Surnames beginning 'N' to 'S'

Profiles of Western Front generals, part of the Lions led by donkeys research project.

Norman Tom Nickalls

 

(1864-1915)

Brigadier-General

GOC Infantry Brigade

Eton College 

17th Lancers

 

Norman Tom Nickalls was the son of Tom Nickalls of Patterson Court, Redhill, Surrey. He was commissioned in the 17th Lancers from the Militia on 11 August 1886. He served in the South African War (1901-2), but by August 1914 a somewhat ordinary military career found him in the rank of full colonel commanding the York Brigade of Mounted Infantry. On 31 August 1915 he was given command of a New Army formation, 63rd Brigade, 21st Division. At 51 he was elderly for a brigade commander. His command lasted only twenty-six days. The ill-prepared and inexperienced 21st Division was thrown into the battle of Loos on 26 September in controversial and chaotic circumstances. Brigadier-General Nickalls appears to have been wounded near the Chalk Pit. He was posted missing and his body was never recovered. He is commemorated on the Loos Memorial to the Missing. He was the tenth British general to be killed in action or to die of wounds on the Western Front.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Richard Oakley

 

(1872-19??)

Brigadier-General

DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

Militia

Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

 

Richard Oakley was commissioned in the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles) from the Militia on 12 December 1894. He saw active service on the North-West Frontier of India (1897-8) with the Tochi Field Force and the Tirah Expeditionary Force. From 1907-11 he was Adjutant of the 4th [Militia] Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment. When the war broke out he was a major in the 1st Battalion Cameronians. His battalion was originally used on the BEF’s Lines of Communication before joining the 19th (Independent) Brigade in October 1914. Oakley briefly commanded 1st Cameronians, still in the rank of major, from 18 March to 26 April 1915. He was CO 10th Queen’s, 141st Brigade, 41st Division, from 9 February 1916 to 20 December 1917, when he became CO 12th Battalion Machine Gun Corps. On 26 September 1918 he was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 63rd Brigade, 37th Division. He led this formation for less than a month, when he returned home as Course Superintendent, Machine Gun Corps Training Centre, Grantham. Oakley remained in the army after the Armistice, commanding 2nd Battalion Cameronians from 1919 until his retirement on 3 November 1923. Brigadier-General Oakley was twice wounded and twice mentioned in despatches during the war.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Reginald Stewart Oxley

 

(1863-1951)

Brigadier-General

CMC, CB. GOC Infantry Brigade

Charterhouse College, RMC Sandhurst psc

King's Royal Rifle Corps

 

Reginald Stewart Oxley was the younger son of John Stewart Oxley of Fen Place, Turner’s Hill, Sussex. He was commissioned in the York and Lancaster Regiment on 23 August 1884, but transferred to the King’s Royal Rifle Corps the following November. His only active service was in the Manipur Expedition (1891). But, after passing Staff College in December 1898, where one of his contemporaries was the future Sir William Robertson, Oxley served as Brigade Major, 12th Infantry Brigade, in South Africa (1899-1900), and was mentioned in despatches. He was DAAG North-West District (1901-4), CO 1st Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps (1907-11) and GSO1 Staff College (1912-14). He went to war as GSO1 II Corps (August-December 1914). After a period commanding GHQ Troops, he was made GOC 24th Brigade, 8th Division, on 17 March 1915. He was 51.

Oxley’s appointment came in the aftermath of the battle of Neuve Chapelle (10-12 March) in which 8th Division had played a leading part. Like several British attacks of 1915, the ‘break-in’ at Neuve Chapelle went well, but what Field-Marshal Montgomery was later to term the ‘dog fight’ degenerated into confusion, hampered by inadequate resources and woefully inadequate communications. It proved impossible to convert the ‘break-in’ into a ‘break-through’. 24th Brigade suffered heavy casualties (75 officers and more than 1,600 men). Its GOC, Brigadier-General F C Carter, went sick five days later.

Oxley’s baptism of fire was to be even more difficult and unpleasant. The BEF renewed its attacks against the Aubers Ridge on 9 May. The assault was a fiasco. The British artillery bombardment was too feeble even to achieve a break-in. A series of unsupported and unco-ordinated infantry frontal attacks, often made against uncut wire, collapsed in the face of German machine-gun fire. Oxley, himself, ordered two companies of 1st Battalion Sherwood Foresters to re-inforce the costly failure of the initial attack by 2nd Battalion East Lancashire Regiment. When the GOC IV Corps, Sir Henry Rawlinson, enquired what had happened to the East Lancashires and the Sherwoods Oxley famously replied ‘They are lying out in No Man’s Land, sir, and most of them will never stand again.’ Even so, Oxley sent orders to his two reserve battalions to carry out yet another futile assault later in the day. The order was cancelled on his own authority by the CO 1st Worcesters, Lieutenant-Colonel George Grogan. Oxley later sanctioned the cancellation. This was not an auspicious start to Oxley’s career as a brigade commander. Worse was to follow.

24th Brigade was transferred to 23rd Division on 18 October 1915 and it was as part of this formation that it took part in the battle of the Somme. 23rd Division captured Contalmaison on 7 July 1916. Brigadier-General Oxley was dismissed on 11 July for failing to hold the captured ground after his brigade ran out of ammunition. Professor Travers has speculated that Oxley’s dismissal owed something to past rivalries at the Staff College with Douglas Haig (who was in the year above Oxley). There is no evidence for this. The key figure in Oxley’s dismissal was not Haig, but the GOC 23rd Division, Major-General Babington. Babington evidently rated neither Oxley nor his brigade. He had reported Oxley as being only ‘fairly satisfactory as a Brigadier’ and ‘certainly not fit for promotion to command a division’1. After the capture of Contalmaison the Commander-in-Chief asked Babington what he would like. Babington replied ‘Give me back my 70th Brigade’. He received it within the week. 24th Brigade went back to 8th Division, minus Oxley.

Brigadier-General Oxley spent the rest of the war in staff positions at home. He retired in 1919.

[1] Haig Diary, 4, 8, 9 and 10 July 1916.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Arthur Parker

 

Brigadier-General

CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade & GOC Tank Brigade 

5th (Royal Irish) Lancers

 

Arthur Parker played a significant role in the history of the British Army even before the outbreak of the First World War. As CO of the 5th Royal Irish Lancers, he was one of the leading ‘rebels’ during the Curragh Mutiny of Hubert Gough’s 3rd Cavalry Brigade. Believing that their regiment might be ordered to take military action against the people of Ulster, who opposed the Liberal Government’s moves to grant home rule to the Irish, Parker, together with 16 other officers of the 5th Lancers, declared his intention to resign his commission and leave the Army rather than accept the Government’s orders. Officers of the 16th Lancers made a similar declaration. Parker and his counterpart in that regiment, Lieutenant-Colonel Maurice MacEwen, together with Gough, comprised the delegation that met government officials on 23 March 1914 in an attempt to resolve the crisis. Subsequently, a face-saving agreement was reached and all the ‘rebels’ (including Parker) were able to resume their military careers.

Arthur Parker was born on 14 January 1867, the second son of Lieutenant-Colonel C J B Parker of Stonebridge, near Grantham, in Lincolnshire. He was commissioned in the 5th (Royal Irish) Lancers on 6 November 1887 from the Militia and served with them in South Africa. He was at Ladysmith and was subsequently a staff officer for Caldwell’s column. He was twice mentioned in despatches. On the outbreak of the First World War, Parker took his regiment to France. However, he was wounded at Angre on 24 August 1914 and evacuated home. He was awarded the CMG in 1915. He subsequently commanded 92nd Infantry Brigade, part of the New Army’s 31st Division from July 1915 until June 1916 - just prior to the division’s appallingly bloody and brief part in the first day of the Somme offensive. In July 1916 he became CO of the 5th Reserve Regiment of Cavalry, and in January 1917 commander of 2/1st Northumberland (Hussars). He trained this second-line unit and took it to France in March 1917 - where it became the Corps Cavalry for Lieutenant-General Sir Herbert Watts’s XIX Corps. In May 1917 he became Commandant Corps Troops - a post he held until December 1917.

In March 1918 he joined the Tank Corps and became GOC the newly formed 5th Tank Brigade but, less than a month later, exchanged this command with Anthony Courage for that of 2nd Tank Brigade. Parker commanded this Brigade until 24 September 1918, being absent sick when the war ended.

 

Bryn Hammond

Centre for First World War Studies

Eric Pearce-Serocold

 

(1870-1926)

Brigadier-General

CMG GOG Infantry Brigade

Eton College & RMC Sandhurst psc

King's Royal Rifle Corps 

 

Eric Pearce-Serocold was the second son of Charles Pearce-Serocold of Taplow, Buckinghamshire. He was commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps on 9 October 1889. Active service in the South African War (1899-1902) was followed by periods of staff employment (he passed Staff College in 1902): SC Musketry North West District (1903-5); OIC Musketry Duties Welsh and Midland Command (1905) and BM Irish Command (1908). In August 1912 he took command of 2nd Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps. He was 42, on the young side for a pre-war battalion commander. Pearce-Serocold took his battalion to war in August 1914 as part of 2nd Brigade, 1st Division, in the original BEF. He was severely wounded by shell fire on 21 October at the Herenthage Chateau. It seems probable that his health never fully recovered.

On being passed fit for general service Pearce-Serocold was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 68th Brigade, 23rd Division, on 3 June 1915. He remained in command until February 1916, when he succumbed to ill health. The Commander-in-Chief, Sir Douglas Haig, wrote to the War Office on 1 February that ‘Brigadier-General Pearce-Serocold has commanded his Brigade very efficiently, and I consider that he is a most able officer.’ He was recommended for a return to active service as soon as possible. This was not until seventeen months later, as GOC 123rd Brigade, 41st Division. He spent the intervening period as Deputy Commander of the Machine Gun Corps Training Centre at Grantham.

On 18 June 1918 Brigadier-General Pearce-Serocold asked to be relieved of his command, following the heavy fighting earlier in the spring. ‘I beg to report that, owing to the continuous strain on my physical energy, I feel that I am at present unable to do justice to those under my command, and that I ought not to continue in command of my Brigade. It is with great regret and disappointment that I am therefore compelled to request that I may be considered for six months exchange at home, or for an appointment where the work is less strenuous either in France or at home.’ He held no more commands and retired from the army in April 1920. He died of pneumonia, occasioned by an abscess on his lung, in 1926. He was only 56. He had been wounded five times during the war.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Malcolm Peake

 

(1865-1917)

Brigadier-General

BGRA. GMC 

Charterhouse RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

Malcolm Peake was the third son of Frederick Peake, of Burrough, Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 9 December 1884. His early career was dominated by employment with the Egyptian Army (July 1895–July1905), during which he served on the Dongola Expedition (1896), commanded a battery of Egyptian Artillery, took part in the battles of Atbara and Khartoum (1898) and in operations against Khalifa (1899).

When the war broke out he was Assistant Adjutant General at the War Office, a post he had held since May 1914 and which he was to retain until April 1916. He went to the Western Front as CRA 29th Division on 22 April 1916, commanding its guns during the Somme offensive. He was promoted BGRA I Corps on 19 December 1916. Brigadier-General Peake was killed by an enemy shell while reconnoitring on Hill 70 [near Loos] on 27 August 1917. He was the thirty-ninth British general to be killed in action or die of wounds. He is buried in Noeux-les-Mines Communal Cemetery and Extension, France.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Tom Harry Finch Pearse

 

(1864-1947)

Brigadier-General

CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade 

Cheshire Regiment

 

Tom Harry Finch Pearse was commissioned in the East Lancashire Regiment on 9 May 1885. His pre-war career was uneventful. It included two periods as adjutant but no active service and he had not passed staff college. It is therefore a little difficult to understand why he was transferred to the 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment as its CO on 18 September 1912. He was still in command when the war broke out. 2nd Cheshires were stationed at Jubbulpore and did not return to England until December 1914, when they joined 84th Brigade, part of the new Regular 28th Division, at Winchester. 28th Division deployed to the Western Front in January 1915. Pearse was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 84th Brigade on 9 September, but was not retained when 28th Division was re-deployed to Egypt in the middle of October. He was 51. Brigadier-General Pearse held no further commands during the war and retired from the army on 1 November 1919.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Elliot Peyton

 

(1866-1931)

Lieutenant-General

KCB, KCVO, DSO. 

GOC Army 

Brighton College psc

15th Hussars

 

William Eliot Peyton’s military career was unusual and is difficult to fathom. It began in the ranks of the 7th Dragoon Guards, the regiment formerly commanded (1871-6) by his father, Colonel John Peyton. This surprising beginning was precipitated by Peyton’s failure to pass the Sandhurst entrance examination. Whether service in the ranks of his father’s old regiment was a convenient ‘back door’ to a military career or a punishment it is impossible to tell. Peyton was six feet six inches tall and well built. He was unlikely to have encountered many taunts of ‘daddy’s boy’. He spent two years in the ranks (1885-7) before receiving his commission on 18 June 1887. Two years later, he married Mabel Gage, daughter of Lieutenant-General E T Gage, third son of the fourth Viscount Gage. He was clearly fully back on track as an officer and gentleman. In 1896 he transferred to the 15th Hussars, which regiment he commanded from 1903 until 1907. Peyton served with the Egytpian Army in the Sudan campaigns of 1896, 1897 and 1898, and was badly wounded at the battle of Salamet, where his horse was killed under him. He went to South Africa in 1900, serving with Thorneycroft’s Mounted Infantry, but his service was cut short by illness that saw him invalided back to England. He passed Staff College in December 1901. After completing his tour as CO 15th Hussars, he became Assistant Quartermaster-General, India. This was followed, in 1908, by command of the Meerut Brigade. During the Delhi Durbar of 1911 he was Delhi Herald and King of Arms to King George V. He was appointed Military Secretary to the Commander-in-Chief, India, in 1912, the first of three periods as a military secretary in his career.

Peyton returned to England in 1914 on the outbreak of war, taking up the post of chief of staff 1st Mounted Division TF. This was soon followed by command of 2nd Mounted Division TF, which in August 1915 he took (dismounted) to Gallipoli, where it suffered such severe casualties in the fighting at Suvla that reinforcement and extensive re-organisation became necessary. Peyton took command of the Western Desert Force in Egypt in January 1916 and conducted a successful campaign against the Senussi. But in May 1916, after eighteen months as a combat commander, Peyton was transferred to the Western Front as Sir Douglas Haig’s Military Secretary, a post he held until March 1918. The work of the Military Secretary was re-organised in the summer of 1916. Until that time the MS had operated as part of the C-in-C’s personal staff; after re-organisation the MS had his own branch at GHQ, a reflection of the growth in workload resulting from the army’s massive expansion.

The post of Military Secretary was central to the operation of the BEF’s management of appointments, promotions and removals and its system of honours and awards. But the destruction of the all the papers of the Military Secretary’s office during a German air raid on 8 September 1940 makes it difficult to document the Military Secretary’s activities. In its obituary of Peyton, on 16 November 1931, The Times considered that he had behaved in a ‘straightforward, kindly and sympathetic’ manner and had ‘fulfilled his duties with tact and dignity’. He was knighted in 1917.

During April and May 1918 Peyton ‘commanded’ Fifth Army. This was a nominal appointment. After its defeat on the Somme in March and its re-designation as Fourth Army on 2 April, Fifth Army effectively ceased to exist. Peyton’s command consisted of a reserve army headquarters at Cécy-en-Ponthieu. When Fifth Army was reconstituted on 23 May command was given to Sir William Birdwood. Peyton then took command of X Corps, which had been temporarily in the hands of Sir William Congreve, following the replacement of X Corps’ long-serving commander, Sir Thomas Morland, in April 1918. Peyton held command for only six weeks, during which X Corps remained in back areas. On 3 July 1918 he took command of 40th Division, which he led through the Hundred Days during its advance through Flanders. Peyton evidently took pride in this appointment, which he lists in his Who’s Who entry, unlike his appointments as MS, GOC Fifth Army and GOC X Corps.

Peyton remained in the army after the war. He was GOC United Province District, India, and 3rd Indian Division (1920-22), MS Secretary of State for War (1922­-26) and GOC-in-C Scottish Command (1926-30). General Sir William Peyton retired from the army in 1930. He died suddenly in the Army and Navy Club, London, on 14 November 1931. He was sixty-five. He left the considerable sum of almost £35,000.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Robert ('Bob') Pigot

 

(1882 - 1977)

Brigadier-General

DSO, MC. GOC Tank Brigade

Eton College

Rifle Brigade

 

Robert (‘Bob’) Pigot was the eldest son of Sir George Pigot 5th Bt. of Patshull. He was commissioned in the Rifle Brigade on 4 December 1901 from the Militia. When the Great War broke out he was on secondment to the Royal Flying Corps, with which he remained for the early part of the war. He was CO 3rd Battalion Rifle Brigade (1916-17) and CO 11th Tank Battalion (1917-18). Bob Pigot was promoted to general officer rank, as GOC 6th Tank Brigade, on 12 October 1918. He was the only man to command this unit during the war. He retired from the army on 30 July 1919. He published Twenty Five Years’ Big Game Hunting in 1928. Sir Robert Pigot succeeded his father in the baronetcy in 1934. He joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer reserve in 1939, resigning his commission with the rank of wing-commander in 1944. His papers are in the Imperial War Museum, London.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Jacob Pleydell-Bouverie

 

(1868-1930)

Brigadier-General

Director of Agriculture

CIE, CBE

Harrow School, Cambridge University

Wiltshire Regiment 

 

Jacob Pleydell-Bouverie, Viscount Folkestone, was the eldest son of the 5th Earl of Radnor (1841-1900), a substantial landowner, former Conservative MP and leading Freemason. His mother, Helen Chaplin, was the sister of the 1st Viscount Chaplin, another leading Wiltshire landowning family. Viscount Folkestone succeeded his father as the 6th Earl of Radnor on 3 June 1900. His succession to the earldom terminated his career as Conservative MP for the Wilton division of Wiltshire; as a member of the House of Lords his principal public duty was to chair the Royal Commission on the Care and Control of the Feeble Minded (1904-8). His accession to the Lords did not sever his military connections, however. He had served with the 4th [Militia] Battalion Wiltshire Regiment in the South African War and became its CO on 23 March 1903. 

He still occupied this post when the Great War broke out. 4th Battalion Wiltshire Regiment formed part of the 43rd (Wessex) Division TF. This formation was sent to India in October 1915. On arrival the division was broken up and its constituent battalions deployed on garrison duties in order to release Regular battalions for service in France. Lord Radnor commanded 4th Wiltshire until March 1915, when he was promoted GOC Dehra Dun Brigade, 7th Meerut Divisional Area. He remained in command until 1917, when he returned to Europe as Director of Agricultural Production, BEF.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Price

 

Brigadier-General

CB CMG CBE, Director Army Postal Services

Royal Engineers

 

William Price joined the Post Office as a young man and spent his entire career there. He served in the South African War with the Army Post Office Corps, for which he was made CMG.  He later served with the 8th Battalion London Regiment (Post Office Rifles) TF, but on 31 March 1913 he became OC Postal Section Royal Engineers Special Reserve and Director of Army Postal Services.  Price deployed with the BEF to France and remained in charge of the army’s postal arrangements throughout the war.  He commanded in the rank of Colonel from 5 August 1914 to 27 May 1918, when the importance of his work was belatedly recognised by his promotion to brigadier-general.  And it is scarcely possible to overstate the importance of Price’s work.  An efficient postal service was not only essential to the army’s operation but also to its morale.  All studies testify to the importance of soldiers being able to maintain their links with home and, especially, to receive news from their loved ones.  

The army’s postal arrangements in the event of war were laid down in 1913 as a result of experience derived from pre-war army manoeuvres.  All post to soldiers in the field had to be addressed to their units and sent c/o the General Post Office in London.  The mail was placed in unit bags on the basis of information supplied by GHQ BEF and despatched along the lines of communication to the railhead post offices and then to branch field post offices located at every supply refilling point in a divisional area.[1] These branch field post offices were the collecting points for return mail.  The army took great care to ensure that post for wounded or dead soldiers was not returned to sender until families had been officially informed of the soldier’s fate.  

The movement of mail was colossal.  During 1916 the weekly number of bags for the BEF received at the GPO rose from 65,079 in the first week of January to 86,163 in the first week of July.  By November the weekly average was 100,000.  During the four weeks of December the figures were 139,788, 157,948, 150,945 and 123,342.  By October 1916 BEF field post offices were collecting 10M letters and 100,000 parcels a week.  In the quarter ending September 1916 498,388 postal orders were issued and 437,686 paid: a year later the figures were 665,327 and 982,674.  Very little post was lost and most of that due to enemy action.  In the circumstances, the official recognition of Price’s wartime contribution, a CB in 1915 and a CBE in 1918, seems a little churlish.  He returned to the Post Office after the war and was Secretary of the Post Office in Scotland from 1920 to 1924.

[1] The precise arrangements changed over time.  See Brigadier-General Sir James E. Edmonds, Military Operations France and Belgium 1916. Volume 1 (London: Macmillan, 1932), pp. 125-9.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Thomas David Pilcher

 

(1858-1928)

Major-General

CB. GOC Infantry Division 

Harrow School psc

Bedfordshire Regiment

 

Thomas David Pilcher (‘The Sardine’) was the son of T W Pilcher of Harrow.  He was commissioned in the Cheshire Regiment (then the 22nd Foot) from the Militia on 21 June 1879, but quickly transferred to the Northumberland Fusiliers (then the 5th Foot).  He made a final transfer, to the Bedfordshire Regiment, on 5 July 1899.  Pilcher passed Staff College in 1892.  He was DAAG Dublin District (November 1895–October 1897), but on 18 October 1897 his career took a more interesting turn when he joined the Western African Frontier Force.  He raised the 1st Battalion WAFF and commanded expeditions to Lapai and Argeyah.  During the South African War he commanded a regiment of mounted infantry and 2nd Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment.  He was GOC 3rd and 5th Brigades at Aldershot from 1902 to 1907.  Between 1907 and the outbreak of war Pilcher served in India, latterly as GOC Burma Division at Meerut (22 January 1912–27 October 1914).  He was on leave in England when the European War broke out.

Pilcher was clearly a thoughtful officer.  He was even capable of putting his thoughts on paper, publishing Some Lessons from the Boer War in 1903.  Unfortunately, his thoughts were not to everyone’s taste.  General Sir O’Moore Creagh, GOC-in-C India, twice (in 1912 and 1914) reported Pilcher as unfit for promotion.[1]  The cause of this appears to have been the views expressed in Pilcher’s pamphlet Fire Problems, published in 1907, and a speech that he delivered to volunteers in Meerut, which was considered by official opinion to be ‘discouraging’.  In an army woefully short of experienced officers at every level, however, these black marks did not count against Pilcher and on 25 January 1915 he was given command of 17th (Northern) Division, whose training he completed and with which he deployed to the Western Front in July.

Colonel W N Nicholson joined 17th Division as its AA&QMG in June 1916, shortly before the formation’s first big test, on the Somme.  He later described the division under Pilcher in very uncomplimentary terms. ‘The more I saw,’ Nicholson recalled in his memoir, ‘the more I marvelled that a division which had been a considerable time in France could be so disjointedly administered.  Nothing was consolidated by the ‘Q’ staff.  The Divisional Train HQ were never informed of moves; no trouble was taken over billetting; there were no baths, or laundry; no supply of clean clothing; nothing was known of the cooking in units, or their interior organization.  Canteens and cinemas were undreamt of.  There was in short no value whatever in the ‘Q’ staff of the division save as an office for collecting unnecessary returns.  “I prefer the way the work is being done at present.  I don't want you to interfere,” said General Pilcher to me that same night when I asked that I might be allowed to make some changes.  Thank God he went.’[2]

Pilcher did, indeed, go very shortly afterwards following the division’s failure to capture Quadrangle Support at the beginning of the Somme offensive.  17th Division captured Quadrangle Trench on 5 July.  Pilcher explained to the Official Historian, Sir James Edmonds, after the war that a further two days were needed before the division could safely contemplate attacking the Quadrangle Support system.  XV Corps did not give the division the time it needed.  It was rushed back into the attack on 6 July under cover of darkness and was repulsed.  Worse was to come.  The following morning, at 7.00 a.m., Pilcher was ordered by telephone to make another frontal attack, but this time in broad daylight and without cover.  He was appalled.  He protested.  He contemplated refusing the order and offering his resignation.  But in the end he carried out the attack.  ‘I thought that the only consequence of such action would be that someone else would be put in my place and would probably carry out the operation in such a manner that far greater losses would be incurred than if I were to undertake it myself,’ Pilcher wrote to Edmonds, ‘and I issued orders in accordance with the instructions I had received, employing a minimum number of men.’[3]  This sealed his fate.  His act of humane minimalism was interpreted as ‘lack of push’.  He was dismissed on 12 July and sent to the outer darkness as GOC Reserve Centre St Albans, a post he held until 1919.  The Quadrangle Support fell on 10 July after the divisions on the left and right of 17th Division captured Contalmaison and Mametz Wood.

Major-General Pilcher stood unsuccessfully as a National Candidate for the Thornbury Division of Gloucestershire in the general election of December 1918. He was later Chairman of the National Security Union, an anti-Bolshevik organisation, which also included Brigadier-General Henry Page-Croft among its members. Pilcher’s first wife was Kathleen Gonne, sister of the Irish Nationalist heroine Maude Gonne, muse of W B Yeats and mother of Sean MacBride.

[1] TNA PRO: WO 138/36.

[2] W N Nicholson, Behind the Lines.  An Account of Administrative Staffwork in the British Army 1914-1918 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1939), p. 175.

[3] PRO: CAB 45/190.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Douglas Gordon Prinsep

 

(1860 - 19??)

Brigadier-General

CRA

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

Douglas Gordon Prinsep was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 18 February 1880.  His pre-war career was uneventful.  Shortly before the war broke out, he completed a tour as CRA South Midland Division TF (March 1911–July 1914) and seemed to be easing himself towards retirement as Colonel i/c RFA Records, Woolwich Dockyard.  But on 1 October 1914 he was promoted brigadier-general and made CRA 14th (Light) Division, a New Army formation, whose artillery he raised and trained.  He accompanied the division to France in May 1915, but was replaced on 5 September 1915, three weeks before the attack at Bellewaarde.  He was almost 55.  He reverted to the rank of colonel, serving as AAG (30 November 1915–6 July 1916).  Colonel Prinsep retired on 27 December 1917.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Bertie Prowse

 

Brigadier-General

DSO, GOC Infantry Brigade, Marlborough College

Somerset Light Infantry

 

Charles Bertie Prowse joined the 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry from the Militia on 12 December 1892. He served in the South African War (1899-1902), including a period as Adjutant of his battalion (November 1900-November 1904). He was Adjutant of the 1st Volunteer Battalion Somerset Light Infantry during its potentially sensitive transformation into the 4th Battalion Somerset Light Infantry, TF, (December 1904-March 1908; April 1908-December 1909). By August 1914 he had reached the rank of major and was serving with the 1st battalion of his regiment, with which he went to war as part of 11th Brigade, 4th Division. He took part in the early battles of the war and lent his name to a farm - Prowse Point - at Ploegstreet Wood, near Ypres. 

On 19 January 1915 he was given command of 1st Battalion Leinster Regiment, part of 28th Brigade, in the newly established 27th [Regular] Division. His period as a battalion commander was short lived. On 29 April 1915 he returned to 4th Division as GOC 11th Brigade, which still contained his former battalion. He had risen from a 45-year old junior major to brigadier-general in nine months. 4th Division played only a limited role in major operations during 1915, principally at First Ypres, but in 1916 it was deployed as part of VIII Corps for the opening of the Somme offensive. Like many other formations in VIII Corps, 11th Brigade met with disaster on 1 July. 

Brigadier-General Prowse was mortally wounded by a German machine-gun firing from the Ridge Redoubt, north of Beaumont Hamel, after moving his brigade HQ into the former German front line trench, believing it clear of the enemy. All the brigade’s battalion commanders were also killed or wounded in the attack. The brigade major, Major W A T B Somerville, assumed temporary command. Prowse’s brother, Captain Cyril Prowse RN, had also been killed a month earlier in the explosion of his ship, HMS Queen Mary, at the Battle of Jutland.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir John George Ramsay

 

Major-General

GOC Infantry Division, Queen Elizabeth's School

24th Punjabis

 

John George Ramsay was the son of Commander J D Ramsay RN. He was commissioned in the West Yorkshire Regiment (then the 14th Foot) on 11 February 1875, transferring to the 24th Punjabis, Indian Army, in 1877. He served in the Afghan War (1878-80), the Hazara Expedition (1888), on the North West Frontier (1897-8), in China (1900) and in the Mohmand Expedition (1908). He was GOC 3rd (Bangalore) Brigade (1907-11) and was knighted in 1911. He retired in 1912. On 19 September 1914 he was ‘dug out’ of retirement at the age of 57 to raise and train 24th Division. This inexperienced formation was thrown into the battle of Loos, on 26 September 1915, in chaotic and controversial circumstances over which Ramsay had no control and suffered cruelly. Ramsay, perhaps recognising his own limitations as a field commander, resigned on 3 October 1915. He held no further commands.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Anthony Julian Reddie

 

(1873-1960)

Brigadier-General

CMG, DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

Fettes College, RMC Sandhurst

South Wales Borderers

 

Anthony Julian Reddie was the youngest son of Captain J G Reddie, of Redhouse, Fife. He was commissioned in the South Wales Borderers on 19 November 1892. His pre-war career was unusual in having no periods of active service. He was Adjutant 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers (1901-4) and Adjutant Territorial Force (1909-13). When the war broke out he was serving with 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers in the rank of major.

Reddie’s rather mundane pre-war career did not, however, prove an obstacle to his relatively swift wartime rise. He assumed command of his battalion on 1 November 1914 after its CO, Lieutenant-Colonel H E B Leach, was wounded. He was 41. After eight months in command of 1st South Wales Borderers, Reddie was promoted to brigade command as GOC 1st Brigade, 1st Division. His tenure was a long one, more than two years. He returned home in November 1917 as GOC Welsh Reserve Brigade. This looks suspiciously like the application of the six months’ rest rule for long-serving front-line combat commanders. Reddie duly returned to action on 3 April 1918 as GOC 187th Brigade, 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division, an excellent second line Territorial formation. He commanded it until the Armistice and beyond.

While GOC 1st Brigade, Reddie was one of the officers invited to attend the tank trials at Hatfield Park on 2 February 1916. Reddie’s report, ‘Remarks on Experiment of 2nd Feb’, dated 8 February 1916, was possibly the first report on the new weapon seen by Douglas Haig1. Haig was certainly impressed by it. Reddie’s general conclusion was favourable. He immediately recognised the potential of the tank without being starry-eyed about its chances of success. He was also fruitful in suggestions for the employment of tanks. These included the use of smoke and of camouflage, their use in ‘extended order’, the role of counter batteries, the use of previously reconnoitred routes and of signal lights if tanks were to be used by night, and the desirability of developing faster machines. Reddie believed that ‘Even if 50% were knocked out I consider this employment justifiable’.

When the war ended Reddie was still only 45, slightly on the young side for a pre-war battalion commander, and he duly reverted to battalion command as CO 1st South Wales Borderers (April-August 1919). He commanded the Black Watch and Gordon Brigade TA from January 1924 until his retirement on 5 January 1928. During the Second World War Brigadier-General Reddie was Area Organiser Home Guard Highland (later South Highland) Area (1940-1).

1PRO: WO 158/833.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir Philip Rynd Robertson

(1866-1936)

Major-General

KCB, GOC Infantry Division

Charterhouse RMC Sandhurst

Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)

Philip Rynd Robertson (‘Blobs’) was the eldest surviving son of General J H C Robertson.  He was commissioned in the Cameronians on 25 August 1886.  His pre-war military career was remarkably uneventful and included no periods of active service.  His progression was, nevertheless, steady.  On 24 October 1913 he succeeded to the command of 1st Battalion Cameronians and took them to war in August 1914.  1st Cameronians were originally used as Lines of Communications troops, then as part of the independent 19th Brigade, before being attached to 6th Division, then 27th Division.  This peripatetic existence meant that the battalion escaped the worst of the early fighting.  On 14 June 1915 Robertson was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 19th Brigade.  This brought him to the notice of J C Dunn, Regimental Medical Officer of 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  Dunn was unimpressed, describing Robertson as a ‘dud’.  (Dunn was usually unimpressed with most officers above the level of company command.)  During Robertson’s thirteen months in command of 19th Brigade, it served in three divisions, 27th, 2nd and 33rd.  Its only involvement in major offensive action during this period was at the Battle of Loos (September–October 1915).  It was at Loos that Robertson gave an early indication of his willingness to dispute orders, a characteristic of his wartime career.  Loos saw the first British use of gas.  This depended for its effectiveness on the strength and direction of the wind.  When the unfavourable nature of both were reported to Robertson, he requested the order for the release of gas to be countermanded.  The request was refused.  Two days later, on 27 September, Robertson cancelled an infantry attack on his own authority when officers of the Cameronians and the Royal Welsh Fusiliers reported to him that the attack was pointless.  Self-confidence of this kind was unusual in brigade commanders at this stage of the war. 

Robertson was promoted to divisional command on 13 July 1916 as GOC 17th (Northern) Division, following the degumming of Major-General T D Pilcher.  He commanded the division for the rest of the war.  By the Armistice he was the sixth longest serving divisional commander in the BEF.  Robertson’s impact on 17th Division was immediate. ‘Ten days after my arrival [at 17th Division], the General [Pilcher] went home,’ recalled Colonel W N Nicholson, the division’s AA&QMG.  ‘A month later no one would have recognized this mess.  It became, as all good messes should be, a democratic family; with the new general, Philip Robertson, a real member.  The food was good, the place was spotless, laughter was the rule.  There were constant visitors; and its healthy atmosphere went far beyond the confines of the many different buildings it occupied.’[1]  Robertson brought to the job of divisional command all the instincts of the ‘first class battalion commander’ that he was.  He was 50 years old.  He came from an army family.  He had spent the whole of his adult life in the army, the vast majority of it at battalion level.  He treated his new command as if it were a big battalion.  Robertson set the standards of duty, discipline and military efficiency.  These were the standards of the pre-war Regular Army.  He went round the trenches four mornings a week and when he discovered ‘slackness’ he forcibly pointed it out.  He had neither the imagination nor the charm to impose his will on his New Army command more congenially.  This was ill designed to make Robertson popular.  But, like the vast majority of Regular officers of his generation, he had only contempt for popularity,

[1] See W.N. Nicholson, Behind the Lines.  An Account of Administrative Staffwork in the British Army 1914-18 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1939), pp. 122-24, for a revealing portrait of Robertson.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Robertson

 

(1872-19??)

Brigadier-General

DSO. BGGS (O.a)

Sedbergh School RMA Woolwich psc

Royal Engineers

 

William Robertson was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in July 1892.  The first ten years of his career were spent in India with 2nd Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners, including five years as Adjutant.  He saw active service with the Chitral Relief Force, the Malakand Defence Force and the Tirah Expedition.  After passing staff college, Robertson’s career took the staff path, first as GSO3 at the War Office and then (1910) as GSO2 Canadian Forces. 

When the war broke out he was Chief Instructor at the RMA with the rank of major, but in December 1914 he went to France as GSO2 V Corps, then forming.  On 19 March 1915 he was severely wounded by a bullet in his thigh.  It was almost a day before he was found, having been in great pain and under constant sniper fire.  He did not return to duty until January 1916 and to active service until July 1916, first as GSO2 in France, then as GSO1 in Italy.  He was awarded the DSO.  During the last few months of the war he served as BGGS at GHQ and at the end of war became BGGS VII Corps.  After a period as Military Attaché in Stockholm Colonel Robertson retired from the army in May 1924.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Arthur Robinson

 

(1864-1929)

Brigadier-General

CRA 

Eton College, RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

William Arthur Robinson was the son of George Robinson, of Reunion, Mauritius. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 1 August 1883. He saw active service in Northern Nigeria (1897-8) and in South Africa (1899-1900). When the war broke out he was commanding XII (Howitzer) Brigade RFA. He took this unit to France as part of 6th Division in the original BEF. He became CRA 50th (Northumbrian) Division TF on Christmas Day 1915, but was invalided home on 21 May 1916, shortly after the division’s baptism of fire during the Second Battle of Ypres.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

George Rollo

 

(1881-1944)

Brigadier-General

CMG, DSO*. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

Rugby School, Liverpool University

Civilian

 

George Rollo was the son of George Rollo JP, of The Park, Waterloo, Lancashire, and grandson of David Rollo, Scottish founder of the well-known and well-respected firm of Liverpool marine engineers and ship repairers that bore his name. George Rollo’s value to the family firm was enhanced by his study of engineering at Liverpool University. At age of 19 Rollo was also commissioned in the 1st Lancashire (Edge Hill Liverpool) Royal Engineers (Volunteers). He appears to have taken his commission seriously and was promoted captain in 1906. Like many Volunteers, however, he did not convert to the Territorial Force on its creation in 1908 and was a civilian when the Great War broke out.

He did not wait long to rejoin the colours. On 1 September 1914 he was commissioned in the 17th (Service) Battalion (1st City) King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, one of the original ‘Pals’ battalions, with the rank of temporary captain. 17th King’s became part of 89th [Liverpool Pals] Brigade, 30th Division. Rollo was destined to spend the majority of his remarkable war with the brigade, first as 2i/c 17th King’s (January 1915-July 1916), then as CO 19th King’s (July 1916-November 1917), then as CO 17th (Composite) Battalion (to which the brigade was reduced in May 1918 after the German spring offensives) and, finally, as CO 18th (Lancashire Hussars Yeomanry) Battalion King’s (August-September 1918), in effect a completely new unit. Along the way he acquired two wounds, a DSO and bar and four mentions in despatches. He left the brigade on 29 September 1918 to become GOC 150th Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division TF, a formation that had suffered cruelly in the spring fighting, on the Somme, at Ypres and on the Aisne, where it was effectively destroyed. He was 36 and had risen from civilian to brigadier-general in four years. 50th Division’s casualties were so severe that it had to be completely reconstituted and not one battalion of the old division remained. Nevertheless, it was able to take part in the Final Advance and Rollo earned his fifth mention in despatches for the part he played as GOC 150th Brigade. After the war he went back into business, becoming managing director of Grayson, Rollo & Clover Docks Ltd. as well as director and chairman of several other Merseyside businesses.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Walter Charteris Ross

 

(1857-1928)

Brigadier-General

KBE, CB, CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade

Educated privately and abroad 

Durham Light Infantry

 

Walter Charteris Ross was the third son of Colonel George W H Ross, DL and JP of Cromarty. He was commissioned in the Durham Light Infantry [then the 68th Foot] from the Militia on 29 September 1877. He retired from the army on 7 November 1908 in the rank of colonel after a military career that had seen active service in the Afghan War (1878-9) and South Africa (1901-2), where he was badly wounded. In September 1914, however, he was ‘dug out’ of retirement to command 152nd (1st Highland) Brigade, 51st (Highland) Division TF. He was 57. Ross commanded 152nd Brigade during its baptism of fire at Festubert and Givenchy in the spring of 1915, but was replaced on the eve of the Somme. His successor, Brigadier-General H P Burn was thirteen years Ross’s junior. After a brief spell at home as GOC 214th Brigade, Ross spent the rest of the war in Salonika. He was knighted in 1919.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Arthur Edmund Sandbach ('Minimus')

 

(1859-1928)

Major-General

CB, DSO. GOC Infantry Division

Eton College, RMA Woolwich psc

Royal Engineers

 

Arthur Edmund Sandbach (‘Minimus’) was the third son of Henry Robertson Sandbach of Hafodunos, Denbighshire. His unusual smartness as a Woolwich cadet also earned him the nickname ‘the Lordly Stag’. He graduated only 11th out of 12 in his batch on 6 April 1879. He soon saw active service in the Egyptian War (1882), including the battle of Tel-el-Kebir, the Sudan (1885) and Burma (1886-7), where he had a horse shot from under him, in the Sikkim (1888) and Hazara (1891) expeditions and the Nile (1898), where he was AAG of the Egyptian Army. 

He was at the Staff College from 1896 to 1897, in the same class as Allenby and Haig. He was Military Secretary to Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India, January 1898-November 1899, a period described as ‘unhappy’ in his RE Journal obituary. His unhappiness was terminated by the war in South Africa, where he served from December 1899 to the end, winning a DSO. He was Commandant 1st Sappers and Miners, Indian Army (1904-7), CRE Troops Aldershot (1908-10) and Chief Engineer in Ireland (October 1910-August 1914).

Sandbach went to war as CE II Corps, but he spent the first few weeks of the war as Temporary Commandant of Havre (No 1 Base) after the Commandant, Colonel J F Parker, collapsed. Sandbach was responsible for salvaging 60-70,000 tons of stores threatened by the German advance. Although he became the first CE Second Army, the appointment was not made immediately on the Army’s formation in December 1914 but only in February 1915. Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien’s description of Sandbach as a ‘competent Chief Engineer’ was not the most ringing of endorsements. He remained with Second Army only until May 1915, when he returned home to be Inspector of Engineers, a classic appointment for someone not thought up to active service or to be in need of a ‘rest’.

On 15 November 1915 he was given command of the 68th (2nd Welsh) Division, TF. On 14 February 1916 he assumed command of 59th (2nd North Midland) Division, the first Territorial Division to be deployed in Ireland in the aftermath of the Easter Rising. In February 1917 he took the division to France. He was 58. Sandbach did not survive for long in France. Sir Henry Rawlinson visited the division following the reverses it had suffered at Le Verguier on 2,4,5, 6 April 1917. He was shocked by what he found. He recommended that Sandbach and his GSO1, Lieutenant-Colonel R St G Gorton, be sent home. Sandbach went the next day, Gorton a few days later. Only a few days earlier, Sandbach had ‘degummed’ one of his brigade commanders, E W S K Maconchy (GOC 178th Brigade). Shortly before his own dismissal, Maconchy had ‘degummed’ one of his battalion commanders, Lieutenant-Colonel F Rayner (CO 8th Sherwoods). All three travelled back to England on the same boat!

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Acton Lemuel Schreiber

 

Brigadier-General

CB CMG DSO.

Chief Engineer

Tonbridge School, Oxford Military School

Royal Engineers

 

Acton Lemuel Schreiber was the son of the Rev. J E L Schreiber.  He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 9 December 1884.  He served on the North West Frontier of India in 1897 and 1898 and then in the South African War (1899–1902), where he was wounded and awarded the DSO.  From 1910 until 1915 he was CRE 1st Division, being slightly wounded in April 1915.  He was promoted brigadier-general and made Chief Engineer III Corps in July 1915, retaining the post until 29 November 1917.  One of his sons, Major O R Schreiber MC, was killed in action at Ypres in October 1917.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Robert Scott-Kerr

 

(1859-1942)

Brigadier-General

DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade

Grenadier Guards

 

Robert Scott-Kerr was the eldest son of William Scott-Kerr of Sunlaws and Chatto in the Scottish borders. He was commissioned in the South Wales Borderers (then the 24th Foot) from the Militia in March 1879, transferring to the Grenadier Guards eight months later. He served in the Zulu War (1879), the Soudan (1885) and South Africa (1900-2), where he won the DSO. On the outbreak of the Great War he took command of 4th (Guards) Brigade, 2nd Division, but was badly wounded in the thigh by a German machine gun at Villers-Cotterêts on 1 September 1914. His wound was so severe that he was prevented from assuming an active field command again. He was one of only four GOsC Infantry Brigades in the original BEF who did not go on to command (at least) a division. Brigadier-General Scott-Kerr retired in 1919.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Sir Frederick Charles Shaw

 

Brigadier-General

KCB. GOC Infantry Brigade

Militia Repton School

Sherwood Foresters

 

Frederick Charles Shaw was the son of John Shaw of Normanton, Derbyshire.  He was commissioned in the Sherwood Foresters from the Militia on 28 January 1882 and soon saw active service in the Egyptian war (1882).  He later took part in the expeditions to Malta and Crete (1898–9).  He served throughout the South African War on the Staff as brigade-major, DAAG and AAG and was twice mentioned in despatches.  He commanded 2nd Battalion Sherwood Foresters from 1907 to 1911 before returning to staff work as GSO1 Scottish Command (1911–13).  On 21 May 1913 he was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 9th Infantry Brigade.  He was still in command when the war broke out.  9th Brigade deployed to France in August 1913 as part of 3rd Division, II Corps, and was involved in heavy fighting throughout 1914.  3rd Division’s GOC, Major-General Hubert Hamilton, was killed on 14 October and his successor, Major-General Colin Mackenzie, invalided home on 29 October.  Shaw, himself, was wounded by a shell that hit his HQ on 12 November 1914.  Following his recovery, he was given command of the newly formed Regular division, the 29th, in January 1915.  He was inexplicably replaced two days before the division deployed to the Mediterranean, in March, and transferred to 13th (Western) Division, a New Army formation, which he took to Gallipoli in August 1915.  He fell sick on 22 August and was sent home.  He was Director of Home Defence (1915), CGS Home Forces (1916–18) and Commander-in-Chief, Ireland (1918–20).  He was knighted in 1917.  Lieutenant-General Sir Frederick Shaw retired from the army in 1920.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Arthur Uniacke Stockley

 

Brigadier-General

CRA.  CMG

Wellington College, RMC Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

Arthur Uniacke Stockley was the elder son of Colonel George Watts Stockley RE. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 15 February 1889.  His pre-war military career was fairly uneventful, spent mostly in India and with the Volunteers and Territorials.  He commanded 4th (Northumberland) Brigade RFA TF from 23 September 1912 to 28 July 1914 and when war broke out he mobilised with the 50th (Northumbrian) Division.  He was CRA of the Division from 20 June 1916 to 29 March 1918, when he was invalided home.  He was three times mentioned in despatches.  He retired in 1919 and became much involved with the British Legion in Essex. He was the elder brother of Brigadier-General E N Stockley RE.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Clifton Inglis Stockwell

 

Brigadier-General

CB, CMG DSO.  GOC Infantry Brigade

Haileybury College, RMC Sandhurst

Royal Welsh Fusiliers

 

Clifton Inglis Stockwell was the eldest son of Colonel C de N O Stockwell, Lincolnshire Regiment.  He was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 11 February 1899.  His pre-war career was uneventful and included no periods of active service.  When the European War broke out he was a Captain attached to 3rd (Special Reserve) Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  Heavy officer casualties in the early fighting, however, soon required his presence on the Western Front.  From September 1914 until March 1915 Stockwell was OC ‘A’ Company, 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers.  It was during this period that he earned the nickname ‘Buffalo Bill’, bestowed on him by Private Frank Richards and other old sweats because of his aggressive personality and the way in which he threatened slackers with his revolver.  Richards described Stockwell as a ‘first-class bully’, adding that ‘bullies as a rule are bad soldiers, but he was an exception to the rule’.  When Stockwell transferred to 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers at the end of March 1915, Captain J C Dunn complained that 2nd Battalion had lost ‘one of its strongest personalities’.  In August 1915 Stockwell became Brigade Major, 59th Brigade, commanded by the formidable Cameron Shute.  He survived Shute until February 1916 when he became CO 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, a post he held until September 1916 when he was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 164th Brigade, 55th (West Lancashire) Division, where his divisional commander was the equally formidable Hugh Jeudwine.  Stockwell was 37.  He was only the second man to command 164th Brigade, and the last man to command it during the war.

After the war Stockwell reverted to his regimental rank of major.  He attended and passed Staff College in 1919.  He served as a staff officer and brigade commander in Ireland from 1920 to 1922.  The final part of his career was spent in India as A/Commandant, then Commandant Senior Officers’ School, Belgaum, and lastly as GOC 11th Indian Infantry Brigade.  He retired from the army in March 1932.  Stockwell chaired the committee that eventually resulted in the publication of the magnificent account of 2nd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers’ war, J C Dunn’s The War the Infantry Knew, to which he contributed.  Stockwell also appears as ‘Kinjack’ in Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox Hunting Man.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Richard Edgar Sugden

 

Brigadier-General

CMG DSO*, GOC Infantry Brigade, Marlborough College

Duke of Wellington's Regiment

 

Richard Edgar Sugden (‘R.E.’) was the son of Richard Sugden, director of Thomas Sugden & Son, corn millers, of Brighouse in the West Riding of Yorkshire. ‘R.E.’’s rugged physique was well suited to Rugby football, at which he captained Brighouse Rangers and played for Yorkshire (1895-6). His temperament was equally rugged. He volunteered for the Imperial Yeomanry towards the end of 1899 and served in the South African War, where he was commissioned from the ranks. He maintained his ‘amateur’ military connection after the South African War and by August 1914 was OC ‘A’ Company, 4th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment TF. He went to war as 2i/c 4th Duke’s in May 1915 as part of 147th Brigade, 49th (West Riding) Division TF. He was wounded in September 1915 near Ypres, but was able to return to the battalion in November. He became CO 4th Duke’s on 4 September 1916 on the Somme. He commanded the battalion, winning two DSOs, until his promotion to brigadier-general on 7 June 1918 as GOC 151st Brigade, 50th (Northumbrian) Division TF. 50th Division had been virtually destroyed in the spring fighting, suffering the highest casualties of any British formation. 

Although Sugden was a Territorial in a nominally Territorial division none of the battalions in his completely reconstituted brigade was Territorial. After several weeks of intense training, 151st Brigade and its parent formation were able to return to the fray, performing well in operations from the beginning of October until the Armistice. Brigadier-General Sugden remained in the Territorial Army after the war and commanded 147th (2nd West Riding) Brigade until his retirement in 1926. He also played a full part in the family firm and became a leading social figure in his native town. His elder son, Lieutenant P G Sugden, was killed in action in 1943.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies