The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Six – 1918

And so we arrive at the final part of this series.  1918 was the year when the nature of the war would change once more, as three years of trench warfare gave way to mobile warfare, with vast sweeping assaults, first one way, and then the other, and the arrival of the Americans en masse, eventually bringing the war to its conclusion.  The first British General Officer casualty of 1918 was Brigadier-General Gordon Strachey Shephard D.S.O. M.C., G.O.C. 1st R.F.C. Brigade, 1st Army (left), killed in a flying accident when he spun into the ground attempting to land at Auchel aerodrome on 19th January.  He was only 32, and is buried in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery, the highest-ranking officer of the British flying services to be killed in service during the war.  On 19th February Brigadier-General Herbert Ernest Hart D.S.O., G.O.C. 2nd New Zealand Brigade, New Zealand Division (right), was gassed at his headquarters in the Butte de Polygon (background photograph) in Polygon Wood, although he would return, and on 2nd March, Brigadier-General Geoffrey Chicheley Kemp, G.O.C. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division (not pictured), was wounded by a shell near St. Julien. Continue reading

Posted in Generals | 13 Comments

The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Five – 1917

The first General Officer casualty in 1917 occurred on 24th January when Brigadier-General Cyril (not Cecil, as many sources erroneously state) Prescott-Decie, C.R.A. 4th Division (left), was severely wounded ‘somewhere in France’, although he would recover, becoming B.G.R.A.* Irish Command at the end of the war, before retiring in 1920.  The first general to die, on the right, was Brigadier-General Walter Long D.S.O., G.O.C. 56th Brigade, 19th Division, killed by a shell on 28th January while inspecting the trenches in front of the village of Hébuterne on the Somme, the church tower of which you can see on the horizon of the background shot.  Long was 37 and the only officer casualty the division suffered during this particular tour of the trenches. He is buried in Couin British Cemetery, a few miles away to the west.

*Brigadier-General Commanding Royal Artillery

Continue reading

Posted in Generals | 4 Comments

The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Four – 1916

January 1916 saw the deaths of two British generals.  Brigadier-General Hugh Gregory Fitton D.S.O., G.O.C. 101st Brigade, 34th Division (above), forced to cross open ground due to the appalling state of the front line trenches near Ypres on the night of 19th January, was shot in both legs by a German sniper.  He died the following afternoon, the very first casualty of 101st Brigade, who had only disembarked on 9th January, and is buried in Lijssenhoek Military Cemetery near Poperinghe.  And Brigadier-General George Benjamin Hodson D.S.O., G.O.C. 33rd Indian Brigade, 11th Division, wounded in the head by a sniper while looking over the parapet at Suvla Bay on Gallipoli on 14th December 1915, as mentioned at the end of last post (where you will find his photograph), died of his wounds at Tigne Military Hospital on Malta on 25th January 1916, and is buried at Pieta Military Cemetery.  Both men were 52. Continue reading

Posted in Generals | 10 Comments

The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Three – Gallipoli 1915 – Disaster in the Dardanelles

The Gallipoli section of this series of posts is the only part where I have included all General Officers, including those who were dismissed – and one of them had earned a D.S.O. in South Africa in 1900 in an action that saw two of his men gain Victoria Crosses, so I would suggest that even his bravery should not be questioned – or vacated their positions due to sickness, because only by including all do you get an idea of the scale of the command disaster during the campaign.  Between late April 1915 & January 1916 at Gallipoli, in just nine months, 31 generals, and they are just the ones I have identified, would lose their jobs, temporarily or permanently, and for a variety of reasons, and one other would resign in a fit of pique, only to return soon after.  A staggering number, whatever way you look at it. Continue reading

Posted in Generals | 13 Comments

The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part Two – The Western Front 1915

1915 would begin with the deaths of two generals that I introduced you to last post.  On 22nd February, Brigadier-General Sir John Edmond Gough V.C., Chief of Staff 1st Army, was killed by a German sniper on the Aubers Ridge, aged only 43; more about him when we visit his grave in Estaires Communal Cemetery in the not-so-distant future. Continue reading

Posted in Generals | 12 Comments

The Dead Donkeys: The Myth of the ‘Château Generals’ Part One – 1914

“It is a simple historical fact that the British Generals of the First World War, whatever their faults, did not fail in their duty. It was not a British delegation that crossed the lines with a white flag in November 1918. No German Army of Occupation was stationed on the Thames, the Humber or the Tees. No British Government was forced to sign a humiliating peace treaty. The British Generals had done their duty. Their Army and their country were on the winning side. That is the only proper, the only sensible starting point for the examination of their quality.” Continue reading

Posted in Generals | 35 Comments

Coming up in 2019

A sneak preview of what’s coming up next year.  Along with the usual one-off posts, much of 2019 will be spent following the course of the war in the area to the south west of Ypres, along with one major tour in northern France.  Continue reading

Posted in Miscellaneous | 10 Comments