Senior WWI Military Casualties

Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by wm1965, Mar 14, 2012.

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  1. I have just seen a Brigadier-General RH Davies on a WWI memorial. I looked him up and was a tad surprised to see (albeit on Wikipedia):

    This led to him being offered command of 6th Brigade, a regular infantry brigade of British troops, in 1910; he was the first colonial officer to hold such a position. In the summer of 1914 the brigade was mobilised with the British Expeditionary Force, and he commanded it at the Battle of Mons and the First Battle of the Aisne before being invalided back to England due to exhaustion. He was given command of the newly formed 20th (Light) Division, which he took to France in 1915, but was relieved of command early in 1916. After a period in command of a reserve centre in Staffordshire, he was sent to hospital suffering from both mental and physical ill health, and committed suicide in May 1918.

    Given the stigma at the time of suicide I'm especially surprised he's on the memorial.
  2. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Why? He died during the war.
  3. He isn't the only British General to kill himself. There was a general who killed himself by standng at a point that was known to be covered by German harrassign fire.
  4. Bobs passed away after visiting Indian troops in November 1914, buried at St Pauls Cathredral.
  5. Is that a fact? I recall reading a fiction called "The General" (C.S.Forester 1968 - note the year: Woodstock, Nam demos, Paris riots etc.) whose title character tops himself like that. Like most books of the time on the topic of WW1, it was long on opinion, short on history.

    Read Mud Blood & Poppycock by (Maj - ret'd) Gordon Corrigan: IIRC, it summarises the numbers and ranks of senior officers who copped at the front in WW1, and covers (factually) a good deal more ground - may even touch who got commemorated, but I think that's a long shot.

    4 WotItsWorth, I was digging into the stories behind the names on my local memorial a while ago, and was perplexed for a while by 2 of them. One, it turned out, had been missing believed killed, having been made a PoW in the early days of Kaiserschlacht, and was later injured - broken back - while working in a German mine, leading to his death back in England, after post-armistice repatriation, the point at which he was restored to the nominal roll under a new Regtl No.

    Another had been gassed, and recovered - kinda - but had 'bad lungs', and could not go back to his old job (Kinema Projector operator) in London, and seems to have died alone, sick, penniless, and possibly homeless (with scant sympathy shwon towards his claim for a disability pension - some things haven't changed) in 1919 or later: I couldn't track the grave.

    Both were memorialised, because (as I learned from an assiduous local history buff), 'the committee' had decided it was right to do so. These were local folk - pillars of, y'know - who sought, and then filtered, nominations for the memorial from those who had known in life, locals who died 'cos of the war.

    I'd bet that summat similar lies behind the tale of your chap.
  6. Well for one thing suicide was illegal in England and Wales until 1961. Despite that there was a huge social stigma, quite different to that of today.
  7. Lieutenant General Robert George Broadwood died of woulds on 21 June 1917 after being struck by a shell crossing the railway broidge over the Roiver Lys. He had been admonoished by Godley, his Corps commander for lacking fighting spirit after declining to order attacks that would have no chance of success. His formation was posted to a new Corps and the same criticism was made. On 21 June he was visiting his artillery group . The giunners warned that the briodge was being shelled. Broadwood went across alone , having ordered his GSO2 and ADC to stay with the gunners. After being wounded he is reported (Liddell hart papers) to have said he was glad top go having been told that he l;acked fighting spirit. This ios from a book called "Bloody Red Tabs"
  8. More interesting still RH Davies was transferred to the British Army in 1915 (3 years before his death) and raised to Major-General, yet on the Kiwi memorial he is listed with his Kiwi rank of Brigadier-General.
  9. The late Richard Holmes' book Tommy has a chapter on the red-tabs and senior officers - a large number died in the line of duty, in the front lines and such. Rather different to the annoyingly still-prevalent stereotype of senior officers from the time - think General Melchett.
  10. BuggerAll

    BuggerAll LE Reviewer Book Reviewer

    On a different but not completely unrelated topic I reviewed 'The Coolie Generals' recently about the 42 British Generals or equivalent (56 stars) taken POW by the Japanese in WW2.
  11. Yes, a couple of instances of this in action spring to mind- The village in Lincolnshire that only erected a WW1 memorial in the middle of the last decade because originally it had been decided to omit the name of a soldier who had been executed. The villagers had found that unacceptable that he should be omitted so no war memorial was erected at the time.

    And at Warnham in Sussex, the parish council was evenly divided about whether to include a soldier who had no connection with the village but his widow had moved there after her husband's death. A casting vote decided that he would be included on the grounds that the widow would be constantly seeing the memorial and it would therefore be fitting to include the name.

    On a national level, I suspect there was a decision to (quite rightly in my view) to include everyone who died while serving, irrespective of the circumstances.

    Apart from being the right thing, you start going down a very difficult path when you have to make judgements on individual cases.

    On the Brookwood Memorial there are two names of soldiers who were executed in the Second World War, Private Schurch, for treason, and Gunner Kemp for the murder of a WAAF.

    The memorial is for those with no known grave, I guess the two above would have been buried in the confines of the prison where they were executed and thus would have no headstones.
  12. And there was the death of the youngest General Officer, Roland Bradford:

    From Wiki

    Promotion and death

    On 20 November 1917, at the age of 25, he was promoted to the rank of Brigadier General; he was the youngest general officer in the British Army of modern times (and the youngest promoted professionally, earlier young generals were simply due to position). Ten days later, he was killed in action, at Cambrai, France, on 30 November 1917.
    His two brothers, Lieutenant Commander George Nicholson Bradford VC, and Second Lieutenant James Barker Bradford, both died in service.[SUP][2][/SUP] George and Roland were the only brothers to win the VC in World War I.

    Four brothers, only one survived.

  13. Thanks for this line of interesting posts. Historians and popular writers are gradually moving away from the Socialist narrative of World War I covering the behaviour of senior officers and, indeed, of life in the trenches. This narrative started in the early1920s in an effort to forment unrest and bubbled along until it reached it's zenith in the late 1960s (think 'Oh what a lovely War!). It is a commonly held belief that senior officers were uncaring of their troops, who spent months starving in freezing, muddy trenches.

    Of course they didn't. Troops were constantly rotated from rest areas to support lines, to the front lines and back again on an almost-daily basis. That's not to say that conditions were nothing less than abysmal, but let's not truth get in the way of a good story. A particularly good book about life in the trenches that dispels many of the myths is 'Soldiers from the Wars Returning' by Charles Carrington, who started out as a very young Subaltern in 1914.

    No doubt there were officers who were uncaring and wilfully arrogant (as there are today) but the efforts that Gen Haig undertook after the war to help ex-soldiers is mute testamony to his concern (or was it guilt?) . For a modern view of Haig, wikipedia is particularly balanced.

    Douglas Haig, 1st Earl Haig - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    On a slightly separate issue, how long after World War I were deaths still attributed to war service? My Grandfather (Mounted Inf Tpr) died in 1930 apparently as a result of wartime injuries, has a IWGC headstone and is appropriately commemorated on memorials. Clearly tehre was a mechanism to record thsoe who died after the war (he married, had 3 kids and managed to work in spite of these injuries) Was there a degree of attribution calcuated for injuries - as we do today?
  14. AlienFTM

    AlienFTM LE Book Reviewer

    There was a programme on last year looked at Eamonn Holmes. Sadly Google lets me down today so the following statement could be as full of holes a a holey thing that's developed multiple punctures.

    He stated that his father had received a gut-shot wound during the war and was never fit again. since Wiki tells me Holmes junior was born in 1959, I suspect it was 1979 when his father finally died from those wounds (I am sure there was something about them pushing that the death certificate stated "wounds received").

    Maybe it was his grandfather. Whatever, I was shocked at how long he'd suffered from those wounds and I had really thought it was Great War wounds so grandfather is more likely. Maybe his grandfather had died during the Second World War from wounds received during the First.
  15. oldbaldy

    oldbaldy LE Moderator Good Egg (charities)
    1. Battlefield Tours

    Flying monkey was an adviser on that programme, I'll be seeing him at the weekend & will point him in the direction of this.