he was awarded the decoration of the Pao Hsing (the Star of
retained British citizenship and was a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society, the Royal
Horticultural Society, and of the Imperial Institute.
At one time he
was the senior adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese
armed forces and was given the title of Brevet Lieutenant-General,
almost every part of China, including Xinjiang and Tonking (northern Vietnam) and
accompanied Captain William
Gill on his expedition in 1877 from Chengdu to Burma via Litang, Batang, Dali, along the Tibetan borderlands to Bhamo.
was a plant collector and sent specimens back to the British Consul
in Canton, Dr. Henry Fletcher
, a famous botanist. One species, Jasminum
, was named after him.
He wrote an informative history of "Tungking" - now northern
Vietnam, which also includes details of his campaigns there.
In his later life he periodically produced a sort of weekly
newspaper or journal in Shanghai called Mesny's Chinese
. Publication of Mesny's Chinese Miscellany
began in September 1895, and continued through 1896, was revived
briefly in 1899 and again in 1905. It was composed of his
reminiscences of his life and adventures, snippets of recent news,
and thousands of brief articles and notes on a very wide variety of
topics relating to China. Mesny also strongly promoted railways and
other methods of "modernizing" China.
A set of six stamps was issued in Jersey in 1992, on the 150th
anniversary of his birth, showing Mesny in various roles in China.
They comprise two stamps of 16p denomination: one showing him in
'Shanghai 1860', and the other 'Running the Taiping
blockade 1862'; two stamps of 22p:
as 'General Mesny, River Gate 1874', and 'Mesny accompanies Gill to
Burma in 1877'; and two of 32p: 'Mesny advises Governor Chang
1882', and 'Mesny, Mandarin First Class 1886'.
- A website devoted to the life and works of William Mesny
- The four volumes of Mesny's Chinese Miscellany. plus
Mesny's book Tungking are available on DVD, in PDF format
from: Jim Thompson 1505-8111 Yonge Street, Thornhill, Ontario L3T
4V9, Canada 905-763-6736.
- Extensive notes on William Mesny, and his family tree