Surnames beginning 'A'

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

Henry Sandys Ainslie



CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

RMC Sandhurst

Northumberland Fusiliers

Henry Sandys Ainslie was commissioned in the Northumberland Fusiliers on 1 March 1890. His pre-war military career was relatively unusual in not containing any active service. His extra-regimental duties were confined to a period as ADC to the Governor Straits Settlements (1897–8), followed by attachment to the Malay States Guides (April 1898–January 1902). Ainslie nevertheless rose steadily, becoming CO 1st Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers in November 1913. He was 46. He was still in command when the European War broke out and he took his battalion to France as part of 9th Brigade, 3rd Division, in the original BEF. The toll of battalion commanders in the 1914 fighting was severe, but those in 3rd Division enjoyed something of a charmed life.[1] Ainslie retained his command until 29 May 1915 when he became GOC 18th Brigade, 6th Division, in succession to Walter Congreve, who had been promoted. Ainslie’s time as a brigade commander was short and uneventful. He fell sick on 5 August 1915 and went home. He never returned to active service. He was CO 13th (Reserve) Battalion Worcestershire Regiment (April–August 1916), CO 46th Training Reserve Battalion (September 1916–January 1918) and a member of a Travelling Medical Board (February 1918–April 1919). He retired from the army on 10 April 1919. As he had spent fewer than six months as a brigade commander Lieutenant-Colonel Ainslie did not qualify for the rank of Hon. Brigadier-General.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

[1] Four of the 12 battalions in 3rd Division experienced no change of command in 1914.

Percy Stuart Allan



DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

RMC Sandhurst psc 

Gordon Highlanders

Percy Stuart Allan was commissioned in the Gordon Highlanders on 6 March 1895. He saw active service in the Tirah Expedition (1897-8) and in South Africa (1899-1902), where he was wounded. After passing Staff College in 1909, however, his career took the staff path. He was GSO2 Southern Command (Mar 1910-Mar 1914), Specially Employed at the War Office (October 1914-March 1915) and GSO2 at the War Office (March 1915-January 1916 and August-December 1916). These staff appointments were interrupted by service with 1st Gordon Highlanders in the original BEF (August-October 1914) and a brief period as CO 1/4th Gordon Highlanders (March-April 1916). From December 1916 until April 1918 Allan served with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force, first as GSO1 Western Force (to March 1917), then as GSO1 74th (Yeomanry) Division. On 8 April 1918 he was promoted GOC 155th Brigade, 52nd (Lowland) Division TF. The Lowland Division completed its re-deployment from Palestine to the Western Front in April 1918. The division did not enter the front line until May and played no part in offensive operations until August. Brigadier-General Allan was replaced on 19 June and reverted to the staff as GSO1. He retired from the army on 14 May 1919. Not having served for six months in the rank of brigadier-general, he did not qualify for the rank of Hon. Brigadier-General in retirement, reverting to his regimental rank of lieutenant-colonel.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Walter Allason



DSO*, GOC Infantry Brigade


Bedford Regiment

Walter Allason was commissioned in the Bedfordshire Regiment from the Militia on 9 December 1896. He was well known before the war (and, indeed, after it) as a swimmer. He was English Plunging [diving] Champion in 1896-7, 1902, 1908, 1909 and 1922. He represented the Army v the Royal Navy at swimming from 1924 to 1927 and in 1929 and 1930, by which time he was 55! He was also a crack shot, winning the Aldershot Command Officers’ Challenge Cup in 1912. Allason saw active service in the South African War (1899-1900) and was mentioned in despatches. By the outbreak of the European War he was 39 and had reached the rank of major. He went to war with 1st Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment as part of 15th Brigade, 5th Division, in the original BEF. Allason remained with his battalion until August 1915 when he was wounded, one of four wounds he received during the war. He won his first DSO in February 1915. Allason spent August 1915 to June 1916 at home, first as BM 13th Reserve Infantry Brigade (August 1915-April 1916) and then as GSO2 Catterick Reserve Centre (April-June 1916). 

He returned to active service in July 1916 as CO 1st Bedfordshire. He was to enjoy a long period as a battalion commander (until April 1918), winning a second DSO in November 1916. The citation read: ‘He executed an attack with the greatest initiative and resource, thereby enabling a strong enemy position to be captured. He handled his battalion with greatest skill throughout the operations.’ Allason was promoted GOC 52nd Brigade, 17th (Northern) Division, on 14 April 1918, in succession to Brigadier-General A J F Eden, who had been injured a few days earlier. Allason was 43. He was the last man to command 52nd Brigade during the war.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Alfred James Whitacre Allen



CB. GOC Infantry Brigade

Winchester College, RMC Sandhurst psc 

The Buffs

Alfred James Whitacre Allen was commissioned in The Buffs (then the 3rd Foot) on 12 February 1876. He retired from the Army on 21 June 1913 in the honorary rank of brigadier-general after an eventful career involving active service in the Zulu Campaign (1879), the Sudan (1884-85) and on the North-West Frontier (1897-98), where he was DAA&QMG on the Tirah Expedition. His last post before retirement was OC Troops Ceylon (1909-13). Brigadier-General Allen was recalled to the colours in September 1914 as GOC 74th Brigade, 25th Division, a New Army formation. 74th Brigade was assembled and trained on Salisbury Plain in the face of appalling weather that necessitated a retreat to billets in Bournemouth in November 1914 and severe shortages of equipment that were not rectified until the spring of 1915. Although Allen deployed to France with the brigade in September 1915, he was relieved in February 1916. He was 57. The brigade was not involved in offensive operations during his command

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Henry Alexander




CBE, CRA. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

Uppingham House School, RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery


When the war broke out Charles Henry Alexander had been on retired pay for more than five years, but on 10 October 1914 he was ‘dug out’ of retirement and charged with forming the artillery of 21st Division. He accompanied this New Army formation to France in September, but was removed as artillery adviser on 6 October 1915 shortly after the division’s first, chaotic and costly baptism of fire at Loos. He was 59. He later commanded 6th Reserve Brigade Artillery, 69th (Home Service) Division.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Henry Lorraine Allgood




CMG, DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

Eton College  Militia, 

King's Royal Rifle Corps


William Henry Lorraine Allgood was the son of the Rev J Allgood, of Nunwick, Northumberland. He was commissioned in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps from the Militia on 17 January 1891. He soon saw active service in the Chin Hills expedition in Burma (1891-2), and later served in the South African War (1899-1902), where he was twice mentioned in despatches. He was Adjutant 4th KRRC (1901-3), Adjutant 9th (North Cork) Militia Battalion KRRC (1904-8), Staff Captain No 12 Dist (1909-11) and Assistant Commandant Mounted Infantry School, Longmore (September 1911-February 1914).

1914 was an eventful year for Allgood. He retired from the army on 14 February. He got married for the first time at the age of 46 and settled down to married life in the less than demanding post of Remount Officer (RoO) at Alnwick. This is the classic profile of a man who has not quite made it and knows that he has not quite made it. Then came the war. Allgood was immediately recalled to command the Rifle Depot at Winchester (August-September 1914). Within a month of the outbreak of war he found himself commanding one of the new ‘Service’ battalions, 11th KRRC. Allgood not only helped raise and train 11th KRRC but also took it to war as part of 59th Brigade, 20th (Light) Division, in July 1915. He remained in command until 13 April 1916, taking part mostly in routine trench holding, when he was promoted GOC 45th Brigade, 15th (Scottish) Division. The track record of ‘dug outs’ was not encouraging, but Allgood would command 45th Brigade longer than anyone else during the war, through the Somme, Arras, Third Ypres and the German Spring Offensive until his relief on 22 May 1918.

Allgood was CO Ripon Training Centre from June 1918 until March 1920. But even this did not mark the end of a career that no one would have predicted in February 1914. After a brief period on half pay (April-August 1920), he found himself involved in the Anglo-Irish war. He was Commander of the Londonderry Infantry Brigade (August 1920-December 1921) and of the 26th Provisional Infantry Brigade Dublin District (January 1921-February 1922). He was Commander 146th (West Riding) Brigade, TA (May 1922-February 1925). Brigadier-General Allgood retired for the final time on 16 February 1925. He was mentioned in despatches six times during the Great War.

 John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Barnett Dyer Lempriere Gray Anley





GOC Infantry Brigade

RMC Sandhurst psc

Manchester Regiment

Barnett Dyer Lempriere Gray Anley was the eldest son of Colonel Barnett N Anley, of Portora, Enniskillen. He was commissioned in the Essex Regiment on 10 October 1894. He served in the South African War (1899-1902), where he was Adjutant 6th Battalion Mounted Infantry, was twice mentioned in despatches and won a DSO. After passing Staff College, he was appointed GSO3 Coastal Defences Eastern Command (March 1909-May 1912) and GSO3, then GSO2, War Office (May 1912-March 1914). In July 1912 he was promoted major and transferred to the 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment. This looks suspiciously like someone being fast-tracked for promotion. When the war broke out, however, he did not proceed abroad with his battalion but became Assistant Provost Marshal of 2nd Manchesters’ parent division, the 5th. Anley was APM 5th Division until January 1915. After a short period as DAQMG 3rd Division he became CO 1st Battalion Manchester Regiment (January-March 1915). His command was interrupted by a wound. After recovering, he remained at home as GSO2, then GSO1, Ripon Training Centre (June 1915-January 1916). 

He returned to the Western Front on 14 January 1916 as GSO1 41st Division, the junior division of the New Army, which had yet to take part in any offensive operations. Anley remained as 41st Division’s chief of staff, through the Somme battles, including the first use of tanks in September 1916, until 3 May 1917, when he returned home as GSO 1 HQ Home Forces. He remained in this post until August 1918, when he was promoted GOC 183rd Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division TF. Promotion to brigade command direct from a long period of staff duty at home was most unusual by this stage of the war, but Anley retained his post until the Armistice, leading his brigade in the crossing of the Selle and at Valenciennes. 

He remained in the army after the war, commanding 1st Battalion King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment (November 1919-May 1920), 3rd London Infantry Brigade (May 1920-November 1921) and 125th (Lancashire Fusiliers) Brigade TA (October 1926-November 1928). He was also Commandant of the Senior Officers’ School, Sheerness (November 1921-November 1925). Brigadier-General Anley retired from the Army in 1928.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Frederick Gore Anley




CB, CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade

RMC Sandhurst 

Essex Regiment

Frederick Gore Anley was the son of a colonel in the Royal Artillery. He was commissioned in the Essex Regiment on 28 August 1884. He quickly saw active service in the Sudan (1884-5), which became something of a motif in his pre-war career. He was later seconded to the Egyptian Army (1896-9), taking part in the Dongola (1896) and Nile expeditions (1899). He was for a time Governor of Wadi Halfa province in the Sudan (1899). During the South African War he commanded a Mounted Infantry battalion at the relief of Kimberley and at the battle of Paardeberg and was twice mentioned in despatches. From 1904 to 1906 he served with the Macedonian Gendarmerie. Anley thus took full advantage of the varied opportunities offered by the late Victorian and Edwardian army. In February 1912 he assumed command of 2nd Battalion Essex Regiment. He was still in command when the European war broke out.

Anley took his battalion to France as part of 12th Brigade, 4th Division. He commanded it at the battle of Le Cateau (26 August 1914) and during the following retreat. This was an arduous period for battalion commanders and casualty rates were high. Anley perhaps owed his survival to his being promoted to command 12th Brigade on 4 October 1914. He was 50. He remained in command until 4 June 1916, including the battles of the Marne, Aisne, and First and Ypres. This made him one of the most experienced brigade commanders in the BEF. The reason for Anley’s giving up command of 12th Brigade is unclear. He may simply have been sent home for a rest after a long period of continuous command under combat conditions. But in November 1916 his career took a curious and unpredictable turn when he was appointed Commander Administrative HQ and Training Centre Machine Gun Corps (Heavy Branch), later the Tank Corps. He held this post until June 1917.

The reason for Anley’s appointment to the tank staff is also obscure. His predecessor was the tank pioneer Ernest Swinton. Anley had no experience of tanks and - apparently - little faith in them. His appointment did not go down well with the true believers on the tank staff. The GSO2, Lieutenant-Colonel J F C Fuller, described Anley as ‘a pleasant little man, the problem was in inverse ratio to his size. He may have been a good infantry Brigadier but he knew nothing about tanks. On one occasion I heard him say, “Little Anley is like a small china pot, floating among a lot of big iron ones; little Anley is not going to get cracked”’.

Anley returned to infantry duties in June 1917 as GOC 234th Brigade, 75th Division, which he commanded in the Palestine campaign at the Third Battle of Gaza (27 October-7 November 1917). He fell sick on 19 November 1917. After a period on half pay, he was appointed GOC Newhaven Garrison (April-December 1918) and then GOG No. 8 Demobilisation Area (December 1918-March 1919). Brigadier-General Anley retired from the army on 19 October 1919. He was later County Director of the Sussex Branch of the Red Cross.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Bower Anley





Royal Military Academy Woolwich

Royal Garrison Artillery


William Bower Anley was commissioned in the Royal Garrison Artillery on 24 July 1891.  In 1896 he passed the Long Course of Gunnery at Woolwich and Shoeburyness with 1st Class honours.  This equipped him for a pre-war military career that was notably uneventful, largely spent manning the coastal fortifications of Britain and the Empire.  The outbreak of war did little to rescue him from the common regimental round as he was confined to home service and light duties for three months after suffering from appendicitis.  Anley was not posted to France until the summer of 1915, first as OC 40 Siege Battery RGA and then as OC 39 Group RGA.  In February 1917 he became counter-battery staff officer, attached to VII Corps.  The Counter-Battery Staff Office was at the forefront of the transformation in the accuracy and power of the British artillery, exercising an importance and influence that belied its lowly position in the military hierarchy.[1]  Anley reached general officer rank, commanding the heavy artillery of VII Corps, three days before the Armistice.

[1] See Albert P Palazzo, ‘The British Army’s Counter-Battery Staff Office and Control of the Enemy in World War I’, Journal of Military History , 63 (January 1999), pp. 55–74.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

John Macquarie Antill




CB, CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade, 

Sydney Grammar School


John Macquarie Antill was born in Picton, New South Wales, the second surviving son of J M Antill, grazier. After leaving school Jack Antill qualified as a surveyor, but military blood ran in his veins (his grandfather had been a British Regular and ADC to Governor MacQuarie). He joined the local militia in 1887, at the age of 21, and two years later raised and commanded a squadron of mounted infantry (the Picton Squadron). This attracted the notice of Major-General E T H ‘Curly’ Hutton, the GOC NSW Military Forces, and a key figure in pre-war Australian military history. Hutton arranged for Antill to spend part of 1893-4 with the 1st Battalion Devonshire Regiment and 2nd Dragoon Guards in India. On his return to Australia Antill was commissioned in the Permanent Military Forces of New South Wales, with the rank of captain. He served in the South African War with ‘A’ Squadron New South Wales Mounted Rifles, being described as ‘a dashing and capable leader in action and remarkably cool under fire’. These words summarise the pre-war British Army’s ideal of military virtue and there is no doubt that Antill both aspired to and achieved this ideal. He was aloof, stern and courageous, as spare with words as he was in body. His personality earned him the nickname ‘Bull’ and like the other ‘Bull’, Sir Edmund Allenby, he could be brutally tactless.

After the end of the South African War Antill joined the instructional staff of the NSW Permanent Military Forces (1902-4), but after two years as ADC to the Governor-General, Lord Northcote (1904-6), he gave up soldiering to become a grazier. He rejoined the active list in 1911 as Commandant Special School of Instruction at Albury. Antill did not join the AIF until October 1914, when he was appointed Brigade Major 3rd Light Horse Brigade. He went with this formation, first to Egypt and then to Gallipoli. It was on Gallipoli, at the Nek on 7 August 1915, that Antill refused to call off the tragic and notorious third charge of the 10th Light Horse Regiment. His reputation has never recovered from this decision. He later commanded 3rd Light Horse Brigade in Egypt in operations to defend the Suez Canal. Antill did not distinguish himself in Egypt and it was something of a surprise when he was summoned to France, where he took command of 2nd Australian Brigade in September 1916. His command did not last long. His health broke down in November and he was evacuated to England. He never saw active service again and returned to Australia in September 1917.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Dalrymple Arbuthnot





RMA Woolwich 

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery


Dalrymple Arbuthnot was the second son of Sir Dalrymple Arbuthnot 3rd Bt. He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 17 February 1886. He saw active service at Chitral (1895) and in the South African War (1899-1902). By the time the European War broke out he had risen to lieutenant-colonel and was OC XLIV (Howitzer) Brigade RFA, based at Brighton. On mobilisation, XLIV (H) Brigade formed part of the artillery of 2nd Division in the original BEF. Arbuthnot commanded XLIV (H) Brigade until May 1915, when he became CRA of the newly formed 28th Division. Although 28th Division spent only ten months on the Western Front before re-deploying to Salonika, it took part in several engagements at Second Ypres and in the battle of Loos. Arbuthnot spent much of the rest of the war away from the Western Front. He was BGRA XII Corps at Salonika (January-July 1916), CRA 23rd Division in France and Italy (January 1917-July 1918) and BGRA XXIII Corps (Home Forces) (July 1918-to the Armistice). He succeeded his brother as 5th Baronet in 1916.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Lionel Forbes Ashburner




DSO, MVO.  GOC Infantry Brigade

Cheltenham College RMC Sandhurst psc 

Royal Fusiliers


Lionel Forbes Ashburner was commissioned on 16 January 1895, whereupon he found himself on the Unattached List. This unprepossessing start was unrepresentative of what was an interesting and unusual pre-war career. In March 1896 he transferred to the Indian Staff Corps. This was usually the prelude to a lifetime career in the Indian Army, but within two months Ashburner was back in the British Army as a subaltern in the Durham Light Infantry. He remained with the DLI for five years before making his final transfer to the Royal Fusiliers. He served throughout the South African War (1899-1902), winning a DSO and three times being mentioned in despatches. This was the start of his professional ascent. He was Adjutant 2nd Battalion Royal Fusiliers (1906-7), passed Staff College (1909) and Brigade Major Nasirabad Brigade, 5th (Mhow) Division (1909-13). When the European War broke out he was OC ‘C’ Company 4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers. He served with this battalion on the Western Front until December 1914 when he went home to become Brigade Major 102nd Brigade, 34th Division, then forming. Trained staff officers were at a premium in 1914. Ashburner’s appointment represents a rational use of limited resources. In February 1914 he transferred to 34th Brigade, 11th (Northern) Division, again as Brigade Major. He served with 34th Brigade at home and on the Gallipoli peninsula until his transfer to 1st Australian Division as GSO2 in September. Ashburner remained with the Australians until August 1916, by which time they had re-deployed to France. On 4 December 1916 he was given command of 96th Brigade, 32nd Division. He was 42 and had never commanded a battalion.

Ashburner commanded 96th Brigade until August 1917 when he went home for reasons that remain obscure. Three months later he was appointed Inspector of the Territorial Force, a post he held until October 1918. After the Armistice he was given another brigade command as GOC 142nd Brigade. He was GSO1 5th (Indian) Division (May 1920-Februrary 1921) and CO 1st Battalion Royal Fusiliers from February 1921 until his death, in post, on 19 January 1923. Lieutenant-Colonel Ashburner was five times mentioned in despatches during the Great War.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Arthur Melland Asquith



DSO**, GOC Infantry Brigade

Winchester College, Oxford University

Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve


Arthur Melland (‘Oc’) Asquith was the third son of the British Prime Minister, Herbert Henry Asquith, and his first wife Helen Melland. After a period in the Egyptian Civil Service (1906-11), Asquith joined the trading firm Franklin & Herrera, which had extensive interests in South America, especially Argentina. He was still working for them when the war broke out. He was the first of Asquith’s sons to volunteer, declaring in his letter of resignation to his employers that he could not ‘sit quietly by reading the papers’. On 23 September 1914 he was commissioned Temporary Sub-Lieutenant in the Royal Naval Division, an exotic military hybrid conceived in the fertile brain of Winston Churchill. His fellow officers included Rupert Brooke, Bernard Freyberg, A P Herbert and Patrick Shaw-Stewart. He fought with the division at Antwerp, on Gallipoli and on the Western Front, succeeding Freyberg as CO of the Hood Battalion in April 1917 and winning three DSOs. On 16 December 1917 he was promoted to command the Royal Naval Division’s 189th Brigade, completing a remarkable rise from civilian to brigadier-general in just over three years. He was 34. Fate denied him the chance of further advancement, however. Four days later, on 20 December 1917, he was wounded for the fourth time. His leg was amputated three weeks later. He was unable to resume his military career, but after his recovery he served in the Ministry of Munitions as Controller of the Trench Warfare Department.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir George Gray Aston



KCB, GOC Infantry Brigade

Westminster School RNC Greenwich psc

Royal Marine Artillery


George Grey Aston was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel Henry Aston, Indian Army. He was commissioned in the Royal Marine Artillery in 1879, but quickly branched out into intelligence and staff work. He was a founder member of the Naval Intelligence Department of the Admiralty (1887-90) and passed staff college in 1891. After a period as intelligence officer with the Mediterranean Fleet (1892-5), he became Professor of Fortifications at the Royal Naval College (1896-9). He was DAAG at the Staff College (1904-7) and BGGS to Lord Methuen in South Africa (1908-12). He was knighted in 1913. Aston was serving on the Admiralty War Staff when the war broke out. Although he had seen active service in the Sudan (1884) and in South Africa (1899-1900), he was, perhaps, a surprising choice for the combat command of GOC Royal Marine Brigade, though seniority counted for almost everything at this period. He commanded the Royal Marine Brigade and, soon afterwards, the Royal Naval Division during the landings at Ostend and Dunkirk, but was invalided home on 21 September 1914, three weeks after his appointment to divisional command. He held no further commands in the field. He spent the latter part of the war in the War Cabinet secretariat (1918-9). Sir George Aston was a prolific author of military biography, military history and books on fly fishing.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Llewellyn William Atcherley





Oundle School psc 

Army Service Corps


Llewellyn William Atcherley was the son of Lieutenant-Colonel F T Atcherley, 30th Foot, of Marton, Shropshire. He was commissioned in the East Lancashire Regiment in 1890, but within four years had transferred to the Army Service Corps. This least glamorous (but vital) branch of the British armed services was often seen as a haven for officers short of money. Atcherley’s fate, however, was not the dull round of administration but the blast of war. He soon found himself on active service in the Ashanti Expedition (1895-6), followed by the South African War (1899-1902). In 1905, however, he left the army in the rank of major to take up the post of Chief Constable of Shropshire, his native county. He was only 34. In 1908 he became Chief Constable of the West Riding of Yorkshire, a post he retained throughout the Great War, despite his return to the colours from the Reserve of Officers in 1914. He was DA&QMG V Corps from April 1915 until June 1916. After the war Brigadier-General Atcherley was HM Inspector of Constabulary (1919-36 and 1940-45). He was knighted in 1923.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Edwin Henry de Vere Atkinson





Chief Engineer

Charterhouse, RMA Woolwich

Royal Engineers


Edwin Henry de Vere Atkinson was the son of an Indian civil servant, E F T Atkinson. He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 16 September 1885 and appointed to the Public Works Department in India, later serving in Burma and on the North West Frontier. He returned to England in 1895 as Instructor at Woolwich. Faced with having to teach geometrical drawing, he decided to master the subject by writing a book on it. This was soon adopted as a course text. In 1901 he was appointed Principal of the Thomason Engineering College at Rurki, India. He was recalled from this post in the summer of 1915 and appointed Commander Royal Engineers, 38th (Welsh) Division, in September. He accompanied 38th Division to France in December, but was promoted Chief Engineer I Corps before the division entered the Somme fighting.

He remained with I Corps until November 1917, when he was promoted Chief Engineer, First Army, a position he retained until the end of the war. This was an auspicious appointment. Both his predecessors at First Army, Major-General S R Rice and Major-General G M Heath, had gone on to become Engineer-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. Atkinson had evidently been recognised as one of the leading Sapper officers in France. He certainly impressed his Army commander, Lord Horne, who described him as ‘far above average in ability, judgement and common sense, with professional knowledge of a high order [and] a vast store of energy: for him difficulties exist only to be overcome successfully’. On the Western Front these were essential virtues in engineer officers, who were expected to bring solutions rather than problems to field commanders. Atkinson was knighted in 1921 when he became Engineer-in-Chief, India. He retired in 1930 with the rank of lieutenant-general. Sir Ronald Charles, an astute judge, considered him to be one of the outstanding RE officers of his generation.


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies