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.

The top left inset shows Brigadier-General Robert Napier Bray D.S.O., G.O.C. 189th Brigade, 63rd Division, gassed on 12th March.  He would die in 1921 aged 48, his death perhaps hastened by his injuries.  On 13th March in the Hohenzollern sector, Brigadier-General Herbert Montgomery Campbell, C.R.A. 46th Division (bottom left), was wounded in the face, resulting in the loss of his left eye, and on 18th March Brigadier-General George Augustus Stewart Cape, C.R.A., acting G.O.C. 39th Division, was killed by German shellfire south of Ronssoy and buried in Peronne Communal Cemetery Extension, aged 50, although I can find no photo of him.  On 21st March 1918 the Germans launched Operation Michael, their final attempt to win the war.  The following day Brigadier-General The Hon. Robert White D.S.O., G.O.C. 184th Brigade, 61st Division (top right), already wounded once during the war, was wounded for a second time near Beauvois, west of St. Quentin, the first of thirteen British generals (and one acting one) to be put out of action in just ten days.  The same day, Brigadier-General Bertram Norman Sergison-Brooke D.S.O., G.O.C. 2nd Guards Brigade, Guards Division (bottom right), wounded in September 1916 at Lesboeufs, was hospitalised due to the after effects of a gas bombardment some days previously, although he would resume command a month later, and late that evening, Brigadier-General Arthur Grant Bremner, C.E. XIX Corps (no image), was severely wounded, along with most of his staff, some of whom were killed, when a German aeroplane dropped a bomb on Corps headquarters at Villers Carbonnel (the Chief G.S.O.* of XIX Corps, Brigadier-General Cyril Norman MacMullan, was badly shocked in the incident).

*General Staff Officer

Brigadier-General Cape’s replacement at 39th Division, Brigadier-General Montague Leyland Hornby D.S.O., G.O.C. 116th Brigade, (left), severely wounded during the Waziristan Expedition in 1894-95, lasted just five days before being severely wounded again on 23rd March as the Germans advanced and the British retreated.  Hornby would return in October.  His replacements at both brigade and divisional level would not be so lucky.  Lieutenant-Colonel (acting Brigadier-General) William Colsey Millward D.S.O (right), his successor as G.O.C. 116th Brigade, had enlisted in 1914 as a private, as fine an example of promotion from the ranks as any, I would have thought.  Three times buried by shell explosions during the war, and three times a survivor, dug out alive each time, on one occasion the only man still breathing, and now in command of a brigade, on 28th (possibly 29th) March, as the retreat before the Germans continued and his exhausted troops mustered for another day on the road south of Villers-Brettoneaux, a stray German shell fell close to where Millward was standing having his morning shave.  He was severely wounded and evacuated, spending six months in a military hospital in Rouen, during which time his left leg had to be amputated at the hip.

Two generals would be captured and one killed on the Somme on 24th March .  Brigadier-General Frederick Stewart Dawson, G.O.C. South African Brigade, 9th Division (top left), was captured near Combles but only after his ammunition had run out, and Brigadier-General Vivian Telford Bailey D.S.O., G.O.C. 142nd Brigade, 47th Division (no photo), was wounded and captured north of Delville Wood (main photo).  The two lower insets are both of Brigadier-General Randle Barnett-Barker D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 99th Brigade, 2nd Division, retired in 1913, returned in 1914, awarded a D.S.O. on the Somme in 1916 and a Bar at Arras in 1917, who was killed by a shell at Gueudecourt, just a couple of miles north east of Delville Wood, aged 47.  His grave was later lost and he is remembered on a special memorial in Albert Communal Cemetery Extension.  On 27th March Brigadier-General Reginald Le Normand Brabazon, Lord Ardee, G.O.C. 4th Guards Brigade, 31st Division (no photo), was gassed at Monchy-au-Bois, and on 28th March another general, Brigadier-General Edward Henry Charles Patrick Bellingham, G.O.C. 118th Brigade, 39th Division (top right), was captured.

Following the death of the acting G.O.C. of  39th Division, Brigadier-General Cape, and the wounding of his replacement, Brigadier-General Hornby, the divisions actual G.O.C., Major-General Edward Feetham (bottom left), returned from leave to resume command.  On 29th March, another bad day, Feetham was hit by a shell splinter in the neck as the Germans bombarded Demuin, dying soon after.  He was known as a front line general, ‘scarcely a day passed…without his going to the very foremost positions held by our troops’.  Aged 54, he was originally buried in the communal cemetery at Guignemicourt, his body later moved to Picquigny British Cemetery, west of Amiens.  The same day Major-General Neill Malcolm, G.O.C. 66th Division (top left), badly wounded in South Africa, was wounded by shrapnel at Domart; he would return to the ill-fated command of 39th Division in September for the last few months of the war.  And to make a bad day worse, in the evening, Brigadier-General Harry Townshend Fulton D.S.O., G.O.C. 3rd New Zealand Brigade, New Zealand Division (right), another man badly wounded in South Africa where he had earned a D.S.O., was killed by concussion when a German shell scored a direct hit on the New Zealand Rifle Brigade headquarters at Colincamps (centre inset) where Fulton was at the time.  Aged 48, he is buried in Doullens Communal Cemetery Extension No. 1.  The upper inset, which also appeared in the first post of the series, shows Fulton in 1917 inspecting the German lines at Messines through binoculars, the photographer and the other men in the shot sensibly keeping well below the parapet, suggesting, perhaps, that this photograph is no mere publicity shot.

April would see a further nine generals killed, captured or wounded (making twenty six in two months).  The first three I could find no images of; on 2nd April, Brigadier-General William Ince Webb-Bowen D.S.O., G.O.C. 8th Brigade, 3rd Division, was wounded for a second time, by shellfire, near Auchel, west of Bethune, whilst touring the forward area on the very day he took command.  Most likely actually a temporary brigadier-general at the time, he would return in September to command 11th Brigade.  Worse, on 4th April, Brigadier-General George Norman Bowes Forster D.S.O., G.O.C. 42nd Brigade, 14th Division, already wounded twice earlier in the war, found his brigade headquarters overrun by attacking Germans and was never seen again.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Pozières Memorial to the Missing (above).  And on 12th April, Brigadier-General Arthur Thackeray Beckwith, G.O.C. 153rd Brigade, 51st Division, was gassed, after three previous wounds, but once more he returned to command, this time 35th Brigade, by August.

On the left, Brigadier-General James Keith Dick-Cunyngham D.S.O., G.O.C. 152nd Brigade, 51st Division, wounded and captured just six days into his command, near Hignes on 12th April.  The following day, 13th April, Brigadier-General Robert Clements Gore, G.O.C. 101st Brigade, 34th Division (centre), was killed in action aged 51 when his headquarters, based in the cellar of a farm on the Mont de Lille, south east of Bailleul, was hit by a German shell.  Gore was killed as the cellar collapsed, and is buried in Lijssenhoek Military Cemetery.  And a day later, on 14th April, Brigadier-General Lord Esme Charles Gordon-Lennox D.S.O., G.O.C. 95th Brigade, 5th Division (right), wounded at Ypres in 1914, nearly suffered the same fate when he was seriously wounded when his headquarters near Bois Moyen was also hit by a shell.

Brigadier-General Adrian Carton de Wiart V.C. D.S.O., G.O.C. 105th Brigade, 35th Division (both photos above), twice wounded, in the stomach and groin, in the South African War, shot twice in the face, losing an eye and part of an ear, and winning a D.S.O., in Somaliland in early 1915, lost his left hand during the Second Battle of Ypres a few months later (he reputedly tore his own fingers off when a surgeon refused to amputate them), shot in the skull and ankle on the Somme, where he was also awarded a Victoria Cross for his gallantry at La Boisselle on 1st July 1916, shot through the hip at Third Ypres, through the leg at Cambrai, and in the ear again at Arras, gassed at Arras, and wounded in the left leg while reconnoitering near Martinsart on 20th April 1918, his final wound.  He would later command the Central Norwegian Expeditionary Force in World War II, and spend two years as a prisoner of the Italians.  An extraordinary man.  On 24th April Brigadier-General The Hon. Lesley James Probyn Butler, G.O.C. 4th Guards Brigade, 31st Division, was gassed, and on 28th April, Brigadier-General Leopold Charles Loius Oldfield, C.R.A. 51st Division, was wounded by a shell which I think hit the car in which he was travelling near Hamet Billot.  Photos of neither, I’m afraid.

Brigadier-General Arthur Henry Seton Hart-Synnot D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 6th Brigade, 2nd Division (left), wounded twice in the South African War, and wounded far more severely on 11th May, losing both legs when caught by shellfire in the trenches near Boyelles, and Brigadier-General Hubert Horatio Shirley Morant D.S.O. & Bar G.O.C. 115th Brigade, 38th Division (right), four times wounded during the war, the last time on 21st May at Annequin, although he would return to command 147th Brigade before the war’s end.  Annequin is in mining country, which gives me the excuse to use this background photograph of the slag heap at Carvin, about eleven miles to the east.

Brigadier-General Duncan Sayre MacInnes D.S.O., Inspector of Mines, G.H.Q. France.  An officer in the engineers during the Ashanti expedition of 1895-1896 and the South African War, in 1912 MacInnes was a member of the committee whose recommendations would lead to the establishment of the Royal Flying Corps.  On the outbreak of war in August 1914 he returned to the Royal Engineers, participating in the retreat from Mons, and in November 1914 he was wounded in the right hand, permanently restricting the use of his fingers.  He would spend 1916 at the War Office as Assistant Director of Aeronautical Studies, in charge of aircraft design, supply, and maintenance – an overworked MacInnes suffered a breakdown in late 1916 – before returning to the Western Front in 1917 as C.R.E. 42nd Division.  In January 1918 he was appointed Inspector of Mines, a position he held until 23rd May when he was killed, some sources say in an accident involving mines.  He was 47 and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery (background photo).

Four photographs which all include Brigadier-General Hubert Conway Rees D.S.O., G.O.C. 150th Brigade, 50th Division.  Rees had fought at Mons, on the Marne and on the Aisne before being awarded a D.S.O. at Langemarck in October 1914, led 94th Brigade at Serre on 1st July 1916 and 11th Brigade in the later Somme battles, and commanded 149th Brigade at Arras in April 1917.  Taken ill in July 1917, he returned to command 150th Brigade in February 1918, and on 27th May he was captured as the British retreated before the German onslaught.  It seems that the following day he had a chance meeting with the Kaiser, which ensured he would be remembered when others weren’t, even if he admitted to being ‘furious’ and ‘humiliated’ at being photographed in such company.

On 27th May Brigadier-General Cuthbert Thomas Martin D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 151st Brigade, 50th Division (top left), severely wounded on the Aisne in 1914, found his headquarters almost surrounded by Germans.  Martin, along with the visiting Brigadier-General Edward Pius Arthur Riddell D.S.O. & 2 Bars, G.O.C. 149th Brigade, 50th Division (bottom left), prepared for a last-ditch stand defending the headquarters trenches.  German shells succeeded in scattering some of the German troops, but one burst close to the two generals, killing Martin instantly, and leaving Riddell with ‘a great hole in my face into which I could put my hand. I could not have my wound bound up as the bandage would have prevented me from giving orders’.  Riddell, aged 43, who had already been wounded twice before during the war, would survive.  Martin, who was 40, has no known grave and is commemorated on the Soissons Memorial to the Missing.  Brigadier-General Christopher Joseph Griffin, G.O.C. 7th Brigade, 25th Division, was wounded, for the fourth time during the war, by shell fire at Rosnay near Rheims on 29th May, and on 30th May Brigadier-General Alfred Edgar Glasgow, G.O.C. 58th Brigade, 19th Division, was wounded in the upper lip, his second wound, at Chaumuzy, but I have images of neither.  The right hand inset shows Brigadier-General Ralph Hamer Husey D.S.O. & Bar, M.C., G.O.C. 25th Brigade, 8th Division.  Already wounded four times during the war, and three times mentioned in despatches, Husey was wounded a fifth time, on this occasion mortally, on 27th May as the division retreated in the face of intense German pressure, dying in German captivity three days later.  He was 36 and is buried in Vendresse British Cemetery.

Brigadier-General Frederick William Lumsden V.C. D.S.O. & 3 Bars, G.O.C. 14th Brigade, 32nd Division (left), one of only seven British officers to be awarded four D.S.O.s in the war.  Four times Mentioned in Despatches too, Lumsden was awarded the Victoria Cross for recovering six captured German guns under heavy fire at Francilly on 3rd & 4th April 1917.  Wounded in August 1917, on the night of 3rd June 1918 he was near the front line when the alarm sounded, signalling a German attack.  Lumsden went forward himself to find out what was happening and was shot in the head by a bullet, dying instantly.  He was 45 and is buried in Berles New Military Cemetery, Berles-au-Bois.  On 24th June Brigadier-General Alfred Forbes Lumsden D.S.O., G.O.C. 46th Brigade, 15th Division (no relation), wounded at Ypres in February 1915, was killed by German shell fire south west of Feuchy, near Arras, aged 41.  He is buried in Duisans British Cemetery, Etrun.  And on 25th June, Brigadier-General Richard Deare Furley Oldman, G.O.C. 15th Brigade, 5th Division, three times wounded, once in the foot on 11th May 1918, was gassed near Amont Wood.  I have photographs of neither.  On the right, Brigadier-General John Smith Stewart D.S.O., G.O.C. 3rd Canadian Division Artillery, wounded three times, although as far as I can see not seriously, during the war, the last time on 10th July by a shell fragment, from which he soon returned to duty.

Brigadier-General Alexander Edward Stewart D.S.O., G.O.C. 3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade, New Zealand Division, on the left, was wounded in the arm and thigh by a German sniper near Sailly-au-Bois on the Somme on 17th July, and on the morning of 19th July, Major-General Charles Rosenthal D.S.O., G.O.C. 2nd Australian Division, on the right, wounded by a shell on Gallipoli on 5th May 1915 and gassed east of Ypres in 15th October 1917, was wounded once more, in the thumb and forearm, severing an artery, near Villers-Bretonneaux (background).  Both men’s army careers would continue, although whether they returned before the Armistice I am unsure.

Two generals were wounded on 2nd August; Brigadier-General Arthur David Musgrave D.S.O., C.R.A. 52nd Division (left), was slightly wounded, returning within two days, and Brigadier-General Noel Arbuthnot Thomson, G.O.C. 44th Brigade, 15th Division (no image), already wounded once, was wounded again, this time by gas, near Domiers, although he too would return. The Hundred Days Offensive would begin on 8th August, and you might think our generals might ease off a bit with the end in sight.  Of course they didn’t.  Brigadier-General John Munro Ross D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 5th Canadian Brigade, 2nd Canadian Division (centre – is that a general with his cap at a rakish angle, or do my eyes deceive me?)), was wounded by a German shell that killed some of his staff to the east of Amiens on 9th August, the same day that Brigadier-General Berkeley Vincent, G.O.C. 35th Brigade, 12th Division (no image), was gassed, although he would return to command before the end of the war, and Brigadier-General Archibald James Fergusson Eden, G.O.C. 57th Brigade, 19th Division (again no image), wounded on the Somme in October 1916, was wounded again, by shell splinters in the head, near Bethune on 10th August.  On 21st August Brigadier-General Bertie Drew Fisher D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 8th Brigade, 3rd Division (right), was gassed, his second wound of the war, near Ayette, although he would return after a few days.

On the left, Brigadier-General Lionel Warren de Vere Sadleir-Jackson D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 54th Brigade 18th Division, slightly wounded in the South African War, and shot in the knee by a German sniper near Albert on 22nd August, his second wound of the Great War.  On the right, Brigadier-General Andrew Jameson McCulloch D.S.O. & 2 Bars D.C.M., G.O.C. 64th Brigade, 21st Division, wounded three times during the war, the final time hit in the thigh by a German machine gunner at Grandcourt on 24th August.  On 26th August, Brigadier-General Edgar William Cox D.S.O., B.G.G.S. (Intelligence) G.H.Q. France (no image), drowned whilst bathing at Berck Plage, his body recovered from the sea later; the exact manner of his death is unknown as he was alone at the time, but the chain-smoking Cox had ‘worn his body to a shadow’ during the dark days of the war, hence his inclusion here.  He was 36 and is buried in Etaples Military Cemetery.  The final casualty of the month, and again I have no image, was Brigadier-General Walter Backhouse Hulke, G.O.C. 115th Brigade, 38th Division, wounded near Morval on 30th August.

On 5th September, Brigadier-General Victor Wentworth Odlum D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 11th Canadian Brigade, 4th Canadian Division (far left), was wounded by a German sniper north of Arras, and on 6th September Brigadier-General Lionel William Pellew East D.S.O., C.H.A.* XIII Corps (centre left) was killed.  Wounded in the head in 1915 during the Battle of Festubert, he was killed by a German machine gun while reconnoitering positions for forward observation posts at Festubert on 6th September, near to where he had previously been wounded.  Aged 52, he was buried in Lapugnoy Military Cemetery.  Brigadier-General Reginald Hoare D.S.O., G.O.C. 229th Brigade, 74th Division (centre right), was wounded near his headquarters at Longavesnes on 9th September, and Major-General Henry Rodolph Davies, G.O.C. 11th Division (far right), was wounded near Arras on 13th September, returning to his brigade a month later.  And an accident in the front line during the night of 13th September left Brigadier-General Edward Ivan de Sausmarez Thorpe, G.O.C. 107th Brigade, 36th Division (no image), severely wounded in the elbow, his arm useless for the rest of his life.  Unfortunately, it was one of his own men who had discharged his rifle at the general at nearly point-blank range.  Woops.

*Commander of Corps Heavy Artillery

Brigadier-General Arthur Richard Careless Sanders D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 50th Brigade, 17th Division (far left), shot in the back and killed by German machine gun fire returning to his brigade headquarters near Gouzeaucourt on 20th September, aged 41, and buried in Five Points Cemetery, Lechelle.  Brigadier-General Alfred Alexander Kennedy G.O.C. 230th Brigade, 74th Division (centre left), wounded when a shell hit the mess hut on 23rd September.  Brigadier-General George Charles Kelly, G.O.C. 2nd Brigade, 1st Division (centre right), severely wounded during the South African War, and wounded twice during the Great War, the second time during preparations for the attack on the Hindenburg Line on 26th September.  Both Kelly and Kennedy would return to command, Kennedy a few days after the Armistice.  On the far right Brigadier-General Gilbert Burrell Spencer Follett D.S.O., G.O.C. 3rd Guards Brigade, Guards Division, already wounded three times, four times Mentioned in Despatches, was hit by German machine gun fire below the right shoulder whilst advancing on 29th September near Dernicourt, losing consciousness immediately, and dying at a nearby dressing station.  Aged 40, he was buried in Baumetz Cross Roads Cemetery, Beaumetz-les-Cambrai.

The final casualty in September was Brigadier-General James Howden MacBrien D.S.O. & Bar, G.O.C. 12th Canadian Brigade, 4th Canadian Division (far left), wounded for a second time when shot through the right leg whilst reconnoitering near Cambrai on 28th of the month.  On 4th October, Brigadier-General George Cambourne Beauclark Paynter, G.O.C. 172nd Brigade, 57th Division (no image), was wounded near Cambrai by shell fire, and on the same day Brigadier-General Sir William Algernon Ireland Kay D.S.O., G.O.C. 3rd Brigade, 1st Division (centre left), was killed instantaneously by a gas shell near St. Quentin.  First wounded in October 1914, and recipient of one of the first D.S.O.s gazetted in the war, he had been wounded again, by a machine gun bullet in the face, in March 1918.  Aged 42 he was buried in Vadencourt British Cemetery, Maissemy.  On 5th October, Brigadier-General William Lushington Osborn D.S.O., G.O.C. 5th Brigade, 2nd Division (centre right), was wounded by shell fire while inspecting the billets of 24th Royal Fusiliers at Noyelles, and Brigadier-General Francis Cecil Longbourne, G.O.C. 171st Brigade, 57th Division (no image), was badly wounded in the neck near Cambrai by a Minenwerfer shell.  On the far right Brigadier-General Stuart Campbell Taylor D.S.O., G.O.C. 93rd Brigade, 31st Division, seriously wounded by shell splinters in the head and body on 1st October while making a tour of his battalions, would die of his injuries on 11th October and is buried in La Kreule Military Cemetery, Hazebrouck.

All three inset photos show Major-General Louis James Lipsett, G.O.C. 4th Division, the final British General Officer to be killed during the war.  On 14th October, Lipsett was reconnoitering a new sector near Cambrai that his division were expecting to take over, crawling in front of the lines, when he was hit in the face by what was thought to be a machine gun bullet.  He managed to stagger back to the British lines but died as soon as he reached them.  He was 44 and is buried in Quéant Communal Cemetery British Extension.  He was not the last to die, however.  That sad honour goes to Brigadier-General Edward John Granet, C.R.A. 11th Division (no image), badly hit in the face and hands by shrapnel on Gallipoli on 13th August 1915, you may remember from that post.  He later became Military Attaché in Rome, Stockholm and finally Berne, but it would be his wounds that eventually killed him, and he died on 22nd October 1918 at the age 0f 60, and is buried in Vevey (St. Martin’s) Cemetery in Switzerland.

Still our generals risked life and limb.  Brigadier-General Oswald Cuthbert Borrett D.S.O. & Bar (above), had been wounded on 30th March 1918 while G.O.C. 197th Brigade, 66th Division, and was now gassed, on 24th October, having only just returned to the front as G.O.C. 54th Brigade, 18th Division.  And as far as I can ascertain, the final British General Officer casualty of the Great War was Brigadier-General Cecil Percival Heywood, G.O.C. 3rd Guards Brigade, Guards Division, wounded by a shell which killed two nearby men on 5th November.  He would return to command after the war, but unfortunately I can find no image of him.

But we are going to finish with perhaps the bravest of the brave, a general whose fame had made him a national hero by the end of the war.  When the coffin of the Unknown Soldier was brought to Westminster Abbey in 1920, he was the man who headed the honour guard of Victoria Cross recipients accompanying it.  The final General Officer, the two hundred and thirtieth on our long list over these past six posts, is Lieutenant-General Bernard Cyril Freyberg, 1st Baron Freyberg, V.C. D.S.O. & 3 Bars.  Freyberg was born in Richmond in Surrey in 1889, the Freyberg family moving to New Zealand when he was just two.  Educated at Wellington College and New Zealand University, he became a national championship winning swimmer, a skill that would later help earn him his first D.S.O., while studying for a degree in dentistry for which he qualified in 1911, before leaving New Zealand in March 1914 for San Francisco with the intention of opening a dental practice there.  In April the Border War between Mexico and the United States flared up once more, and Freyberg, weighing up the excitement factor between war and dentistry, chose war, serving for a while, it seems, under Pancho Villa and his revolutionaries.

On the outbreak of the Great War he headed for England to volunteer for service, finding himself in Belgium at the fall of Antwerp in October 1914 having secured a commission in the Hood Brigade of the Royal Naval Division, a direct result of a meeting in London with Winston Churchill – years later, Churchill would refer to Freyberg as ‘my Salamander’, because he appeared impervious to fire and always wanted to be in the thick of it.  In April 1915, as a Lieutenant Commander (inset top left), he won his first D.S.O. at Gallipoli, swimming ashore from two miles out, covered in black paint and grease, to light decoy flares to distract the Turks from the real landings taking place elsewhere.  He would be twice wounded on the peninsula, in the leg and stomach, before the end of the campaign, after which the Hood Battalion headed for France.  In November 1916 he was awarded a Victoria Cross for his ‘splendid personal gallantry’ during the advance on Beaucourt-sur-Ancre on the Somme, during which action he was wounded four times over two days, the final time severely, but only after issuing new orders did he finally leave the line.  Freyburg would return to France in April 1917, as a Brigadier-General, to command 29th Division, at twenty seven the youngest to hold the rank in the British Army at the time, but was wounded again in an attack on St. Julien on 19th September 1917 when a shell exploded at his feet, leaving him with ten separate wounds.  This was his worst injury, but he once again he recovered, won a second D.S.O. at Gheluvelt in late September 1918, and a third in quite literally the last five minutes of the war.  Two minutes before 11.00 a.m., on 11th November 1918, Freyburg led a cavalry dash to save the bridge at Lessines in Belgium, and then, with just nine men, captured the village along with 104 prisoners.  Mentioned five times in Despatches, wounded a total of nine different times during the Great War, it was said that there was no part of his body that did not bear a scar (the inset lower left shows Freyberg in 1919).  Despite initially retiring in 1937 due to ill health (inset centre top), in part because of his old wounds, he would soon be back to add significantly to his fame and medal collection (including a third Bar to his D.S.O.) during World War II (Freyberg in typical Second World War pose, top right), before serving six years as Governor General of New Zealand (bottom right), but that is beyond the scope of these posts.  He died in 1963 aged 74, from a rupture of his old Gallipoli stomach wound, and was buried in the churchyard of St Martha-on-the-Hill near Guildford in Surrey.

Some facts and figures.  Do with them as you will.  At the start of the war there were twelve field marshalls, nineteen generals, 28 lieutenant-generals, 114 major-generals and 180 brigadier-generals in the British Army, a total of 350.  By the end of the war there were ten field marshalls (five had died and four new appointments were made during the war, so who was, and what happened, to the other one?   Answers on a postcard.), 29 generals, 47 lieutenant-generals, 219 major-generals and 600 brigadier-generals, a total of 903.  Some years ago now, Dr. John Bourne and his team at Birmingham University put together a list that amounted to 1,253 British, Canadian and Australian General Officers, all of whom served on the Western Front during the Great War.  Including those serving in Gallipoli and Mesopotamia, this series of posts has introduced you to 230 of these men who were either killed or wounded in action, along with a few who were captured, one or two who were dismissed, and one who resigned.  By comparison, according to The German Army 1933-45 by Albert Seaston, sixty three German generals were killed or died on active service during the Great War, another 103 dying from other causes.  I should point out that there are few mentions in the Bloody Red Tabs book of the Italian, Salonika and African campaigns, and I have no idea whether there were no General Officer casualties in those theatres, or if no one has yet done the research.  The latter, I suspect, but I may be wrong.

Finally, some salutes to sources.  First and foremost, ‘Bloody Red Tabs – General Officer Casualties of the Great War 1914-1918′ by Frank Davies & the late Graham Maddocks, published in ’95 and still the only book on the subject of which I am aware, without which I would never have dreamed of attempting a series such as this.  The book allowed me to construct a chronology of all the generals killed in action, and the majority, although not all, of the wounded and captured generals featured, along with some basic information about each, the dates they became casualties, some details of their injuries, and where they were buried, if relevant.  So clearly any of the basic information that is incorrect is down to the authors, not me!  No, I jest.  It’s an essential book.  Added information comes from local history websites and others, too many to mention, but thanks to all of them, the WFA website has proved useful, as have various discussions I have surreptitiously spied upon on the Great War Forum over time, and of course my own library, and in particular certain contemporaneous publications which have proved invaluable in finding some of the generals’ photographs, which in turn have added the one thing missing from previous such studies – the human factor.  Not just names in print, but faces to go with the names, lots of faces.  Real men, with real lives and real responsibilities, which many faced up to with great courage, I think we can say, and as I hope this series has shown.  And if it has, maybe none of us will look at them in quite the same way again.  ‘Château Generals’ these men were not.

“All my C.O.s were well forward at various stages in the battles they fought, and any one of them could have been killed and people would have said ‘Oh what are they doing up there’, well, my answer to that was they’re doing their job by being there.  That’s when a C.O. earns his pay.”  Major-General Julian Thompson, 3 Commando Brigade, Falklands Islands, 1982.  Referring to his colonels at the time, I think the point could just as well have been made about the British brigadier-general in the Great War.

Or as someone else said, “What is the most common command an officer ever gives?  Follow me.”

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

  1. Jason says:

    Brilliant series and great work as usual!
    Very well put together and hopefully puts some perspective on the Chateau General notion.

    Would the ‘missing’ Field Marshal be Kitchener?

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well thank you kindly Jason. It was hard work, but I think it was worth it. Kitchener is a good logical guess – and because I made a major error in the text about field marshalls, you are right, in a way. Kitchener was of course a field marshall, but as he was referred to mainly as ‘1st Earl Kitchener’, I totally forgot he was a field marshall too! Doh! Which has now made me do some checking and I have no idea where I got the idea that none of the field marshalls at the beginning of the war had died, because that ain’t true either! Some sort of brainstorm! So I’d better thank you again for inadvertantly making me recheck my work – anyone would think I don’t check this stuff, and believe me, I do – so replacement text coming up soon. If I can’t find a way of still posing the field marshall question, I’ll tell you what would have been the answer later.

      • Magicfingers says:

        Right, despite being mortified at feeding you incorrect information, the field marshall figures have been revised – I now know how the error occured but I won’t bore you with the details – and the question still remains.

        • Jason says:

          Good quick work there! Ahh I see the question has been redone. Very interesting. I think might be stumped this time but glad I got away with my earlier lucky guess 😉
          I suppose it must have been a Field Marshall who was fired then as it was hardly a promotion! Maybe King George’s cousin Wilhelm got the boot!? I have a picture of him in a Field Marshall uniform in 1910 at the funeral of King Edward VII? I have no idea how that worked out and if he got kicked out? If that’s not it them I’m out of ideas but very interesting question!

          • Magicfingers says:

            Genius Jason. Good work too. The Kaiser was indeed the other field marshall, and he was indeed kicked out (and to be 100% accurate, so was the Emperor Franz Josef, but I cannot find out if he was stripped of the title or died in 1916 still a British field marshall. Surely not, but I simply do not know). Hirohito got stripped too in WW2.

      • Nigel Shuttleworth says:

        I’m afraid I can never read the ex-Emperor’s name without thinking of the Oct 1971 Private Eye cover ‘HIROHITO FLIES IN’ with the sub-caption ‘Nasty Nip in the Air’!

  2. Nick Kilner says:

    A fantastic series Magicfingers, superbly written and remarkable in its detail. I have no doubt that the bravery of these inaptly maligned men is an extraordinary revelation to many, myself included. Thank you for all the work you have put into yet another fascinating series of posts.

  3. Nigel Shuttleworth says:

    A most interesting and informative series, and as usual so well researched and presented. Thank you Magicfingers.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Nigel. Well-researched until I cocked up at the end, if you have read the conversation with Jason! Still, all sorted now. Thanks again.

  4. Mark says:

    Thank you for a brilliantly researched series of posts. Quite an eye opener really into some very brave individuals. I make it a nearly 20% casualty rate which seems proportionally pretty high demonstrating how involved in the front line action men of this rank really were. While perhaps (and I do generalise) Gallipoli seems to have had a slightly lower capability amongst the senior ranks this has blown many of the myths about the western front generals. Even then in Gallipoli perhaps the top echelons have some blame for not wanting to remove and weaken the fighting ability elsewhere. Maybe the next series can look at the Field Marshalls to complete the picture!

    • Magicfingers says:

      Cheers Mark. Nice words. Thank you very much indeed. So pleased we have really blown those myths, because that is what they are. There’s a very important point in one post when I say that war, and defending their country, was the raison d’etre of these men, and it is often forgotten, or simply not realized. That was their very reason for existing, in their own opinions – they even sought war and action, many in the turn of the century conflicts (and hardly the first to do so over the ages) and I dare say some of them liked it too. They really would be turning in their graves to be referred to as Chateau Generals. And they’d wonder why.
      You notice I didn’t do any of the percentages. Quite deliberately. Because I knew some of you automatically would, and I wasn’t being a smartass, but don’t you reckon the figures have more impact when you realize them yourself? Fyi 78 Generals were KIA, 69 of whom we have photos (and two more wounded pics have been added today for people referring in future – this project is ongoing), so you can do some percentages with that, should you wish.
      The Field Marshalls idea – I’ll add it to the list (although in a funny way most weren’t that relevant to the Great War – men of a previous era, really). Always happy for ideas though.

      • Andrew Pearson says:

        There is a nice picture of George Norman Bowes Forster on page 17 of The Sphere – Saturday 27 July 1918 (perhaps you saw it already?)

        • Magicfingers says:

          Cheers Andrew. No, I haven’t seen it.

          • Magicfingers says:

            Andrew, did you access it via Find My Past or similar?

          • Andrew Pearson says:

            Thanks Magicfingers – found your site while searching for Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery (a relation, a private soldier, is buried there). Read your series of articles with huge respect for your work and much appreciation. Searched for “G N B Forster” in the British Newspaper Archive which is related to FindMyPast. Cheers, Andrew.

  5. i stunell says:

    Thank you so much for all the information in this post, you may remember I was searching with my granddaughter for information or a picture of George Stunell (Whitehorse school) .
    We have now managed to visit this small cemetery at La Kreule Hazebrouck to his grave several times, and this article was of great interest as it shows a photograph Brigadier General Stuart Taylor 93rd Brigade, at La Kreule.
    My granddaughter found it fascinating to see the photo. Thank you for the time and hard work you put in posting this article.

    • Magicfingers says:

      I do indeed remember you. Nice to hear you hear you have visited George more than once. Another headstone of interest in La Kreule is forty six year old Private Harry Hendricks, 2nd Bn. Leinster Regiment, executed for desertion on 23rd August 1918, and now buried in Plot III. C. 1. There is a group of ten cemeteries between Caestre & Morbeque, taking in Hazebrouck (and La Kreule) that I intend to visit this year or next and then write a tour of them, but I shouldn’t hold your breath! Very pleased your Granddaughter found the photo of interest, and I much appreciate your kind words – and thanks for not forgetting us and for commenting.

  6. J Cassidy says:

    I just wanted to comment on what an excellent article this is. Splendid work debunking a common myth about commanding officers. I’m the current owner of Brigadier-General Archibald J F Eden’s sabre, and came across this whilst browsing for some further information to what I already have filed.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Well thank you very much indeed. What an interesting item to own. I don’t suppose you have a photo of the general, by any chance?

      • J Cassidy says:

        I do have some photographs, but unfortunately Eden seemed to have an elusive face, only one that I have so far has his face in view and it isn’t very clear. Even a picture he took of himself in South Africa has his face in shadow! I’ve been searching for a portrait style photograph but no luck as of yet – I’m waiting to hear back from the relevant regimental museum, I’m hoping that they have something on file. I’d be happy to send you what I do have, though.

  7. Magicfingers says:

    Thank you! I shall do so in the morn.

  8. Jonathan Beatson-Hird says:

    This is a great article.

    Cuthbert Thomas Martin was my grandmother’s uncle. I was wondering where you found the photograph as I would ,love a copy.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Thank you Jonathan. I wish I could be of help. I have checked my notes, which hasn’t helped. It’s clearly an online image as opposed to from a book, because I would have scanned it better! Should I find out, I shall certainly let you know. In the meantime, there is nothing, between you and me, to stop you grabbing the picture from this post. The original was a very small image, so it won’t be any better even if I do find it.

      • Thanks for that. If you do find out, I would be grateful to know.

        I am Chairman of the museum of 1st The Queen’s Dragoon Guards and also the regimental Heritage Trust. If ever you are in Cardiff, we would love to show you around and in particular, our Nery exhibit.



        • Magicfingers says:

          If I do find it, I will certainly let you know Jonathan. It’s been a while since I visited Cardiff – a long while, although I have some good memories – but should I return, your offer is most kind and I would be absolutely thrilled. Thank you very much indeed.

  9. Magicfingers says:

    Andrew, for what it’s worth, I am currently arranging a short trip hopefully for later in the year, the main reason for which will be a comprehensive look around Lijssenthoek Military Cemetery. So maybe next year I’ll get round to writing about it………

  10. Does anybody have an attribution for the photograph of Brigadier-General James Howden MacBrien.


    My this is an active forum, eh. yes all of the copies on line are not attributed, sadly. I have a copy of this ; it is a Toronto, Canada news service copy, long defunct.
    It is, I think a picture dressed in the uniform of a Major General and so would have been after 1920, likely in Canada and likely in Toronto.

    • Magicfingers says:

      Makes sense to me, from what little I know. And you’d frankly be unlucky to put a message up here and not get some sort of a reply, if only from me! Although not necessarily this quickly, I admit.

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