|Some Prominent British Generals and their Fortunes in The Great War|
ROBERTSON, (Wully) William Robert (1860-1933)
Robertson was a very exceptional soldier indeed; he is the only British ranker who has earned a Field Marshal’s baton.
After the outbreak of the war in 1914, he was firstly an assistant to French (idem.) during 1914-15, serving as Quarter-Master General of the BEF, where he undertook a ruthless reorganisation. Then, in January 1915, he became French’s Chief of the General Staff.
From December 1915, he was a highly effective Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) in Whitehall, and became a key figure in the British war effort as military adviser to the government and King George V. Robertson’s ‘war ideas’ included: conscription; killing Germans rather than expensively capturing territory; a strengthening of the general staff in the War Office; the build up of British and Commonwealth troop strength on the Western Front, and the creation of a joint Allied plan to coordinate and formulate future operational plans. But his unrelenting support for a Western Front oriented policy clashed with that of Lloyd George and his clique of ‘Easterners’. Also, he did not agree with Lloyd George’s creation of a Supreme War Council.
He was eventually dismissed in February 1918 and posted to a relatively minor Home Command. Later, in June 1918, he was moved to the more prestigious post of Commander-in-Chief Home Command. However, after the war, he again played a leading role as commander of the British Army on the Rhine.
General comment: Robertson was an excellent staff officer with clear ideas and the will and ability to see them through. His belief that the war could only be won if Germany was defeated in the West, allied his fierce loyalty to Haig (idem.), inevitably collided with Lloyd George’s belief in an Eastern solution and his (Lloyd George’s) growing apathy to Haig. Robertson was a political casualty of war if ever there was one.