Home Land War General Interest Notable Individuals Of The Great War

Notable Individuals Of The Great War

N.B.: Legend of awards:- VC = Victoria Cross (highest British military award for valour; DSO = Distinguished Service Order; DSC = Distinguished Service Cross; DCM = Distinguished Conduct Medal; MC = Military Cross; MM = Military Medal; DFC = Distinguished Flying Cross; Bar = Indicates two separate awards of the same medal to the same individual.


A dominant fact that that sooner or later faces every student of the Great War is the numbing anonymity of it all. Huge numbers of men, and a few women, were thrown into the machine of war to be consumed, or not, in a random way, only to be routinely replaced in turn by another mass of anonymous humanity. On the Western Front an army battalion had a nominal strength of 1,000 men. After a single battle it often occurred that a draft of anonymous reinforcements numbering 500, or more, would arrive on the Front to replace the casualties and, sometimes, even then not all the gaps were filled. In some battalions casualties were so high that by the end of the war a battalion with normal complement of 1,000 men would have seen in excess of 5,000 soldiers pass through it.

The commonly quoted highest rate of attrition in a single battalion, in a single action, is that of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment at Beaumont Hamel, on the 1st July 1916 in the First Battle of the Somme. After 30 minutes of combat, of the 801 infantrymen who 'went over the top' only 68 remained fit for duty. As is the case almost everywhere, only the names of those that died are recorded at the Newfoundland Memorial Park at Beaumont Hamel.

It is, therefore, it with some relief that the Great War student learns there were individuals who did not dwell among the very highest echelons, but who nevertheless left their mark and were by no means anonymous whatever their fate.

Below is listed a brief biography of a small selection of such individuals:

N.B.: Legend of awards:- VC = Victoria Cross (highest British military award for valour; DSO = Distinguished Service Order; DSC = Distinguished Service Cross; DCM = Distinguished Conduct Medal; MC = Military Cross; MM = Military Medal; DFC = Distinguished Flying Cross; Bar = Indicates two separate awards of the same medal to the same individual.

Corporal William Amey, VC, MM (1881 - 1940)

8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment (a.k.a. The Aston Pals).

William Amey was a classic example of the mouse that roared. Totally anonymous until the 4 November 1914, this small and slight 27-year-old suddenly gained fame at Landrecies, France by the following actions:

* He led his platoon against German machine guns positions that had been missed by the advancing troops in a fog-obscured landscape. He captured 50 Germans and their machine guns.

* He attacked, alone, a fortified machine gun post. He killed two Germans and forced the others to retreat into an underground storeroom where they surrendered.

* Again, he attacked alone, another machine-gun post and captured yet another 20 Germans.

William Amey was awarded the VC for this day's work. Not a small man to kick sand into the face of.

Brigadier Christopher D'Arcy Bloomfield Saltern Baker, (1878 - 1949).

Machine Gun Corps/Tank Corps.

Christopher Baker was a retired army captain in August 1914. He came out of retirement to enlist and was assigned as a driver of military staff cars. Somehow he became involved in the development of the machine-gun and the tactics for its deployment. He was appointed commandant of the British Machine Gun School in France and, eventually, of the new Machine Gun Corps.

From the driver of the Generals, to the General Officer Commanding of the Tank Corps in less than four years.

Captain William 'Billy' Bishop, VC, DSO and Bar, MC, DFC. (1884 - 1956).

Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force.

Billy Bishop was a near 'wash-out' at flying school because he was as a poor pilot with a penchant for crashing aircraft. He came into his own on the Western Front. Usually flying alone, he was the top Canadian ace and the second highest scorer of the RFC/RAF with 72 victories.

He was awarded the VC for shooting down, single-handedly, four German aircraft on Estmourmel airfield at Cambrai on the 2nd June 1917.

Bishop claimed ' Give me the aeroplane I want and I'll go over Berlin any night - or day - and come back too, with any luck'.

For political reasons, he was taken off combat flying in June 1918; otherwise, he may have exceeded the top RFC/RAF fighter-ace Edward Mannock who was killed in July 1918.

Bishop ended the war as squadron commander and lived to serve his country as a recruiter in the Second World War.

Lieutenant Edmund Charles Blunden, MC. (1896 - 1974).

Royal Sussex Regiment.

Edmund Blunden was a graduate of Queen's College Oxford, and a noted intellectual, essayist and poet. In 1915, at the age of 19, he volunteered for the Army and served in many engagements with the Royal Sussex Regiment (1st South Down Battalion) in France and Belgium: 1915, Festubert; 1916 Neuve Chapelle, Fromelles, The Somme and Ypres; 1917, Passchendaele; 1918, The Somme.

In June 1916 Blunden was awarded the MC.

In 1928 he wrote an autobiography, Undertones of War, that was, and still is, judged as the definitive biographical account of the Great War by a serving soldier, and the one against which other accounts are judged.

Blunden felt obliged for the rest of his life to support his comrades who had also survived the Western front.

Lieutenant Colonel Roland Boys Bradford, VC, DSO, MC. (1892 - 1917).

Durham Light Infantry.

Roland Bradford had the distinction of being, at the age of 25, the youngest British Brigadier General in the British Army in the Great War. His award of the VC was gained at Eaucourt l'Abbaye on the 1st October 1916 whilst commanding the 1/9th Territorial Battalion of the Durham Light Infantry.

He was killed on the 10th November 1917 at Cambrai whilst serving as Brigadier General with the 186th Infantry Brigade - one of 100 generals that died in the Great War.

His brother George also was awarded the VC, posthumously, for valour during the Zeebrugge Raid, Belgium on 23rd April 1918. Only four pairs of brothers have been awarded the VC.

Yet another brother died in action in the Great War.

V.A.D. Nurse Vera Mary Brittain, (1893- 1970)

Vera Brittain had a privileged background as the daughter of Thomas Brittain, a prominent British industrialist. In 1914, after graduating from Somerville College, Oxford, she began a relationship with Roland Leighton, a friend of her brother. In August 1914 both men volunteered for the New Army and, after the usual induction training, were sent to the Western Front. In August 1915, Vera and Roland became engaged. Roland was killed in action on 23rd December 1915.

In 1915, a distraught Vera joined the Voluntary Aide Detachment (VAD) as a nurse and served in England, Malta and, from August 1917, on the Western Front (France).

After the war she published an autobiographical account of her wartime experiences entitled Testament of Youth. Much later, in 1998, after her death, the correspondence she had had with Roland, her brother and other male friends, all of who had died on the Western Front, was published.

Her poignant story of intimate loss truly reflected the distress and grief that was so bravely borne by so many of her young contemporaries. It is an important aspect of the war that should not be forgotten when their men folk are so properly remembered.

Lieutenant Arthur Royal 'Roy' Brown, DSC and Bar, (1893 - 1944). Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force.

Roy Brown was a Canadian RNAS/RAF fighter ace (11 victories), whose main fame arose from what he didn't do rather than what he did.

What he didn't do was, as Flight Commander of 9 Naval Squadron, shoot down on the 21st April 1918 the German Flying Circus commander Manfred Albrecht von Richthofen. Known as the Red Baron - due to his use of red-painted aircraft - Richthofen's red Fokker Dr.1. triplane glided to the ground with him dead at the controls, killed by a single bullet wound to the abdomen, the bullet having struck him at angle commensurate with it having being fired from the ground. Recent research (2003) indicates it was a British 0.303 rifle or machine gun bullet. Although Australian machine gunners using 0.303 ammunition were in several plausible locations to have fired the bullet, it equally could have been fired by any one of a myriad of Lee Enfield 0.303 rifle bearing infantrymen from their trenches. There is little doubt now that Lieutenant Brown did not fire the fatal round from his aircraft.

Chaplain Philip 'Tubby' Thomas Byard Clayton, MC, (1885 - 1972)

Tubby Clayton was born in Australia of British parents who returned to England when he was two years of age. He volunteered as a chaplain to the British Army and, in 1915, was assigned to the Western Front. There he was requested by Neville Talbot, the senior chaplain of the British 6th Infantry Division, to help in the setting up a place of rest, recreation and sanctuary for the soldiers in the Ypres Salient; unusually for the time, the use of military ranks on the premises was to be strongly discouraged. The chosen site was in the Flanders town of Poperinghe a few miles outside the infamous Ypres Salient battlefield. The building was named Talbot House in memory of Chaplain Talbot's brother who was killed at Zillebeck in the Salient.

Talbot House soon became to be known to its countless soldier-clients as Toc H. - the telegraphese code for the letters TH. The loft of the building was converted into an Anglican Chapel for those who needed spiritual support and religious education, and the rest of the building was devoted rest and recreation.

Clayton's energy, organisational ability and caring manner soon made Toc H a favourite rendez-vous for the troops around Ypres.

For his services to the troops in Flanders, Clayton was awarded the MC in 1917.

After the war the Toc H Centre was opened in London and became the focus of a worldwide Christian movement.

Talbot House is still in existence in Poperinghe on Gasthuisstraat and now has residential and conference facilities and a small museum.

Lance/Corporal William Harold Coltman, VC, DCM and bar, MM and bar (1891 - 1974). 1/6th Territorial Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment.

William Coltman was an amazing paradox. A conscientious objector who volunteered for the Army in January 1915, and then, at his own request, served as a regimental stretcher-bearer, he became the most decorated British Non-Commissioned Officer (NCO) of the Great War.

In June 1915 Coltman, aged 24, was sent to France with the 1/6th Territorial Battalion of the North Staffordshire (Prince of Wales) Regiment. He immediately raised with his commanding officer the problem of his religious belief as a member of the Brethren Sect. He was permitted to serve as a non-combattant stretcher-bearer in 'A' Company, and wore the distinctive red-cross brassard at all times when he was on active service.

Thereafter, his service record was one of outstanding dedication and service to his comrades over many months of trench duty, garnering an exceptional array of awards for gallantry - DCM and bar, MM and bar as well as the ultimate accolade, the VC.

The VC was awarded for his extraordinary devotion to duty when on 3rd October 1918 at Mannequin Hill, near Sequehart, France, he sought out wounded infantrymen left behind by his retiring battalion. He dressed their wounds and made three separate forays to carry the wounded on his back to their own lines. It is said he worked unceasingly to care for the wounded for over 48 hours.

The respect that with which this junior non-combattant NCO must have been held by his own comrades can only be imagined.

Boy Seaman First Class John Travers Cornwell, VC, (1900-1916). Royal Navy.

John Cornwell was a 16-year-old Royal Navy volunteer who served on HMS Chester at the Battle of Jutland in May 1916. His duty station was in the forward gun turret. HMS Chester soon ran into four German cruisers that remorselessly pounded her with 17 high calibre shells; four of which reduced Cornwell's turret to a shambles leaving the entire crew wounded or killed. Cornwell was mortally wounded by several shell fragments in the chest, but continued to man his post stoically awaiting orders until taken away after the battle was over.

He died ashore at Grimsby General Hospital two days later on the 2nd June 1916. Cornwell was buried in a military grave in Grimsby but, after the King approved the posthumous award of the VC, his body was exhumed and reburied with full naval and civil honours in the Manor Park Cemetery in London.

Until recently, the exploits of Seaman Cornwell had largely been forgotten outside his family. But recent media interest has created a new awareness.

Lieutenant Maurice James Dease, VC, (1889 - 1914) and Private Sidney Frank Godley, VC, (1889 - 1957)

4th Battalion Royal Fusiliers

Maurice Dease and Sidney Godley were two British soldiers from radically different backgrounds whom fate put together to achieve singular renown. They won on the same day, in the same incident, respectively; the first VC of the Great War and the first VC awarded to a Private soldier in the Great War.

Dease, was the son of a prominent Irish family whose father was a Justice of the Peace, in London, England. He was a professional soldier and graduate of Sandhurst, and the Machine Gun Officer of the 4th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. Whilst Godley, was the son of an Essex painter and decorator, who joined the British Army as a regular soldier in 1909 and went to France in August 1914 as an infantryman with his battalion.

The incident occurred at Nimy, a village just north of Mons in Flanders, on the 23rd August 1915. The battalion was tasked with providing protection for all the crossings at Nimy of the Mons - Condé Canal.

Early in the morning of the 23rd August 1914, several German columns approached the crossings of the canal. Dease's unit, 'A' Company awaited them giving covering for the Nimy railway bridge onto which the German advance was concentrated. Inexorably, Dease's machine-gunners were knocked out one by one, and Dease was forced to dash between his machine-guns to maintain a continuous field of fire. In the process he was wounded on four separate occasions but continued to maintain effective fire on the advancing Germans. The fifth wound proved mortal.

At this point, Private Godley volunteered to go forward under heavy fire to man one of 'A' Company machine guns. Godley effectively maintained fire for more than two hours against continuous hostile return-fire, thus allowing his Company to retire, until he was badly wounded twice and his machine-gun damaged. Despite his wounds he dismantled the gun and threw the parts in the Canal. Unable to retire and join his Company, he was taken prisoner by the Germans and interned for The Duration.

It is claimed that Godley was the inspiration for Captain Bruce Bairnfather's Great War cartoon character 'Old Bill' who depicted the best of the 'old soldier' attitude in a humorous way. Certainly, Godley himself believed this to be the case.

Captain James Churchill Dunn, (1871 - 1955) DSO, MC and bar, DCM.

Royal Army Medical Corps.

James Dunn served with the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Welch Fusiliers for three years (aged 43 - 46 years) on the Western Front as a Royal Army Medical Corps Regimental Medical Officer.

Despite his official non-combattant status, he is reported as having participated in trench raids and other such martial activities.

In 1938, Dunn privately published his memoirs in a book entitled The War the Infantry Knew 1914-1919: A Chronicle of Service in France and Belgium. It proved to be highly influential and sold well. Not least because he was highly critical of Headquarters Staff Officers whilst being generally complimentary of professional soldiers at the battalion level. He was one of the first of the 'Lions led by Donkeys' school, although he was by no means as rabid about it as some of those who followed. His book was strongly endorsed by his fellow RWF officers Siegfreid Lorraine Sassoon and Robert von Ranke Graves who both became Great War authors of renown.

Dunn's book was reprinted in 1989 and is still in print: Abacus 1994, ISBN 0349106355.

Admiral Sir William Reginald 'Blinker' Hall (1871 - 1943).

Royal Navy.

Blinker Hall - he had a chronic, nervous facial tic - was the Captain of HMS Queen Mary at the out-break of war after a long distinguished career at sea. Three months after the Great War began, he became chronically ill and was transferred to shore duty as Director of Naval Intelligence (DNI). Hall immediately set out to reorganise the Cryptology Section, and transferred its mainly civilian cryptographers to new more spacious accommodation, designated as Room 40, at the old Admiralty Building in Whitehall, London. He also established a series of radio-detection posts along the eastern facing British coastline overseeing the Continent.

A fortunate lucky break at the beginning of the Great War, had delivered the key German naval codes - called the Magdeburg codebook - into the hands of the Royal Navy. By skilfully using this information, Room 40 was able intercept any coded radio-message sent out by German warships across the Seven Seas.

Atypically, Hall was willing to share the information gleaned by Room 40 with all the other British Secret Services such as MI5, SIS, MI6 and the Special Branch at Scotland Yard.

Amongst his many successes were three particularly important breakthroughs:

* The first was the crucial intercept of the infamous Zimmermann Telegram on the 17th January 1917. (Also discussed in more detail elsewhere on the WFA website). This asked the German Ambassador in New York to forward a message to the President of Mexico suggesting that his army should attack the American territories formerly belonging to Mexico, e.g. the State of Texas. It also suggested that Mexico should try to suborn the Japanese onto the side of Germany and the other Central Powers. Three months later the previously vacillating United States President and Congress declared war on Germany on the 6th April 1917.

* The second was the provision of important intelligence to the British commanders of the surface fleet about German naval intentions and movements. Unfortunately, the Royal Navy did not always utilise the information as robustly as they might have, e.g. at the Battle of Jutland in May/June 1916.

* The third was the immense effort that Room 40 put into the antisubmarine campaign: the failure of which would have probably caused the Allies to lose to the War, or at least would have forced Britain's withdrawal from a prominent role in it.

Despite his earlier history of poor health, Admiral Hall had a busy retirement and joined the Home Guard serving until his death in 1943.

It is most unlikely that Admiral Hall ever set foot on the Western Front, or any other foreign theatre of war, during the Great War. But the actions of his Room 40 unit had an immeasurable positive effect on British fortunes on the Western Front as it did across The Globe.

Major George Lanoe Hawker, VC, DSO. (1890 - 1916).

Royal Engineers and 6 Squadron Royal Flying Corps

Although the British did not have a formal accreditation of 'fighter ace' as did the French and German airforces after 1915, if there had been one then Captain Hawker would have been the first of the British aces; he was also the first fighter pilot to be awarded the VC in aerial combat.

He was a victim (11th) of the famous German ace Manfred von Richthofen - the Red Baron - who shot down Hawker's Airco DH-2 fighter during a dogfight over Bapaume in the Somme battlefied on the 23rd November 1916. Hawker's grave is unknown.

Hawker won his award of the DSO for a raid in a BE -2 on the German Zeppelin factory at Gontrode using hand-grenades. Even more remarkably, his VC was awarded for destroying single-handed three German aircraft in an engagement over Passchendaele, Flanders, on 25th July 1915, in a Bristol Scout using only a single-shot cavalry carbine mounted at 45 degrees to the fuselage (to avoid hitting his propeller). His opponents all had machine guns.

Commander Norman Douglas Holbrook, VC. (1888 -1976). Royal Navy - Submarines

Commander Holbrook was one of a small hardy breed of submariners who late 1914 took the old and obsolete submarine B11. down through the Bay of Biscay into the Mediterranean Sea to fight the Turks in the Dardarnelles Straits.

On the 13th December 1914 Holbrook and his crew nursed it through the deep and rapid currents at the Narrows, and several rows of mines, to sink with a single torpedo the 10,000 tons Turkish battleship Messudiyek. He then safely negotiated his return to the Mediterranean Sea under constant threat of sea-mines, torpedo boats and land artillery.

A singular victory in a very unhappy episode for the Mediterranean Fleet, and for which Holbrook received the Victoria Cross; the first awarded to a submariner.

General Sir Henry Horne (1861-1929). First Army, British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

At the outbreak of war in 1914, Henry Horne was a 53-year-old Brigadier-General with service in the Boer War. He became the anonymous senior British General of the Western Front as he left no memoirs and, on his instructions, his wife destroyed all his private papers after his death. The main source of information about him is his dairies and papers that are held by the Imperial War Museum, London.

Nevertheless, he was one of the more successful British Army commanders on the Western Front (First Army from September 1916 to the Armistice). He is one of those credited with the development of the 'creeping barrage' (French C-inC Nivelle, and 4th/5th Army's Rawlinson were two others) giving cover to troops as they advanced behind a wall of fire. He was also closely involved in the development of new infantry and artillery tactics and other technical advances.

Horne had great success in April 1917 at Vimy, and afterwards, particularly with the Canadians. Also he had relatively good results in the dire days of the German Spring Offensive in March 1918 and the100 Days Campaign in the summer of 1914.

He was the only British artillery officer to be given the command of an Army in the Great War.

Major-General Neville Reginald Howse, VC, (1863 - 1930)

Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC)

Neville Howse was born and educated in England graduating as a medical doctor. He emigrated to Australia but returned to England for postgraduate training. In 1897 he returned to Australia.

In January 1900 he was commissioned as a lieutenant in the New South Wales Medical Corps. He was soon in South Africa participating as a medical officer in the Boer War and won his VC that year at Vredefort, making him the first Australian VC.

On the outbreak of the Great War he was appointed Assistant Director of Medical Services for the 1st Australian Division.

On Z Beach at Gallipoli (later named ANZAC Cove) he personally organised the clearance of the wounded from the beaches and supervised their treatment. Later he claimed that the medical facilities provided by the British Army was 'inadequate to the point of negligence'.

In September 1915 he was made commander of all of the ANZAC Medical Services and in December became Director of Australian Imperial Force (AIF), world-wide.

Howse's great achievement, apart from his VC, was to establish the Australian Army Medical Corps (AAMC) and to strongly develop its independence and efficacy.

Dr. Elsie Maude Inglis, (1864 - 1917). Scottish Women's Hospitals.

Elsie Inglis was born in Nynee Tal, India; her father was the Commissioner of Rohilcund District.

She was one of the first British female doctors (1892) and an active suffragist. At the outbreak of the Great was she founded the Scottish Women's Hospitals organisation.

Elsie Inglis' Women's Hospitals were not hospitals for treating women, but rather hospitals staffed by women for the war wounded.

Typically, the British War Office refused her offer to provide a fully female staffed and equipped military hospital in 1914. An official advised her 'My good lady, go home and sit still'.

The French were more sensible, and a unit was established at the Abbaye de Royaumont in France in December 1914. It was followed by a second at Villers Cotterets in 1917.

Meanwhile, in 1915 other women's units went to Serbia, Salonika , Corsica and, in 1916, Russia. Inglis herself served in 1916 in Serbia, and in 1917 in Russia.

Dr. Inglis died in 1917 from complications arising from an infection acquired in Russia.

Her biographer described her as mercurial and 'someone who made Florence Nightingale look a part-time care assistant in comparison'.

Winston Churchill's comment on her death was that she would 'shine forever in history'.

Brigadier Evan Maclean Jack, (1873 - 1951).

Royal Engineers.

Evan Jack was a military cartographer at the outbreak of war and was immediately posted to the British Expeditionary Forces Headquarters on the Western Front as Head of the Topographical (Mapping) Section. At the time, the British battle maps of France were of the 1:80,000 scale and those of Belgium were 1:20,000 or 1:40,000, and were in limited supply.

Jack evolved a completely new kind of trigonometric survey map with new functions. Firstly, the new grid maps had to accommodate the requirement of the 'indirect fire' of the new long-range artillery. This meant that the trajectories of artillery shells could be predicted from maps with accuracy, and targets out of sight of, or concealed from, the artillery guns, could be successfully bombarded. Secondly, the new maps had to show with some accuracy the location of the enemy trench system. And, to achieve currency, had to be frequently updated by overprinting; often daily in the more active sectors. A system of transparent overlays was also developed to permit even more accurate up dating to be made. The scaling of these maps was uniformly enhanced to 1: 10,000 or 1:20:000, whilst trench maps went as high as 1:5,000. Unfortunately, until the end of 1916, the BEF commanders' fear of producing up-to-date trench maps of their own positions meant the British troops had to capture German trench maps to fully understand their own network! Which, to say the least, compromised Jack's efforts to some extent.

Brigadier Jack also organised and oversaw the printing of these maps on a huge scale both in France and back in the UK, using the most up-to-technology currently available.

It is estimated that by the end of the war that over 30 million-war maps had been printed and supplied to the BEF.

Brigadier Jack never fired a shot in anger in the Great War, but his contribution to the war effort was inestimable.

Brigadier-General James Lochhead Jack, DSO (1880 - 1962)

2nd Scottish Rifles (Cameronians).

Brigadier Jack was one of the outstanding professional soldiers of the British Army who had a meteoritic rise during the 51 months of the Great War: from a 34-year-old Captain to a 38-year-old Brigadier General.

He is notable on two counts in particular. Firstly there was his belief that military standards could be, and should be, maintained even in the depths of a cruel war. In this respect his own conduct as a British officer was exemplary, particularly during his period as a battalion commander from August 1916 to September 1918. Secondly, he religiously maintained a personal diary closely detailing trench life on the Western Front. Its later publication in 1964, after his death, in an edited version entitled, General Jack's Diary, 1914 -1918: The Trench Diary of a Brigadier-General, by the eminent historian John Terraine, was itself a notable event.

In retirement, James Jack, raised and commanded the Market Harborough Battalion of the Home Guard during the Second World War.

Captain Albert Jacka, VC, MM and bar, (1893 - 1932).

Australian Imperial Force.

Albert Jacka is today remembered as the, or one of the, most famous Australian military heroes. (See: John Simpson Kirkpatrick [John Simpson] below).

He was also particularly notable as a Great War soldier who contemporaneously wrote in his personal diary what proved to be a virtual description of his citation for the award of the VC for bravery at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 20th May 1915. It read: 'Great battle at 3am. Turks captured large proportion of our trench. D Coy called into the front line. Lieut. Hamilton shot dead. I led a section of men and captured the trench. I bayoneted two Turks, shot five, took three prisoners and cleared the whole trench. I held the trench alone for 15 minutes against a heavy attack. Lieut. Crabbe informed me that I would be recommended.

Albert Jacka enlisted the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) on 8th September 1914 aged 21. On the 22nd December 1914 his unit departed for Europe, but was diverted to Egypt. On the 26th April 1915 Jacka's unit landed Z Beach - now ANZAC Cove - on the 26th April 1915.

On the 19th May 1915, Jacka's inspired action at Courtney's Post in the ANZAC enclave won him the first VC awarded to a member of the AIF.

Thereafter, on 27th August 1915, Jacka received his first promotion to Lance Corporal. It began a gradual progress to the rank of Captain in March 1917. In between times he had been awarded the MM at Posiéres on the Somme in August 1916. and a bar to his MM at Bullecourt, on the Hindenburg Line on the 8th April 1917. Concerning his award of the MM at Posiéres, a prominent Australian historian, C.E.W. Bean, described it thus: '?stands as the most dramatic and individual act of individual audacity in the history of the AIF'. Adding: 'Everyone who knows the facts, knows that Jacka earned the Victoria Cross three times'.

After receiving several serious war wounds requiring hospital treatment and, on one occasion, repatriation to the UK, in May 1918 Jacka was gassed and received a potentially fatal throat wound which required another repatriation, this time for long and intensive treatment. He was still in convalescence at the Armistice and only returned to Australia in September 1919 where he received a hero's welcome.

He died of nephritis (kidney failure), exacerbated by his war wounds and work stress, on 17th January 1932, aged 39 years.

Captain Baron Trevenen James, (1889 - 1915).

Royal Engineers/Royal Flying Corps.

Baron James' involvement with the Great War was brief but it was highly productive.

On the 13th July 1915 he was killed by a shell fired at his aircraft whilst he flew a solo test mission over the enemy lines. He was evaluating wireless equipment that had been largely developed by himself and Captain Donald Swain Lewis, RFC.

One of his enduring achievements was the development of the 'clock code' that established the relative positions of targets for the artillery. The practice became widely used during the War for other applications, and is still widely used.

The fate of James' colleague and close collaborator, Donald Lewis, was even, if possible, more ill-fated: Lewis was shot down on the 10th April 1916 by the very guns of the battery with which he had been co-operating.

Major-General Hugh Sandham Jeudwine, (1862 - 1942)

Royal Artillery.

Hugh Jeudwine was one of those Generals of the Great War who was notable for being heartily disliked by officers and other ranks alike but who, when push came to shove, had something exceptional to offer.

In his earlier career in South Africa, Jeudwine became known derogatorily as 'The Boer Crusher' and was avoided whenever possible by his contemporaries.

Transferred to the Western Front in 1914, he made himself, true to form, 'heartily disliked' by one and all in General Allenby's 5th Army.

However, when it came to the Passchendaele Offensive in 1917 he was revolutionary in asking for 'feedback' from both his officers and men so 'lessons could be learned, and improvements made'; by no means the common train of thought of the British commanders of the day.

It was also some of his ideas that went into a pamphlet (unpublished) on defensive tactics which led to success in the holding of the line against the shocks of the German Spring Offensive in 1918. In particular, it was Jeudwine's 55th Division at Givinchy in the Ypres Salient on the 9th April 1918, to whom the BEF's commander Field Marshal Haig's 'Backs to the Wall' speech most applied. The Portuguese units to 55th Division's left had broken, leaving a three-mile gap in the defence line. Concentrating his defence on the high ground, and yielding the lower lying areas so as to move to more defensible terrain, the 55th Division held the German Sixth Army and saved the day. Later, Haig acknowledged Jeudwine's Division's crucial role in the defence of Ypres and the Channel ports.

Private John Simpson Kirkpatrick, (1892 - 1915). Australian Imperial Force (AIF).

If ever there was an individual in the Great War who personified Winston Churchill's 'a riddle wrapped in puzzle inside an enigma' it was John Kirkpatrick.

Kirkpatrick was an English merchant seaman who jumped his ship in Australia in 1910, aged 18, and spent the next four years working as an itinerant labourer. Seeing the Australian mobilisation as the means of a free boat-ride back to the UK, he volunteered for the Australian Imperial Force using the enlistment name of John Simpson. His troopship was diverted to Egypt.

In March 1915 Simpson found himself on the beach at what became to be known as Anzac Cove, on the Gallipoli Peninsular as a member of the 3rd Field Ambulance, Australian Army Medical Services, 1st Australian Division.

Even by Australian standards he was a maverick soldier, and with the acquisition of a stray donkey(s), named variably as Abdul, Murphy, Duffy or Queen Elizabeth, he became an entirely independent one-man casualty recovery unit, whilst his grateful and understanding commanding officer 'looked the other way'. Working in the highly dangerous conditions of the ANZAC enclave, he recovered hundreds of wounded soldiers and, with the help of his donkey, conveyed them to the relative safety of the Field Ambulance.

Inevitably, on the 19th May 1915, after just 24 days in action, he was killed, aged 23, by a burst of Turkish machine-gun fire in the infamous Shrapnel Alley. He was on yet another recovery mission.

As the years have passed the legend of John Simpson/Kirkpatrick and his donkey has increasingly caught the imagination of the Australian public. In terms of recognition he now possibly exceeds that of any Great War ANZAC soldier, including the VCs.

Five monuments have been erected to his memory in Australia and one in his hometown of South Shields, England. But two commendations for a VC were turned down. A 'Mentioned in Despatches' was his only official recognition at the time.

Professor Robert Jones, (1858 - 1933). Consultant,

Royal Army Medical Corps.

Robert Jones was a famous orthopaedic surgeon at Liverpool University, England, at the outbreak of war.

As Director of Military Orthopaedics for the British Army he establish specialised military orthopaedic hospitals for the management, care and rehabilitation of wounded British soldiers from all the theatres of the Great War. He also employed many young and able American surgeons who were attracted to his work and philosophy.

His contribution to the recovery and rehabilitation of many wounded British soldiers was an important factor in the maintenance of morale, and permitted the majority to return to military duty or to a useful civilian life.

Private Eric Henri Kennington, (1888 - 1960). 13th Battalion, (Territorials) London Regiment (The Kensingtons).

Eric Kennington, was a professional Royal Academy artist. He only had a short war as an infantryman on the Western Front - from August 1914 to June 1915 - because he was severely injured in a non-combat accident. He was invalided out of the Army in August 1917.

However, in 1916, whilst still convalescing, he produced a painting of his fellow soldiers in the Kensingtons entitled The Kensingtons at Laventie. This painting, showing men in a state of exhaustion after battle, had an immediate impact and caused a sensation when it was put on public display. It launched Kennington as a 'war artist'.

On his release from the Army in 1917, he became an official war artist for the British War Propaganda Bureau producing iconic war pictures such as Gassed and wounded, Back to billets and The Die-hards (1st.Battalion, Middlesex Regiment).

Kennington's artwork did much to enlighten the British public to the realities of the war on the Western Front.

After the war, he was commissioned to illustrate T.E. Lawrence's highly rated book The Seven Pillars of Wisdom.

Admiral Roger John Brownlow Keyes, (1872 - 1945). Royal Navy.

This Great War sailor was likened by Winston Churchill to having 'the spirit of Nelson and Drake'; being of a similar anti-establishment bent. He repeated clashed with his superiors over what he considered to be lack of aggression and determination.

The strength of his case was proven in the inconclusive sea-battles of the Darndanelles Operations in 1914/15, his own early success in the Battle of the Heligoland Bight in August 1914 and his later success from January 1918 onwards with the much maligned Dover Patrol.

Admiral Keyes' constant battle with the German U-boats operating of out of the Belgian Ports, culminating with the only partially successful Zeebrugge Raid in April 1918, nonetheless had a deleterious effect on the efficacy of the operations of the German U-boats. And, particularly in the case of the Zeebruge Raid, it had a huge morale boosting effect on the civilians and the armed forces at a time when the stresses of a long war were becoming apparent and morale was relatively low.

Sergeant-Piper Daniel Logan Laidlaw, VC (1875 - 1950).

7th (Service) Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borders.

Piper Laidlaw was an ex-Regular Army soldier who re-enlisted in September 1914.

On the 25th September 1915, Laidlaw's battalion was in trenches at Hill 70, north of Lens, France, awaiting to advance behind a cloud of British generated chlorine gas. Unfortunately, the wind turned and the Scots troops hesitated. Laidlaw's commander ordered him to get the troops moving. So he jumped up onto the parapet of the trench and, parading up and down amidst bursts of machine gun-fire, played on his pipes the Scottish air 'Blue Bonnets over the Border'. Mercifully partially obscured by the gas clouds, Laidlaw's actions inspired the Scottish Borders and other adjacent units out of their trenches. Laidlaw then followed urging them on with his pipes and another tune 'The Standard on the Braes o' Mar', although by now wounded by shrapnel in both the left leg and knee. The Scottish troops obtained their objective and Laidlaw limped back to his own lines.

He was awarded the VC for this action.

Captain William Leefe-Robinson, VC (1895 - 1918).

Worcestershire Regiment, attached to 39 Squadron Royal Flying Corps.

Leefe-Robinson was born in India at Kaima Betta, near Mecara. He joined the British Army, Worcester Regiment, at the outbreak of war and then transferred to the RFC.

In September 1916, he was stationed in England at 39 Home Defence Squadron's base at Sutton's Farm in Essex. Aged just 21, he took off on a night flight in a BE-2C biplane fighter on the 2nd September in search of German raider airships. He encountered one of a fleet of 16 (a wooden framed Schutte-Lanz, serial number SL.11). Immediately, at a height of 15,000 feet and a range of 500ft, he attacked expending two drums of the new explosive/incendiary Brock-Pomery ammunition but without apparent success. Approaching for a third time, and using a third ammunition drum containing the also new Buckingham incendiary bullets, he raked the airship from below. As he wheeled round, the German airship burst into flames and crashed into the ground near Cuffley, London, burning to death all the 12 crew except the Captain, Lieutnant Heinrich Mathy, who had jumped to his death.

The impact of Leefe-Robinson's success on the general public, who had greatly feared that these airships were impregnable, was tremendous, and within a very short time he was awarded the Victoria Cross. His was only the fifth VC to be awarded for active service in England.

Leefe-Robinson's flying career came to an abrupt end when his Bristol fighter was shot down in France in April 1917. Wounded, he was captured and interned by the Germans.

Repatriated in poor health after the Armistice, he succumbed to the then rampart Spanish Flu epidemic and died of cardiac failure on the 31st December 1916.

Mr. Alfred Leete, (1882 - 1933).

Illustrator/cartoonist for the London Opinion newspaper.

The short-lived Alfred Lette was one of those iconic originators of the 'sideshows of war' whom we all assume had enormous influence on events but who, as later analysis tells us, have very little impact at all at the time.

Mr. Lette designed and drew the famous cartoon of Lord Kitchener, Secretary of State for War, in full uniform calling for volunteers for his New Army that appeared on the front cover of The London Opinion newspaper. It was published on the 5th September 1914 - just a month after the Great War began.

Such was its affect on the jingoistic general public that the newspaper was inundated with requests for copies, including one from the UK Parliamentary Recruiting Committee. The committee then reissued it as a direct recruitment poster with Kitchener's addition of the words 'God Save the King'. (See: A colour reproduction of the actual poster on the WFA website: Field Marshal Kitchener of Khartoum).

The poster was only widely distributed throughout the country from the end of September 1914. So, the peak of recruitment had already passed and had slowed perceptively after the bad news and casualty lists of the Battle and Retreat from Mons began to sink in. Recruitment for the Army never again rose to the hectic scale of early August 1914.

Nevertheless, over the years the poster has held an aura of fascination and it remains, today, one of the graphic icons which instantly identify the Great War.

Major-General George MacIntosh Lindsay, DSO. (1880-1956).

Rifle Brigade/Machine Gun Corps.

George Lindsay was one of those army officers who got an idea in peacetime and carried it through the entire army in wartime. Lindsay's idea was the mass deployment of the machine-gun by the infantry

In 1914, a British battalion was supplied with only two 1912 model Vickers machine-guns for its 1,000 men. And only 300 - 400 were available for the entire British Army. The Germans had many more, starting in 1914 with 12,500 of their 1908 Maxim MG 08's, a number that was increased to more than 100,000 by 1918.

Moreover, in the early years of the war the British used their machine-guns piece-meal, whilst the Germans always tended to use them more effectively grouped together, or in special batteries.

It was when Lindsay was a Instructor at the British Army School of Musketry at Hythe, England from 1913- 1915 that he first got his ideas about the potential power, and tactical value, of the machine-gun: some senior officers at the time thought its use 'unsporting'. He carried this enthusiasm with him when he was posted as instructor to the Machine Gun School in France in 1915, and then as a General Staff Officer and Chief Instructor at the Army Machine Gun School in Grantham, England in 1916. He strongly supported the establishment of an independent Machine Gun Corps in October 1915.

Throughout the war he continued his advocacy of the machine-gun, and its control at the Central level, in both an offensive and defensive role. He was also keen on its motorisation to enhance mobility. His efforts were rewarded by his appointment as Chief Instructor of the British Machine-Gun School in France. This, in turn, led to a command as the Machine-Gun Officer of 1st Army Machine-Gun Brigade in 1918, just in time for his, and others', tactics to be successfully deployed against the 1918 German Spring Offensive.

George Lindsay was awarded the DSO in 1917 and ended his career as a Major-General in the Tanks Corps.

Major William Howard Livens (1889 - 1964).

Royal Engineers.

Major Livens was a civil engineer who volunteered for the army in late 1914. Subsequently he had the distinction of inventing the weapon of war - the Livens Projector - that went fastest from idea to production, just one week. It was also the cheapest to make and deploy. Literally the biggest bang for the tax-payer's buck

This invention came about due to Livens' interest in the early poison gas battles of April 1915 on the Western Front, which in turn led to his transfer to one of the newly formed Royal Engineers' Special Gas Companies. He was quickly put in command of what came to be Z (or Flammenwerfer = Flamethrower) Company which was given the responsibility of developing a British version of the German flamethrower recently introduced on the Western Front. The development did not go well as the effective range was too short. But, nothing dismayed, Livens turned the efforts of Z company to developing projectors to throw incendiaries. The first of these was a simplified version of the ancient siege mortar, and was made from a cut down 12 gallon oil drum. Instead of hurling explosive projectiles, the Livens Projector would hurl over some distance, if somewhat inaccurately, a standard War Department 3 gallon drum of lubricating oil. The detonator rigged drum would explode on impact spreading burning oil in all directions over the target.

On the 25th July 1916, at La Boiselle on the Somme, Z Coy got its chance to deploy the new weapon when the Australians were due to attack Posiéres. Under hostile fire, three sets of the projectors, totalling 80, were dug in 200 yards out in No mans land at the requisite angle of inclination. The barrage of the projectiles was highly successful in neutralising the German machine-gun posts with fire.

Z Coy quickly developed the Mark 2 version which had a longer range - 350 yards - but the BEF commanders wanted an even longer range projector. An electrical fired version was developed which travelled up to 1,300 yards. This third version was successfully used at Messines Ridge in June 1917.

The Livens Projector it was further modified to take gas canisters and these were first trialed, in secret, at Thiepval in September 1916 and Beaumont Hamel in November. The higher air concentration of poisonous gas produced by the projector (as compared from that obtained from the serried ranks of high pressure gas cylinders) was highly effective on the enemy.

The Livens Projector then was given high priority in the Munitions Factories and a fully operational Livens Projector system evolved.

Newer versions continued to be produced with the maximum range finally attaining 2,800 yards and by 1917 the Livens Projector became a standard item of weaponry for the British and Empire battalions on the Western Front.

Total production of the Livens Projector for the Allies in the Great War exceeded 150,000 units.

Principal Matron, Dame Emma Maud McCarthy, (1836 -1941). British Army Nursing Service.

An Australian who came to England in 1891 to train as a nurse, Maud (she preferred Maud to Emma) McCarthy's career in military medicine began during the Boer War in South Africa where she served with distinction.

In 1902, she took a principal part in the organisation of the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service and, later, the re-organisation of the Army Nursing Service and the Army Nursing Reserve.

With this background she was well prepared to go to war with the British Expeditionary Force as Principal Matron, and sailed on the first BEF troopship to France in August 1914.

McCarthy located her base behind the lines at Abbeville near the coast, in north-west France, and throughout the Great War was responsible for all British Nursing Services on the Western Front.

Using all possible means and sources, including nurses from the Empire, she tried to keep the nursing services in step with the ever-increasing numbers of wounded and sick on the Western Front, and achieved remarkable success.

McCarthy also began a revolution in the ways that military nurses were employed: she gave them much more responsibility and enhanced their practical skills so they could assume an increasing amount of the huge workload from military medical officers, surgeons and pharmacists.

The attention and care that her nurses selflessly gave to the millions of British and Empire war wounded and sick, gave an incredible boost to the morale of the men in the trenches, and helped them to retain their humanity amidst the madness of war.

Over 11 million men passed through the hands of the Royal Army Medical Corps/Army Medical Services during the Great War, so all but a minority of the active servicemen would have been cared for by the female military nurses at some point.

Colonel John McCrae, (1872 - 1918).

Canadian Army Medical Services.

A Canadian by birth, John McCrae was 42 when the Great War began and, although plagued with asthma, he had a long prior history of military service, including the Boer War, with the Royal Canadian Artillery.

In August 1914, he offered his services to the Canadian Army, combining his experience in medicine and the artillery, by becoming Brigade Surgeon of the 1st Brigade of the Royal Canadian Field Artillery. His role, as he saw it, was strange combination of practising both skills when the need arose, plus that of performing the burial services for soldiers who died whilst in his care.

It was while serving in a 1st Artillery Brigade Field Dressing Station in the Ypres Salient in the Spring of 1915 that he had cause to arrange the burial service of a friend. He was so moved by this experience that on the 3rd May 1915 he wrote his poem In Flanders Fields; it subsequently appeared in the famous Punch Magazine of London. The poem has become an oft-quoted classic of the genre.

Until January 1918, McCrae continued to work with the Canadian Army Medical Services in increasingly senior posts, and under great strain, until in January 1918 when he contracted pneumonia and meningitis; probably from a patient(s). These serious infections, and further complications from his chronic asthma, on his already over-stressed constitution, overwhelmed him. He died on the 28th January 1918.

Such was his reputation for hard work and dedication on the Western Front that shortly before McCrae died, the British First Army uniquely appointed him to the post of Consultant Physician.

Messrs. Geoffrey Malins, (1886 - 1940), and John Benjamin McDowell, MC ( ? )


It is not known who actually authorised the two cinematographers, Geoffrey Malins and John McDowell, to go to the Western Front in 1916. But go they did and, largely under active service conditions, made a film about the British Army before and on the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, on the 1st July 1916. But what can be certain, is that no one could have foreseen what a cataclysmic event it proved to be in all the annals of the British Army: 20,000 killed and 60,000 wounded - mostly before breakfast.

The film, entitled The Battle of the Somme, graphically depicts the explosion of huge mines and the troops (allegedly) filmed 'going over the top' into battle, Suitably edited, the monochrome film was shown shortly afterwards in the UK and around the world to awed and shocked cinema audiences. In a period of only two months an audience in excess of 20 millions was given a clear exposé, if somewhat sanitised, of the actualities of trench warfare; a view never formerly depicted in this way.

Even today, the film conveys to modern audiences the stark sense of sacrifice and bravery of it all. And, perhaps most of all, what a poor defence the infantryman of the day had against the hurricane of bullets and shells that he was asked to face.

It is known that the film was made by the film department of the British War Office. The question is who did all the actual 'war' filming? The prime claimant was Geoffrey Malins. There is little doubt he was the senior of the two cinematographers and that he did most of the planning and organisation. But the suspicion is that his assistant John McDowell did most of the action filming. After all, McDowell got the MM 'for courage under fire' from the War Office - and surely they should have known - whilst Geoffrey Malins got an OBE 'for services to the Crown'.

After the war, Malins published his memoires, How I Filmed the War, with never a mention of McDowell. A strange sense of responsibility for the senior partner.

Major Edward Corringham 'Mick' Mannock, VC, MC and bar, DSO and two bars. (1887 - 1918).

Royal Signals/Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force.

Mick Mannock was one of the 'made men' of the Great War. He entered the British Army in 1915 as a private soldier, after internment in Turkey as a British telephone contract manager. Despite an alleged visual defect in one eye, he got himself selected for pilot training and was sent to the Western Front in March 1917 as a fighter pilot.

He proved to be an aggressive and skilled fighter pilot with his own unique and successful flying methodology of which 'Always calibrate your own machine- guns' was just one of his strict rules of combat. He was almost unique amongst the fighter aces of never being beaten in aerial combat.

Major Mannock died, aged 31, on 26th July 1918, hit by ground-fire whilst breaking another of his own strict rules 'Never fly low'. He was the highest scoring (73 victories) British fighter pilot of the Great War.

To be sure, with the British 'ace' system being unofficial and scored in a rather cavalier way without any central 'clearance system', and many 'shared kills' to be apportioned, there were other claimants. But when all the dust settled in 1919, Mannock was officially declared the top British scorer; Mannock personally only claimed 51 victories. More recent studies of the available records put his score as low as 47, but the modern consensus has the figure of 61 kills assigned to him.

His later flying career is of particular interest in that towards the end Mannock was demonstrating clear signs suffering from what we would call today 'combat fatigue' and he should have been rested. If so, he, like many others, may have survived the war.

Major Mannock's body was recovered by the Germans, but the grave was subsequently lost. He is commemorated on the Arras Flying Services Memorial, (to the Missing Airmen) in France.

Mannock's VC was awarded posthumously and as tradition dictates, the nearest relative - the lost long father whom he despised - turned up like the proverbial bad penny and collected his medals from the Sovereign - King George V. It is said that Mannock's father then sold the medals for ?5 and disappeared once again. Fortunately, in time, a benefactor recovered all the medals and they are now on permanent display in the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, north London.

(More biographical details about Major Mannock can be found in the WFA website, as can several articles about the aircraft of the Great War and the engines that powered them).

Mr. William Mills. (1856 -1932).

British inventor and industrialist.

In 1914, the British Expeditionary Force went to war without a really effective hand grenade, although the Germans had one. What for the British was initially a tiresome deficiency in the open warfare of the early months of the war, became a matter of life and death once the war turned into one of static trench warfare. The British tried several formats of hand-grenade in rapid succession; by September 1915, 12 twelve different types of hand grenade had, or were being, evaluated. Not counting types such as the Jam-Tin and Hairbrush Grenades that were produced in the field in Royal Engineers workshops in France from locally available materials.

It was not until May 1915 that a really suitable and reliable design came onto the Western Front in large numbers, and December before it was in ample supply. It was designed and manufactured by an English inventor named William Mills. Mills had the talent to spot how two simple characteristics could be combined to provide the perfect hand grenade for the British soldier. Firstly it was small and oval to fit neatly in the closed fist of the thrower. Second it was thrown overarm like a cricketer bowling a cricket ball: every British schoolboy had learned to bowl a cricket ball. The hand-grenade was segmented like a pineapple for maximum effective fragmentation and the four-second delayed detonator was released by a safety-pin guarded lever only when the grenade had left the throwers' hand. Thirty yards was a commonly achieved throwing distance. It was designated the No. 5 Mills bomb.

A special factory was erected in Birmingham and during the Great War 75 million Mills bombs were produced of which 33 million were supplied to the British and the American Expeditionary Forces (BEF/AEF).

With a small modification, the Mills bomb could be fired from the barrel of a standard infantry rifle, increasing its range considerably. These rifle grenades - Nos. 23 and 36 - became an essential item for the new infantry tactics that developed in the last year of the war.

Mr. Mills was given a knighthood in 1922, and his hand grenade remained in use with the British Army up to the 1960's.

Sergeant Thomas Mottershead, VC, DCM. (1892 - 1917).

20 and 25 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps.

Thomas Mottershead was a civvy street motor mechanic in Widnes, Lancashire. England, who volunteered in early August 1914 and was assigned to service the engines of the RFC.

In June 1916, aged 22, he qualified as a fighter pilot and went into action first with 25 Squadron and then 20 Squadron on the Western Front.

Little is known of his six months flying career, but on the 7th January 1917 he was on patrol at 9,000ft with 20 Squadron over Ploegsteert, Flanders with his observer, when his plane was hit by enemy fire and his petrol tank set on fire. Without any recourse to parachutes, Mottershead, although badly burned, determined to fly the burning aircraft to a crash-landing behind the British lines. The observer was thrown clear and survived, but Mottershead was trapped in the aircraft and badly burned. He died four days later on the 11th January 1917. His courage and endurance indubitably saved the life of his observer.

Mottershead was awarded a posthumous VC; the only non-commissioned officer to win a one in the air in the Great War.

Dr. Charles Samuel Myers, (1873 - 1946).

Consultant Psychiatrist to British Army.

Psychological trauma associated with warfare has long been known in armies, and before the Great War was known by euphemisms such as 'nostalgia', 'broken', 'in despair' or 'homesickness'.

It was the combination of the horror of modern weapons, prolonged static trench warfare and the huge number of men involved that quickly brought to the fore the yet officially unnamed mental breakdown of the soldiers on the Western Front. Many doctors believed it was due to the sudden increase in atmospheric pressure brought on by explosions, and the early names given to the condition were 'Concussion or Commotional (Blown up by shell) Shock'.

By December 1914, 10% of officers and 4% of all ranks had been repatriated to the UK for treatment, although the trench-type warfare had barely begun. Very little in the way of treatment centres were available to deal with the avalanche of cases of this ill-understood condition.

One of the first to seriously consider this problem was Dr. Charles Myers who, in an article submitted to the medical journal Lancet - published February 1915 - coined the phrase 'shell shock' and classified it into two types 'Neurasthenic' (nervous exhaustion) and 'Hysterical' (uncontrolled movements).

In March 1915, Myers was appointed by the War Office as 'Specialist in Nervous Shock'. Here after, Myers worked unceasingly to stir the military medical establishment into action.

It was only after the flood of cases that followed the Somme Offensive in 1916 that Myers was made Consultant to the Army and a serious programme instituted. This programme eventually claimed to return nearly 90% of affected soldiers - one of which was Captain Wilfred Owen, the war-poet - back to duty in a matter of months

Due to the social stigma, and the established regimental mores associated with the condition, only some cases were officially recorded in the British Army, but many more must have suffered to a greater or lesser extent during and after the war.

Although the biggest number of 'shell-shock' cases occurred on the Western Front, other theatres of war such a Gallipoli and Italy, where trench-warfare was the norm, also produced large numbers of cases.

Around, 120,000 Great War veterans were awarded Pensions for 'Psychiatric Disability' (15% of all disability pensions) and another 40,000 were put in the pension classification 'Effort Syndrome' that was usually restricted to officers.

The contribution of Dr. Myers in bringing all this about cannot be under-estimated.

Lieutenant Paul Nash, (1889 - 1946).

Artists Rifles/Hampshire Regiment and British Official War Artist.

Paul Nash was a well-known artist before the Great War and had held one-man shows in 1912 and 1913. He volunteered in August 1914 and served with the Hampshire Regiment at Ypres on the Western Front until seriously injured and invalided out. He had continued to paint whilst on active service and exhibited his paintings to some acclaim.

The Head of the British War Propaganda Bureau asked Nash to become a war artist, and he returned to the Western Front in this capacity in November 1917.

His drawings such as Menin Gate, The Mule Track, The Ypres Salient, Ruined Country and A Howitzer Firing became icons of the time.

Major David Nelson, VC, (1886 - 1918).

Royal Horse Artillery.

As a 28-year-old Sergeant on 1st September 1914, David Nelson, an Irishman, played a leading part in the famous three VC action of 'L'Battery, Royal Horse Artillery at Néry, Flanders.

As junior rank of a gun team of three (Captain Edward Kinder Bradbury, posthumous VC and Battery Sergeant Major George Thomas Dorrell, VC) Nelson helped bring the gun into action under heavy fire. He defied an order to retire when severely wounded and continued to range-set the gun until all the ammunition was exhausted.

Nelson was commissioned in November 1914 and became a Major in 1918. During the German Spring Offensive in 1918, whilst serving with ''D' Battery, 59 Brigade, RFA, he was wounded in action at Lilliers, Pas de Calais, France and died of his wounds on 8th April 1918.

Captain Wilfred Percy Neville, (1894 - 1916).

1st Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment attached to the 8th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment.

One of the better-known eccentricities of the First Day of the Battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, was the idea of Captain Neville to provide four footballs, one for each of the platoons of his company. The balls would be kicked ahead of the advancing troops and the one that penetrated furthest into German territory would win a prize, provided by the Major, for its platoon.

Equally eccentrically, one of the balls bore the painted legend 'The Great European Cup. The Final. East Surreys v Bavarians. Kick off at Zero.

Unfortunately, it was the Final for the Captain, he was killed in the advance.

However, two of the balls are still in existence, one at National Army Museum and the other in the Regimental Museum of the Queen's Regiment in Canterbury, Kent.

The report has a certain poignancy, indicative as it is of the blithe naivety of many of the New Army volunteer soldiers who 'Went Over the Top' that July day in 1916.

Colonel Sir John 'Empire Jack' Norton-Griffiths, (1871 - 1830).

Royal Engineers.

Any army wishing to establish a 'Special Operations Unit' inevitably finds itself with some unorthodox individuals on its hands. John Norton-Griffiths (hereafter N-G) was not only unorthodox; he invented himself, his modus operandi and much else in his special line of work.

Prior to 1914, N-G was a renowned British civil engineer with his own international contracting company specialising in tunnels and sewers and other large-scale underground work. In fact anything to do with holes in the ground, especially in clay soils. To do this exacting work, N-G had trained crews of hardy diggers who were called 'clay-kickers' (hole excavators) and 'moles' (tunnellers).

In December 1914, on his own initiative, N-G approached Field Marshal Lord Kitchener, British Secretary of State for War, proposing that a military special operations unit should be set up to reciprocate and even exceed the known German efforts at excavating mining tunnels under the British defences. Of course, this British initiative would be co-ordinated by N-G and his trained men would form the backbone of the new mine tunnelling force. But Kitchener and the Army brass hesitated.

From late 1914 onwards, the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) commanders in France and Belgium had been concerned about the possibility of the Germans using their renowned engineering skills to excavate tunnels and lay mines under the burgeoning British trench system. So they set-up their own Royal Engineer Special (Mine) Tunnelling companies. Sure enough, 10 small German mines were exploded under the Indian Army lines in the Festubert Sector in December 1914. In February 1915 the Germans did it again near St. Elois in Flanders.

This finally convinced Kitchener, who despatched N-G overnight to France, complete with N-G's own personal Rolls Royce, and with the vanguard of his tunnelling team scheduled to follow shortly: Kitchener now wanted 10,000 mine tunnellers.

As the new men arrived, N-G integrated them into the Royal Engineers Specialist (Mine) Tunnelling Companies, with the full blessing of the Royal Engineer commander, and began a hurricane of visits and activity across the Western Front.

The ultimate outcome was a whole series of tactical mine explosions, the more famous of which were:

* 1916 The Somme (Hawthorn and Lochnagar Craters).

* 1917 Arras.

* 1917 Messines, with 19 separate mines.

As a sideline, N-G was sent to Roumania to destroy the oil wells and deny them to the Germans, which he did.

Somewhat surprisingly, the British did out-do the Germans at tunnel mining - the British dug over 3,000 miles of them during the war on the Western Front. But it could well have been that the Germans' heavily fortified defence lines offered more worthwhile targets than the more modest and intentionally temporary trench constructions favoured by the British. So, perhaps, the Germans didn't put in quite the same gigantic effort into their military mining and concentrated on their own highly developed fortifications such as the Hindenburg Line.

N-G died on the 27th September 1930 in mysterious circumstances of a gun-shot wound to the head, fired at close range, whilst he was surf-boating alone off the beach of the Casino Hotel at San Stefano, near Alexandria, Egypt. He was aged 59.

(More details about of the 'claykicker' and 'mole' fraternity can be found of the WFA website under the title 'The British 'Claykickers' and 'Moles' of the Western Front').

Lance Corporal Henry 'Ducky' Norwest, MM and bar, (1888 - 1918).

Albert Regiment, 50th Battalion Canadian Infantry.

The psychology of the sniper is an intriguing one, and none so more than 'Ducky' Norwest who followed his trade on the Western Front with an unusual degree of application, industry and cunning. His record British sniper toll was 115 'confirmed kills', all of which are said to have been confirmed by his 'official observer' Private Oliver 'Shorty' Payne. How many 'non-confirmed kills' there were is not known.

Norwest was a Métis (Cree Indian/French) former rodeo rider and ranch hand and, latterly, a Mountie (Canadian Northwest Mounted Police). He was born in Alberta on the Hobbema Indian Reserve. He first joined the Canadian Army on the 2nd January 1915 but was discharged for drunkeness. After the short spell as the Mountie he re-enlisted in September 1915 and, as part of the reinforcements for the Canadian Expeditionary Force, sailed for France in August 1916.

His nickname of 'Ducky' is said to have been derived from a comment he made that whilst he was on leave in London, 'I had to duck the girls there'.

Norwest always used the standard Canadian Ross rifle with telescopic sights and a modified stock. Norwest's astounding sniper toll was said to be due to his supreme markmanship, stealth tactics and his command of camouflage. In addition to his sniping skills he was said to be an expert on reconnaissance and carried out many missions into No mans land.

He was awarded a MM for his actions during the Canadian attack on Vimy Ridge in April 1917 and a posthumous bar to his MM in1918.

His nemesis came on 18th August 1918, when on a mission in the Fouquecourt Sector, France, to eliminate some particularly troublesome German snipers: one of the German snipers shot him through the head.

On his temporary grave marker his comrades wrote 'It must have been a damned good sniper that got Norwest'

Lieutenant Wilfred Edward Salter Owen, (1893 - 1918).

Artist Rifles/2nd Battalion Manchester Rifles.

War poets are expected to die young, and Wilfred Owen was still only 25-years-old when he died having served 14 months on the Western Front.

He was from modest origins - his father was a railway worker - and spent from 1913 to 1915 working in France as a language tutor. Much affected by visiting the war-wounded in a local hospital, he decided he must return to England and enlist so as to become an officer and lead other young men.

On the 21st October 1915, Owen enlisted in the Artist Rifles and began a year of training. Commissioned in the Manchester Regiment in June 1916, he sailed for France on 30th October 1916. In a few days he was on the Somme at Bertancourt commanding No. 3 Platoon, 'A' Coy. 2nd Battalion Manchester Regiment.

In March 1917, Owen was blown up and concussed - two of the earlier criteria for a diagnosis of 'shell-shock. (See Dr. Charles Samuel Myers on the WFA website). In May 1918, he was sent home for treatment and spent time at Craiglockhart Military Hospital, Edinburgh, which specialised in the condition.

In August 1918, Owen was declared fit for duty and on the 26th he returned to his regiment on the Somme. His demeanour had undergone a subtle change and he had become more out-going and aggressive, even reckless. He was awarded the MC for an action on the 1st October 1918 when he repelled a German attack using the enemy's own machine gun against them.

At the Sambre Canal on 4th November 1918 Owen was caught out in the open by machine-gun fire, whilst directing his men, and killed.

After Owen's death his work was promoted and published by Siegfried Sassoon, whom he had met at the Craiglockhart Hospital. Two of Owen's war poems have gained classic status: Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem for a Doomed Youth.

Owen's epigraph can be stated in his own words, 'Above all I am not concerned with poetry. My subject is war, and the pity of war. The poetry is in the pity'.

For many, in later years, Wilfred Owen's life and death has become to exemplify the futility of war and its waste of young lives.


Mr. John Pomeroy, (1873 - 1950).

Engineer and Inventor.

John Pomeroy was a New Zealander whose seemingly minor invention of the Pomeroy Explosive Bullet in 1902 was to play a significant part in shooting down German airships on bombing missions over England during the Great War.

The Pomeroy bullet was of the standard British 0.303-inch calibre and contained the explosive nitro-glycerine. Fired from a machine gun, the bullet would piece the airship's envelope and internal gas bags and set fire to the highly inflammable escaping hydrogen gas that provided the lift for the airship.

Two versions of the bullet using essentially the same technology were the Brock and Buckingham Incendiary Bullets. The bullets were often used in combination in the same magazine, belt or drum.

Although the German airship bombing raids began in January 1915, the first successful downing of German airship - a Schutte-Lanz - by gunfire from an aircraft occurred on the night of 2nd September 1916 using a mixture of Pomeroy, Brock and Buckingham Bullets. (Also see: Lieutenant W. Leefe-Robinson). Four more successful shooting-down of German airships occurred before the end of the year.

These reverses halted the reputation of the 'Zeppelins' as almost invulnerable and this was much appreciated by the British population who was terrified by their threat. Thereafter, there was a readily discernible decrease in the number of Zeppelin attacks on England until they ended completely in June 1917.

Pomeroy was given royalties of ?25,000 for his invention by a grateful British Government.

Private Frank Richards, DCM, MM, (1984 - 1961).

1st/2nd Battalions Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

Frank Richards was the archetypal British old soldier of the Western Front: he consistently refused promotion to remain with his regimental pals; he was an 'old sweat' with years of prior service with the Colours; he served in virtually all the major Western Front campaigns (without, somehow, suffering hardly a scratch); and he knew how to tell a tale.

He is well known because of his memoirs published in 1933 entitled Old Soldiers Never Die. Some critics maintain that the editor - who was Richards' war-time commanding officer, the poet Robert Graves - had rather more input into the memoirs than is the norm. None the less, the story as it is told is said to reflect very well the life and times of these professional ranker soldiers in the midst of a volunteer 'For the duration' army.

Sergeant Thomas Ricketts, VC, (1901 - 1967). 1st Battalion New Foundland Regiment.

Like many others, by design, artifice or complicity, Thomas Ricketts was an underage recruit of the Great War: he joined the Newfoundland Regiment at the age of 15-years-of-age.

In 1917 (aged 16) he was sent to the Western Front and was wounded in the leg at Cambrai in November 1917.

Having returned to duty, on 14th October 1918 he was part of a Lewis gun team at Ledeghem, East of Ypres, Belgium. When ammunition ran out he volunteered to fetch more and did so across 100 yards of machine-gun bullet swept ground. Thus replenished, the Lewis gun team captured its objective, a battery of four field guns (a fifth gun was captured later) and four machine guns.

Ricketts was the youngest VC (17-years-of-age) ever, as was publicly noted by King George V at Rickett's investiture.

Drs. William Halse Rivers Rivers, (1864 - 1922) and Richard Rows, (1867 - 1925)

Neurologist/Psychologist and Psychiatrist.

Drs. Rivers and Rows were two of the prominent mental health doctors who undertook the treatment of the quite unexpected numbers of war casualties who suffered from what became to be known as 'shell shock'.

As the rigours and traumas of trench warfare increasingly manifested themselves in an avalanche of mentally disturbed soldiers, the team, based at the Maghull Hospital, Liverpool and the Craiglockhart Military Hospital, Edinburgh, evolved new kinds of treatment, based on Freudian principles, for this war induced 'anxiety neurosis'.

Although it must be said the commissioned army officers received both preferential diagnosis and treatment - at least in the earlier part of the war - a general policy of diagnosis was developed which successfully dealt with many of the cases of 'shell shock'. Overall, nearly 90% of those treated were eventually returned to duty.

Later in the war, Rivers became the first consultant psychologist to the Royal Flying Corps where he undertook the treatment of psychosis related to what today we would call flying combat fatigue; a notable victim was Major 'Mick' Mannock, the top British flying ace. (See: Major Mannock).

Major-General Andrew Hamilton Russell, DSO. (1868 - 1960).

Wellington Mounted Rifle Brigade/ New Zealand Division.

Major General Russell was one of those low profile, but high quality, military commanders who consistently gave a high level of performance in whichever post they were appointed.

Although born in New Zealand, General Russell spent his formative years at school and military college in England and five years with the Imperial Forces in India. In 1892 he returned to New Zealand to join his father in sheep farming.

He maintained his contacts with matters military and aided the formation of the New Zealand Territorial Forces. He founded and commanded the Hawkes Bay Mounted Rifles.

When war broke in 1914, out the commanding officer of the New Zealand Forces asked Russell to take the Mounted Rifles to Europe as part of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force.

After distinguished service in the Gallipoli Campaign he was appointed, in April 1916, as commander of the newly formed New Zealand Division and took the Division to France for the rest of the war. Despite offers of other more exalted commands, Russell remained with his troops who served, notably at: Flers on the Somme, September 1916; Messines, June 1917, Third Ypres July-November 1917 and in the Final 100 Days Campaign in 1918 where they won particular renown during the last few days of heavy fighting.

Throughout his command he maintained a high standard of military discipline, correctness and practice, all the while interceding to ensure his troops were well cared for and properly used. He favoured well planned and executed set-piece operations.

Much of this ethos can still be seen in practice when the New Zealand Army is on active service today.

General Cameron Deane 'Tiger' Shute. (1866 - 1836).

63rd (Royal Naval) Division/ 32nd Division/ V Corps.

It is as well to be reminded from time to time that not all the decisions of commanders were always good for their troops, or even themselves. Such an individual was General Cameron Shute.

For four months from October 1916 to February 1916, Shute was given the command of the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. These were largely reservist sailors who had been mustered in army uniforms as land-troops because there were not sufficient berths for them on the active Royal Navy ships. However, for reasons of espirit de corps, certain practices and insignia of the Royal Navy had been retained and were jealously guarded, even as the ranks were diluted by non-naval new-comers.

General Cameron firmly thought that everyone in the British Army should conform to standard British Army discipline, practice and insignia, including land-based 'sea-salts'.

His disciplinary actions before and after, the Battle of Ancre in November 1918, brought matters to a head, and the Commander-in-Chief BEF transferred him to the 32nd Division.

Once away from the provocations of the land-based navy, he did rather well and was promoted to command V Corps. His moment of triumph came with the advances of the Final 100 Days Campaign in late 1918, where his troops performed excellently in both the Somme and Canal du Nord Sectors.

Unfortunately, Shute will be primarily remembered for a scurrilous army song about him, authored by an officer of the 63rd Naval Division. It circulated throughout the entire BEF in 1917. A derogatory four-letter word play on the word Shute was the main theme. As far as the 63rd (Royal Naval) Division was concerned, it proved to be Shute's Trafalgar.

Lieutenant General Arthur Thomas Sloggett, (1857 - 1929).

Director-General of Medical Services (DGMS), British Expeditionary Force (BEF).

Appointed in 1915, General Sloggett was the main motivator in the creation of a greatly expanded and enhanced army medical clearance and treatment system on the Western Front and a referral hospital network in the UK. Also his team built up an efficient organisation for preventive medicine, rehabilitation and sanitation.

Sloggett was faced by quite unimagined numbers of battle casualties, many serious, mainly concentrated around a few days of intense military action (e.g. The First Day of the Somme with 60,000 wounded to be dealt with) and limited recovery and transportation systems. Sloggett got the majority of the reachable two million plus battle casualties cleared and treated. Simultaneously, he dealt with the inevitable daily toll of non-combat casualties across all Sectors of the Western Front.

To achieve these aims Sloggett involved all possible sources of medical expertise from throughout the Empire, and, with considerable diplomatic skill, initiated the wide employment of civilian doctors as consultants. He did not let military protocol and established practice get in the way. New technology was vigorously introduced whenever it was indicated and proven useful, and enormous steps were made in war surgery and the rehabilitation of the casualties of all descriptions, including those arising from mental trauma.

Consequently, despite the enormous demand, the British soldier on the Western Front in the Great War was the best served medically ever. The lives of an enormous number of casualties were saved bringing the death rate down to 8% of the combat casualties and 0.8% of the non-combat casualties.

The achievements of Sloggett and his team were rarely appreciated outside military circles and the incredible technical advances that they made in the four hectic years of the War are often credited to a later era.

Sir Thomas Octave Murdock Sopwith, (1888 - 1989).

Aviation engineer, designer and manufacturer, Sopwith Aviation Company, England.

The name Sopwith has always been associated with the best British fighter aircraft of the Great War. And of these renowned aircraft the single-seater, bi-plane fighter called the Sopwith Camel is the best known of all.

Before the Great War Thomas Sopwith was a well-known British aviator (first solo flight 1910, air certificate # 31).

In 1912, with the winnings from an air-race, he set up, with a friend, the Sopwith Aviation Company. In 1914, Sopwith Aviation began a long association with the Royal Flying Corps/Royal Air Force, and between 1914 and 1918 the company supplied a total of over 16,000 warplanes, if deliveries to the Allies are included.

The most significant of the Sopwith Company's Great War planes were:

* One-and-a-half Strutter: (1916). First British two-seater, bi-plane fighter. Designed with a built-in forward firing synchronised machine-gun. (5,700+ built).

* Pup: (1916). Single-seater, bi-plane fighter. Highly manoeuvrable at high altitude. First aircraft to land on a ship modified to serve as an aircraft carrier (1,600 built).

* Triplane: (1917). First three wing (decker) design. Single-seater fighter. Later emulated by other belligerents, particularly Germany. (Only 150 built).

* Camel: (1917). Most famous British single-seater, bi-plane fighter of the Great War. Said to have claimed 1,200 victories on the Western Front. (5,500+ built).

* Dolphin: (1918). Fast and agile single-seater, bi-plane fighter with staggered wings. (1,500+ built)

* Snipe: (1918). Strong, manoeuvrable and fast single-seater, bi-plane fighter. Considered to be the best British operational aircraft at the time of the Armistice. (500+ built).

* Salamander: (1918). Armoured, single-seater, bi-plane built especially for trench support and attack (Only a few operational by the Armistice).

Sopwith was still active in aviation until his 90's, (The Hawker Hurricane and the Harrier came from his stable) and was aged 101 years when he died.

Mr. Frederick Wilfred Scott Stokes, (1860 - 1927).

Engineer and inventor, Ransoms and Rapier Company, Engineers, Ipswich, England.

Few armourers, past and present, would disagree that the mortar invented by Frederick Stokes in 1914 was the most outstanding invention of the Great War.

Basically it was a steel pipe supported at an adjustable angle of inclination by adjustable legs. At the base of the pipe was affixed a steel spike. A cast iron shell was dropped down the pipe. The steel spike activated a propellant cartridge that was integral in the base of the shell. The shell was discharged at great speed at the ballistics angle chosen by the mortar operator. It had a high trajectory but relative short range; ideal for plunging and penetrative attacks on the enemy's trench-works.

Frederick Stokes sent off his idea to the War Office in December 1914. But his first attempt was rejected as 'unworkable'. As was a second version, in January 1915; this time it was rejected by the Director of Artillery.

It was only after much technical study of the various materials involved, the effect of ambient temperature variations and careful re-engineering of the design that a final version was produced and successfully tested. Only to be rejected once again by the Director of Artillery, Major-General Bingham, who insisted that 'the army has enough mortars, it doesn't need another one'.

Fortunately, other interested parties at the new Ministry of Munitions were not so dogmatic, and both Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, and Lloyd George, Minister of Munitions, backed its production subject to the ironing out of a few remaining technical bugs. These were quickly resolved and production of the 3-inch Stokes mortar was sanctioned by the Ordnance Board in September 1915. However, field-testing delayed its wide-scale introduction onto the battlefield until March 1916.

Once the technique of using the new mortar was mastered in the field, several shells could be fired before the first hit its target. The Stokes trench mortar quickly became an essential part of the armoury of the trench-fighter.

After the final design was decided upon, it remained basically unchanged up to the end of the Great War, although ranges increased from the initial 700 yards to 2,500 yards, with finned shells giving greater accuracy.

Over 10,000 Stokes 3-inch mortars, 1,000 4-inch mortars and 15 million mortar shells were supplied to the British Army in the Great War.

Stokes was given several forms of monetary reward by the Ministry of Munitions for his invention including a royalty of ?1 per Stokes' mortar shell!

Colonel Ernest Dunlop Swinton, DSO, (1868 - 1951).

British War Correspondent/ Royal Engineers.

Like many successful inventions, the concept of the tank has many 'fathers'. However, there is little doubt that the leading light in its emergence as a credible weapon of war was Colonel Ernest Swinton.

His interest in an armoured vehicle sprang from his observations as a War Correspondent on the Western Front in late 1914. He had seen the problems that the infantryman faced with machine-guns and barbed wire concentrations, and described the infantryman's task 'as about as hopeless as those of the Devishes at Omdurman'. He felt that to beat the Germans required something more sophisticated than massed frontal infantry attacks and suggested that 'petrol tractors on the caterpillar principle and armoured with hardened steel plates' were required. A pretty good description of the future tank.

A chance meeting on a battlefield road with a gun-towing Holt caterpillar tracked agricultural tractor, suddenly gave him the idea for a bulletproof troop transport. It would be able to tackle, front on, machine gun posts, earth works and wire entanglements and even cross trenches with impunity.

Facing total disinterest and rejection from the commander of the British Expeditionary Force, C-in-C. Sir John French, and the military in general, Swinton sent his proposal to the Secretary of the British War Council Colonel Maurice Hankey who, in turn, passed it on to the First Lord of the Admiralty, Winston Churchill.

Churchill immediately saw the potential. With the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George's support, Churchill personally authorised development of a proto-type under Admiralty auspices and established, in February 1915, as overseer of the project, the Landships Committee. A prominent British manufacturer of agricultural machinery and traction engines and a naval aviation officer (See: Sir William Tritton) designed and produced the first proto-type named 'Little Willie'.

When the first production models became available, Swinton trained the crews and devised the battle tactics. It is also said he came up with the name 'Tank' and there are several versions to this story. One claims that it was a code word to fool the Germans. Colonel Ernest D Swinton, gave a different version of its origin later on, saying it was a spur of the moment choice of his to give it an easily remembered and descriptive name.

As Swinton was considered as 'untrained' for the command of the tanks on the battlefield, they were handed over to the military hierarchy for deployment. And thereafter its fate was largely dependent on senior officers who were slow to understand the tank and, at first, unable to deploy it to it maximum effect.

In 1918, Swinton was sent off to the United States on a lecture tour as the battle, with, and without, the participation of the tank, raged on in Europe.

At the age of 66, Swinton was appointed Colonel Commandant of the Royal Tank Corps, and served from 1934 - 1938.

Sir William Ashby Tritton, (1876 - 1946).

Managing Director, William Foster and Co. Ltd. (Fosters of Lincoln). Traction Engine and Agricultural Machinery Manufacturers, England.

William Tritton's company - famed for it traction engines - was chosen by the British Government to design and manufacture a proto-type tracked armoured vehicle for use on the Western Front to a specification proposed by the Landships and the Inventions Committees.

The first technical mock-up, designated 'Lincoln No. 1' machine was designed by Tritton, and a former car designer and engineer, Lieutenant Walter G. Wilson, Royal Naval Air Service. The 'footprint'of the caterpillar-type track, the track driving mechanism and the articulation of the track was also the work of Tritton.

The official proto-type nick-named 'Little Willie' was demonstrated by Tritton and the manufacturing team to Swinton and the members of the LandshipCommittee on the 11th September 1915.

The name 'Tank' is usually said to have been devised as a code-name to fool the Germans whilst the first operational machines were being built and transported to France. Although the reputed originator of the name, Colonel Swinton said that it was an on the spur of the moment choice of an easily remembered but descriptive name.

To end all reasonable debate as to who invented the Tank, after the Great War the 'Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors ' decided that 'the inventors of the Tank were Sir William Tritton, managing director of Fosters together with Major M.G. Wilson'.

Seldom can a manufacturer of farmyard machinery and a serving naval aviator have a hand in the creation of such an important weapon of war as the Tank.

Mr Fabian Arthur Goulstone Ware, (1869 - 1949)

British Red Cross/ Imperial War Graves Commission.

The most dramatic reminder of the sacrifices of the British, Dominion and Empire soldiers in the Great War are the immaculately set-out and tended British War Cemeteries that exist across the Globe.

That these memorials to the war dead exist in the form that they do is largely due to the efforts of Fabian Ware.

To old to serve in the Armed Forces, Ware joined the Red Cross in September 1915 and was assigned to the Western Front in charge of one of the first mobile units providing comforts to the soldiers.

Ware soon became aware of the lack of an official unit to record and mark the graves of those who died on active service. Raising the matter officially, he was given the responsibility for the job and immediately set to work.

By 1915, the War Office became aware of the importance of his work and established an official support unit - The Graves Registration Committee - under his stewardship.

Through his efforts, thoughts were given as to how the dead would be recovered, recorded and commemorated in a universally acceptable form after the war. To resolve these any many other considerations, the Imperial (now Commonwealth) War Graves Commission was established in 1917 to cover not only the Western Front but eventually all the theatres of the Great War.

Until his retirement in 1948, Ware headed this work, negotiating as necessary with the host countries and the landowners where the battlefields and cemeteries were located. Also he hired craftsmen and specialists of all sorts to create the immaculately conceived landscaping and buildings of the war cemeteries we see today. He also ensured to the best of his ability their maintenance in perpetuity.

Ware's own memorial is the extensive swathe of war cemeteries and monuments that encircle the Globe and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) that is dedicated to their maintenance.


When the idea of making a list of Notable Individuals of the Great War first occurred to the author, he no idea of how many individuals would meet his proposed criteria of importance rather than fame per se. The military historian John M. Bourne covers 1,000 individuals in his excellent Who's Who in World War One (ISBN 0-415-14179-6 using his very broad canvas approach.

Therefore, it seemed likely there might be around 100 'notable individuals' within the much more defined criteria used here. In the event there were just 42 persons that met the criteria of 'notable' but were not 'unduly noted'. Even so, up to the last minute new candidates popped up in the course of other research, or by pure chance. So, the list may be incomplete and addenda may be required in future.

The author would strongly recommend John Bourne's book to anyone interested in Great War personalities; the author certainly found it useful in resolving some particularly obscure biographical details not readily available elsewhere.

It has been an interesting experience to discover how a vaguely recalled name comes to life as the reason for their notability slowly emerges from the dusty record. The author trusts the reader finds the same interest.


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