Field Marshal George Francis Milne, 1st Baron Milne, GCB, GCMG, DSO (5
November 1866 – 23 March 1948) was a senior
British Army officer who
Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) from 1926 to
1933. He served in the
Second Boer War
Second Boer War and during the First World War
he served briefly on the Western Front but spent most of the war
commanding the British forces on the Macedonian front. As CIGS he
generally promoted the mechanization of British land forces although
limited practical progress was made during his term in office.
1 Army career
2 First World War
4 Later career and life
7 Further reading
8 External links
Born the son of George Milne and Williamina Milne (née Panton) and
educated at MacMillan's School in
Aberdeen and the Royal Military
Academy, Woolwich, Milne was commissioned into the Royal Artillery
on 16 September 1885. He was initially posted to a battery at
Trimulgherry in India and then joined a battery at
Aldershot in 1889
before being posted back to India to a battery at
Meerut in 1891.
Promoted to captain on 4 July 1895, he joined the garrison
Malta and then took part in the Suakin Expedition in
1896. Next he was appointed battery captain at
Hilsea and then
Staff College, Camberley
Staff College, Camberley in 1897. There he became a
friend of his classmate William Robertson. He took part in the Nile
Expedition in 1898, seeing action at Omdurman and scoring a direct hit
on the Mahdi's tomb with his battery. He served in the Second Boer
War in South Africa, where he was appointed Deputy Assistant
General on 18 February 1900, and was promoted to major on
1 November 1900. He was mentioned in despatches on 2 April 1901,
and awarded the
Distinguished Service Order
Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in the South Africa
Honours list published on 26 June 1902. Following the end of the
war in June 1902, Milne received the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel
on 22 August 1902 (the honour was gazetted in the October 1902 South
Africa honours list), and returned to the United Kingdom on the SS
Orotava which arrived at Southampton in early September.
He was appointed a Deputy-Assistant Quartermaster-
General in the
intelligence division at Headquarters on 26 January 1903 and then,
having been promoted to colonel on 1 November 1905, became a
general staff officer at Headquarters
46th (North Midland) Division
46th (North Midland) Division (a
Territorial Force formation) in April 1908. He joined the general
staff at Headquarters 6th Division in Cork in 1909 and, having been
Companion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of the Bath in the King's Birthday
Honours 1912, became Brigadier
Royal Artillery for 4th
Woolwich on 1 October 1913.
First World War
At the outbreak of the
First World War
First World War in July 1914, Milne was
commanding the divisional artillery of 4th Division which formed part
of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in France. He fought on
the Marne and the Aisne. He joined the general staff of III Corps
in January 1915 and, having been promoted to major general on 23
February 1915, was mentioned in despatches for his service during the
Second Battle of Ypres.
He was appointed
General Officer Commanding (GOC) 27th Division in
Milne (left) with
General Franchet d'Espèrey (centre) and General
General Milne (right) shaking hands with Field Marshal Živojin
Salonika front 1917
Milne was appointed to command XVI Corps in Salonika in January 1916
with orders to oppose Bulgarian advances on the Macedonian front.
When he succeeded
Bryan Mahon as Commander-in-Chief of the British
Salonika Army, Milne became overall Commander-in-Chief of British
Troops in Macedonia on 9 May 1916. As late as 3 June 1916 Milne
was ordered by Robertson, now Chief of the Imperial
(CIGS), not to participate in any attack on the Bulgars. He was
awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle (1st Class,
with Swords) by the King of Serbia on 1 July 1916.
The British Government accepted the need to maintain a presence in
Salonika to keep the French happy, but Robertson, who often
communicated by secret letters and "R" telegrams to generals in the
field, privately told Milne that he did not favour offensive
operations. Milne broadly agreed with Robertson that any attempt to
attack across the mountains to cut the Nis-Sofia-Constantinople
railway was logistically impractical, although he did stress that his
forces must either advance or retreat from the malaria-infested Struma
Valley and that the Bulgarians might be beaten if pressed hard. On
23 July he was told to “engag(e) the maximum of Bulgar forces”
whilst the Romanians mobilised and attacked, followed by secret
messages from Robertson that he should “guard against being
committed for any serious action” until it was certain that Romania
was coming in. With
Bulgaria seeming close to collapse in October
and November 1916, Milne advised Robertson (5 November) that the
Germans would do all they could to keep her in the war.
60th (2/2nd London) Division
60th (2/2nd London) Division was sent to Salonika in December.
Milne was promoted to permanent lieutenant general on 1 January
1917. On 3 January 1917 Milne arrived at the Rome Conference
independently of the French
General Sarrail. The official French
record of the Rome Conference did not even mention Milne as a
participant. As a result of the Conference Milne was placed under
Sarrail's command, with right of appeal to his own government – who
overruled him when he protested against Sarrail's movement of a
British brigade outside the British zone. This precedent was much
discussed in the next few months when David Lloyd George, the Prime
Minister, attempted to place the BEF on the Western Front under
General Robert Nivelle.
An allied cemetery at
Milne undertook numerous offensives in support of his French and
Serbian Allies with limited resources. His attack at Lake Doiran in
spring 1917 cost 5,000 dead and seriously wounded, one quarter of all
British casualties throughout the entire Salonika Campaign. Another
British attack in the Struma Valley was more successful. His
troops were constantly suffering from malaria. Milne was appointed
a Grand Officer of the
Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus
Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus by the King
of Italy on 31 August 1917 and advanced to Knight Commander of the
Order of the Bath on 1 January 1918. Although Milne was repulsed
again at Lake Doiran in September 1918, French and Serbian units were
successful in defeating the
Bulgarian Army at the Battle of Dobro Pole
which took place that same month.
Bulgaria then signed an
In September 1918, Milne became responsible for the military
administration of a vast area around the
Black Sea at a time of
considerable internal disorder following the
Russian Revolution and
the start of the Turkish War of Independence. Small British forces
had twice occupied
Baku on the Caspian, while an entire British
division had occupied Batum on the Black Sea, supervising German and
Turkish withdrawal. British (including Indian and some Arab) troops
were in Persia (partly to protect the oilfields at Abadan) and larger
British forces were also deployed in Mesopotamia and Syria.
Milne toured the Caucasus in early 1919 and thought “the country and
the inhabitants are equally loathsome” and that British withdrawal
“would probably lead to anarchy” but “the world would (not) lose
much if the whole of the country cut each other’s throats. They are
certainly not worth the life of a single British soldier”. At the
end of August 1919 the British withdrew from
Baku (the small British
naval presence was also withdrawn from the Caspian Sea), leaving only
3 battalions at Batum. Lord Curzon, Foreign Secretary, wanted a
British presence in the region, although to Curzon’s fury (he
thought it “abuse of authority”) the CIGS Henry Wilson gave Milne
permission to withdraw if he deemed it necessary. After a British
garrison at Enzeli (on the Persian Caspian coast) was taken prisoner
by Bolshevik forces on 19 May 1920, Lloyd George finally insisted on a
withdrawal from Batum early in June 1920. Financial retrenchment
forced a British withdrawal from Persia in the spring of 1921.
Milne was appointed Grand Cross (First Class) of the Order of the
Redeemer by the King of the Hellenes in October 1918, appointed a
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George on 1 January
1919, advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael
and St George on 3 June 1919 and given the Greek Military Cross in
July 1919. He was also awarded the Grand Cross of the French
Legion of Honour
Legion of Honour in August 1919 and made a Knight of Grace of the
Venerable Order of Saint John
Venerable Order of Saint John on 9 April 1920. In March 1920 he
Constantinople and took over the administration of the City
which was collapsing.
Later career and life
Promoted to full general on 26 April 1920, he was appointed
Lieutenant of the Tower of
London on 15 December 1920 and General
Officer Commanding Eastern Command on 1 June 1923. Having been
made ADC to the King on 31 July 1923, he became Chief of the
General Staff on 19 February 1926. In that role he
supported the publication of the study Mechanised and Armoured
Formations (issued in 1929) and generally promoted the mechanization
of British land forces although limited practical progress was made
during his term in office. Having been advanced to Knight Grand
Cross of the Order of the Bath in the
New Year Honours
New Year Honours 1927, he
was promoted to field marshal on 30 January 1928 before retiring
in 1933. On 26 January 1933 he was raised to the peerage as Baron
Milne, of Salonika and of Rubislaw in the County of Aberdeen.
He was also Colonel Commandant of the
Royal Artillery from 21 November
1918, Honorary Colonel of Hampshire Heavy Brigade from 24 April
Master Gunner, St James's Park from 1929, Constable of The
London from 1933 and Colonel Commandant of the Pioneer Corps
Second World War
Second World War he was an Air Raid Warden in
Westminster. He also wrote a weekly column for the Sunday
Chronicle. He died in
London on 23 March 1948.
In 1905, he married Claire Maitland, daughter of Sir John Nisbet
Maitland, 5th Baronet; they had a son and a daughter.
^ a b c d e f "George Francis Milne". Oxford Dictionary of National
Biography. Retrieved 15 January 2012.
^ "No. 25514". The
London Gazette. 25 September 1885.
^ Heathcote, Anthony pg 208
^ "No. 26640". The
London Gazette. 5 July 1895. p. 3818.
^ a b c d e f Heathcote, Anthony pg 209
^ a b c d e Palmer 1998, p63-4
^ "No. 27203". The
London Gazette. 19 June 1900. p. 3815.
^ "No. 27260". The
London Gazette. 28 December 1900.
^ "No. 27305". The
London Gazette. 16 April 1901. p. 2605.
^ "No. 27448". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 26 June 1902.
^ "No. 27490". The
London Gazette. 31 October 1902.
^ "The Army in South Africa - Troops returning home". The Times
(36858). London. 28 August 1902. p. 9.
^ "No. 27553". The
London Gazette. 19 May 1903. p. 3152.
^ "No. 27851". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 7 November 1905.
^ "No. 28617". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 11 June 1912.
^ "No. 28763". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 10 October 1913.
^ a b c d Heathcote, Anthony pg 210
^ "No. 29763". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 22 September 1916.
^ "No. 29977". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 9 March 1917.
^ Woodward, 1998, pp30-3, 66–7
^ Palmer 1998, p69
^ a b Palmer 1998, p38-40
^ "No. 29886". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 29 December 1916.
^ Palmer 1998, p77-8
^ Woodward, 1998, p91
^ Palmer 1998, p88
^ "No. 30263". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 31 August 1917.
^ "No. 30450". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 28 December 1917.
^ Jeffery 2006 p233-4
^ Jeffery 2006 p247-9
^ "No. 30945". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 8 October 1918.
^ "No. 31095". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 1918.
^ "No. 31395". The
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^ "No. 31465". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 18 July 1919.
^ "No. 31514". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 19 August 1919.
^ "No. 31861". The
London Gazette. 13 April 1920. p. 4341.
^ "No. 31893". The
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^ "No. 32166". The
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^ "No. 32832". The
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^ "No. 32849". The
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^ "No. 33134". The
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^ "No. 33235". The
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^ "No. 33362". The
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^ a b c d Heathcote, Anthony pg 211
^ "No. 33907". The
London Gazette. 31 January 1933. p. 663.
^ "No. 31113". The
London Gazette (Supplement). 7 January 1919.
^ "No. 33154". The
London Gazette. 23 April 1926. p. 2781.
Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736–1997.
Barnsley (UK): Pen & Sword. ISBN 0-85052-696-5.
Jeffery, Keith (2006). Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political
Soldier. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820358-2.
Palmer, Alan (1998). Victory 1918. Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Woodward, David R (1998). Field Marshal Sir William Robertson.
Westport Connecticut & London: Praeger.
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