Surnames beginning 'T' to 'W'

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

(Augustus Francis) Andrew (Nicol) Thorne

 

'Bulgy'

(1885-1970)

Brigadier-General

DSO** .  GOC Infantry Brigade

Eton College RMC Snadhurst

Grenadier Guards

 

(Augustus Francis) Andrew (Nicol) Thorne (‘Bulgy’) came from a wealthy family.  This enabled him to make an advantageous marriage to the daughter of Lord Penrhyn.  He was only 24, much younger than the vast majority of his contemporaries were able to marry.  His privileged background, however, should not be allowed to mask a clever and hard-working professional soldier.  He began the war as Staff Captain 1st (Infantry) Brigade.  Thorne was the man who guided Major E B Hankey to his jumping off point before the historic counter-attack of the Worcesters at Gheluvelt in October 1914.  In February 1915 Thorne became DAAQMG 1st Division, transferring to the same post in the newly formed Guards Division six months later.  In September 1916 he was promoted acting lieutenant-colonel and given command of his old battalion, 3rd Grenadier Guards.  He led this on the Somme and in the heavy fighting of 1917 and 1918, winning two bars to his DSO.  Promotion to brigadier-general, as GOC 184th (2nd/1st South Midland) Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division TF, on 14 October 1918, at the age of 33, was perhaps overdue.  When the war ended, less than a month later, his substantive rank was still only that of major.

Andrew Thorne’s career flourished between the wars.  By 1939 he was GOC 48th (South Midland) Division.  This unit played an important part in the defence of the Dunkirk perimeter the following spring.  Thorne’s performance resulted in his promotion to GOC XII Corps, responsible for the defence of Kent.  He would have played a key role in repelling any German invasion.  From 1941–5 he was GOC Scottish Command.  Thorne’s appointment to this post proved useful in the pre-D-Day deception plan, Operation Fortitude.  From 1932-35 Thorne had been British Military Attaché in Berlin.  Adolf Hitler, who had been on the other side of the line at Gheluvelt in 1914, took a shine to Thorne, and came to regard him as one of Britain’s best generals.  This inclined Hitler to give credence to Allied misinformation about a 1944 invasion of Norway from Scotland.  An article on Gheluvelt, written by Thorne, was found in the Führer Bunker after Hitler’s death.[1]  Thorne retired in 1946 after a year as Commander-in-Chief Allied Land Forces Norway.

[1] I owe this information to Michael Orr.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Edwin Tivey

 

(1866-1947)

Brigadier-General

DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade

Wesley College, Melbourne

AIF

 

Edwin Tivey is one of the least remembered generals in the AIF despite being the only man to command 8th Australian Brigade during the war, a surprising record given the Australian policy of deliberately resting formation commanders from time to time.  Tivey’s anonymity have something to do with his depiction as an ‘English-like’ commander, which appears not be a compliment, and perhaps because he took no part in the fighting on Gallipoli.  Charles Bean described him as ‘a nice little man who fancies himself a bit’. Tivey was born in Inglewood, Victoria, the son of John R Tivey, a shopkeeper.  He qualified as an accountant and became a member of the Melbourne Stock Exchange in 1903.  His military connections began in 1889, when he was commissioned in the Victorian Rangers. He served in the South African War with the 4th Victorian Regiment, winning the DSO. 

When the European War broke out Tivey was CO 3rd Light Horse Brigade, but he was not appointed to the AIF until July 1915, when he took command of the newly formed 8th Brigade, in whose recruitment he played a leading part.  Tivey’s one real mention in the history books is as a result of 8th Brigade deploying to the Suez Canal by train, while other units of 4th and 5th Australian Divisions marched for three days across blisteringly hot deserts.  Henceforth, 8th Brigade were stigmatised as ‘Tivey’s Chocs’, chocolate soldiers who looked good but could not take the heat, an image the formation had plenty of opportunity to dispel on the Western Front.  Brigadier-General Tivey was twice wounded and gassed once during the war and was six times mentioned in despatches.  He was a prudent, sensible commander.  It is no surprise that he was also a successful stockbroker, leaving more than £75,000 at his death in 1947.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir Alliston Champion Toker

 

(1843-1936)

Major-General Indian Corps

KCB 

Brighton College Victoria College, Jersey

Indian Army

 

Alliston Champion Toker was born in Hendon, Middlesex, and was the third son of Philip Champion Toker, Proctor, of Doctors Commons.  He was commissioned in the 18th Infantry of the Indian Army in 1860.  Toker demonstrated early in life the remarkable linguistic abilities that came to exercise the dominant influence over his career.  He became proficient in Arabic, Bengali, Hindi, Sanskrit and Urdu and was to translate all military textbooks in use in the Indian Army into Urdu, Hindi and Gurmukhi (Punjabi).

Toker saw active service in the Bhutan Expedition (1864–5) and was Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General of the Indian Contingent in the Egyptian Campaign of 1882. He commanded the 18th Infantry in the Burma Campaign (1888–7).  Besides languages, his other ability appears to have been military administration.  He served as Deputy Secretary to the Government of India, Military Department (1887–92) and was Superintendent of Army Clothing, Bengal (1892–97).  He was made major-general in 1897 and knighted in 1906.  When the Great War broke out he was on the Unemployed Supernumerary List of the Indian Army.

The deployment of the Indian Corps to France in late 1914, however, provided an unexpected appendix to Toker’s career.  He served with Indian Expeditionary Force in France during 1915, though in what capacity is uncertain.  Given his linguistic ability and his later role in the war, he was probably connected with censorship (he was in charge of postal censorship in Liverpool, 1917–19.  Toker was 71 when he went to France, which makes him one of the oldest men in any army to serve in uniform on the Western Front

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Danvers Waghorn

 

(1867-1936)

Brigadier-General

CB CMG.

Director of Railways and Chief Engineer

RMA Woolwich

Royal Engineers

 

William Danvers Waghorn was the son of Surgeon-Major A R Waghorn, of Redhill, Surrey. He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 16 February 1887. His first posting was to Queen Victoria’s Own Sappers and Miners in Bangalore. This began his long association with India. His long association with railways began two years later, in December 1899, when he was appointed to the Indian Railway Department at Madras. By 1914 Waghorn had established himself as one of the Army’s and the Empire’s leading experts in the construction and operation of railways. He was Deputy Assistant Director of Railways during the South African War (1899–1902), Deputy Manager, North Western Railways, Lahore (1907–11) and Inspector of Railways Northern and Southern Nigeria (1911–12).

As chance had it, Danvers was in England when the war broke out. He was immediately appointed Deputy-Director of Railway Transport BEF. He followed this was appointments as Deputy Director Railway Construction (October 1915) and Director of Railways (22 November 1916–2 May 1917). His final appointment was as Chief Engineer XVII Corps, which he held from 19 November 1917 until the end of the war. XVII Corps was the only corps whose headquarters did not retreat during the German spring offensive of March-April 1918. This owed much to the excellence of the corps’ engineering arrangements that had created a defence in depth that the Germans were not able to penetrate. After the war Waghorn returned to India, where he became a Member of the Railway Board. He was knighted in 1923 and retired in July 1924.

 

John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Harold Bridgwood ('Hooky') Walker

 

(1862-1934)

Major-General

KCB KCMG DSO.

GOC Infantry Division

Shrewsbury School, Cambridge University Militia

Border Regiment

 

Harold Bridgwood (‘Hooky’) Walker was the son of the Rev. James Walker of Fox Earth, Staffordshire. He left Jesus College, Cambridge without taking his degree and was commissioned in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry from the Militia on 14 May 1884. He served in the Sudan (1884–5), in Egypt (1885–6), on the North-West Frontier (1897–8), and in South Africa (1899–1902), where he was awarded the DSO. From May 1898 until March 1900, he had his first taste of staff work as DAQMG Indian Intelligence. From July 1903 until July 1904 he was Assistant Commandant, School of Mounted Infantry, where he displayed an aptitude as a trainer of troops that was to stand him in good stead during the Great War. After twenty years’ service in the DCLI, Walker transferred to the Border Regiment in 1904. His pre-war career is, in some respects, quite curious. Despite his often-expressed dislike for staff work, and despite not having passed Staff College, Walker had clearly taken the staff path. When the European War broke out he was GSO1 in India with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He had never commanded a battalion. Perceptions of him as a staff officer were confirmed when he was promoted brigadier-general in December 1914 and appointed BGGS ANZAC Corps. The post proved to be doubly unsympathetic. Walker did not like being a staff officer. He left the work of drafting orders to his brilliant subordinate, Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Skeen, and made no pretence of not doing this. Walker was also alone on Birdwood’s staff in opposing the Gallipoli landings. In spite of this he was the first ANZAC staff officer to land on the peninsula, around 8 a.m. on 25 April. He had, whether he knew it or not, terminated his staff career.

Four days after landing on Gallipoli, Walker was given command of 1st Australian Brigade. The following month he was given temporary command of 1st Australian Division. The appointment of a ‘permanent’ successor, James Legge, on 24 June did not go down well among Legge’s fellow Australians, James McCay and John Monash, both of whom were Legge’s senior. Walker was also senior but he, characteristically, made no fuss. Walker was never pliable but he was a stranger to ‘temperament’. His reward was to be given ‘permanent’ command of 1st Australian Division in July 1915. He remained in command until he was wounded on 13 October while visiting his front line trenches. The wound put him out of action until March 1916, by which time 1st Australian Division had deployed to the Western Front.

Walker commanded 1st Australian Division in France until June 1918, when he was sacrificed to the political decision to ‘Australianise’ senior appointments in the Australian Corps. During the first part of the war, at least, formation commanders were expected to show a ‘can do’ mentality. Walker’s attitude was more ‘won’t do’. He point blank refused to allow 1st Australian Division to take part in the pointless and horribly botched attack at Fromelles in July 1916. Instead, 5th Australian Division, commanded by the Australian McCay, was sacrificed. Whether Walker could have got away with such insubordination had he been in command of a British division may be doubted. He also regarded the Bullecourt battles in May 1917 as ‘eyewash stunts’, but was unable to extricate his division from them. He was never to forgive Hubert Gough for perpetrating them. Thereafter Walker never automatically accepted orders. He had to be convinced that an attack was worthwhile and that his men had a reasonable chance of success at acceptable cost. This attitude and his frequent appearances in the front line won him the respect of the ordinary Australian soldier. Throughout his command he maintained 1st Australian Division at a high standard of training.

After his supercession, Walker commanded 48th (South Midland) Division TF in Italy. He commanded all British forces in that theatre in 1919. He was GOC Southern Command, India (1924–8). Lieutenant-General Sir Harold Walker retired from the army on 26 May 1928.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware

 

(1869-1949)

Major-General

CB, CMG.

Privately educates, London University, Paris University

Vice Chairman Imperial War Graves Commission

 

Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware’s pre-war career offered few clues to the influence he would have on the Great War’s remembrance.  He was the son of Charles Ware of Bristol.  After graduating BSc from the University of Paris in 1894, Ware embarked upon a teaching career, spending ten years as an assistant master in secondary schools (1889–1899). In 1901, however, his career took the first of its major turns, when he was appointed Assistant Director of Education in the Transvaal, then still at war.  He was later Acting Director of Education for the Transvaal and Orange River Colony (January–June 1903) and a Member of the Transvaal Legislative Council (1903–5).  He was Director of Education for the Transvaal from 1903 to 1905, when he secured the rather astonishing appointment as Editor of the Morning Post, a position he retained until 1911.  Between 1911 and 1914 he was advisor to the Rio Tinto mining company.  His age (47) prevented him from securing a commission when the war broke out.  Instead, he took command of a Mobile Unit of the British Red Cross Society, with the French Army (1914–15). 

His discovery that there was no official organisation responsible for the marking and recording of graves led to his being invited to do the job himself. The importance of his work was soon recognised, however, and in 1915 the War Office established the Graves Registration Commission, under Ware’s command. This not only recorded graves, but also dealt with enquiries from the bereaved. It was part of Ware’s genius, however, to look to the future commemoration of the dead and to plan for it.  The Imperial War Conference of May 1917 established an Imperial (later Commonwealth) War Graves Commission (IWGC). Ware was appointed its Vice-Chairman, a post he held until his retirement in 1948.

He established the IWGC as the sole executive body concerned with the British Empire’s war dead. He took charge of negotiations with foreign governments, which included not only Britain’s wartime allies but also her enemies, notably Turkey, which was essential to the Commission’s work. He recruited the finest gardeners and architects, including Sir Edwin Lutyens and Reginald Blomfield, to design the cemeteries and commissioned Rudyard Kipling to choose or compose the wording of their memorials. Ware is thus chiefly responsible for ensuring remembrance of Britain’s war dead and for the haunting cemeteries in which many are buried.  He was knighted in 1920.  Sir Fabian Ware published The Immortal Heritage, an account of the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission in 1937. 

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Ralph Lewis Wedgwood

 

Brigadier-General

CD CMG. Civilian 

Clifton College, Cambridge University

Director of Docks

 

Ralph Lewis Wedgwood was the third son of Clement Francis Wedgwood, of Barlaston, Staffordshire, a descendant of the great potter and entrepreneur, Josiah Wedgwood.  After leaving Cambridge Ralph Wedgwood joined the North Eastern Railway’s traffic apprenticeship scheme.  He rose rapidly, becoming company secretary at 30 and chief goods manager at 36.  When the European War broke out he volunteered for the Transport Establishment in France.  He worked in the Ministry of Munitions (1915-16), but on 20 October 1916 was appointed Director of Docks, BEF, with the rank of Brigadier-General. He held the post for the remainder of the war.  The docks at Boulogne, Calais, Le Havre and Rouen were vital to the BEF’s logistical system, which became increasingly vast and sophisticated as the war developed.  Wedgwood brought the most up-to-date logistical techniques to bear, making possible not only the rapid deployment of men and equipment but also the most effective use of shipping.  The latter was of major importance during the second half of the war when German U-boats began to sink Allied vessels at a worrying rate.

Wedgwood returned to the LNER after the war.  He was Deputy General Manager (1921–23) and Chief General Manager (1923–39).  He also became increasingly one of the ‘great and the good’, sitting on numerous governmental and semi-governmental committees.  Wedgwood was knighted in 1924 and made a baronet in 1942.  His wife, Iris Veronica Pawson, was an author; their daughter was the historian, Dame C V Wedgwood.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

George Alexander Weir

 

(1876-1951)

Brigadier-General

CMG, DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade

Harrow School, Cambridge University psc

3rd Dragoon Guards

 

George Alexander Weir was the son of Archibald Weir MD, a Malvern doctor.  Like many university men of his generation, Weir’s destiny was changed by the outbreak of war with the Boers in 1899.  He volunteered for service with the Worcestershire Yeomanry, with whom he served in the ranks for 209 days before being commissioned.  He was twice mentioned in despatches during the South African War and received the Queen’s Medal with four clasps. 

He transferred to the Regular Army on 11 January 1902 as a Captain in the 3rd Dragoon Guards.  By 1914 he had passed staff college and risen to the rank of Major.  He had recently taken up the post of Senior Tactical Instructor at the Cavalry School when war broke out in Europe.  Weir deployed to France as Staff Captain, 4th (Cavalry) Brigade in the original BEF.  On 14 October 1914 he became GSO2 of the newly formed 2nd (Cavalry) Division and, in June 1915, was appointed CO 2nd Battalion Royal Irish Rifles; he was slightly wounded on 6 September but remained . 

Promotion to general officer soon followed in October 1915 when he became GOC 84th Brigade, 28th Division.  Nine days after Weir’s appointment, 28th Division was notified of its imminent transfer to Salonika.  Weir commanded 84th Brigade there until March 1918.  He remained in the army after the war, rising to the rank of General in October 1937 while GOC-in-C Egypt.  He was knighted in 1934.  He retired in 1938.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Lewis White

 

(1856-1931)

Brigadier-General

CB, CMG. DA&QMG 

HMS Britannia, RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse& Field Artillery

 

William Lewis White’s pre-war career was somewhat unusual.  For the first twenty years after his commissioning in 1876, he appears to have done nothing out of the ordinary and even then his first significant appointment was only as Brigade Major RA at Gilbraltar (1895).  But from then on his career began to pick up pace.  In 1897 he was Instructor at the School of Gunnery.  From 1898 to 1899 he was British Military Attaché at Lisbon and Madrid.  From 1899 until 1902 he took part in the South African War, where he was twice mentioned in despatches.  Active service was followed by more staff appointments: DAQMG Portsmouth (1902) and DAAG War Office (1903).  He was Commandant of the School of Gunnery, Shoeburyness (1909) and Inspector of Royal Garrison Artillery (1910–12).  When the European War broke out White was 58.  He had been a full colonel for nine years.  His prospects of employment were, perhaps, not great.  But competent administrative staff officers were at a premium in the British Army in 1914 and on 6 October 1914 he found himself DA&QMG of the newly created IV Corps.  White remained chief logistics officer of IV Corps, which was heavily engaged at First Ypres and in the British offensive battles of 1915, until December 1916.  He was one of only two men to hold the post during the war.  His successor was W H V Darell, who was twenty-two years his junior!  Brigadier-General White won the Duncan Gold Medal of the Royal Artillery Institution in 1887 for his essay on ‘Mountain Artillery’.  He was also a Silver Medallist of the RAI.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir Hugh Davie White-Thomson

 

(1866-1922)

Brigadier-General

KBE, CB, CMG, DSO. BGRA 

Eton College, RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

Hugh Davie White-Thomson was the youngest son of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir R T White-Thomson.  He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 9 December 1884, later obtaining his ‘Jacket’ as a Royal Horse artilleryman.  He served in South Africa, where he was wounded, winning a DSO.  His service as a general officer on the Western Front was short.  He was BGRA Cavalry Corps (February–September 1915) and then CRA 27th Division (September 1915–September 1916).  27th Division was transferred to Salonika in November 1915 and remained there for the rest of the war.  So did White-Thomson, latterly as BGRA XII Corps.  He was knighted in 1919.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Edward Nathan Whitley

 

Brigadier-General

CB CMG DSO, BGRA

Clifton College Cambridge University

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

Edward Nathan Whitley belonged to a well-known Halifax family. His father, Nathan Whitley, was sometime Liberal Mayor of Halifax. His elder brother, the Rt Hon J H Whitley, was MP for Halifax and Speaker of the House of Commons. His wife, Julia Kathleen Norris (whom he married in 1902), was the daughter of the Rev William A Norris, Vicar of Floore, in Northamptonshire, descendant of an old Halifax family. After graduating from Trinity College, Cambridge, in 1895, Edward Whitley took articles with a firm of solicitors in Leeds. He was admitted solicitor in 1899 and became a partner in the Halifax firm, Humphrey, Hirst & Whitley. Shortly after graduating, he was also commissioned in the 2nd (West Riding) Yorkshire Volunteer Artillery. Unlike some Volunteers he continued to serve with the Territorial Force after its formation. When the war broke out he held the rank of major, but was soon promoted to lieutenant-colonel. He went to war as CO 245th (2nd West Riding) Brigade RFA, part of 49th (West Riding) Division, in April 1915.

Whitley reached general officer rank on 31 March 1917 as CRA 47th (2nd London) Division, a post he held for the remainder of the war. Neither the divisional commander, Major-General Sir George Gorringe, nor the division’s last chief of staff (GSO1), Lieutenant-Colonel Bernard Montgomery, were known for their tolerance of fools. Whitley’s survival in command amid such bracing company suggests competence. He was seven times mentioned in despatches and awarded the DSO in 1918. At the war’s end he was one of only nine Territorials holding general officer rank, one of whom was his fellow Yorkshireman Richard Sugden. This alone made Whitley unusual. What made him even more unusual was that he wore glasses. There were dark rumours that Field-Marshal Haig frowned on short-sighted officers.

Whitley continued in the Territorials after the war, commanding the artillery of 49th Division from 1920 until 1922. He retired in 1929. The rest of his post-war career was dominated by service with the Halifax Building Society, as Director (1919-53), Vice-President (1921-38) and President (1938-45). He was knighted in 1921.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Ernest Berdoe Wilkinson

 

Brigadier-General

GOC Infantry Brigade

Militia, Lincolnshire Regiment

 

Ernest Berdoe Wilkinson was commissioned in the Lincolnshire Regiment from the Militia on 25 November 1885.  He served in the Burma (1885–7) and Nile Expeditions (1898, 1899) and was Adjutant 1st Lincolnshire (May 1894–October 1897).  Wilkinson was attached to the Egyptian Army from October 1897 until his retirement from the Army in the rank of major on 9 October 1907.  He was 43. He was recalled from the Reserve of Officers on the outbreak of the European War and took command of 8th (Service) Battalion Lincolnshire Regiment, part of 63rd Brigade, 21st Division.  He was CO 8th Lincolnshire until 3 September 1915, when he was promoted to brigade command as GOC 62nd Brigade.  He was 51.  His appointment is indicative of the British Army’s dilemma in finding suitable men to command its rapidly expanding formations.  He had been out of the service for seven years.  He had never even commanded a battalion in the field.  And just over three weeks after he took command of 63rd Brigade it was thrown into action at Loos.  Wilkinson survived the battle and the shattered 21st Division’s reconstruction under Claud Jacob, but David Campbell (who was appointed GOC 21st Division in May 1916) very quickly had him sent home.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Hugh Bruce Williams

 

Major-General

KCB DSO. GOC Infantry Division 

Winchester College RMA psc

Royal Engineers

 

Hugh Bruce Williams (‘Billy Williams’) was the eldest son of General Sir E C S Williams KCIE.[1]  He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 29 April 1885 after a brilliant career at ‘The Shop’, where he passed out head of his batch and won the Pollock Medal.  His passing Staff College in 1899 confirmed his profile as a ‘serious’ officer.  The outbreak of the South African War provided further opportunity for professional distinction, which he grasped.  He specialised in intelligence work, serving as DAAG (Intelligence) under Colonel Walter Kitchener and Colonel Herbert Plumer, ‘who ever after were his staunch friends’.  Williams achieved a great reputation for organising night attacks and was awarded the DSO.  He continued in intelligence after the war, working under the future Sir William Robertson at the War Office (1903–5).  Further staff appointments followed.  He was GSO2 Southern Command (1906), Secretary, School of Military Engineering (1907–8), GSO2 Eastern Command (1908–11), GSO2, then GSO1 Irish Command (1912–14).

Williams’s GOC at both Eastern Command and Irish Command was General Sir Arthur Paget.  This had unfortunate consequences for his immediate prospects.  It was expected that Paget would assume command of III Corps on its formation, but Field-Marshal Sir John French refused to accept him as a corps commander.  The post went, instead, to Sir William Pulteney, who had his own staff officers to look after.  Williams was exiled to the Lines of Communication, first as Commandant No. 1 Base (Le Havre) and then as Commandant Southern Lines of Communication at Marseilles, where he supervised the arrival of the Indian Corps.  He was rescued from this galling obscurity in July 1915 by an old friend, Herbert Plumer, now GOC Second Army.  As rescues go, it was pretty spectacular.  Williams became chief of staff Second Army, with the rank of major-general.  He retained the post until June 1916, playing an important part in the plan to dig mines under the German positions on Messines ridge, a project originally scheduled for mid-1916.  This, however, was not enough for Williams.  Far from being thrilled by his extraordinary elevation, he chafed at what he regarded as the lack of action in Second Army.  In June 1916 his career took another extraordinary turn, when he accepted demotion to brigadier-general as GOC 137th (Staffordshire) Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division, TF.

The Staffordshire Brigade had been cruelly used in the attack on the Hohenzollern Redoubt on 13 October 1915 and had suffered heavy casualties.  Less than a month after Williams’s appointment the brigade was to be cruelly used again, this time on 1 July 1916 in the diversionary attack against the Gommecourt salient.  46th Division was on the far left of the British line on 1 July.  Its preparations had been deliberately obvious in order to attract German reserves away from the expected breakthrough further south.  Its attack was subject to enfilade fire from German artillery and machine guns to the north.  Plans to mask the attack by the use of smoke rebounded on the Staffordshire battalions, causing confusion and disruption.  The attack was a complete failure, in marked contrast to that of 56th Division, which attacked the southern flank of the Gommecourt salient.  46th Division suffered the fewest casualties of any British division on 1 July.  This owed much to Williams’s refusal to repeat the attack in the afternoon, recognising that it was doomed to fail and ought never to have been made in the first place.  This was a risk for any officer, especially perhaps a brigade commander.  But it was the divisional commander, Major-General Hon. E J Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, who paid the price.  The subsequent Court of Inquiry did no damage to Williams’s career.  In November 1916 he was promoted major-general and given command of 37th Division.

37th Division is little known.  It has no divisional history.  But under Williams it became a first-class formation, an achievement that was considerably assisted by his GSO1, Lieutenant-Colonel John Dill.  37th Division was heavily engaged in 1917, both at Arras and Third Ypres.  It played a key part in the defence of Rossignol Wood during the German spring offensive of 1918. The division remained in Lieutenant-General Sir Montague Harper’s IV Corps for the rest of the war and was almost constantly engaged with the enemy from 21 August to the Armistice.

Two years of combat finally seems to have slaked Williams’s desire for action and fame.  He declined further appointments and retired from the army on 23 January 1923.  During the inter-war period he showed himself to be ‘an able writer and one of the most lucid reviewers of military works’.  He was President of the Council of the Institution of Royal Engineers from 1935 until 1938.  During the Second World War he raised a battalion of the Home Guard in Sussex.

Bruce Williams was a striking personality in the Ivor Maxse mould.  He had boundless energy.  He would not accept second best.  He was a demanding taskmaster.  He had an explosive temper that he himself recognised sometimes went too far.  Critics found him blustering, nitpicking and fault finding.[2] By the end of the war he was the eleventh longest serving British divisional commander.  He was also one of the best.

[1] Williams assumed by deed poll the surname ‘Bruce-Williams’ in 1920.  ‘Bruce’ was his mother’s maiden name.

[2] See the comments by Brigadier-General Sir Archibald Home, Diary of a World War I Cavalry Officer (Tunbridge Wells: Costello, 1985), p. 78.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

(Charles Rupert) Peter Winser

 

(1880 - 1961)

Brigadier-General

DSO*.  GOC Infantry Brigade

Denstone College

South Lancashire Regiment

 

 

(Charles Rupert) Peter Winser was the son of the Rev. C J Winser, Rector of Adderley, Shropshire.  He joined 1st Battalion South Lancashire Regiment in 1901 after service with the Militia and fought in the South African War.  After an uneventful tour of duty in India, 1905–10, he returned to England as Adjutant 3rd (Militia) Battalion South Lancashire Regiment.  He resigned his commission in 1913 with the rank of captain.  As an officer of the Special Reserve, he was recalled on the outbreak of war, shortly after his marriage.  His rise was rapid.  He commanded 7th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment on the Somme, where his divisional commander Major-General Tom Bridges described him as a ‘stout fighter’. 

 

In 1917 he assumed command of 19th Battalion Machine Gun Corps.  He was promoted GOC 41st Brigade (14th (Light) Division) at the age of 37 in April 1918 following the promotion of Brigadier-General P C B Skinner to command 14th Division.  This division was so badly knocked about during the German Spring Offensive that it had to be withdrawn from the Line on 6 April.  Brigadier-General Winser’s command of 41st Brigade was spent largely refitting in England.  The brigade returned to France only at the end of August.  Winser was succeeded by Brigadier-General W F Sweny before it saw any serious action.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Ormond de l'Epee Winter

 

Brigadier-General

CB CMG DSO*, CRA Cheltenham College RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery

 

Ormond de l’Epée Winter was born in Chiswick, the son of W H Winter, Controller of Stores at the General Post Office. He seems to have inherited the scientific bent of his uncle, Chief Engineer to the Madras Railway and a well-known inventor, retaining throughout his long life a restless intelligence and a fascination with all things scientific. Winter was commissioned in the Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery on 17 November 1894. He spent virtually the whole of his pre-war career in India. His outstanding ability to trade, ride and back horses, together with prudent resort to Indian money lenders, allowed him to enjoy a standard of living greatly beyond that of his pay and meagre allowance from his father, with whom he had quarrelled. Winter had an ability bordering on genius to irritate senior officers. This almost certainly cost him his place at the Staff College, Quetta. His temperament also regularly got him into scrapes. During a brief period at home, in 1903, while cramming for the Staff College entrance examination he defended himself against a youth who had been throwing stones at his boat by hitting him with a scull. The youth died. Winter was tried and acquitted of manslaughter. General Sir Edmund Barrow’s description of Winter in his 1912 Annual Confidential Report as ‘a smart and talented officer, excels as a horseman, a horse-master and a Vet, per contra is not at all times reliable in some respects’ seems about right. Winter typically took violent objection to the report and expended a huge amount of effort over the period of a year successfully having the ‘adverse’ comments expunged from his record. Equally typically, he described this success as ‘probably the one and only real achievement of my career’.

When the war broke out Winter was on leave in Scotland from his post as OC 10th Battery Royal Field Artillery. Despite his best efforts, and accompanied by some ill-luck, he failed to obtain a transfer to the BEF and was compelled to return to India. When he did take his unit to war it was on Gallipoli as part of 11th (Northern) Division. From 12 October until 28 December 1915 he was GSO2 13th (Western) Division, a position he did not much enjoy, frustrated by the lack of action and the overpowering ‘hands-on’ approach of the divisional commander, Stanley Maude. When 11th Division was re-deployed to the Western Front in 1916 Winter went with it. He spent 1916 and 1917 in command of 48th Brigade RFA, whose duties he described as among the ‘most interesting’ of the war. They certainly gave him scope for his love of action. Winter was a warrior. Lieutenant-General Sir Thomas Hutton described him as ‘the bravest man I have ever known, he really seemed to enjoy war .. In attack he usually arrived on the final objective before his FOO [Forward Observation Officer] and on one occasion is reported to have led an infantry attack ... mounted on his horse. Sometimes his brigade HQ was to be found practically in the front line, but there was always an excellent meal and a bottle of wine [accompanied by] Rabelaisian anecdotes. His attitude to his superiors was .. fearless and on one occasion he obtained the cancellation .. [of an] attack on uncut wire by refusing to fire his guns in support ... hence perhaps his failure to secure high promotion .’

Nevertheless, Winter did secure promotion to brigadier-general when he succeeded his able and long-suffering superior, J W F Lamont, as CRA 11th Division on Boxing Day 1917. He commanded the guns of 11th Division for the rest of the war, except for a short but important period when he commanded the division itself while its GOC, H R Davies, was recovering from a wound. Winter’s period as a temporary divisional commander embraced the crossing of the Canal du Nord and the capture of Cambrai. He commanded the division with complete self-confidence and authority, ignoring criticisms from the Second Army staff that his HQ was too far forward, a view not shared by his corps commander, Sir Arthur Currie.

During the war Winter had risen from a getting-on-for-elderly major to a youthful acting major-general. When the war ended he was all too aware that there were many officers in his position. He avoided the tedium of the post-war army by acceding to Sir Hugh Tudor’s request that he should become Chief of the Combined Intelligence Services at Dublin. Winter played a leading part in the ‘dirty war’ against Sinn Fein and the IRA, a war he was able to reflect upon in tranquillity with a degree of objectivity. He retired from the army in 1924. He was a staunch anti-Bolshevik and was a member of the pre-Mosley British Fascists. In 1940 he joined the Finnish forces in the Winter War against the Soviet Union. He was 65.

Winter described his tastes as ‘cosmopolitan’. He was a bon viveur, with an expert knowledge of French and other cuisine. He spoke French, Russian and Urdu. He was a remarkable veterinary surgeon with a sophisticated knowledge of biology. His marriage, contracted at the age of 52, seems to have been a very happy one. He wrote with commendable clarity. His autobiography, Winter’s Tale (1955), is a remarkably revealing and extraordinary account of an unusual life. He was knighted in 1922.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Fitzgerald Wintour

 

Brigadier-General

CB, CBE.  GOC Infantry Brigade

Rossall School RMC Sandhurst psc

Norfolk Regiment

 

Fitzgerald Wintour was commissioned in the 50th Foot (later the Royal West Kent Regiment) on 11 August 1880.  His career followed the classic pattern of the ambitious high-flyer.  He was Adjutant of 1st Battalion Royal West Kent (1884–9), passed staff college in 1891, transferred to the Norfolk Regiment (as a major) in May 1903, achieving command of the ? Battalion on 1 September 1904 at the relatively early age of  43.  He saw active service in Egypt (1882), the Sudan (1884–5; 1885–6) and South Africa (1899–1901).  When the Great War broke out he was Brigadier-General i/c Administration Scottish Command, a post he had held since October 1910.  On Christmas Day 1914 he was given command of 84th Brigade, 28th Division, a Regular formation composed of battalions returning from imperial garrison duties, principally in India.  84th Brigade deployed to France in January 1915.  Wintour was relieved of command on 23 February, shortly after the brigade lost a hundred yards of trench during a German raid.  The GOC 28th Division, Major-General E S Bulfin, visited Wintour’s HQ and told him bluntly that he was incapable of commanding a brigade in the field.  Wintour was sent to Casualty Clearing Station No 3, where he was diagnosed as suffering from ‘neurasthenia’ and sent home.  He returned to the Western Front on 30 June 1915 as DA&QMG Second Army, a post he held until 9 November.  He retired from the army on 31 March 1918.  Major-General Wintour’s first wife died in 1904.  He remarried in 1912 at the age of 52, fathering two children, a son and a daughter.  His son, Charles Vere Wintour, became editor of the London Evening Standard (1959–76, 1978–80).  His grand-daughter, Anna ‘Nuclear’ Wintour, is editor of US Vogue.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Edward Allen Wood

 

(1865 - 1930)

Brigadier-General

DSO***. GOC Infantry Brigade 

King's Shropshire Light Infantry

 

Despite his unmilitary appearance, short, stout and with a boozer’s complexion, Edward Allan Wood was a warrior.  He was also a liar, a fantasist and an embezzler.  He was good at war and was fulfilled by its challenges.  He commanded 55th Brigade in the elite 18th (Eastern) Division for almost a year in heavy fighting, won four DSOs, claimed to have been recommended for the Victoria Cross twice, was wounded five times, gassed twice, buried once and mentioned in despatches seven times.  Few would have predicted such a career when the war began.  Few would have predicted any career at all.  Wood was 49 and his official military status was ‘Captain, Retired, British South Africa Police’.  His journey to this point was typical of a tangled life.  Wood was born in India, the ninth son of Oswald Wood, a civil servant who later became a judge.  Money was scarce in such a large family.  Financial difficulties prevented Wood from entering Sandhurst or even from accepting a commission in the field from the Commander-in-Chief India, Field-Marshal Lord Roberts.  Instead, he joined the army as a private soldier, enlisting in the 2nd Dragoon Guards, then transferring to the 17th Lancers.  He later served as an officer in the Bechuanaland Border Police, the Matabeleland Mounted Police and the British South Africa Police.  He took part in the Jameson Raid, where he was captured, and in the South African War.  His whereabouts between his resignation from the BSAP on 16 March 1906 and the outbreak of the European War are obscure, but in 1914 he was in England and immediately offered himself for military service, becoming a company commander in 6th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry.  He gave his age as 42.  It is doubtful whether a 49-year old would have been accepted as a company commander, even in 1914.  Wood immediately prospered in the army.  He commanded 6th King’s Shropshire Light Infantry in 1917, winning the first two of his DSOs.  He was promoted GOC 55th Brigade on 9 November 1917, commanding it until he went sick on 24 October 1918.

Warriors are not always appreciated by their men, especially in an army as deeply civilian as that raised by Lord Kitchener.  Wood was an exception.  He was an inspiring figure.  One of his soldiers, Private Robert Cude (7th Buffs), declared that he would ‘serve in Hell, so long as General Wood was in command of the Brigade’.  One of a commander’s most difficult tasks is to rally broken troops.  Wood did this at a vital moment of the German spring offensive, near Monument Farm, re-organising three companies of 7th Queen’s after they had been caught in an intense enemy barrage while forming up for an important counter-attack.  Not only did Wood prevent the formation from disintegrating, he also succeeded in getting it to move forward.  His extraordinary career perhaps culminated on 20 September 1918 when, alone and unarmed, he captured more than twenty Germans by pelting them with lumps of chalk and old boots!

Wood’s post-war career, however, was a sad diminuendo.  There was no place for him in the post-war army. His had only been a temporary commission.  This contrasted with Wood’s own view of himself, in which he was firmly convinced that he was a British cavalry officer and gentleman.  His Who’s Who entry deliberately contrives this impression, an impression he sought to confirm even beyond the grave.  He succeeded in having himself described on his death certificate as ‘Brig. General C.M.G. 17th Lancers (retired)’.  He found a temporary harbour commanding a formation of Black and Tans, where he succeeded Frank Crozier, but after the formation of the Irish Free State his life went steadily downhill.  He spent most of his remaining years in a fruitless war of attrition with the British government, trying to obtain an officer’s pension to which he had no claim.  During the process he managed to alienate everyone who tried to help him, including King George V.  Monies given to him in good faith had a habit of disappearing or of being used for purposes for which they were not intended. He eventually went bankrupt after trying to set up a bridge club.  His personal file in The National Archives is full of letters from south coast landladies petitioning the War Office for the address of Brigadier-General Wood who had left without paying his bill.  Edward Allan Wood died 20 May 1930 from cirrhosis of the liver aged 65 (army age 58).

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Hugh Kennedy Woods

 

Brigadier-General

DSO.  GOC Tank Brigade

Portsmouth Grammar School RMC Sandhurst

South Lancashire Regiment

 

 

Hugh Kennedy Woods was the son of a senior army officer, Henry Charles Woods. He was commissioned in the South Lancashire Regiment on 16 March 1898 and served in the South African War.  As a Major, he was 2 i/c 6th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment when it was formed in 1914, assuming command of the battalion in November of that year.  As part of 38th Brigade, 13th Division, the South Lancashires went to Gallipoli as reinforcements, arriving in July 1915.  Woods’ men, together with the 6th Gurkhas, attempted to take and hold Hill Q in the Anzac breakout attack of 9 August, but this crucial attack ultimately failed, ending in confusion.  Woods was invalided home two days later but promoted Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel for his services in the Sari Bair attack.  He then commanded a battalion of the Machine Gun Corps.  On joining what eventually became the Tank Corps, he became CO 9th Tank Battalion.  He commanded it during the battle of Cambrai and in its successful action in co-operation with the 3rd French Infantry Division of the IX French Corps at Moreuil on 23 July 1918.  For this action, the battalion colour was decorated with the Croix de Guerre, and the badge of ‘La Grenadière’ Division conferred upon all ranks.  Woods was made a Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur.  He was awarded the DSO for personally deploying and directing his tanks in the attack on 29 September 1918.  He commanded 2nd Tank Brigade from 18 October 1918 to the end of the war and 5th Tank Brigade as part of the Army of Occupation.  From 1920 to 1923 he was Chief Instructor at the Tank Corps Central School.

 

 

Bryn Hammond

Centre for First World War Studies