Surnames beginning 'D' to 'H'

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

William Henry Verelst Darell

 

(1878-1954)

Brigadier-General

CMG, DSO.

Eton College, RMC Sandhurst psc

DA & QMG

Coldstream Guards

 

William Henry Verelst Darell was the second son of Sir Lionel Darell 5th Bt. The Darell family fortune had been founded in the late eighteenth century in the East India Company’s service.  William Darell was commissioned in the Coldstream Guards on 8 September 1897 after a brilliant career at Sandhurst where he won the Sword of Honour.  He served in the South African War (1899–1902) and entered the Staff College in 1913.  This almost certainly shaped the rest of his career.  Trained staff officers were at a premium in 1914.  Darell was posted to Southampton as DAAG, where he helped to execute the deployment of the BEF to France.  When he went to war it was as DAQMG 7th Division.  He was promoted AA&QMG 3rd Division on 3 July 1915.  His final promotion was to DA&QMG IV Corps on 24 December 1916.  He succeeded W L White, who was twenty-two years his senior.  Darell held the post for the rest of the war.  His career illustrates the difficulties that trained staff officers had in escaping the ‘staff ghetto’, especially if they were competent.  Darell remained in the army after the war.  He was Deputy Director of Mobilization and Recruiting at the War Office (1920) and AAG War Office (1921).  After commanding 1st Battalion Irish Guards (1924–8) he retired from the Army in 1929.  Brigadier-General Darell was a keen oarsman, winning the Diamond Skulls at Henley in 1907.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Richard Hutton Davies

 

(1861-1918)

Major-General

CB. GOC Infantry Division, 

St John's College Hurstpierpoint psc

New Zealand Staff Corps

 

Richard Hutton Davies was the son of a London journalist, Theophilus Davies. After leaving school, he was sent to New Zealand to work on his uncle’s sheep station in Canterbury. Later, he settled at Taranaki, in the North Island, where he practised for fifteen years as a surveyor and engineer, pioneering the opening up of the rugged hinterland. His military career did not begin until 1893, at the late age of 31, when he joined the Hawera Mounted Rifle Volunteers. He soon made up for lost time. Within six weeks he became the unit’s commanding officer. In October 1899 he transferred to the New Zealand Militia. Within a few weeks he was seconded to command a company of the First New Zealand Contingent in the South African War. He put his surveying skills to good use, winning a reputation as an outstanding scout, which brought him to the attention of Sir John French. Davies ended the war in command of the Eighth New Zealand Contingent. This made him the first New Zealand officer to command an independent force on active service overseas. He was also the only colonial officer to be given command of a composite mobile column during the South African War. 

Between 1902 and 1909 he played a leading role in the reform of the New Zealand military. In 1909 he was sent to England on attachment to the 2nd (Cavalry) Brigade to prepare him for higher rank. His performance was so impressive that he was offered command of the 6th (Infantry) Brigade, based at Aldershot. He was still in command when the war broke out and he took his brigade to France with the British Expeditionary Force. He insisted in marching at the head of his brigade during its deployment, a gesture that brought about a state of exhaustion, severely hampering his ability to command. Haig several times commented unfavourably on Davies’ fitness and mental state during the Retreat and after the Aisne he was sent home to raise the new 20th (Light) Division, making him the first New Zealander to command a division in the Great War. He led 20th Division in only one minor engagement, at Fromelles in September 1915, before failing health compelled him to return to England the following spring. On 8 April 1916 he became GOC Cannock Chase Reserve Centre. He suffered continuous ill health for the next two years. On 9 May 1918 he committed suicide in a London nursing home specialising in the treatment of army officers with mental disorders.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Spencer William Scrase Dickins

 

(1862-1919)

Major-General

CB. GOC Infantry Division 

Eton College, RMC Sandhurst

Highland Light Infantry

 

Spencer William Scrase Dickins was the second son of C. Spencer Scrase Dickins, of Coolhurst, Sussex.  He was commissioned in the Highland Light Infantry on 10 May 1882 and soon saw active service in Egypt.  He was Adjutant of 2nd Battalion HLI from February 1890 until April 1893.  He took part in the fighting on the North-West Frontier of India in 1897–8 and later commanded 1st Battalion HLI (1904–8).  Battalion command was the highest level of aspiration of most pre-war Regular officers.  There were fewer interesting opportunities for officers of average abilities at the rank of colonel and above.  In August 1914 Colonel Scrase Dickins found himself OC (and i/c Records) No 12 District Irish Command, a post he had held since 29 July 1912.  His career seemed to be drifting towards a dull, administrative conclusion.  As with so many officers, however, the outbreak of war brought renewed possibilities.  Within a month Scrase Dickins found himself GOC 28th Brigade in the newly forming 9th (Scottish) Division, senior division of Kitchener’s New Army.  He was 51.  Napoleon famously asked potential generals if they were ‘lucky’.  Scrase Dickins would not have passed the test.  28th Brigade’s baptism of fire was at Loos, a battle in which few commanders won laurels.  Scrase Dickins’s attack was badly disrupted at the last minute by 2nd Division’s taking over part of his line, leaving 28th Brigade with only one communication trench for both ‘up’ and ‘down’ traffic, and by a German artillery bombardment that fell on his assault troops ten minutes before the infantry attack went in.  Confusion was great and losses were severe.  Scrase Dickins clearly felt them personally.  ‘When we were relieved and going down the communication trench carrying our two remaining Vickers Guns we passed Brigade HQ dug-out and standing outside was … Brigadier Scrase Dickins … with tears rolling down his cheeks.  The only time I ever saw a General in tears,’ Major J.H. Henderson later recalled.[1]

28th Brigade was broken up in May 1916 to accommodate the arrival in 9th Division of the South African Brigade.  Scrase Dickins was transferred to command of 27th Brigade, which he led on the Somme. At Longueval, on 14 July, in an attack famous for the first authentic use of a ‘creeping barrage’, brainchild of 9th Division’s innovative CRA. Brigadier-General ‘Owen’ Tudor, 27th Brigade’s assault began well, but stalled after taking its first objective.  Subsequent fighting was typically bitter, piecemeal and without adequate artillery support.  Losses were severe, 81 officers and 2,033 men, including 569 killed or missing.  Scrase Dickins was promoted GOC 37th Division on 22 October 1916, with 9th Division still engaged in heavy fighting.  His career as a divisional commander, however, was short lived.  Eighteen days after his appointment, he was taken ill and sent home.  He never returned to active service and died on 23 October 1919 at the age of 57.

There was no doubting Scrase Dickins’s personal courage, which was exemplary, or his devotion to duty.  He was a regular visitor to the front line and his spartan routine included an open air bath in the square at Montauban, even under shell fire.  He had the misfortune to command a brigade in an army that had been de-skilled at every level by its rapid expansion and to lead it in offensive operations against a skilful, resolute enemy, entrenched on the high ground.  Whether he had the tactical imagination or the powers of leadership to succeed at the level of command to which the outbreak of the Great War unexpectedly raised him is difficult to tell.

[1] Quoted in P. Warner, Loos (London: William Kimber, 1976), p. 147.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

John Francis Innes Hay Doyle

 

(1873-1919)

Brigadier-General

DA&QMG

CMG, DSO.

Richmond School, RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

(John Francis) Innes (Hay) Doyle (‘Duff’) was the youngest child and second son of Charles Altamont Doyle (1832-1893), alcoholic civil servant and artist, and his formidable wife, Mary Doyle, née Foley (‘The Mam’).  Doyle’s father was incarcerated in a lunatic asylum in 1881, when Innes was eight.  That he was able to receive a public school education and to enter the army owed much to the wealth and patronage of his elder brother (by fourteen years), Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), novelist and creator of Sherlock Holmes. 

Doyle was a serious soldier.  He served in China (1900) and South Africa (1902) and passed staff college (1909).  When the war broke out he was in command of 3rd Northumbrian Brigade RFA, a Territorial unit, but it was his staff, rather than his gunner, credentials that were at a premium.  On 28 September 1915 he took up the post of AA&QMG 24th Division, a post he held until 24 December 1917, when he became DA&QMG III Corps with the rank of brigadier-general.  He held this post until the end of the war.

Brigadier-General Innes Doyle died of pneumonia in Belgium in February 1919, a victim of the great influenza pandemic.  He was 44. He is buried in Halle Communal Cemetery, Belgium.  His death came only a few weeks after that of his nephew, Captain Kinglsey Conan Doyle, and from the same cause.  Their deaths did much to reinforce Arthur Conan Doyle’s commitment to the spiritualist cause.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

James Edward Edmonds

(1861-1956)

Brigadier-General

Deputy Chief Engineer CB CMG

King's College School RMA Woolwich psc

Royal Engineers

 

 

James Edward Edmonds (‘Archimedes’) was the son of J Edmonds. Although he was born in London, the family was of Cornish stock. Edmonds’s education was essentially scientific, but his father taught him languages at the breakfast table and he became fluent in German, French, Italian and Russian while still a schoolboy. He was clearly not an average child. Edmonds confirmed his intellectual prowess by passing first into ‘The Shop’ in July 1879. Two years later he also passed out top and was awarded the Pollock Medal. He was commissioned on 26 July 1881. In 1895 he came top in the Staff College entrance examination. It was at Staff College that his peers, who included Allenby and Haig, bestowed the nickname ‘Archimedes’ on him. He coped with the demands of the Staff College so easily that he even found time to write his first book, The History of the Civil War in the United States 1861-1865. Soon after passing Staff College Edmonds was offered a position in the Intelligence Division. During the next decade (1899-1910) he held a series of intelligence appointments. His work during this period gives him a major claim to being the founding father of the British Secret Service, which he helped to establish on proper professional lines, though he was not immune to the outbreaks of ‘spy fever’ that occasionally surfaced in pre-war Britain.

On 1 March 1911 Edmonds became chief of staff (GSO1) 4th Division, commanded by Major-General Thomas Snow. Edmonds went to war with 4th Division in August 1914, but was relieved of his post on 4 September. The Retreat from Mons took a heavy toll. His nerves and constitution succumbed to exhaustion, brought on by lack of sleep and food. He was nearly 53. After a period of rest and light duties, Edmonds spent the remainder of the war as a staff officer at GHQ until appointed Deputy Chief Engineer by Haig in 1918.

Edmonds’s importance, however, lies after the war not during it. On 1 February 1919 he became Director of the Historical Section, Committee of Imperial Defence, with responsibility for producing the British Official History of the war. Edmonds held the post for 29 years. The production of the Official History took 33 years of Edmonds’s life. Edmonds wrote nearly half the 29 volumes, including three-quarters of the volumes dealing with the Western Front. The work involved the ‘sorting, recording and analysing of over 25 million documents’. Drafts were circulated to large numbers of participants, involving Edmonds in a huge correspondence, which is now in the CAB 45 series of the National Archives, to the great benefit of modern historians. Edmonds never had more than a handful of assistants. He was 87 when the final volume was published in 1949. Without him the project would never have been concluded. Even so, Edmonds has received scant respect for his heroic efforts. The Official History is widely dismissed as ‘official propaganda’, a concerted attempt to cover up the incompetence of the high command, written in language that was emotionally sterile. People who hold these views have clearly never read the books. Edmonds was an exceptional scholar. He went to immense lengths to establish the facts and to interpret them truthfully. His prose is often vivid and severely judgmental. He wrote and edited a work of enduring historical and literary value and of great integrity.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Grant Mansell Fasken

 

(1855-1928)

Major-General

CB. GOC Infantry Division

Marlborough College, RMS Sandhurst

Indian Army

 

Charles Grant Mansell Fasken was the son of General E T Fasken. He was commissioned in the 17th Foot [Leicestershire Regiment] on 13 June 1874, transferring to the 16th Foot [Bedfordshire Regiment] the following year. The principal part of his career, however, was spent in the Indian Army, which he joined in 1878. He served in the Afghan War (1878-80) and as a brigade major in the Hazara Expedition (1888). He commanded 52nd Sikhs (1898-1905) in the Tochi Valley (1900) and in Somaliland (1902-4), for which he was made CB in 1904. He was GOC Ferozepore Brigade in India from November 1907 until November 1911 with the rank of brigadier-general. His honourable career in frontier war ended with his retirement on 2 January 1914. 

Like many other ex-Indian Army officers he was ‘dug out’ of retirement when the Great War broke out. He was promoted major-general and charged with raising and training the 19th (Western) Division, a New Army formation. Fasken’s wartime career was unusual only in his length of service as a divisional commander (25 September 1914-13 December 1915). The usual pattern with ‘dug outs’ was for them to be replaced by younger commanders with Western Front experience, either shortly before or shortly after their division was deployed to France. In Fasken’s case, however, he continued to command 19th (Division) after it entered the line on 31 August 1915 and during an uncomfortable baptism of fire at Loos (September 1915). 

He was replaced, together with two of his brigade commanders, Brigadier-General B G Lewis (GOC 56th Brigade) and Brigadier-General D M Stuart (GOC 58th Brigade). Fasken was 60, Lewis (another ‘dug out’) 57 and Stuart 52. Fasken’s successor was the 54-year old Tom Bridges. Major-General Fasken was invalided in 1916 and took no further part in the war. He was the brother of Brigadier-General W H Fasken.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Hugh Gregory Fitton

(1863-1916)

Brigadier-General

DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade

Eton College RMC Sandhurst psc

Queens Own Royal West Kent Regiment

Hugh Gregory Fitton, GOC 101st Brigade, 34th Division, has the unique distinction of being the only general officer to become his division’s first battle casualty. On 18 January 1916, three days after the division completed its deployment to France, he was wounded by a German sniper while on an instructional visit to 16th Brigade and died two days later. He was the seventeenth British general to be killed in action or to die of wounds on the Western Front. Brigadier-General Fitton is buried in Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery, Poperinghe, Belgium.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Fitzclarence

 

(1865-1914)

Brigadier-General

VC.  GOG Infantry Brigade

Eton College & Wellington College psc

Irish Guards 

 

Charles Fitzclarence was the eldest son of the Hon. George FitzClarence RN, of Bishopscourt, Co. Kildare. His paternal grandfather was the 1st Earl of Munster, the eldest son of King William IV (late Duke of Clarence) by his mistress, Mrs Dorothea (or Dorothy) Jordan, an Irish actress. Fitzclarence completed an impressive aristocratic pedigree by marrying Violet Churchill, youngest daughter of Lord Alfred Spencer Churchill and granddaughter of the 5th Duke of Marlborough in 1900. He was no aristocratic dilettante, however. From the start of his military career he showed every sign of ambition and seriousness of purpose. He was commissioned in the Royal Fusiliers from the Militia on 10 November 1886 and was still serving with the regiment when he won the Victoria Cross in the South African War for the relief of an armoured train near Mafeking. Shortly afterwards, however, he transferred to the Irish Guards, on their formation. FitzClarence passed Staff College in 1902. This is indicative of his ambition. He was not a natural staff officer or a natural scholar. His 1902 Confidential Report describes him as ‘not suited to heavy administrative office work’. ‘He is broad in his views rather than deep,’ the Report continued, ‘and has perceptive faculties rather than reflective. He is not a man of high mental power or educational qualifications, but he has the military instinct and is a leader of men.’ Tall, 6’ 2”, good looking and athletic, he also conformed to contemporary ideas of what a soldier should look like. 

After passing Staff College, FitzClarence did a tour as Brigade Major, 5th Brigade, at Aldershot (April 1903-March 1906) before commanding 1st Battalion Irish Guards (July 1909-July 1913). On the eve of the Great War he was a 49-year old colonel, and had been in command of the 5th London Brigade TF (later 141st Brigade, 47th (2nd London) Division) for a year. His immediate career and life prospects were changed by the removal of Brigadier-General Ivor Maxse as GOC 1st (Guards) Brigade. FitzClarence succeeded him on 26 September 1914. The desperate fighting for Ypres in October gave FitzClarence the opportunity to confirm the verdict of his pre-war reports that he was ‘a thorough soldier, full of resource and decision, quick in grasping the points of any tactical problem in the Field’. It fell to him, at a vital moment, to order the counter-attack of the 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment at Gheluvelt, sending his Staff Captain, Andrew Thorne, to give the order in person to the battalion’s acting CO, Major E B Hankey. The Worcesters’ attack restored the British line and saved the day. FitzClarence was killed a fortnight later, on 12 November 1914, at Polygon Wood. He was the third British general to be killed in action or to die of wounds on the Western Front. He has no known grave.

Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Victor Morven Fortune

 

(1883-1949)

Brigadier-General

DSO. GOG Infantry Brigade

Winchester College, RMC Sandhurst

Black Watch

 

Victor Morven Fortune was the son of J Fortune of Bengairn, Castle Douglas, Kirkcudbrightshire. He was commissioned in the Black Watch on 19 December 1903. His pre-war military career was uneventful. In August 1914, after almost eleven years service, he was a lieutenant in ‘A’ Company, 1st Battalion Black Watch, which went to war with the original BEF as part of 1st Brigade, 1st Division. Fortune spent the entire war on the Western Front. He was Adjutant, 1st Black Watch, from November 1914 until September 1915, when he became Brigade Major, 1st Brigade, a post he held for a year, winning a DSO. On 16 September 1916 he found himself in command of his battalion. He was 33. He commanded 1st Black Watch until 16 January 1918. This was a long period of command in the conditions of trench warfare and his next appointment looks suspiciously like a rest. He was Commandant Fourth Army Musketry School from 18 January until 27 June 1918, but on the following day was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 46th Brigade in 15th (Scottish) Division. He commanded it for the rest of the war.

Fortune’s regimental rank at the end of the war was captain (brevet major). After the responsibilities and excitement of the war’s final phase, it was back to the realities of peacetime promotion. After appointments as CO 8th Black Watch (April-July 1919) and Commandant School of Musketry (July-November 1919), he passed Staff College in 1920. He was OC Cadet Company RMA (1921-3) and Assistant Commandant Small Arms School (1923-25) before once more commanding a battalion, this time 1st Seaforth Highlanders on 10 January 1927. He was still only 44. After a two-year tour with the Seaforths, Fortune became GSO1 5th Division (1930-2), commander 5th Infantry Brigade 1932-5), T/GOC 52nd (Lowland) Division (1935-6), GIC SW Area (1937-8) and, finally, GOC 51st (Highland) Division (3 January 1938). In 1939 he once more went to war with the BEF, but was captured - along with his division - at St Valery on 14 June 1940. He spent the rest of the war as a pow. He was knighted in 1945.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

John Sharman Fowler

 

Director of Army Signals

KCMG DSO DSO

Cheltenham College, Trinity College, Dublin psc

Royal Engineers

 

John Sharman Fowler was the second son of Robert Fowler JP DL, an Irish country gentleman from Rahinston, Co Meath. His intended career was that of a civil engineer, but after attending the Royal Indian Engineering College at Coopers Hill the lure of the army proved too strong. He received a direct commission into the Royal Engineers on 6 January 1886. Fowler felt comfortable and fulfilled by military life. He was a noted shot and a keen horseman. From the outset of his army career, however, he showed himself to be an ambitious and serious-minded officer, obtaining certificates from the Veterinary School and the School of Musketry as well as his engineering qualifications. In 1889 he joined the Royal Engineers Telegraph Battalion at Aldershot. This dull sounding unit was, in fact, a hive of talent. Of the fifty subalterns who served with the battalion between 1870 and 1899, one became a field-marshal, two became generals, two lieutenant-generals, ten major-generals, three brigadier-generals and twelve full colonels. This is indicative, perhaps, of the emerging importance of electronic communications on the battlefield.

Fowler was no boffin, however. He saw much active service following his posting to India in 1892. He took part in the Black Mountain Expedition (1892) and was captured and wounded at Chitral (1895), where he won the DSO. Fowler loved the hill country of the North-West Frontier and took part in the campaign against the Mohmands (1897-8). In January 1898 he returned home to enter the Staff College, successfully completing the course the following year. By this time the South African War had broken out and Fowler was despatched to join the Telegraph Service in the field. He was Director of Telegraphs, Orange River Colony, from June 1900 until the end of the war.

Fowler was posted to his native Ireland in 1903. This gave him the opportunity to hunt and to find a wife. He married Mary Brooke in 1904 at the age of 40. He remained in Ireland until 1910 when the Commandant of the Staff College, Major-General Sir William Robertson, chose him to be an Instructor. In April 1913 he was appointed Commandant of the Army Signals School, Aldershot, a command he still held on the outbreak of war. On mobilization, he became Director of Army Signals of the British Expeditionary Force. John Fowler was the only man to occupy this increasingly important post and one of only seven generals to retain the same post for the whole of the war on the Western Front.

Although Fowler’s name is unknown to fame, he was one of the key figures in the BEF. His job was not an easy one. The British army was essentially a colonial police force used to fighting limited counter-insurgency operations, in which communications were often rudimentary and extemporised. Few commanders were familiar with signals organisation and technology and signals were no one’s priority when the Great War began. Fowler accordingly faced immense problems of personnel, equipment and organisation. The scale and intensity of the war on the Western Front, the rapid expansion of the army and the onset of trench warfare soon multiplied these difficulties.

Fowler had a mere 72 officers and 2,200 men at his disposal in August 1914 and this number suffered significant attrition in the early battles. But the growth of the Signals Service was exponential. He overcame the difficulties of training by utilising to the maximum extent the already trained civilian personnel of the General Post Office. Fowler never took a trade union attitude to civilian expertise, which was given its head in the organisation he created. By the end of the war Fowler was commanding 70,000 men. Under his leadership they developed a strong unit identity and a great esprit de corps.

Communications technology, notably wireless, was in many ways in its infancy in 1914. The BEF’s communications depended to a large extent on visual means and on despatch riders. There was an acute shortage of cable that British industry was slow to repair. Fowler’s attitude to technological change was entirely pragmatic. All and every technology was utilised so long as it worked: flags; lamps; motor-cycle despatch riders; pigeons; dogs; telegraph and telephone carried by air and subterranean cable; the power buzzer; wireless. An organisation evolved that was capable of carrying the vast amount of signals traffic necessary for the BEF’s day to day functioning. Martin Van Creveld has calculated that a single British army on the Western Front generated daily 10,000 telegrams, 20,000 phone calls and 5,000 messages delivered by despatch riders. Eighty-five per cent of these communications were carried by wire. The system had not only to cope with volume but had also to be reliable, quick and capable of adapting to constantly changing conditions. From the front line to the rear, formations and units were enabled to talk to one another and to their line of command. Infantry could communicate with artillery, artillery with the RFC. Great ingenuity and effort was put into maintaining the security and flexibility of communications during periods of combat. Signals intelligence and deception made their appearance on the battlefield, where they played a crucial part in the success of 8 August 1918, at Amiens. The failure to develop a man-portable wireless, however, meant that communications forward of the front line remained perilous and inadequate, with major consequences for the successful conduct of military operations. Signals practice was codified in two important manuals, SS 148 Forward Inter-Communication in Battle (March 1917) and SS 191 Forward Inter-Communication in the Field (November 1917), which demonstrated beyond doubt official recognition of the Signal Service and established Communications as an indispensable element of Command and Control. Fowler presided over this transformation with tact and charm. He was accessible and receptive to new ideas. He was self-confident enough to defer to expert advice on technical matters and was adept at recognising and promoting talent. Above all, he was forward thinking and undaunted by the scale and complexity of his task. He proved himself a big man for a big job.

Fowler was knighted in 1918. He remained in the army after the war, serving as GOC British Forces in China (1922-5). He retired in 1928. His appointment as first Colonel Commandant of the newly established Royal Corps of Signals in 1923 was entirely appropriate. Fowler’s formidable sister, Louisa, was the wife of General Sir Alexander Godley.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles William Frizell

 

(1888-1951)

Brigadier-General

DSO* MC. GOC Infantry Brigade

Rossall School, RMC Sandhurst 

Royal Berkshire Regiment

 

Charles William Frizell was the son of C H Frizell, of Castle Kevon, Co. Wicklow, a scion of the Anglo-Irish ascendancy. He was commissioned in the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 9 October 1907. By August 1914 he was a 26-year old lieutenant in 1st Battalion Royal Berkshires. He went to war as his battalion’s Machine Gun Officer in 6th Brigade, 2nd Division, part of the original BEF. From September 1916 until October 1918 Frizell commanded 10th Battalion Essex Regiment, 53rd Brigade, in the elite 18th (Eastern) Division, winning two DSOs. His brigade commander for much of that time was the formidable Harold Higginson, one of the most impressive British brigade and divisional commanders of the war. Frizell reached general officer rank himself on 1 October 1918 as GOC 75th Brigade, 25th Division. 25th Division was broken up after its losses in the spring fighting of 1918 and reconstituted with new units in September. Although technically a New Army division, Frizell’s brigade included three Territorial battalions, 1/8th Royal Warwickshire, 1/6th Gloucestershire and 1/8th Worcestershire, all recently returned from the Italian front. Frizell was the only man to command the reconstituted 75th Brigade in action. Although his appointment came six weeks before the Armistice 75th Brigade took part in much heavy fighting, during which 25th Division, under its impressive new GOC, Major-General Ronald Charles, developed a reputation for tactical innovation. When the war ended Frizell was still only 30 and a mere regimental captain. He remained in the army after the war, commanding 1st Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment from 1929 until 1932. Brigadier-General Frizell retired on 15 July 1936 after a two-year tour as GOC 3rd (Jhelum) Brigade in India.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

George Henry Gater

 

Brigadier-General

CMG. DSO* GOC Infantry Brigade

Winchester College, Oxford University

Sherwood Foresters

 

George Henry Gater was the son of W H Gater, a solicitor.  He had a quite remarkable war.  In 1911 he abandoned teaching for a career in educational administration and the following year was appointed Assistant Director of Education for Nottinghamshire.  He was still in this post when the war broke out.  Like hundreds of thousands of other young men he rallied to Kitchener’s call to arms and was commissioned in the 9th Battalion Sherwood Foresters.  He served with this unit at Gallipoli.  He later commanded 9th Sherwoods and 6th Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment (both battalions being in 33rd Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division).  After Gallipoli, he saw action on the Somme and at Third Ypres, twice being wounded.  The citation to his second DSO, on 17 September 1917, spoke of his ‘conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty.  He led his battalion with brilliant skill and resolution during an attack, minimising their casualties during three days of intense shelling, by his able dispositions and good eye for ground.  He directed the consolidation and remained in command for three days although severely wounded in the face early in the action’.  His reward was not only another DSO, but also promotion to GOC 62nd Brigade on 1 November 1917, following the death in action of Brigadier-General C G Rawling.  This completed an astonishing rise from civilian to brigadier-general in just over three years.  He was not yet 31.

62nd Brigade was in Major-General D G M Campbell’s 21st Division.  Campbell was an outstanding soldier, but he was very much a pukka Regular who never went out of his way to court popularity, especially among New Army officers.  Gater nevertheless not only survived under Campbell’s command for the rest of the war but also flourished.  On two occasions, during the worst of the fighting in the spring of 1918, Gater was chosen to command ad hoc units to help stem the German tide.  The first, known as Gater’s Force, consisted of composite battalions from 62nd, 64th and 110th Brigades, together with sixty-six Lewis guns of 4th Tank Brigade.  This was sent to reinforce 3rd Australian Division on 29–30 March 1918.  The second, known as Gater’s Independent Brigade, and again composed of composite battalions from 62nd, 64th and 110th Brigades, plus support units, was sent to block any German advance beyond the Marne on 2 June 1918, where it came under the command of the French Fifth Army.

After the war Gater returned to his career and became a distinguished educational administrator and senior civil servant.  He was knighted in 1941.  Gater was the only British general of the Great War with an entry in Who’s Who who did not refer to his military rank.  He is also possibly the only fighting general in British military history with a Dip. Ed.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Gerald Meade Gloster

 

(1864-1928)

Brigadier-General

CMG

GOC Infantry Brigade

Miltia, Devonshire Regiment

 

Gerald Meade Gloster was the son of the Rev. Thomas Gloster, Rector of Castleterra, Co. Cavan. He was commissioned in the Devonshire Regiment from the Militia on 12 November 1884. He was Adjutant of 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment from December 1894 until December 1898 and of the 3rd Volunteer Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment from September 1900 until September 1904. He saw active service on the North West Frontier (1897-98), serving with the Mohmand Field Force and the Tirah Expeditionary Force, and in South Africa (1899-1900). He assumed command of 1st Devonshire on 2 October 1910 at the age of 46. He took his battalion to war in August 1914, originally as part of 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, then from 30 September 1914 as part of 14th Brigade, 5th Division. Gloster was wounded on 20 October at Canteleux, near La Bassée.

When he returned to action, in April 1915, it was as CO 1st Battalion Royal Irish Regiment. In August 1915 he was given command of 64th Brigade, 21st Division. He was the first man to command this New Army formation in the field. Gloster survived 21st Division’s disastrous baptism of fire at Loos and the division’s subsequent reconstruction under Claud Jacob. But David Campbell (who succeeded Jacob in May 1916) had Gloster sent home as soon as he discovered his age (52), apparently without further enquiry into his military abilities. Brigadier-General Gloster later commanded 176th Brigade (August 1916-February 1917) and 216th Brigade (February 1917-March 1918) at home. He retired from the army in June 1919.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Frederic Manley Grubb

 

(1857-1938)

Brigadier-General

Chief Engineer

KCMG, CB, DSO.

Wellington College RMA Woolwich 

Royal Engineers

 

Frederic Manley Glubb was descended from an old Cornish family, but he was born in India where his father, Orlando Manley Glubb, was an officer in the 37th Bengal Native Infantry. As was common, Glubb was sent as a small boy to England, to be brought up by his grandparents at Shermanbury in Sussex, where his grandfather was the Vicar. He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 25 January 1877. He saw active service in South Africa (1899-1900), where he won the DSO. His pre-war career prospered and he rose steadily. From 1909 until 1912 he was Chief Engineer, Northern Command, based in York. This appointment brought him into contact with Sir Herbert Plumer, who was GOC Northern Command from November 1911 until January 1915. Glubb’s wartime career was fated to be closely associated with that of Plumer. In 1912 Glubb transferred to Southern Command, where the GOC was Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien, but in September 1914 he went to war as Chief Engineer of the newly formed III Corps, a post he relinquished on 12 May 1915, when he became Chief Engineer of Second Army, five days after Plumer assumed its command. Glubb was the chief sapper of Second Army for the rest of the war.

econd Army’s location in the notoriously insalubrious Ypres Salient provided numerous engineering challenges and opportunities. His reputation grew with that of Second Army. After the battle of Messines (June 1917), it stood second to none among the BEF’s military engineers. During the winter of 1917-18 Glubb went with Plumer and other Second Army staff to Italy, where he became Engineer-in-Chief. This was a sort of consolation for missing out on promotion to Engineer-in-Chief of the BEF at the beginning of November 1917, a post he was denied on age grounds (he was 59). Second Army returned to the BEF order of battle on 13 March 1918, a week before the German spring offensive. Glubb contributed his engineering skills to Second Army’s successful defence of the key Ypres position and in the second half of 1918 tackled the enormous engineering problems of the advance in Flanders.

Major-General Sir Frederic Glubb was a man of Spartan simplicities, well known for his dislike of all Latins. He retired from the army in 1919. Glubb had married Frances Letitia, daughter of Bernard Bagot JP of Auchrane, Co. Roscommon, in 1889. Their son also served in the Great War as a sapper, being wounded three times and winning the MC. He later became Lieutenant-General Sir John Glubb (‘Glubb Pasha’) (1897-1986), commander and chief of staff of the Arab Legion, and author of Into Battle: A Soldier’s Diary of the Great War (1978).

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Hugh Garvin Goligher

 

(1873-1958)

Financial Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief BEF

Brigadier-General

CBE 

Foyle College, Trinity College Dublin

 

Hugh Garvin Goligher was the youngest son of John Goligher JP, of Londonderry. After a brilliant university career that saw him win scholarships in both classics and literature he embarked on a career in finance. 

During the war he was Acting Director of Finance at the War Department and Financial Adviser to the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force, Sir Douglas Haig. He served on the British Delegation to the Reparations Commission in Paris (1919-1925) developing a formidable reputation as an international financial expert.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

George Frederick Gorringe

 

Major-General

KCB, KCMG, DSO. GOC Infantry Division 

Wellington College RMA Woolwich qs

Royal Engineers

 

George Frederick Gorringe (‘Blood Orange’) was commissioned in the Royal Engineers in 1888.  His first experience of active service was in the Dongola expedition (1896), while attached to the Egyptian Army.  His apparent immunity to sickness endeared him to Lord Kitchener and his career flourished.  During the South African War he was successively ADC to the Chief of Staff and DAAG.  Later, he served again with the Egyptian Army (1901–4), as Director of Movements at the War Office (1906–9) and as GOC 18th Infantry Brigade (1909–11).  In 1911, at the age of 43, he became one of the youngest major-generals in the British Army.  When the war broke out he was commanding a brigade in India.  He remained with the Indian Army for the first two years of the war.  In March 1916 he became GOC Tigris Corps, charged with the thankless task of relieving Major-General C V F Townshend’s army besieged by the Turks at Kut-al-Amara.  His tactics did not endear him to his subordinates.  ‘His cursed optimism, contempt for the Turks, contempt for the principles of war and for the lessons of this war, have again landed us in failure and run up a butcher’s bill.  This is culpable homicide,’ complained Brigadier-General Fraser after the attack at Sannaiyat on 5 April 1916.[1]  Kut fell to the Turks twenty-four days later.  This failure was, apparently, not held against Gorringe.  In October 1916 he succeeded Sir Charles Barter as GOC 47th (2nd London) Division, TF.  He commanded it on the Western Front for the rest of the war. Gorringe joined 47th Division in the aftermath of its greatest achievement, the capture of High Wood.  Under his leadership the division cannot be counted among the BEF’s elite units.  It spent the remainder of the Somme campaign in quiet sectors, distinguished itself at Messines (June 1917) and was held in reserve at Cambrai (November).  During 1918 it was heavily engaged during the March Retreat.  For a brief period, in August 1918, Fourth Army as an assault unit used the division.  It ended the war pursuing the German withdrawal in Artois.

Gorringe’s career did not fulfil its early promise.  He was the only divisional commander on 11 November who had been a major-general when the war began.  All the corps commanders under whom he served were junior to him in the Army.  Some of this is explained by his unpopularity.  A large, arrogant, tactless, officious man, he was often loathed and distrusted. Gorringe was a bachelor.  He had only two interests: his profession; and horses.[2]  He once ordered the flogging of two Arabs who had dropped some matting and frightened his horse.[3]  He was, however, a relentless commander, cool under pressure and calm in a crisis.  His chief staff officer in 1918 was Bernard Montgomery.  Montgomery always spoke well of Gorringe and attributed the success of his own ‘Chief of Staff system’ in the Second World War to the lessons taught by Gorringe in 47th Division.[4]  Gorringe retired in 1924 as a lieutenant-general after a final tour of duty in Egypt.

[1] PRO CAB45/96/97/98.  See also, E Latter, ‘The Indian Army in Mesopotamia 1914–1918: Part II’, Journal of the Society for Army Historical Research, LXXII (291) (Autumn 1994), p. 177.

[2] See Brigadier-General A B Beauman, Then a Soldier (London: P R Macmillan, 1960), p. 24, for the closest thing to a complimentary view of Gorringe.  Beauman was Gorringe’s ADC at Lichfield before the war.

[3] Russell Braddon, The Siege (London: Mayflower Books, 1971), p. 38.

[4] Nigel Hamilton, Monty, The Making of a General 1887–1942 (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1981), p. 135.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Walter Hayworth 'Bob' Greenly

Major-General

 

CB CMG DSO, GOC Cavalry Division and GOC Infantry Division 

Eton College RMC Sandhurst psc

19th Hussars

 

Walter Howorth (‘Bob’) Greenly was the eldest son of Edward Howorth Greenly, of Titley Court, Herefordshire. He was commissioned in the 12th Lancers on 20 February 1895 and served as Adjutant of his regiment in the South African War (1 May 1900-22 August 1902), where he won a DSO. Greenly’s profile as an ambitious professional was confirmed by his passing staff college in December 1905. He spent the period January 1906 until January 1912 entirely in staff positions, principally with the cavalry in Aldershot Command, a place where a man could attract notice. This appears to have happened. On 2 January 1912 he was ‘fast-tracked’ to command of the 19th Hussars. It was his 37th birthday. On mobilisation, 19th Hussars were split up as divisional cavalry and Greenly had no opportunity to command the regiment in action. 

On 19 September 1914 he was appointed GSO1 2nd (Cavalry) Division, recently formed under the command of Hubert Gough. He remained in this post until 14 April 1915, when he was promoted GOC 9th (Cavalry) Brigade, 1st (Cavalry) Division. He was 40. From November 1915 until November 1916 he was BGGS (chief of staff) XIII Corps, commanded by Sir Walter Congreve. XIII Corps was heavily engaged on the Somme and achieved the greatest success on 1 July, including the capture of Montauban. Even this pace of promotion seemed too slow for Greenly, however. He was restless for command and, in November 1916, succeeded in escaping the staff ‘ghetto’ to become GOC 2nd (Cavalry) Division. 

He was an undoubted success. Colonel W N Nicholson, no uncritical admirer of generals, described Greenly as ‘good as one could wish’ as a divisional commander. Greenly was clever enough to realise, however, that command of a cavalry division on the Western Front provided an able and ambitious man with very limited opportunities. He lobbied for command of an infantry division and, on 22 March 1918, he succeeded in getting one. This brought his glittering career to an immediate and humiliating halt. Greenly’s new command, 14th (Light) Division, felt the full force of the German Spring Offensive. According to an official report by the GOC III Corps, Sir Richard Butler, during the period 22-27 March ‘14th Division was engaged continuously day and night under very difficult conditions and suffered very heavy losses. Major-General Greenly handled a new and difficult situation with energy, ability and calm. He was confronted with a difficult problem, and succeeded in concentrating and withdrawing the 14th Division from a situation which at one time looked critical.’ But the personal cost was high. 

On 28 March Greenly reported in person to the GOC Cavalry Corps, Sir Charles Kavanagh, that ‘he found himself incapable of thinking clearly and could not trust himself to issue orders’. He was consequently relieved of command, suffering ‘exhaustion from exposure’. Haig recorded more brutally in his diary that ‘Greenly … went off his head with the strain’. Nevertheless, Haig recommended that Greenly be considered for a staff or field command after a six-month period of rest at home. But, by then, the war was almost over. Greenly never returned to active service and retired in 1920 after a two-year tour as Chief of the Military Mission to Romania. His Who’s Who entry makes no mention of his command of 14th Division.

Sir James Moncrieff Grierson

 

Lieutenant-General

Corps Commander

Glasgow Academy RMA Woolwich psc

Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery

 

James (‘Jimmy’) Moncrieff Grierson was the second son of George Moncrieff Grierson, a Glasgow merchant. Grierson was one of the pre-war British Regular Army’s most accomplished and interesting senior officers. After his commission in the Royal Artillery on 9 October 1877 he accumulated an impressive amount of active service in the late Victorian army’s colonial campaigns, including Egypt (1882), Suakin (1885), the Hazara Expedition (1888), South Africa (1900) and China (1900-1). He also passed staff college (1884). In the decade before the outbreak of the Great War he moved through a series of important appointments, including Director of Military Operations at the War Office (1904-6) in the aftermath of the Anglo-French entente, GOC 1st Division (1906-10) and GOC Eastern Command (1912-14). 

During the army manoeuvres of 1912 Grierson famously worsted his rival, Douglas Haig, principally through the use of aerial reconnaissance, a tactic that he only reluctantly adopted after forceful lobbying by his cavalry commander, Charles Briggs. Grierson was an accomplished linguist. He was the British Army’s leading authority on the armies of Germany, Russia and Japan, on all of which he published books. Grierson was also a noted bon viveur, with a love of music, fine food and wine, good company and amateur theatricals. He once commented that he had fought his best battles ‘with a knife and fork’. Unfortunately, he had the figure to match. Twelve days into his wartime command of II Corps, on 17 August 1914, Sir James Grierson died of a heart attack in the train taking him to the front. He remains one of the great ‘might-have-beens’ of the war.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

John Hardress-Lloyd

 

(1874-1952)

Brigadier-General

DSO*. GOC Tank Brigade 

Wellington College 

4th Dragoon Guards

 

John Hardress-Lloyd was the son of an Anglo-Irish lawyer. He was commissioned in the 4th Dragoon Guards on 10 October 1894. He served with the Tirah Expedition on the North West Frontier in 1897-8 and in the South African War. Between March 1901 and September 1902 he was ADC to Lieutenant-General Sir E L Elliot. He was also an exceptionally good polo player - one of the elite group of 10-goal players. He was a member of the Ireland team that won a medal at the 1908 Olympics and in 1911 he captained the England team that crossed the Atlantic to play the United States. On the outbreak of war he went to France with 4th Dragoon Guards before joining Major-General Beauvoir De Lisle’s 1st Cavalry Division staff. He followed De Lisle to Gallipoli when the latter took command of 29th Division. Hardress-Lloyd was appointed 2 i/c 1st Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in May 1916, becoming its commanding officer a month later. Whilst commanding this battalion he was awarded the DSO in January 1917. In February 1917 he was appointed to the command of ‘D’ Battalion, one of the founding units of the Heavy Branch Machine Gun Corps. The battalion’s first actions were at Arras and included the disastrous Bullecourt operation in April 1917. 3rd Tank Brigade was formed under his command on 27 April 1917 and Hardress-Lloyd commanded the Brigade until the war’s end, receiving promotion to Brigadier-General on 16 April 1918 and a Bar to his DSO in July. He was also mentioned in despatches six times and appointed a Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

Three of the staff of the Tank Corps provide interesting insights on Hardress-Lloyd’s character. J F C Fuller characterised him as a ‘beau sabreur’ who kept a good table and a fine stable, but also credits him with at least partial responsibility for the idea from which grew the plans for the Cambrai attack. For Evan Charteris, Hardress-Lloyd was, fundamentally, a competent, rather than an outstanding Tank Brigade commander. A great favourite of Hugh Elles, he was said to possess ‘more character than brains’ and to be aware that ‘his cards were not all trumps but that much could be done by bluff, in legitimate tactical ways’. He was ‘a man of much practical common sense, not easily perturbed’. Giffard Martel felt Hardress-Lloyd was very good in the field, ‘but inclined to be lazy so far as training and organization were concerned behind the front. He was apt to come to conferences without having studied the papers that were to be discussed there’. (By one of those curious quirks of fate, Hardress-Lloyd is the great uncle of the radio and television producer, John Lloyd, whose credits include Not the Nine O'clock News, Spitting Image, QI and ...Blackadder!'.)

Bryn Hammond

Centre for First World War Studies

Arthur Henry Seton Hart-Synnot

 

(1870-1942)

Brigadier-General

CMG, DSO*.   GOC Infantry Brigade

Clifton College, King William's College, RMC Sandhurst psc

East Surrey Regiment

 

Arthur Henry Seton Hart-Synnot was the son of Major-General (Arthur) FitzRoy Hart-Synnot CB CMG JP (1844–1910), of Ballymoyer, Co. Armagh.  His was a military family.  His grandfather, General Henry Hart, was the editor of Hart’s Army List, and his uncle was Sir Reginald Hart, who won the VC in Afghanistan.[1] Arthur Hart-Synnot was commissioned in the family regiment, the East Surreys, on 8 October 1890.  He saw active service during the Relief of Chitral (1895) and in the Tirah Expedition (1897–8), during which he was ADC to the GOC 1st Brigade.  He served in South Africa (1899–1902) with the Mounted Infantry, as Brigade-Major with the Irish Brigade and, finally as DAAG.  He was twice wounded and won the DSO. 

Hart-Synnot had passed Staff College in 1899 and after the South African War his career took the staff path, though not – perhaps – the usual one.  Hart-Synnot was a cultivated man.  He was a keen and knowledgeable botanist.  He read and – later – wrote poetry.  And he was a talented linguist, with fluent French and decent German.  When the call came, in the aftermath of the Anglo-Japanese Alliance of 1902, for officers to learn Japanese, Hart-Synnot took up the challenge.  He arrived in Japan in 1904.  The experience was to change his life.  He was attached to the Japanese Army in Manchuria (1904–5) and GSO2 South China, based at Hong Kong (1907–11).  After an unpleasant tour in Burma with his regiment (1911–13), he was appointed GSO2 at GHQ India on 27 October 1913, remaining there until October 1916, when he returned to Britain.  He deployed to France on New Year’s Day 1917, serving as a staff officer with the 17th and 40th Divisions.  At the end of June he was given

 

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

 

[1] The name Hart-Synnot was adopted by A.H.S. Hart-Synnot’s father when he inherited the Ballymoyer estate through is wife, Mary Synnot.

Sir David Henderson

 

(1862 - 1921)

Lieutenant-General

KCB KCVO DSO. GOC Royal Flying Corps

Glasgow University, RMC Sandhurst psc

Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders

 

 

David Henderson is one of the most under-estimated British soldiers of the Great War. He made fundamental contributions in two areas. The first area was military intelligence. He was Staff Captain (Intelligence) at Army HQ in the Sudan (December 1897-July 1898) and Director of Military Intelligence in the South African War (1901-2). His studies of Field Intelligence: Its Principles and Practice (1904) and The Art of Reconnaissance (1907) consolidated his reputation as the British Army’s leading authority on tactical intelligence. The second area was military aviation. Henderson learned to fly in 1911 at the age of 49: he was the world’s oldest pilot. He was appointed Director-General of Military Aeronautics in 1913 and assumed command of the Royal Flying Corps in the field on the outbreak of war. Henderson’s combination of interests and expertise ensured that the fledgling RFC would, from the outset, play a leading part in intelligence gathering and reconnaissance, to the great advantage of the BEF. 

Henderson returned to London as Director-General of Military Aeronautics in February 1916. In 1917 he was seconded to General Jan Christian Smuts, who had been charged with reporting on Britain’s air policy in the light of German fixed bombing attacks on British cities. Henderson’s views were vital in the foundation of the Royal Air Force and he largely wrote the ‘Smuts Report’. He has the major claim to being Father of the Royal Air Force, though his contribution has been unfairly overshadowed by that of Sir Hugh Trenchard. After the war Henderson became Director-General of the League of Red Cross Societies in Geneva, where he died in 1921, aged only 59. He was an intelligent, far-sighted and innovative soldier. His only son, Captain I H D Henderson MC, was killed in 1918 while commanding a squadron of the RFC, aged 21.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Harry Otho Devereux Hickman

 

(1860-1946)

Brigadier-General

CB.   GOC Infantry Brigade

RMC Sandhurst psc

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers

 

Harry Otho Devereux Hickman was the only son of Henry Thomas Hickman, of Chorlton House, Leamington Spa, Warwickshire.  He was commissioned in the 19th Foot (later the Yorkshire Regiment) on 4 January 1880. From September 1885 to September 1888, he was employed with the Egyptian Army, during which time he was Assistant Military Secretary to the Sirdar.  Shortly after returning from attachment, Hickman transferred to the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (8 January 1890).  He passed Staff College in 1895.  He again saw active service in the South African War (1900–1).  After three years as DAAG Western Command (1901–4) he became CO 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers on 27 January 1908.  He was 47. 

Hickman served only two years as a battalion commander: the norm was four.  On 19 February 1910 he was appointed 2 i/c RMC Sandhurst.  His final pre-war appointment was as Assistant Director of the Territorial Force at the War Office (1912–13).  He retired on 2 July 1913.  His retirement was short lived.  He was recalled in 1915 and given command of 66th Brigade, 22nd Division. 22nd Division was deployed only briefly on the Western Front, in September and October 1915, before being transferred to the Salonika front, where it remained.  Brigadier-General Hickman commanded 66th Brigade until 5 November 1916, when he fell sick, an occupational hazard of service in Salonika. 

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Thomas Edgecumbe Hickman

 

(1859-1930)

Brigadier-General

CB, DSO.   GOC Infantry Brigade

Cheltenham College

Worcestershire Regiment

 

Thomas Edgecumbe Hickman was one of sixteen children of the great Black Country  industrialist, Sir Alfred Hickman Bt (1830–1910), Conservative MP for Wolverhampton West.  T E Hickman was commissioned in the 36th Foot (later 2nd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment) from the Militia on 19 February 1881.  He was attached to the Egyptian Army from 1884 to 1894, March to November 1896, and 1897 to 1900.  So dominant a part did Egypt play in his pre-war military career that it earned him the nickname ‘Hickman Bey’.  He was also heavily involved in the South African War and its aftermath, including a period as GOC Middleburg District, Cape Colony (1902–8), when he went on half pay. 

He officially retired from the Army on 4 April 1914.  By then he had moved into politics.  He was elected Unionist MP for Wolverhampton South in 1910. He was especially interested in Irish affairs, becoming President of the British League for the Defence of Ulster and Inspector-General of the Ulster Volunteer Force.  Hickman had been second in command to Kitchener at the disastrous battle of Hardub in January 1888.  He had assumed command when Kitchener was very nearly fatally wounded.  So, it was to Hickman that Kitchener turned in 1914 when, as Secretary of State for War, he decided that he wanted the Ulster Volunteers for his New Army.   Kitchener not only got the Ulster Volunteers, but he also got Hickman, who became GOC 109th Brigade, 36th (Ulster) Division on 14 September 1914.  He was 55 and a sitting MP.  36th Division deployed to France in October 1915 under a new commander, Major-General Oliver Nugent, who was determined to de-politicise this very political formation.  He removed all three brigade commanders within six months.  Hickman survived the longest, being replaced in April 1916.  109th Brigade took part in no offensive operations while under his command.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Ralph Hamer Husey

 

(1881-1918)

Brigadier-General

DSO* MC. GOC Infantry Brigade 

Marlborough College

London Regiment

 

There was little in Ralph Hamer Husey’s pre-war business career to hint at his outstanding qualities as a soldier. When the war broke out he was 33 and still trying to qualify as a chartered accountant. His conversion to soldiering was also unusual. In 1901 he returned from a year in Germany. His time there left him firmly convinced of German enmity to Britain. His response was to join the Hertfordshire Yeomanry as a trooper. He served with the yeomanry for five years before accepting a commission in the socially elite 5th London Regiment. He continued in the battalion after the formation of the Territorial Force and became a firm believer in the Territorial principle and in the qualities of the Territorial soldier. 

He was a captain when the war broke out, finding himself in France as early as November 1914, as OC ‘A’ Company. Husey quickly showed an aptitude for combat. He was one of those rare men who enjoyed war and was fulfilled by it. He led by example and was undaunted by adversity. His courage gave him a moral authority over his subordinates, who responded by following him anywhere. He was wounded four times during the war and was four times mentioned in despatches. He commanded the London Rifle Brigade from August 1916 until August 1917 and from December 1917 until April 1918. 

He received his second DSO for his part in the heroic defence of Gavrelle, during the German Spring Offensive of March 1918. After a brief period in temporary command of 167th Brigade, Husey was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 25th Brigade, 8th Division, on 8 May. As a Territorial, he was somewhat disconcerted to be given command of this Regular formation. 8th Division had suffered grievously in the spring fighting and had been sent to a quiet sector on the Aisne to rest and refit. Here, on 27 May, it was violently assaulted in a surprise German attack. The division’s position was hopeless. Husey was last seen in the front line firing at swarms of enemy soldiers with a rifle. He seems to have been wounded and then knocked unconscious with a rifle butt. He died in captivity on 30 May. He was 36.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

(Arthur) Reginald Hoskins

 

(1871-1942)

Brigadier-General

KCB, CMG, DSO.  GOC Infantry Brigade & BGGS

Westminister School, RMC Sandhurst

psc qs

North Staffordshire Regiment

 

(Arthur) Reginald Hoskins was the son of Thomas Hoskins of Belgrave Road, London SW.  He was commissioned in the North Staffordshire Regiment on 13 May 1891.  Hoskins soon escaped the dull round of regimental soldiering, when  - in 1896 - he was posted to the Egyptian Army.  During this period attachment to the Egyptian Army was virtually a guarantee of active service.  Hoskins fought in the Dongola Expedition (1896) and the Nile Expeditions of 1897, 1898 and 1899.  He was mentioned in despatched in all these campaigns and received the brevet of major.  He also took part in the South Africa War (1899–1902) as an ADC and intelligence officer.  He was again mentioned in despatches and awarded the DSO.  He made his first acquaintance with East Africa in 1902, when he took part in the Somaliland expedition as a staff officer on the Lines of Communication, winning another mention in despatches.  His staff training was formalised in 1903 by entry to the Staff College.  After passing Staff College in 1905, Hoskins’ career firmly trod the staff path.  He was GSO2/DAAG Egypt (1906–10) and GSO2 at the Staff College (1910–13).  In August 1913 he returned to East Africa as Inspector of the King’s African Rifles.  He was still in post when the European war broke out.

Hoskins was recalled from East Africa in September 1914 and appointed AA&QMG of the newly formed 8th Division on the Western Front.  He held this post for only two months before taking up the demanding job of chief of staff to Major-General ‘Tommy’ Capper at 7th Division on 12 November 1914. On 25 March 1915 Hoskins was promoted brigadier-general and given command of 8th Brigade, in Major-General Aylmer Haldane’s 3rd Division.  Hoskins had the knack of finding formidable superiors.  But he also had the knack of missing the action.  By the time he joined 7th Division its role in the bitter fighting round Ypres was over.  3rd Division was so badly knocked about in the fighting of 1914, especially at Le Cateau, that it was sparingly used in 1915.  His spell as BGGS V Corps (6 October 1915–13 February 1916) was a little more fortunate.  His transfer to the East African theatre as GOC 1st East African Division, with the rank of major-general, came one day before V Corps’ notorious loss of The Bluff.  He was 44.  He never returned to the Western Front.

Hoskins spent the rest of the war in East Africa (where he was Commander-in-Chief in 1917) and in Mesopotamia and Palestine (where he was GOC 3rd (Lahore) Division).  He was knighted in 1919.  After retiring from the army in 1923 he was Principal of the Philip Stott College, Overstone (1928) and then Principal of the Bonar Law College (1928–38), its successor as a training institution for Conservative Party agents.

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Sir Havelock Hudson ('Huddie')

 

(1862-1944)

Major-General

KCB, CIE.  GOC Infantry Division

Reading School, RMC Sandhurst

Indian Army

 

Havelock Hudson (‘Huddie’) was the son of Lieutenant-General Sir John Hudson KCB.  He was commissioned in the Northamptonshire Regiment on 22 October 1881, but transferred to the Indian Army in 1885.  He also transferred to the cavalry, serving with the famous 19th Bengal Lancers, a regiment whose history he later wrote.  Hudson saw active service in the colonial warfare of the North West Frontier and also served in China (1900).  His presence on the committee that organised the Coronation Durbar of Edward VII at Delhi in 1903 indicates a flair for staff work.  Douglas Haig was an admirer. ‘By the way Col. Hudson goes home in a week or two - I will give him a line to introduce him to you,’ Haig wrote to his friend Lancelot Kiggell on 5 April 1911.  ‘He is a first rate fellow - absolutely trustworthy and keen for the good of the show.  He is not p.s.c. but is first rate notwithstanding.  He is head of the Training Section under Headlam.’[1]  Hudson was briefly Commandant of the Cavalry School at Sangor (1912) before taking up the position of BGGS Northern Army in October 1912.  He held this post when the European War broke out.

Hudson was BGGS (chief of staff) of the Indian Corps from September 1914 until July 1915.  On 1 August he was given command of the Regular 8th Division on the Western Front, perhaps a surprising appointment for an Indian Army officer.  8th Division had been sorely tested in the spring fighting of 1918, especially at Neuve Chapelle (10–12 March) and Aubers Ridge (9 May).  The division was little used again, apart from the attack at Bois Grenier (25 September), until 1 July 1916, when it did badly and suffered grievously in the attack on Ovillers, losing 5,400 men.  It spent the next few weeks precariously holding a deliberately thinned out front in a ‘quiet sector’.  This gave the division little time to train or to absorb new drafts.  The formation that was rushed back into the battle (against the Transloy Ridges in October) was not in the best shape.  The divisional history frankly summarised the division’s experience in 1916: ‘Fate had given the troops no direct part in the victories of the Somme; but had dealt out to them a full measure of its bitterest and darkest hours.’[2] Philip Howell described Hudson as ‘such a nice little man & very quick & sensible’, but while he was ‘quick enough to see what was going to go wrong’ he had ‘not quite enough personality to be insubordinate & refuse’ pressure from above.[3]  At this stage of the war, Hudson was not alone in this failing.

On 10 December 1916 Hudson was appointed Adjutant-General, India, a post he held until 1920.  His successor as GOC 8th Division, William Heneker, was unimpressed with the formation he inherited and immediately set about making personnel changes.  Paddy Griffith described India as the ‘sin bin of the First World War’.  It is difficult to know whether Hudson had, in fact, been stellenbosched.  It may be significant that Hudson did not include his command of 8th Division in his Who’s Who entry.  He was, however, a great success in his new post.  Later, as GOC Eastern Command, India (1920–4) and as Member of the Council of India (1924–9) he was a key figure in the post-war reform of the Indian Army.

[1] Kiggell Papers (LHCMA).   I/8.  Haig to Kiggell.  5 April 1911.

[2] Lt.-Colonel J H Boraston and Captain Cyril E O Bax, The Eighth Division 1914-1918 (London: Medici Society, 1926), p. 96.

[3] LHCMA: Howell Papers IV/C/3/188.  Howell to his wife, 3 July [1916].

 

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies