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World War 1 Picture - Memorial to Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson at Liverpool Street Station, London

Henry Hughes Wilson Information

Henry Hughes Wilson

Sir Henry Hughes Wilson, Bt

Place of birth: County Longford, Ireland
Place of death: London
Allegiance: United Kingdom
Service/branch: British Army
Years of service: 1882 - 1922
Rank: Field Marshal
Commands held: IV Corps
Eastern Command
Battles/wars: Third Anglo-Burmese War
Second Boer War
First World War
Awards: GCB; DSO; Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur; Grand Officier of the Order of Leopold; Belgian Croix de guerre; Chinese Order of Ghia-Ha, 1st Class "Ta-Shou Pao-Kuang"; American Distinguished Service Medal; Siamese Order of the White Elephant, first class; Grand Cordon with flowers of the Paulownia of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun; Grand Cross of the Greek Order of the Redeemer
Other work: Irish Unionist politician

Field Marshal Sir Henry Hughes Wilson, 1st Baronet, GCB, DSO, (5 May 1864 - 22 June 1922) was an Anglo-Irish field marshal and Irish Unionist politician. He was one of the most senior British Army officers of World War I and was military advisor to the British Prime Minister in the last year of the war. After the formation of Northern Ireland, he became security advisor to the Northern Ireland Government. Wilson was assassinated by two Irish Republican Army volunteers in 1922.

Early career

Wilson was born in Currygrane, Ballinalee, County Longford, Ireland and was the second son of James and Constance Wilson, of Currygrane. He was educated at Marlborough College, and made unsuccessful attempts to get into the British Army colleges Royal Military Academy and Sandhurst between 1880 and 1882.

In 1882, he succeeded in being commissioned as a lieutenant in the Longford Militia (which was a militia battalion of the Rifle Brigade) and then transferred to a regular battalion. He briefly transferred to the Royal Irish Rifles in 1884, but quickly returned to the Rifle Brigade.

Wilson was posted to India in 1885 and in 1886 went to Burma to serve in the Third Burmese War. He received several serious wounds, including an eye wound and one which forced him to use a walking stick for the rest of his life. His injuries refused to heal in India and he returned to Ireland until 1888 when he was passed fit for regimental duty. Wilson in the meantime has been studying for the Staff College at Camberley which he graduated from in December 1893. He was promoted captain in 1893. From November 1894 he worked in the Intelligence Department of the War Office, where his fluent French and German were useful.

He was seconded to the staff in 1895, and in 1897, he became Brigade Major of the 3rd Brigade at Aldershot, and from 1899 to 1901 he saw active service during the Second Boer War with the 4th (Light) Brigade (as a Brigade Major) before becoming Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General and assistant military secretary to Lord Roberts and was Mentioned in Despatches, awarded the Distinguished Service Order, and was recommended for brevet promotion to lieutenant-colonel on attaining a substantive majority.

War Office

He returned to England in 1901, and gained both the substantive promotion to major and the promised brevet in December, and became Commanding Officer of the 9th Provisional Battalion, Rifle Brigade at Colchester in 1902. In 1903 he became an Assistant Adjutant-General. Promotion came in 1907 when he became a substantive colonel at the beginning of the year, and later a temporary brigadier-general commanding the Staff College, Camberley, Surrey until 1910, when he became Director of Military Operations at the British War Office.

While there he advocated the landing of a British Expeditionary Force in France in case of German attack. The Naval Staff was against this idea, arguing that it would take too long to organise; the Germans would be halfway to Paris by the time it was done. Further, the four to six divisions Britain was expected to be able to muster would have little effect in a war with 70-80+ divisions on each side. They favoured keeping the Army at home, to be landed by the Navy at Antwerp or on the German coast, as the opportunity arose. Wilson, however, successfully argued against the sailors, saying that the high quality of the British soldiers and their use to strengthen the French left against the strong right wing of the German Schlieffen Plan would have an effect out of proportion to the numbers involved. Further, the British landing to fight alongside their allies would have an incalculable effect on French morale. He realized the organisational difficulties involved, though, and spent much time planning the deployment of the proposed British Expeditionary Force to France in the event of war. He even spent many of his leaves from duty cycling around Belgium and Northern France. In 1912 he was appointed Honorary Colonel of the 3rd Battalion, Royal Irish Rifles. He was promoted major-general in November 1913.

First World War

In 1914, he surreptitiously supported British Army officers who refused to lead troops against Ulster Unionist opponents of the Third Irish Home Rule Bill in the Curragh Mutiny. He was a staff officer, acting as liaison officer to the French Army from the start of First World War until December 1915 when he took over command of IV Corps in France, a post he held until 1916. He was promoted to temporary lieutenant-general in January 1915, knighted as a Knight Commander of the Bath in the 1915 King's Birthday Honours, and made a Commander and later Grand Officier of the Légion d'honneur for his services. He was also given the honorary appointment of Colonel of the Royal Irish Rifles on 11 November 1915.

In September 1917, he took over the Eastern Command, which allowed him to live in London and worked closely with Prime Minister David Lloyd George. In December 1917 he was given the temporary rank of general. In February 1918, he was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS), after the removal of Sir William Robertson and was the principal military adviser to Lloyd George in the last year of the First World War. Winston Churchill wrote "In Sir Henry Wilson the War Cabinet found for the first time an expert advisor of superior intellect , who could explain lucidly and forcefully the whole situation and give reasons for the adoption or rejection of any course". One of his first acts was to nearly triple the size of the Tank Corps from 18,000 to 46,000 men

World War 1 Picture - Memorial to Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson at Liverpool Street Station, London

Picture - Memorial to Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson at Liverpool Street Station, London

He was promoted to substantive general on 3 June 1918, and appointed Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath on 17 December 1918. As CIGS, he was a member of the Army Council.

After the war, on 3 July 1919, he was promoted to field marshal, awarded £10,000 by the British Parliament and made a baronet. He was made a Grand Officier of the Belgian Order of Leopold and awarded the Belgian Croix de guerre, and was given the Chinese Order of Chia-Ho (Golden Grain), 1st Class "Ta-Shou Pao-Kuang", the American Distinguished Service Medal, the Siamese Order of the White Elephant, first class, the Grand Cordon of the Japanese Order of the Rising Sun (later "with flowers of the Paulownia"), the Grand Cross of the Greek Order of the Redeemer, and promoted to Grand Cross of the Légion d'honneur. At the Paris Peace Conference, he acted as Britain's chief military adviser but found himself in increasing disagreement with Lloyd George. He resigned from the army (being replaced as CIGS by The Earl of Cavan on 19 February 1922) and became a Member of Parliament for North Down in a by-election victory. In March 1922 he was invited by Sir James Craig's to be come the Northern Ireland Government's adviser on security.


On 22 June 1922, two London based volunteers of the Irish Republican Army (IRA), Reginald Dunne and Joseph O'Sullivan, shot and killed Wilson as he returned to his house at 36 Eaton Place in London after unveiling the Great Eastern Railway war memorial in Liverpool Street Station. Two policemen and a chauffeur were also shot as the men attempted to avoid capture. They were then surrounded by a crowd and arrested by other policemen after a struggle. The guns used by the assassins were sent to David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill in the Cabinet Room at 10 Downing Street; "There was no Henry Wilson. The Prime Minister and I faced each other, and on the table between us lay the pistols which an hour before had taken this loyal man's life". The House of Commons was immediately adjourned as a mark of respect and King George V sent his equerry, Colonel Arthur Erskine, to Eaton Place to convey the royal sympathy to Lady Wilson. A dinner to celebrate the Prince of Wales's birthday arranged at Buckingham Palace for the evening, was also cancelled. Dunne and O'Sullivan were convicted of murder and hanged on 10 August 1922.

T. Ryle Dwyer suggests that the shooting of Wilson was ordered by Irish Free State General and Commander-in-Chief Michael Collins in retaliation for the continuing troubles in Northern Ireland. However, this claim has been challenged several times. Any order to assassinate Wilson would have had to have been relayed to them by Rory O'Connor (then in charge of British IRA operations) and the last assassination attempt contrived against Wilson had been set to be executed in 1921, not 1922. Tim Pat Coogan has suggested that Reginald Dunne, who had the confidence of both Michael Collins and Rory O'Connor, undertook the shooting as a last-ditch effort to provoke the British Government into retaliating, thereby uniting both sides of the Nationalists .

Wilson's funeral was a public affair attended by Lloyd George and the cabinet, Foch, Nivelle and Weygand from France as well as many of his former army colleagues including French, Macready, Haig and Robertson. The field marshal was buried in the crypt of St Paul's Cathedral, between Lord Roberts and Lord Wolseley.

List of United Kingdom MPs with the shortest service


Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier, Keith Jeffery, Oxford University Press, 2006, ISBN 978-0198203582
Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: His Life and Diaries, Major-General Sir C E Callwell, Cassell, 1927
The British Field Marshals 1736-1997, Tony Heathcote, Pen & Sword Books Ltd, 1999, ISBN 0-85052-696-5

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Source: WikiPedia

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