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(William) Edmund Ironside

(1880—1959) army officer and farmer


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(1880–1959)

British general whose exploits in the Boer War inspired the character of Richard Hannay in John Buchan's novels. He received a knighthood in 1919, a peerage in 1941, and was awarded the Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur in 1946.

Ironside attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, before joining the Royal Artillery in 1899. Proficient in seven languages and of tall muscular build, ‘Tiny’ Ironside served as an intelligence officer in the Boer War, at one stage joining a German military expedition to southwest Africa disguised as a Boer driver. Promoted to captain in 1908, at the outbreak of World War I he was a major attached to the 6th Division in France. He fought in the battles of Vimy Ridge and Passchendaele in 1917 and the following year, as acting colonel, he commanded a machine gun corps on the Somme, subsequently assuming command of the 99th Infantry Brigade. In September 1918 he went to northern Russia as chief of general staff of the abortive Allied expeditionary force charged with the ludicrous objective of countering the Bolshevik revolution. His experiences as commander of the Russian town of Archangel are recounted in Archangel 1918–1919 (1953).

After serving as a military aide to Admiral Horthy in Hungary and as commandant of Camberley Staff College, Ironside spent time in India, was promoted to general, and in 1936 took over Eastern Command, Home Forces. He consistently urged the need to re-equip and at the start of World War II was appointed chief of general staff at the War Office. After temporarily commanding Home Forces following the Dunkirk evacuation, he ended his career as a field marshal.

Subjects: Contemporary History (Post 1945) — Military History.


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