Surnames beginning 'C'

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

Charles Lionel Kirwan Campbell




CMG. GOC Cavalry Brigade 

Eton College and Cheltenham College, RMC Sandhurst

16th Lancers


Charles Lionel Kirwan Campbell was commissioned in the 16th Lancers on 13 February 1895. He saw active service on the North West Frontier (1897-8), including the Tirah expedition, and in the South African War (1900-1), where he spent a year as an ADC. From December 1901 to December 1906 he was attached to the New Zealand Defence Force. By the outbreak of the European War he was back serving with his regiment in the rank of major. On 5 October 1915 he was promoted GOC 5th Cavalry Brigade, a post he retained until 21 March 1918, when Lieutenant-Colonel W F Collins temporarily replaced him. Brigadier-General Campbell died ten days later. He is buried in the Edinburgh (Dean or Western) Cemetery. He was only 44.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir David Graham Muschet ('Soarer') Campbell




KCB. GOC Infantry Division 

Clifton College, RMC Sandhurst

9th Lancers


David Graham Muschet (‘Soarer’) Campbell was the son of Major H Wotton Campbell, Cameron Highlanders.  He was commissioned in the 9th Lancers on 16 March 1889.  During the first decade of his military career Campbell was better known for steeplechasing than for soldiering.  He won the Irish National Hunt Cup (1895, 1896), the Grand National (1896) and the Grand Military Steeplechase (1896, 1897), a unique record.  The Grand National was won on a horse called ‘The Soarer’, which Campbell acquired on the toss of a coin and which henceforth gave him his nickname.[1] This impression of Campbell as a dilettante soldier is, however, quite false.  Seriousness began in earnest with the South African War, which he received orders to join while on his honeymoon!  He served throughout the war, including a period in command of a mobile column, and was twice wounded.  Wounds were to become a feature of his military career.

After the end of hostilities Campbell returned to regimental soldiering, serving as Adjutant of the 9th Lancers (1902–4), before a period as a Brigade Major in India (1905–9).  He was appointed CO of his regiment on 15 March 1912 at the age of 43.  By common consent, under his command 9th Lancers became one of the best units in the British Army.  He was to have an eventful war as its CO.  9th Lancers were engaged with the enemy within 19 days of British mobilisation.  On 24 August 1914 the regiment, together with a squadron of 4th Dragoon Guards, made a charge at Elouges against six battalions of German infantry and six batteries of guns.  The cost was high: 250 casualties and 300 horses.  Campbell was ordered to charge.  He would have preferred to fight dismounted.  This was also a recurrent pattern in Campbell’s career: the conflict between orders and his own sense of what was militarily possible or prudent.  9th Lancers, with Campbell in the van – indeed rather further in the van than he intended – made a second charge, this time against the German 1st Guard Dragoons at Moncel on 7 September.  Campbell was on a fresh horse, his previous one having gone lame.  The new horse was called ‘Crasher’.  It was well named.  Fortified by an over-generous portion of oats, the horse tore off towards the enemy.  Campbell found himself nearly 100 yards in front of the rest of the regiment and facing a wall of lances.  Amazingly, he survived, despite twice being wounded.  The first wound was inflicted on his arm by a German lance.  Campbell was one of the last men in British military history to be wounded by this historic weapon.  The second was a gunshot wound to his leg, very probably inflicted by one of his own men. The bullet catapulted him over the hindquarters of his mount.  He fell to the ground and the rest of the regiment rode over him.

Campbell’s career as a regimental commander ended in November 1914 when he was promoted to the command of 6th Cavalry Brigade.  This did nothing to improve his well being.  He was wounded again, at the Frezenberg ridge on 13 May 1915, this time by a shell.  The soldier-poet Julian Grenfell (1st (Royal) Dragoons) was mortally wounded in the same incident.  Campbell’s destiny was clearly hazardous, but charmed.  He remained in command of 6th Cavalry Brigade until May 1916, when he found himself promoted to command 21st Division, a New Army formation that had been misused and badly shaken during the battle of Loos.  Campbell commanded 21st Division for the rest of the war.  He was one of only two men to command it in action.  By the end of the war he was the fifth longest serving divisional commander in the BEF.

Claud Jacob had nursed 21st Division back to military health after Loos. Jacob evidently did a good job.  Campbell made few personnel changes when he assumed command.  The chief of staff (GSO1) he inherited, Lieutenant-Colonel Alan Paley, remained with the division until October 1917, when he went home to become Assistant Commandant of the RMC.  His successor, Lieutenant-Colonel [later General Sir] Harold Franklyn, was at Campbell’s side for the rest of the war.  The division’s CRA, Brigadier-General Richard Wellesley, stayed in post until May 1917, when he was promoted BGRA XIII Corps.  His successor, Brigadier-General Henry Newcome, commanded 21st Division’s guns until the day before the Armistice.  Continuity was even more pronounced at the head of the administrative staff, where Lieutenant-Colonel G J Acland-Troyte continued in post until the end of the war.  Campbell inherited as his CRE one of the war’s outstanding soldiers, Clifford Coffin. Coffin had only two successors, Lieutenant-Colonel G H Addison (January 1917–July 1918) and Lieutenant-Colonel G Master. Campbell did, however, replace two of his three brigade commanders. Recent research confirms the ability of divisional commanders to remove subordinates whom they felt to be inadequate. It is less clear, however, what influence – if any – they had in selecting replacements. If Campbell had influence, he exercised it well. If he did not, he could count himself fortunate in those he was given. Cecil Rawling replaced the GOC 62nd Brigade, Brigadier-General E B Wilkinson, on 13 June 1916. Rawling was responsible for 21st Division’s first great achievement, the brilliant capture of Shelter Wood, on 3 July 1916. After Rawling’s death, in October 1917, the remarkable George Gater commanded the brigade. The GOC 64th Brigade, Brigadier-General G M Gloster, was also removed on 13 June. Campbell apparently had Gloster sent home as soon as he learned his age, 52, without further enquiry into his abilities as a soldier. His replacement, Hugh Headlam, remained with the division until July 1918, when Andrew McCulloch, who enjoyed a short but brilliant career as a brigade commander, succeeded him.

Campbell’s principal characteristics, according to those who knew him best, were his mental and physical[1] He was unsparing in his determination to get to the bottom of any problem and he understood the importance of attention to detail. This inclined him to be receptive to new ideas. He regularly visited his front line and even over flew it, on one occasion taking part in aerial combat. His standards were those of the first-class pre-war regimental commander. He knew no others. His adherence to them did not always endear him to ‘civilian’ soldiers, especially New Army officers. But Campbell knew that it was going to be a hard war against a formidable enemy. ‘Softness’ was not an option.

If he harboured any doubts about this, the division’s attack on the opening day of the Somme, at Fricourt on 1 July 1916, provided all the reinforcement he needed. ‘It does make me sick to read about this “terrific bombardment”, it is absolute rot and written by a lot of rotten war correspondents,’ he commented in a letter possibly written on 5 July. ‘No doubt we have many more guns than formerly, but we have not a quarter enough and every gunner will tell you so.’ ‘Sally’ Home recalled a conversation with Campbell a few days later. ‘Went to see David Campbell who commands 21st Div.,’ he wrote in his diary, ‘and had a talk with him with reference to his attack on the north of Fricourt village. He had over 5,000 casualties in his Division. His view was that it could have been taken in the first rush before the Boche had time to get his machine guns out of the dug-outs. Later it cost us a Battalion or more.’[3]

21st Division was several more times engaged on the Somme, performing especially well at Bazentin-le-Petit (14–17 July), where it took all its objectives. Campbell frequently found himself in conflict with the GOC XV Corps, Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Horne, whose interference and pressure he resented. (Campbell was also to have a stormy relationship with the GOC V Corps, Lieutenant-General Cameron Shute, in the autumn of 1918, but by then Campbell’s experience had taught him to be more forceful in his dissent.) During 1917 21st Division took part in the battles of Arras, Third Ypres and Cambrai, a testimony to high command’s opinion of its military efficiency. There was no respite in 1918. 21st Division fought three major actions during the German Spring Offensive: on the Somme at Epéhy and Chapel Hill; on the Lys at Messines Ridge; and on the Aisne. The division was sent to the Aisne for a ‘rest’. It was deployed in an exposed salient on the far bank of the Aisne despite Campbell’s protest to the French commander General Duchêne, who not only ignored belated intelligence of German offensive intentions but also showed contempt for the experience of subordinates who had repeatedly faced the German infiltration tactics. The result was a disaster. ‘Monday (27 May) was the worst day I have spent in this war, which is saying a lot,’ Campbell laconically commented.

It was perhaps Campbell’s greatest achievement as a soldier to put 21st Division back together yet again and to lead it in successful attacks, notably those at Miraumont and against the Beaurevoir Line, during the ‘Hundred Days’.

Campbell remained in the Army after the war and was knighted in 1919. He was appointed Military Secretary in 1926. Campbell’s wartime experience had made him an enemy of the pre-war army’s chummy ways and an advocate of merit, which he did his best to advance. This did not go down well and he was replaced within a year. As GOC Aldershot (1927–31) he turned his attention to the re-organisation and mechanisation of the army, but these were difficult policies to advance during a period of economic stringency when the official line was that there would be no more ‘Great Wars’. Major-General Sir David Campbell died in Malta, where he was Governor and GOC-in-C in March 1936. He was, in the words of Richard Holmes, ‘a great and good man’.

See also: Generals' Nicknames No. 3

[1] The concert party of Campbell’s 21st Division were later called ‘The Soarers’ after the horse.

[2] See Brigadier-General A.B. Beauman, Then a Soldier (London: P.R. Macmillan, 1960), p. 73, and H R Cumming, A Brigadier in France (London: Jonathan Cape, 1921), pp. ??

[3]Brigadier-General Sir Archibald Home, The Diary of a World War I Cavalry Officer (Tunbridge Wells: Costello, 1985), p. 115).

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

John Vaughan Campbell




VC CMG DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade 

Eton College, RMC Sandhurst

Coldstream Guards


John Vaughan Campbell was the son of the Hon. Ronald Campbell, a professional soldier killed in the Zulu War. He was commissioned in 3rd Battalion Coldstream Guards in 1896. He served in the South African War, winning a DSO. He commanded 3rd Coldstream from July 1915 until November 1916. Campbell was a well-known rider to hounds and huntsman. He used his Shropshire Harriers hunting horn to good effect at Ginchy in September 1916, rallying his men, leading them against German machine-guns which had decimated the first two waves of attackers. He subsequently became known as the ‘Tally Ho VC’. In November 1917 he was promoted brigadier-general and given command of the 137th (Staffordshire) Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division TF. The brigade was occupied for most of Campbell’s command with the routine of trench holding, but on 29 September 1918 it spearheaded 46th Division’s breaking of the Hindenburg Line at Bellenglise, a brilliant feat of arms. Campbell’s achievement was recognised five days before the war ended by his transfer to command of 3rd (Guards) Brigade.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Frederick Montgomerie Carleton




DSO, GOC Infantry Brigade 

Military College Oxford RMC Sandhurst


King's Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment


Frederick Montgomerie Carleton was the son of General Henry Carleton CB, Royal Artillery. He was commissioned in the King’s Own (Royal Lancaster) Regiment on 3 October 1888. He soon acquired an impressive CV: adjutant of his battalion (1891-5); secondment to the Egyptian Army (1896-7); active service at Dongola (1896), in Sierra Leone (1898-9) and in South Africa (1899-1902); a DSO; ADC; psc (1902). These were the signs of a ‘coming man’. But, on 22 February 1908, he resigned his commission at the age of 41 and retired to the Reserve of Officers with the rank of major. [WHY?] He was recalled on the outbreak of war and, from December 1915 until June 1916, was CO 1/4th King’s Own. On 18 June he was promoted GOC 98th Brigade, 33rd Division, and took part in the Somme fighting. 

His period in command was, however, short lived. On 28 August the GOC 33rd Division, Major-General Herman Landon, requested Carleton’s removal in a letter to the GOC XV Corps, Lieutenant-General Henry Horne. Landon argued that ‘Present conditions are difficult and require characteristics in a Brigade commander which are not possessed by Gen. Carleton, i.e. quick, practical methods of command, and a cheerful outlook which will communicate itself to the troops’. Landon’s request was occasioned by the slow progress made by 98th Brigade in closing a gap in the British forward line in front of High Wood. The digging of new trenches was rendered difficult and dangerous by almost constant enemy shelling. Carleton had not been told that a new attack was intended from the newly-consolidate position. When Landon gave him this information, Carleton immediately gave the order for the work ‘to be proceeded with at all costs’, but this was too late for Landon. 

Carleton wrote regularly to his wife. His letters, now in the Imperial War Museum, express the anguish he felt at his being sent home and the shock of his removal undoubtedly had a detrimental effect on his health. Once he recovered, Carleton set out to clear his name. His efforts seem to have had an effect. In November 1916 he was given command of 180th Brigade, at Salonika. He commanded 180th Brigade until August 1917, when his health broke down again and he was invalided home permanently. He died of a heart attack in May 1922. Carleton’s supercession on the Somme came at an unhappy period in British prosecution of the war, during which command and control seemed to consist of superiors berating their immediate subordinates for their failure to do the impossible. Landon, himself, suffered the same fate in July 1917

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Phillip Mainwaring Carnegy




CB. GOC Infantry Brigade 

Dollar Academy, Cheltenham College, RMC Sandhurst

Indian Army


Phillip Mainwaring Carnegy was the son of Major-General P A Carnegy. He was commissioned in the 67th Foot [later 2nd Battalion Hampshire Regiment] on 30 January 1878, but transferred to the Indian Army in 1884. He saw a great deal of active service in the brush fire wars of the Indian Empire, including Afghanistan (1878-80), Burma (1885-6 and 1889), the Chin Lushai Expedition (1888-90), Manipur (1891), Chitral (1895), the Tirah Expedition (1897-8) and China (1900) and was twice wounded. By the time the European War broke out he had advanced to major-general and was commanding the 8th (Jullundur) Brigade, part of the 3rd (Lahore) Division. He was 53. Carnegy deployed to France with his brigade in September 1914. Indian troops were used piecemeal in the desperate fighting round Ypres and suffered grievously in the wet winter of 1914-15. Carnegy was replaced in January 1915 by a British officer, Peter Strickland. He retired from the army in 1919 and was knighted in 1921.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Murray Carpenter




Chief Engineer


Harrow School, RMA Woolwich

Royal Engineers


Charles Murray Carpenter (‘Chips’) was the son of C Wilson Carpenter. He was commissioned in the Royal Engineers on 25 July 1890. A key part of his pre-war career was spent with 17 Field Company, then under the command of ‘that great trainer of officers and other ranks, Sir Ronald Maxwell’. He also saw active service in China (1900). Carpenter was a fit, physically tough, gregarious man, a first-class horseman, but also an accomplished pianist. He was CRE 9th (Scottish) Division (October 1915-January 1916) and CRE 17th (Northern) Division (January 1916-April 1918), when he became Chief Engineer IV Corps, a post he held until the end of the war. His experience, earlier in the war, as an OC Bridging Train, stood him in good stead for the engineering problems posed by the Great Advance. General Carpenter served as District ARP Warden for Westminster in the Second World War.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Beresford Cecill Molyneux Carter




CB, CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade

Marlborough College, RMC Sandhurst

King's (Liverpool) Regiment


Beresford Cecil Molyneux Carter was the son of Colonel H M Carter CB. He was commissioned in the Lancashire Fusiliers on 25 March 1891, but transferred to the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment in July 1908, following a period of attachment to the Egyptian Army (February 1900-March 1907), which included active service in the Sudan (1905). Carter was a keen hunter of big-game: he prided himself in his Who’s Who entry on his ‘fine collection of heads’. But he was also a thinking soldier, who won the Gold Medal of the United Services Institute of India in 1912. 2nd Battalion King’s was in India when the European War broke out. Carter was on leave in England and was soon appointed CO 6th (Service) Battalion Bedfordshire Regiment, a post he held only until November 1914, when he became CO 1st King’s on the Western Front after its CO, Lieutenant-Colonel W S Bannatyne was killed in action. Carter was CO 1st King’s until he himself was wounded in March 1915.

When he returned to duty it was as GOC 85th Brigade, 28th Division, on 29 September 1915. This formation left the Western Front for Salonika on 23 October 1915. Carter commanded 85th brigade until October 1917. He commanded 226th Brigade, Home Forces (March-December 1918) before joining the staff of the Military Governor of Cologne (December 1918-November 1919). After a period on half-pay Carter was appointed Commander of the Liverpool Brigade, Western Command (April-June 1920). His final appointment before his retirement on 11 March 1922, was as Commander South African Military Command.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Herbert Philip Carter




CB, CMG, CBE. GOC Infantry Brigade

Cheltenham College

Cameronians (Scottish Rifles)


Charles Herbert Philip Carter was the son of Captain Willoughby H Carter, of Annagkeen, Co. Galway. At the age of 14 he became a naval cadet, but the navy was evidently not to his liking and he enlisted as a private soldier in the Black Watch in August 1885. He served in the ranks for 3 years 86 days before receiving a commission on 14 November 1888. He transferred to the Royal Scots in 1897 and, finally, to the 2nd Scottish Rifles (Cameronians) as their CO on 5 April 1911. Much of Carter’s pre-war career was spent in West Africa. He served with the Niger Coast Protectorate (November 1896-December 1899, latterly as CO; he was Commandant of the Southern Nigeria Constabulary (January-October 1900), taking part in the Ashanti Field Force and the Relief of Kumasi, where he was severely wounded; and he was CO Gold Coast Regiment (February 1906-April 1909).

After his two-year tour as CO 2nd Scottish Rifles (April 1911-October 1913), he returned to West Africa as Commandant of the Nigeria Regiment, a post he still held when war broke out in Europe. This unit was charged with the initial attempt to conquer the Cameroons, but was repulsed in August 1914. Despite the expansion of the army Carter found himself on half-pay from November 1914 until June 1915, when he became OC No 10 District (Hounslow). It was from this anodyne posting that he was promoted GOC 184th Brigade, 61st (2nd South Midland) Division TF on 7 May 1916. He was 52. Carter commanded this formation for less than three months. He was dismissed and sent home after the failure of the attack on Fromelles in July 1916. After a brief period on half-pay, Carter was appointed GOC Welsh Reserve Infantry Brigade (September 1916-January 1917). He ended his military career as Commander Milford Haven Garrison (January 1917-December 1919) and retired from the army on 13 December 1919.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Francis Charles Carter




CB. GOC Infantry Brigade

St Edward's School, Oxford, RMC Sandhurst

Royal Berkshire Regiment


Francis Charles Carter was the son of Captain H Lee Carter. He was commissioned in the 5th Foot [later the Northumberland Fusiliers] on 11 May 1878. He saw active service with his battalion in the Afghan War (1878-80) and was later District Staff Officer/DAAG Bengal (November 1889-June 1894). He transferred to the Royal Berkshire Regiment on 17 October 1894, seeing more action in the Hazara Expeditions (1888; 1891) and the Lushai expedition (1889). Carter became CO 1st Battalion Royal Berkshire Regiment in April 1899 at the early age of 41.

He completed the normal four-year tour as a battalion commander and then, as was often the case in the pre-war army (especially for someone who had not passed Staff College), his career stalled. He was on half-pay for more than three years (April 1903-August 1906) before being appointed Brigadier-General Commanding a Sub-District, South Africa, a post he held until April 1909. He was made CB in 1908. On his return from South Africa he was given command of 16th Brigade in Ireland. When this appointment expired in May 1912 he retired from the army. But this was not the end of his military career, though perhaps it should have been. Carter was ‘dug out’ of retirement in September 1914, at the age of 56, to command 24th Brigade, part of the new 8th Division then being assembled from Regular troops brought back from Imperial garrison duties. Carter commanded 24th Brigade until 17 March 1915 when he fell ill a few days after 8th Division’s first big battle at Neuve Chapelle.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Trevor Caulfeild





RMA Woolwich

Royal Horse & Royal Field Artillery


Charles Trevor Caulfeild retired from the army on 11 March 1905 at the age of 42. But on 11 May 1913 he became first CRA of the newly established Home Counties Division, part of the Territorial Force. After the outbreak of the European War, the Home Counties Division was broken up and its constituent units dispersed on imperial garrison duties. Caulfield became a gunner with no guns. This situation came to an end in January 1915 when he was appointed CRA of another Territorial division, the 49th (West Riding). He deployed to France with 49th Division in April 1915. The division played a minor role in the battle of Aubers Ridge (9 May) and was subjected to the first German phosgene gas attack (19 December) but was otherwise occupied in training and line holding. Caulfeild fell ill on 12 March 1916 and went home. He was later CRA 2nd (Rawalpindi) Division (1918-20). He retired for the second time in 1920. Brigadier-General Caulfeild’s wife, Kathleen, was a novelist.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies


John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Alfred Edward John Cavendish





Cambridge University RMC Sandhurst


Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders


Alfred Edward John Cavendish was the second son of Francis W H Cavendish, a Clerk in the Foreign Office. He was commissioned in the 91st Highlanders [later the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders] on 14 January 1880. He was Adjutant of 1st Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders from 1885 to 1887, after which he entered the Staff College, graduating psc in 1889. For the next fourteen years he remained on the staff path, serving as Military Attaché to the Chinese Army (1894) and to the British Legation in China (1895) during the China-Japan war. He was attached to the Korean special mission during Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (1897), after which he was DAAG Dublin District (1897-1900), DAAG Aldershot (1900) and DAAG South African Field Force (1900-2). From 1907 until 1911 he was CO 2nd Battalion Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. When the European War broke out in August 1914 he was AAG Southern Command with the rank of colonel. He went to war as AAG of the BEF and reached general officer rank as DA&QMG V Corps on 8 January 1915. He returned home in April 1915 to become briefly AAG Aldershot Command. He was AAG Mediterranean Expeditionary Force and Dardanelles Army (1915-16) and GOC South African Command (1916-18). Brigadier-General Cavendish published two books, Korea and the Sacred White Mountain (1891; 1894) and The 93rd Sutherland Highlanders (1929) and was a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Archibald John Chapman





Educated privately psc

Royal Dublin Fusiliers


Archibald John Chapman was the son of John Edward Chapman of Monkstown, Co. Dublin. His mother was the third daughter of Sir A Weldon 4th Bt of Rahinderry and Kilmorony, Athy, Queen’s County. He was commissioned in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers from the Militia on 14 May 1884. His pre-war career displays the hallmarks of the serious professional. He was Adjutant 2nd Royal Dublin Fusiliers (December 1889-December 1893), he passed Staff College in 1899, he saw active service in the South African War (1899-1902), in which he was three times mentioned in despatches, and he commanded 1st Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers (June 1906-June 1910). Chapman’s career then experienced the common hiatus of full colonels. He was on half-pay until June 1911 before finding a berth in the new Territorial Force as Commander of the Staffordshire Brigade (June 1911-October 1912). When the European War broke out he was GSO1 Northern Command (October 1912-December 1914).

On Christmas Eve 1914 he became the first commander of 85th Brigade, part of the 28th Division, then in the process of being assembled from Regular troops recalled from imperial garrison duties. Both 28th Division and its sister formation, the 27th, experienced considerable difficulties of discipline and morale on the Western Front in 1915. Billy Congreve was able to observe 85th Brigade at close quarters while it was attached to 3rd Division (December 1914-April 1915). ‘The Brigadier of our new Brigade, the 85th came to see the General [Aylmer Haldane] about midday,’ he wrote in his diary on 19 February. ‘I sincerely hope his Brigade has not got their tales [sic] down as badly as their Brigadier! He arrived saying he had brought a “shattered brigade”, that the position there was hopeless, etc.’ Congreve amended this opinion on 23 March: ‘The 28th Division - like the 27th - seem unable to manage their business properly. We have found the 85th Brigade to be first-class in every way; General Chapman commands and Deveril [sic] is brigade major.’ Having the formidable Cyril Deverell as Brigade Major was clearly an asset, but it was not enough to save Chapman, who was sent home on 18 May. He was 52. His experienced was utilised as Inspector of Infantry. He commanded 2nd Cyclist Brigade from October 1918-August 1919 and retired from the army the following December. 

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Walter Rees Clifford





Clifton College

GOC Infantry Brigade

Cheshire Regiment


Walter Rees Clifford was the son of Deputy Surgeon-General F M Clifford, of the Indian Medical Service.  He was commissioned in the Cheshire Regiment on 7 February 1885.  He saw active service in the Burmese Expedition (1889) and in the South African War (1900–2), in which he served on the Staff.  Clifford was made CO 2nd Battalion Cheshire Regiment in September 1908 at the comparatively early age of 42, enjoying a standard four-year tour.  He was rescued from half-pay, the common fate of many officers on promotion to full colonel, by his appointment as Commander of the Middlesex Infantry Brigade, part of the new Territorial Force in December 1912.  He remained in command until the end of October 1914, when he transferred to 201st (2/1 Middlesex) Brigade.  Both these formations were based in England.  But on 22 February 1915 Rees took command of 138th (Lincoln and Leicester) Brigade, 46th (North Midland) Division.  46th Division completed its concentration on the Western Front in March 1915.  Its early duties were confined to training and trench holding, though it did suffer the first German flame-thrower attack at Hooge near the end of July.  Clifford was replaced a month later and sent home, where found himself once more on half-pay.  He later commanded the Northumbrian Reserve Brigade and retired from the army on 25 July 1918.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

George Cockburn





GOC Infantry Brigade

Eton College Militia

Rifle Brigade


George Cockburn was the son of Admiral J H Cockburn.  He was commissioned in the 80th Foot [later 2nd Battalion South Staffordshire Regiment] from the Militia on 11 November 1876, but transferred within little over a month to the Rifle Brigade.  As befitted a Greenjacket, he established himself as a specialist in rifle training.  He was Instructor of Musketry Rifle Brigade (August 1880–March 1883) and District Inspector of Musketry, Eastern District (July 1896–January 1898).   He was also Adjutant 2nd Battalion Rifle Brigade (April 1884–March 1889).  Cockburn served on the Nile Expedition (1898) and commanded 2nd Rifle Brigade in the South African War (August 1900–October 1901), in which he was three times mentioned in despatches.  He commanded 3rd Rifle Brigade from October 1901 until October 1905. 

Cockburn had been retired for nearly eight years when the European War broke out, but he was instantly recalled and appointed AA&QMG 1st London Division, TF.  On 31 October 1914 he was given command of 43rd Brigade, 14th (Light) Division, then in the process of formation.  He was 58.  Cockburn was responsible for 43rd Brigade’s training, but he also deployed with it to France in May 1915.  He was replaced on 3 August and sent home, where he was Commander 18th Reserve Brigade, Ripon Camp and Tay Defences (September 1915–November 1916).  He retired for the second time in November 1916.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

William Frederick Cockburn




CHA, RMA Woolwich

RH & RF Artillery


William Frederick Cockburn was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 18 February 1880. His pre-war career was notable only for its association with heavy artillery.  He was Chief Instructor in Gunnery South West Coast Defences (June 1910–May 1912) and Inspector of Royal Garrison Artillery, India (June 1912–January 1916).  On his return to England he became Commandant of the Central Siege School (February–April 1916).  Cockburn went to France in April 1916 to take command of the heavy guns of I Corps.  He held this position until February 1917 when he was compelled to relinquish it owing to failing eyesight.  Brigadier-General Cockburn retired from the army on 5 March 1918.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Sir Walter Norris Congreve





Harrow School, Oxford University, RMC Sandhurst

Rifle Brigade


Walter Norris Congreve was the eldest son of Captain William Congreve JP DL, of Congreve, Staffordshire, and Buxton Hall, Cheshire.  The Congreves are an ancient gentry family with many service connections, but which could also boast the Restoration poet William Congreve (1670-1729) among its lineage.  Walter Congreve inherited his nickname ‘Squibs’ (sometimes ‘Squib’ or ‘Squibby’) from his ancestor William Congreve (1788-1829), inventor of the Congreve Rocket.  He was a contemporary of Douglas Haig at Oxford, but like Haig did not take his degree.  Unlike Haig, however, Congreve’s failure was caused not by illness.  On the contrary, his premature departure from the university appears to been occasioned by his taking a pot shot at a senior member of Pembroke College with an air rifle.  This was an early indication of Congreve’s commitment to marksmanship, which later achieved a more useful fulfilment during his time as Commandant of the School of Musketry, Hythe (1909–11), during which he was one of those principally responsible for improving the rate of fire and accuracy of British infantry.  After going down from Oxford he entered the Royal Military College and was commissioned in the Rifle Brigade on 7 February 1885.

Congreve’s pre-war career was, perhaps, dominated by his experience in the South African War, where he served on the personal staff of General Sir Redvers Buller.  On 15 December 1899, during the ill-fated battle of Colenso, Congreve took part in the heroic attempt to rescue the guns of 14th and 66th Batteries, Royal Field Artillery, whose crews had been driven off by withering Boer small arms fire.  At great personal risk, he also brought back the mortally wounded Lieutenant Hon. F H S Roberts, son of the British Army’s future Commander-in-Chief.  Both Congreve and Roberts were awarded the Victoria Cross.  Congreve was wounded in the action, the first of several wounds he was to receive during his military career.

When the Great War broke out, Congreve was GOC 18th Brigade, a post he had held since 1911.  He led this formation to France as part of 6th Division in September 1914, commanding it in the battle of the Aisne.  The winter of 1914-15 was very trying for troops ill-equipped for trench warfare.  The morale of 18th Brigade appears to have suffered.  Or, at least, that was the opinion of high command.  The GOC II Corps, Sir Horace-Smith Dorrien, recommended the execution of a deserter from 1st Battalion West Yorkshire Regiment because the discipline in his battalion and brigade was ‘the worst in the 6th Division’.[1]  This ‘slackness’, however, did not prevent Congreve from succeeding to command of 6th Division in May 1915.  He was 52.

Congreve’s period as a divisional commander was short-lived and involved little of note.  Neither of these things could be said about his next post.  Congreve was GOC XIII Corps from November 1915 until June 1917, when he was invalided home after his left hand was blown off by a German 5.9” shell near Vimy Ridge.  He was the only corps commander to be wounded during the war.  This is not surprising.  Congreve never curbed his instincts to be in the front line or to see for himself.  He constantly courted danger. F C Stanley, GOC 89th Brigade, recalled a visit to his front line trenches by Congreve in March 1916.  The visit took place during a snow storm. ‘He is a most adventurous man,’ Stanley wrote in his diary, ‘and infinitely preferred walking out in full view and quite close to the enemy than anything else.  He simply asked for trouble.’[2]  Congreve’s determination to see for himself, however, was not confined to visiting the trenches.  He also carried out personal aerial reconnaissance.

In the preparations for the Somme campaign XIII Corps found itself in Fourth Army.  Congreve was not made welcome.  On 7 April 1916 Sir Henry Rawlinson (GOC Fourth Army) told Congreve that as he did not consider him fit to take command of five divisions in the forthcoming operations.  Two of Congreve’s divisions, the 7th and 21st, were sent to Horne’s XV Corps. ‘I had expected something of the sort from the combination of Rawly and Haig, both of whom consider nothing and no one of any use unless from First Army,’ Congreve confided to his diary.[3] This lack of confidence in Congreve was surprising in the light of events.  XIII Corps’ remaining divisions, the 18th and 30th, were the only ones to take all their objectives on 1 July.  Congreve soon added to his reputation through his advocacy of a night advance and dawn assault.  This tactic, which returned surprise to the operational agenda, was successfully carried out on 14 July.  Congreve congratulated himself in his diary:

Haig came to see me and was very complimentary and grateful for our success yesterday, and indeed it was a good operation.  I do not think so great a force was ever before got into position within 300 yards of an active enemy for a dawn attack, and our losses before the advance were very small.  Our advance was over 1,400 yards of open ground.  The arrangements of the Brigade staffs, the discipline of the battalions and the effectiveness of our artillery are the causes of our success.  I think it will be a text book operation.  I am told it is the most successful of the war and I planned it![4]

Behind the superficial egoism of this statement there lies a rather engaging modesty.

Congreve struggled throughout the war with poor health, especially bronchitis and asthma.  And, in August 1916, he was struck down with cholera.  His general fitness was further undermined by the severe knocking about he received in the incident in which he lost his hand.  All this eventually took its toll and, perhaps, handicapped Congreve when he came to face his greatest test as a corps commander in March 1918.

When Congreve returned to command after convalescing from the loss of his hand, he did so in January 1918 as GOC VII Corps.  This was almost certainly an appointment too far.  On 21 March his new corps faced the full might of the German spring offensive.  Congreve’s decision to hold his front line in strength, supported by the GOC Fifth Army, Sir Hubert Gough, was challenged by one of his own divisional commanders, Amyatt Hull (GOC 56th Division). Hull was proved correct.  Much of Congreve’s infantry was overwhelmed in the initial assault and he was compelled to retreat.  Gough later paid tribute to the ‘decision and energy’ that Congreve showed in the face of this crisis.  But others were later to whisper that Congreve was not the man he had been and had submitted fatalistically to the tide of events.[5]  High Command appeared to concur.  On 15 April Congreve was transferred to X Corps, then resting, and sent home in May.

Like many asthmatics, including Douglas Haig, Congreve was a man of iron self-control.  He had a consuming sense of duty and an indomitable will that allowed him to treat personal tragedy with outward insouciance.  But there can be no doubt that this public personality was maintained at great cost.  Occasionally, the mask slipped.  He even doubted his suitability for command. ‘I don’t feel I can ever make a general,’ he wrote to his son on 5 April 1916, ‘for I cannot face having men killed in the ruthless way generals must do ...’[6]

Sir Walter Congreve’s only son, Major William La Touche ‘Billy’ Congreve, was killed on the Somme on 20 July 1916.  He was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.  The Congreves were one of only three father and son VCs.  On hearing of his son’s death, Congreve said simply ‘He was a good soldier’.  This may stand as his own epitaph.

[1] TNA: PRO WO71/402.

[2] F.C. Stanley, The History of The 89th Brigade 1914-1918 (Liverpool: Liverpool Daily Post, 1919), pp. 112-13.

[3] Diary of Lieutenant-General Sir W.N. Congreve VC, quoted in Terry Norman, ed., Armageddon Road.  A VC’s Diary, 1914-16.  Billy Congreve (London: William Kimber, 1982), p. 190.

[4] The diary of Lieutenant-General Sir Walter Congreve VC, 15 July 1916.

[5] TNA: PRO CAB45/192: Colonel Sandilands to Brigadier-General Sir James Edmonds.

[6] Quoted in Terry Norman, The Hell They Called High Wood.  The Somme 1916 (London: William Kimber, 1984), p.33.

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Charles Edward Corkran





Eton College, RMC Sandhurst psc

Grenadier Guards


Charles Edward Corkran was the son of Colonel Charles Seymour Corkran.  He was commissioned in the Grenadier Guards on 15 March 1893.  Guards officers have something of a reputation for not being quite serious about their profession.  This charge could not be laid at Corkran’s door.  His pre-war career profile is that of an ambitious professional: Adjutant 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards (October 1899–September 1902); ADC to the GOC Forces in South Africa (September 1902–February 1903); DAAG Pretoria District (February 1903–March 1904); DAQMG Transvaal District (March–November 1904); psc (1906); DAA&QMG 2nd London Division (January–September 1911).  To this impressive staff CV he could also add active service in the Nile Expedition (1898) and in the South African War (1900–2), in which he was wounded and mentioned in despatches.

When the Great War broke out he was Brigade Major, 1st Brigade, Aldershot, a post he had held since October 1911.  He was deployed with 1st Brigade and remained with it until October 1914, when he rejoined his battalion, which had suffered heavy casualties.  In February 1915 he returned home briefly as chief of staff (GSO1) 26th Division, a New Army formation then assembling.  He was CO 1st Battalion Grenadier Guards from March to July 1915.  He reached general officer rank on 13 July 1915 as GOC 5th Brigade, 2nd Division.  He had risen from brigade major to brigade commander in less than a year.  He was not quite 43.  Corkran commanded 5th Brigade until 9 May 1916, when he transferred to 3rd Guards Brigade after Brigadier-General F J Heyworth was shot dead by a sniper.  In February 1916 Corkran was one of two infantry brigade commanders chosen by GHQ to attend the first demonstration of the tank ‘Mother’ (the other was Anthony Reddie, GOC 1st Brigade).

Corkran commanded 3rd Guards Brigade until March 1917.  His replacement appears to have been under the ‘six months’ rest’ rule, which had then come into effect.  It was recognised that the physical and mental strain on front-line combat commanders imposed a limit on the length of time they could be kept in post.  But when Corkran returned to duty, six months later, it was as Head of the British Military Mission to the Royal Serbian Army.  He did not return to the Western Front until July 1918, as GOC 173rd Brigade, 58th (2nd/1st London) Division, a second line Territorial formation, perhaps something of a come down for a Guards officer.  He was the last man to command the brigade during the war.

Corkran continued in the army after the Armistice.  He commanded 183rd Brigade (April–May 1919) and was Commandant of the Senior Officers’ School (September 1919–November 1921) and of the Royal Military College, Sandhurst (October 1923–August 1927).After a brief period on half-pay he ended his career as GOC London District (February 1928–January 1932).  He retired on 1 February 1932 in the rank of major-general and was knighted the same year.

George Henry Holbeche Couchman





Haileybury College, RMC Sandhurst

Somerset Light Infantry


George Henry Holbeche Couchman was the son of Colonel E H Couchman, RA.  He was commissioned in the 13th Foot [later the Somerset Light Infantry] on 11 May 1878.  His pre-war career was dominated by service in Burma.  He took part in the Burmese expeditions of 1885, 1886 and 1887, in which he was twice mentioned in despatches, and served there again in 1891–2.  He was awarded the DSO in 1887.  Couchman was also DAQMG Burma from 1892 until 1898.  He followed this with stints as A/AAG Bengal (June 1900–June 1901) and AAG India (June 1901–May 1902).  He commanded 2nd Battalion Somerset Light Infantry for the standard four-year tour from April 1906 until April 1910. 

After a short spell on half-pay (April–June 1910) Couchman became Commander of the South West Infantry Brigade, part of the new Territorial Force.  He remained in command until his retirement on 7 January 1914.  Couchman was a supporter of the Ulster cause and when the European War broke out he was the Ulster Volunteer Force commander in Belfast.  When the leader of the UVF, Sir Edward Carson, agreed to make his forces available to the government – as the 36th (Ulster) Division – Couchman was given a brigade, 107th (1st Ulster).  36th Division deployed to France in September 1915.  Couchman was removed from command of his brigade on 20 October, eleven days after completing its concentration on the Western Front.  His removal was one of the first acts of the division’s new commander, Oliver Nugent, who was determined to ‘depoliticise’ the formation.  Couchman was later Area Commandant, BEF (March 1917–March 1919).

John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies

Anthony 'Giles' Courage




DSO. GOC Tank Brigade

Rugby School

15th Hussars


Anthony ‘Giles’ Courage belonged to the famous brewing family.  He was commissioned in the 15th Hussars on 9 December 1896.  During an otherwise largely unremarkable pre-war career his chief regimental achievements were sporting rather than military.  He was devoted to all the ‘typical pursuits’ of a regimental officer: hunting, fishing, shooting, horse racing and polo.  And, like John Hardress-Lloyd and Sydney Charrington, future fellow tank brigade commanders, he was a keen player.  Indeed, whilst with his regiment in India he played in the same regimental team as Charrington and a future tank battalion commander, the Hon J D Y Bingham.  Amongst his regimental peers was Frederick Sykes, destined to command the RFC in France and to become Chief of the Air Staff.

Like many regimental officers, his career seemed stalled in 1914.  He was 38 years of age and still only a captain.  War changed that.  Courage responded vigorously to the challenge.  He was an energetic squadron CO during the Retreat from Mons, on the Marne and the Aisne and during First Ypres.  His command was frequently detached from the rest of the regiment and he appears to have revelled in the resulting independence.

His luck ran out, however, on 13 May 1915 during Second Ypres, when he was severely wounded by a shell burst that mortally wounded a fellow squadron CO.  This wound necessitated an early form of reconstructive surgery to rebuild his lower jaw and he was subsequently often in severe pain from the wound, leading one subordinate to state: ‘Courage was his name, and his nature’.  He also became very talkative – a fact another subordinate ascribed to the necessity of frequently exercising the wounded area.

In October 1915 he was promoted to major and, having received treatment from a noted dental surgeon at Boulogne, he became part of the base commandant’s staff there.  In April 1916 he was promoted to the staff of the Adjutant-General at GHQ, where he remained until January 1917, when he applied to join the Heavy Branch, Machine Gun Corps.  Hugh Elles appointed him to command ‘B’ Battalion, HBMGC, and shortly afterwards, 2nd Tank Brigade – a command he held until January 1918 when he was invalided sick on account of his old wounds.  During this period under Courage’s command, 2nd Tank Brigade took part in the battle of Messines, Third Ypres and the battle of Cambrai.  Whilst commanding 2nd Tank Brigade, he was described as ‘a little grizzled man of about fifty years’.  The stress of war and his wounds had aged him.

Courage’s Brigade-Major was Stephen Foot; whose book Three Lives – and Now, provides some interesting insights into Courage’s command style.  Foot believed Courage had the ‘knack’ of leadership, describing how he had seen Courage:

at the end of a most exhausting day when he must have been quite fagged out, stop suddenly and start talking to a junior NCO exactly as if this was the moment he had been waiting for all day.  The conversation might last for only three minutes, but in that time the NCO would have acquired the conviction that the Brigade-Commander was really interested in him, with the result that later on he would be prepared to do anything at his command.

In return, Courage displayed complete confidence in Foot, which inspired Foot’s confidence in himself.  Courage was undoubtedly a conscientious officer, being described by J F C Fuller as ‘amazingly hard-working and painstaking’.  No detail escaped his notice.

Courage returned to command in February 1918 and became GOC 5th Tank Brigade in the following month.  He was given the rank of Brigadier-General in April 1918.   5th Tank Brigade took part in the battles of Amiens and the Hundred Days.  Perhaps Courage’s greatest achievement, however, was at the battle of Hamel on 4 July 1918.  For weeks before, he worked hard at planning the battle and at developing a mutual understanding between the tank crews and the Australian infantry with whom they were to attack.  The attack’s success was, according to one source, ‘a case of sheer personality, plus a shrewd knowledge of human nature, achieving its purpose’.

Courage was awarded the DSO, MC and French Croix de Guerre with palm, and was six times mentioned in despatches for his services in the war.  In November 1918 he was appointed to command No. 2 Tank Group, being succeeded as GOC, 5th Tank Brigade by Sydney Charrington.  Anthony Courage retired in 1921, subsequently becoming chairman of Courage Ltd. He was also a director of White Horse Distillers and the Hyderabad (Deccan) Company.


Bryn Hammond

Centre for First World War Studies

Ernest Craig-Brown




DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade

Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh University, RMC Sandhurst psc

Cameron Highlanders


Ernest Craig-Brown was the son of T Craig-Brown, of Selkirk.  He was commissioned in one of the backwaters of the British Army, the West India Regiment, on 20 February 1895.  He saw active service with this unit in Sierra Leone (1898), during which he was severely wounded, and later the same year transferred to the Cameron Highlanders, with whose 1st battalion he served in the South African War (1900–2).  Craig-Brown passed Staff College in 1905.  He was Specially Employed at the HQ of the Army (July–September 1908), GSO3 HQ of the Army/War Office (September 1908–July 1912), Specially Employed at the War Office (July–December 1912) and DAAG Alderney and Guernsey (February–Aug 1914).  On 20 September 1914 he was appointed GSO2 of the 17th (Northern) Division, then forming, but within a few days found himself on the Western Front as OC ‘A’ Company, 1st Cameron Highlanders.  The battalion suffered heavily in the autumn fighting.  Craig-Brown confided to his diary on 16 November that the battalion had ‘no officers worth mentioning [and] no NCOs either’.  One of the consequences of this was that he soon found himself CO.  He commanded the battalion from January until May 1915.  Craig-Brown was candid about the battalion’s poor state of morale and fighting efficiency, which a wet winter in inadequate and disease-ridden trenches did nothing to improve. 

His first and last battle as CO was Aubers Ridge (7–10 May), which resulted in more heavy casualties.  Major L O Graeme, a 2nd battalion officer who was Craig-Brown’s regimental senior, replaced him as CO on 10 May.  Craig-Brown did not take his demotion well and immediately started applying for Staff jobs, complaining that he was now the ‘5th wheel on the coach’.  He effected his escape on 25 June, when he was appointed DAQMG 47th (2nd London) Division TF.  He found no more satisfaction in this job, describing it as ‘steady inkspilling broken by occasional jaunts on horse-back or in a motor to see things at a distance’. He remained spilling ink until March 1916 when he again took command of 1st Camerons after the death of Colonel Graeme.  Craig-Brown led his battalion throughout the Somme fighting.  His letters contain graphic descriptions of the mud and desolation around Mametz and Le Sars.  In January 1917 he was promoted to brigade command as GOC 56th Brigade, 19th (Western) Division.  He was 46.

Craig-Brown led 56th Brigade at Messines (7 June), after which he received the personal congratulations of General Plumer, GOC Second Army, and at Third Ypres.  He was relieved of command on 5 September 1918 after an adverse report on him by his divisional commander, Tom Bridges.  After a brief hiatus, Craig-Brown spent the rest of the war in Salonika, first as Commandant of the Infantry School and finally as Base Commandant, finding time to observe and comment on the flora and fauna and to undertake amateur archaeology.  From a personal point of view his had been a frustrating and unsuccessful war.  He retired on 29 July 1925 after a third tour as CO 1st Cameron Highlanders (January 1921–January 1925). In 1926 Brigadier-General Craig-Brown became Controller and Director of the Midlothian Branch of British Red Cross Society.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Henry Page Croft




CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade

Eton College, Shrewsbury School, Cambridge University

Hertfordshire Regiment


Henry Page Croft’s father, Richard Benyon Croft, was a naval officer who resigned his commission to join the malting business of Henry Page at Ware, in Hertfordshire, following his marriage to Page’s daughter.  Henry Page Croft had a comfortable and privileged upbringing.  After excelling as an oarsman at Shrewsbury School, he went to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, the rowing college, but left in 1902 without taking his degree.  This picture of a rich, feckless sportsman is, however, misleading.  Page Croft had two consuming interests.  The first was politics.  The second was war.

Page Croft was a passionate supporter of the protectionist policies of Joseph Chamberlain.  He formed a branch of the Tariff Reform League in Hertfordshire and was Chairman of the national Tariff Reform League’s Organisation Committee from 1913 until 1917.  He contested Lincoln as a protectionist in January 1906, splitting the Tory vote and unseating the free trade Unionist MP.  Four years later, he was elected to the House of Commons as Unionist MP for Christchurch and in 1912 published a plea for imperial unity, The Path of Empire.


Page Croft’s military inclinations were apparent from his time as an undergraduate, when he joined the 1st Hertfordshire Volunteer Battalion of the Bedfordshire Regiment.  He remained in the battalion when it became part of the Territorial Force and went with it to France in November 1914 as its second-in-command.  He commanded the battalion from February 1915 to February 1916.  He was a very serious amateur soldier.  He was widely read in military history and kept abreast of tactical and other developments in the Regular army.  His zeal attracted favourable notice.  His name was twice put forward for promotion to brigade command by the GOC 2nd Division, Major-General Henry Horne, who described Page Croft as ‘a born soldier and leader of men … [who had] … done magnificent work throughout the war’.  Horne considered that Page Croft’s ‘promotion would be very much in the interests of the Service’, adding that he had ‘never seen a finer Battalion than the 1/Herts Regt.’.[1]  Higher authority clearly agreed. 


On 7 February 1916 Page Croft was promoted GOC 68th Brigade, 23rd Division, a New Army formation commanded by Major-General Sir James Babington.  Page Croft was 34, the youngest brigade commander in the British Army, a Territorial, a businessman and a sitting MP.  Babington was a ‘dug out’ and, at 60, the oldest divisional commander in the British Army.  It was an unhappy combination.  The two men simply did not get on.  It became increasingly clear that Babington did not want Page Croft in his division and within six months he got rid of him.  The traditional explanation of Page Croft’s going is that he was persuaded by Sir Henry Wilson that he could assist the national cause more effectively by returning to the House of Commons and agitating for a ruthless prosecution of the war.  The release of Page Croft’s personal file to the Public Record Office in 1998, however, makes this explanation untenable.[2]  It is now clear that Page Croft was desperate to remain in France and did his utmost to hold on to his command.  He never ceased to protest against what he saw as the unfairness of his dismissal.


Page Croft formed the National Party in 1917 to give voice to his brand of xenophobic imperialism.  He remained an MP until 1940, when he joined Churchill’s government as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for War (1940–5) with a seat in the House of Lords as the 1st Baron Croft.  He published an account of his wartime service in 1917, Twenty-Two Months Under Fire (London: John Murray).

[1] TNA: PRO WO 374/51886.

[2] Ibid.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Henry Leycester Croker




CB, CMG. GOC Infantry Brigade

Leicestershire Regiment


Henry Leycester Croker was the son of Captain E Croker, 17th Foot. Henry Croker followed his father into the family regiment from the Militia on 28 April 1886. He was Adjutant 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment (1899–1903), including active service in the South African War (1899–1902), during which he was three times mentioned in despatches. He was appointed CO 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment in November 1910, but within a month had exchanged commands with the CO of the 1st Battalion. This emphasises the value that pre-war officers put on commanding the battalion in which they had begun their careers.

Croker was CO 1st Leicestershire until March 1915, as part of 16th Brigade, 6th Division, when he was promoted to brigade command as GOC 81st Brigade, 27th Division. 27th Division served on the Western Front only until November 1915. Its involvement in major operations was confined to the fighting at Second Ypres following the German gas attack on 22 April. Croker deployed to Salonika with his brigade. He was GOC 81st Brigade until May 1916 when he was promoted GOC 28th Division. He commanded 28th Division at Salonika and on the Black Sea until November 1920. Croker was wounded while CO 1st Leicestershire and six times mentioned in despatches during the war. He was knighted in 1926.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

James Dayrolle Crosbie




CMG, DSO. GOC Infantry Brigade

Harrow School, RMC Sandhurst



James Dayrolles Crosbie was the son of Colonel J Crosbie of Ballyheigue Castle, Co Kerry.  Major James Leith, who won the Victoria Cross during the Indian Mutiny while serving as a lieutenant in the 14th Light Dragoons, was his father-in-law.  Crosbie was commissioned in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 3 June 1885.  He was Adjutant 2nd Royal Welsh Fusiliers from September 1891 until January 1893.  This was usually the sign of a serious-minded professional, but Crosbie resigned his commission after the death of his father in 1893 and went to live on the family estate where he was very active in local government and society.  When the European War broke out he was under no obligation to return to the colours, but he did so on 19 August, his 49th birthday. 

Crosbie was given command of 11th (Service) Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers in February 1915.  He took them to France in September 1915 as part of 74th Brigade, 25th Division.  He remained in command until 4 June 1916, when he was appointed GOC 12th Brigade, 4th Division.  He was 50.  This was an extraordinary transformation for a man who was a civilian when the war broke out.  Less than a month after he took command of 12th Brigade he led it on the opening day of the Somme campaign, when it shared in the failure of the rest of VIII Corps.  4th Division’s only other involvement on the Somme was in the attack against the Transloy Ridges in October.  Crosbie was removed from his command on 17 January 1917 and sent home.  His successor was Adrian Carton de Wiart VC, fifteen years his junior.  Crosbie’s surprising military career was not at an end, however.  He was CO 16th Queen’s, a home service battalion (March 1917–November 1918), and Commandant of the Archangel Base (November 1918–October 1919).  He was five times mentioned in despatches during the war.  Brigadier-General Crosbie was Chairman of Fife County Council from 1938 until 1945.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Frank Percy Crozier





GOC Infantry Brigade, Wellington College

Royal Irish Rifles


Frank Percy Crozier was descended on both sides from families with long records of naval, military and imperial service.  His own career, however, did not run along conventional lines, but was rather that of a colonial adventurer and mercenary.  His commission in the Manchester Regiment was from the ranks of the Local Military Forces of Natal during the South African War.  He later served in Northern Nigeria (1902–5) and Zululand (1905–6).  He was forced to resign from the Army in 1908 after failing to honour cheques, a lifelong weakness, and put his military skills up for hire.  The outbreak of war found him in Ireland, training Sir Edward Carson’s Ulster Volunteer Force.  He had slept for four months with a pistol under his pillow, surrounded by armed guards, land mines, alarms and contraband ammunition.  In August 1914 he was recalled to the colours from the Canadian Reserve of Officers as ‘Captain, Royal Irish Fusiliers’, a regiment in which he never served.  He used his influence with Ulster’s Unionist elite to escape from the singularly inappropriate mission of raising a company of Fusiliers in Dublin to become 2 i/c of the 9th Battalion Royal Irish Rifles (‘Shankill Road boys’), part of the 107th Brigade, 36th (Ulster) Division.  Crozier succeeded to command of this somewhat ill disciplined battalion in November 1915 and led it during its costly baptism of fire at Thiepval on 1 July 1916, personally taking part in the attack, contrary to orders.  Crozier became notorious in the division for his advocacy of trench raiding.  One officer, 2nd Lieutenant J H Stewart Moore, thought that Crozier’s trench raids served no purpose other than to ‘show off’ and dismissed him as a ‘callous and overbearing martinet’.[1]  Crozier’s reputation as an aggressive officer did his prospects no harm, however, and he was promoted GOC 119th [Welsh Bantam] Brigade, 40th Division, on 20 November 1916. 

‘I am afraid you will be disappointed with your new command,’ Crozier was told.[2]  But he was undaunted by this opinion and immediately set about infusing the brigade with his own martial spirit.  The key to this, for him, lay in finding the right battalion commanders.  One CO was immediately replaced after his battalion lost more than a hundred men in four days to trench feet.  Later, and to general astonishment, Crozier sent back a favoured Staff officer, attached to 119th Brigade to gain front line experience, and refused to recommend him as ‘qualified to command a brigade’, because he could not hold the line with confidence or ‘slaughter the enemy’ effectively.  The battalion commanders Crozier eventually acquired were ‘war dogs’ like himself.  One had been a sergeant-major in 1914, another a mere private, the third a 2nd lieutenant in the Ceylon Planters Corps.  Crozier’s view of war was utterly uncompromising.  Like Sherman, he believed that war ‘was Hell’ and certainly he did his best to make it so.  By his own admission, some thought him ‘mad’ and a ‘butcher’.  He was quite happy to sacrifice a thousand men for some useful purpose, but he hated losing one man for no reason at all.  Nothing was more useless in war than ‘a dead body’.  Safety in trench warfare lay in seizing the initiative and he expected his battalions to dominate No Man’s Land with aggressive patrolling and raiding.  He himself was not averse to reconnoitring ‘beyond the wire’ and the title of one of his most famous books, A Brass Hat in No Man’s Land, is apt.

119th Brigade’s heaviest fighting came in the winter of 1917 and the spring of 1918.  After suffering heavy casualties at Bourlon Wood in November 1917, it put up a dogged resistance to the German March offensive, but – together with the rest of 40th Division – was overrun on the Lys in April.  The brigade was reduced to cadre strength, refitted and re-organised with new battalions.  It played only a minor role in the Great Advance.

After the war Crozier acted as military adviser to the government of Lithuania before taking command, in August 1920, of an Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary, the ‘Black and Tans’.  He resigned this command, almost in despair, in February 1921, appalled by the demoralising effects of civil war.  Increasingly, during the 1930s, he lent his energies and his pen to the cause of peace, denouncing war as a means of settling international disputes in a series of books that sought to portray war with uncompromising brutality.

[1] PRONI: T.3217, J L Stewart Moore, ‘Random Recollections’, p. 26.

[2] F P Crozier, A Brass Hat in No Man’s Land (London: Jonathan Cape, 1930), p. 131.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies

Hanway Robert Cumming





GOC Infantry Brigade, King's College School psc

Durham Light Infantry


Hanway Robert Cumming was commissioned into the Durham Light Infantry from the Militia in June 1889.  He served in the South African War on the staff and was mentioned in despatches.  By August 1914 his career seemed firmly set on the staff path.  The outbreak of the Great War found him GSO2 in India, a post he held until May 1915.  In August 1915 he became GSO1 of 31st Division, transferring to 48th Division in April 1916.  On 27 August he was given command of 2nd Durham Light Infantry on the Western Front.    Promotion to brigade command soon followed.  His command of 91st Brigade, 7th Division (November 1916–May 1917), was turbulent.  His relationship with his divisional commander, Major-General T H Shoubridge, was difficult from the start.  Cumming was never a man to mince words.  He had no hesitation in disagreeing with orders when he felt them to be foolish.  He was even prepared to dispute matters with Hubert Gough, never a man to cross lightly.   Shoubridge’s orders increasingly vexed him.  He believed that his divisional commander never allowed sufficient time for attacks to be properly prepared and always asked too much of subordinate formations in the futile search for instant results. 

The attacks at Bucquoy in February and Croisilles in April 1917 resulted in his writing very critical reports of his divisional commander.  At Bullecourt in May Cumming’s continued disagreement with divisional orders resulted in his being sent home.  From August 1917 until February 1918 he was Commandant of the Machine Gun Training School at Grantham.  Cumming was a believer in the unified tactical control of heavy machine guns and played a part in the re-organization of machine-guns into battalions under divisional control, a reform which was put into place in the spring of 1918.  On 16 March 1918, only five days before the German Spring Offensive, Cumming was returned to brigade commander as GOC 110th Brigade, 21st Division, under the much more sympathetic command of David Campbell, who had a high regard for Cumming’s advice.  Cumming commanded this brigade for the rest of the war in heavy fighting both in defence and attack. ‘During the last eight months of the war, owing to the scarcity of trained officers, the work of brigadiers was of a most trying nature,’ Campbell later recalled, ‘and it was only men like General Cumming, possessed of health, strength, and indomitable will power, who could possibly have stood the strain.’[1]

Cumming was a man of uncompromising integrity, a prudent, humane commander and a soldier of great energy, determination and resource.  During 1918 he showed himself to be an outstanding brigade commander who had fully absorbed the command and tactical lessons of the war.

On 5 March 1921 he was killed in a Sinn Fein ambush at Cloonbannin, near Kerry.  The messy legal disputes that accompanied his wife’s claims for compensation left her eventually in financial distress and by 1938 she was a pauper inmate of the Thanet workhouse.  Cumming’s incisive and outspoken account of his periods of brigade command, A Brigadier in France 1917-1918, was published posthumously in 1922.

[1] Major-General Sir David Campbell, ‘Introduction’ to Hanway R Cumming, A Brigadier in France 1917-1918 (London: Jonathan Cape, 1922), p. 13.


John Bourne

Centre for First World War Studies