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Andrew Hamilton Russell Information

Andrew Hamilton Russell

Sir Andrew Hamilton Russell

Place of birth: Napier, New Zealand
Place of death: Tunanui, New Zealand
Allegiance: United Kingdom
New Zealand
Service/branch: British Army
New Zealand Army
Years of service: 1887-1892, 1900-1932, 1940-1941
Rank: Major General
Commands held: Wellington Mounted Rifles Brigade
New Zealand and Australian Division
New Zealand Division
Battles/wars: World War I
World War II
Awards: Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Mentioned in Dispatches on 9 occasions
Other work: Returned Services' Association

World War I

Major General Sir Andrew Hamilton Russell KCB, KCMG, DSO (23 February 1868 - 29 November 1960) was a World War I general from New Zealand, who rose swiftly to high command during the Gallipoli campaign in 1915-1916 and to prominence as the inspirational commander of the New Zealand Division on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918.

Early life and service

Russell was born on 23 February 1868 at Napier, New Zealand. He was sent to England to be educated, first at Harrow School, and then at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, winning the Sword of Honour. Commissioned into the Border Regiment in 1887, Russell served five years in India, earning a "great reputation as a polo player". When his regiment returned to England in 1892, Russell instead returned to New Zealand to pursue sheep farming. Russell soon became active in the nascent New Zealand Territorial Force, forming the Hawke's Bay Mounted Rifle Volunteers. He went on to command the 9th (Wellington East Coast) Mounted Rifles and, in 1911, promoted to colonel, the Wellington Mounted Rifle Regiment. He played a prominent role in organising 'Massey's Cossacks' during the 1913 water front strike.

World War I


At the outbreak of World War I Major General Alexander Godley, commander of the New Zealand Expeditionary Force, offered Russell command of the New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade. Russell accepted and, after training in Egypt, the Mounted Rifles deployed to Gallipoli on 12 May 1915. With their horses remaining in Egypt, the Brigade operated dismounted in the northern (or left) sector of the ANZAC perimeter. His brigade headquarters, sited on high ground, became known as "Russell's Top" and became the focus of heavy fighting. His brigade fought in the Battle of Chunuk Bair, and the failed attack on Hill 60, before Russell took over command of the New Zealand and Australian Division in November 1915, from Godley, who became corps commander. Sir Ian Hamilton, commander of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force, had come to view Russell as 'the outstanding New Zealander on the (Gallipoli) peninsula', and in November 1915 he was created Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George and promoted to major-general. A month later, Russell had overall command for the final 48 hours of the highly successful evacuation of the Australia and New Zealand Army Corps ("ANZAC") from the Gallipoli peninsula.

Western Front

The New Zealand Division was formed in March 1916, with Russell divisional commander, and was sent to France the next month. With scant preparation, the division became operational in May 1916 in the Armentix¨res sector of the Western Front. Soon it was involved in supporting the Somme Offensive, exposing problems and straining the men as extensive raids and patrols were carried out. Russell pushed for improvement, his goal being to create the best division in France. He inspected units daily and regularly visited the front line. Russell was a strict disciplinarian, and cracked down on high levels of desertion by recommending the death penalty for those found guilty of it. (However, only five deserters were eventually executed and all were given posthumous pardons in 2000.} Russell's insistence on rigid discipline was balanced by intensive training and tempered by close attention to the welfare of the troops under his command. In a letter to James Allen, the New Zealand Minister of Defence, Russell wrote: "What we want is a platoon officer who will look after his men exactly as a mother does her boy of 10". The early discipline issues were overcome and, under Russell's leadership, the New Zealand Division would gain a fine reputation with success in September 1916 during the Battle of the Somme and in June 1917 the capture of Messines Ridge. On a visit to the front line at Messines, Russell was nearly killed when a "sniper's bullet passed through his steel helmet, creasing his scalp". Failure came however on 12 October that year at the First Battle of Passchendaele, when - in what is still the costliest day in New Zealand's military history - the New Zealanders' second assault was repulsed with 2,735 casualties. Russell took the blame, in what military historian Christopher Pugsley called "a rare example of a military commander's willingness to accept responsibility for failure", though Pugsley attributes the main fault to the staff of the corps commander, General Godley. After further failure at Polderhoek in December and a hard winter in the Ypres salient, Russell worked to rebuild the division and its morale. Despite this, by now, as historian Les Carlyon notes: "There were no better troops on the western front than the New Zealanders". Throughout 1918, Russell emphasised training as new mobile warfare tactics evolved: this proved its worth during the Hundred Days Offensive that ended the war. In June Field Marshall Haig, who was a great admirer of Russell, offered him command of a British corps - the only Dominion commander to be so asked - but he diplomatically declined in order to stay with the New Zealanders.

Later life

Russell commanded the New Zealand Division for the remainder of the war and then returned to his farm in New Zealand, "loaded with foreign decorations". (According to Pugsley, these included: "the French Légion d'honneur (croix d'officier) and Croix de guerre (avec palme), the Belgian Ordre de Léopold (commander) and Croix de guerre, the Serbian Order of the White Eagle (first class) and the Montenegrin Order of Prince Danilo I".) He was given a hero's welcome at Wellington being "hailed, in Maori, as 'Ariki Toa', The Fight Chief Sent Forward To Lead". He occupied himself with veterans' affairs, serving as president of the Royal New Zealand Returned and Services' Association from 1921 to 1924, and again from 1927 to 1935. In 1932 his military career came to a formal end when he moved to the retired list, although he continued to serve in a ceremonial capacity as the honorary colonel of the Wellington Regiment in 1934 and the Wellington (East Coast) Rifles in 1937. With the outbreak of World War II Russell returned to the colours, as the Inspector General of New Zealand Military Forces, before retiring again in July 1941, aged 73. He died on 29 November 1960, aged 92, in Hastings.

List of honours

Officier de la Légion d'Honneur (France)
Croix de Guerre (France)

New Zealand Mounted Rifles Brigade
New Zealand Division

Carlyon, Les (2006) The Great War. Sydney: Macmillan.ISBN 9781405037990
Jones, Ronald (1966). "Russell, Major-General Sir Andrew Hamilton, K.C.B., K.C.M.G., D.S.O., etc." An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, 1966.
Pardon for Soldiers of the Great War Act 2000 Parliament of New Zealand. Accessed 26 Feb 2010.
Pugsley, Chris (1991). "On the Fringe of Hell: New Zealanders and Military Discipline in the First World War". Auckland:Hodder & Stoughton. ISBN 9780340533215
Pugsley, Chris (2007). "Russell, Andrew Hamilton 1868 - 1960". Dictionary of New Zealand Biography, updated 22 June 2007, accessed 26 Feb 2010
"Who's Who: Sir Andrew Russell". First World, updated 26 January 2003
The Times, "Sir Andrew Russell", Nov 30, 1960; p. 16; Issue 54942; col A

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