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Boer War DSOs 1 year 9 months ago #73605

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KCB (Military);
IGS 1854 (1) Hazara 1891 (2/Lieut: C. M. Dobell, 1/Welsh Fus:);
WSA (5) Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Wittebergen (Bt: Major C. M. Dobell. D.S.O., R. Welsh Fus.), reverse of top clasp removed for mounting purposes;
China 1900 (0) (Major C. M. Dobell, D.S.O, R. Welsh: Fus:);
AGS 1902 (1) N. Nigeria 1906 (Captain C. M. Dobell. D.S.O. Rl. Welsh Fus.);
1914-15 Star (Brig. Gen. C. M. Dobell. D.S.O.);
British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves (Lt. Gen. Sir. C. M. Dobell.);
IGS 1908 (1) Afghanistan N.W.F. 1919 (Maj-Genl. C. M. Dobell. Staff.);
Coronation 1911;
Jubilee 1935;
Coronation 1937;
United States of America, Military Order of the Dragon (Major Charles M. Dobell. Royal Welch Fusiliers No. 614), with top pagoda suspension and original riband;
France, Third Republic, Legion of Honour, Commander's neck Badge, gold and enamel


Dobell was raised in the family home, the palatial Villa Beauvoir in Sillery, Quebec; his father had
emigrated from Liverpool and become rich in the lumber trade. After preliminary education in
Quebec, Dobell went to Charterhouse School in England in 1883 for two years.

Returning to Canada, he entered the Royal Military College, Kingston, in September 1886 as Cadet
No. 221 and was placed in B Company. In 1890, Dobell graduated with Honours, his conduct being
noted as ‘Very Good’. He was marked ‘Distinguished’ in seven out of thirteen obligatory subjects,
with the same mark in four voluntary subjects. He was Company Sergeant Major of his company and
wore a proficiency badge for Artillery Practice with another for being top of his class in Equitation.
He was awarded three ‘subject’ prizes, received the Lord Stanley prize, graduated fourth of his intake
and was one of only four cadets recommended in 1890 for commissions in the British army
In August 1890, he was commissioned into 1st Bn. The Royal Welsh Fusiliers, then stationed in
Lucknow but warned for duty on the North-West Frontier. The battalion arrived in Peshawar early
in December 1890, by which time Dobell had joined and assumed command of F Company. Early
in 1891, he accompanied the battalion on an expedition to punish recalcitrant tribes in the Black
Mountains of Hazara: it was a short-lived but effective campaign that earned him his first campaign

Late in 1891, aged 22, he was ensign for the Regimental Colour at a parade in Peshawar. Just a few
months before his death, aged 85, in July 1954, he was present as that same Colour was marched off
parade for the last time, to be laid up in St David’s Cathedral, Pembrokeshire, after seventy-four
years’ service. In so many ways, that Colour - now preserved in the Regimental Museum -
characterises Dobell’s loyal service to the Regiment that welcomed him in 1890.

Experience and Responsibility

Dobell remained with the 1st battalion for the next five years, living the life of a British subaltern
stationed in northern India: he learned how to command men; he rode; he shot; he probably fished.
He had been a member of Kingston’s Gymnastics Class and had left the college marked as
‘Distinguished’ in Drills and Exercises; an accomplished horseman, he was clearly a very fit young
officer. Having achieved a First Class mark in Gymnastics at Lucknow in June 1892, he returned to
his battalion to become regimental gymnastics instructor in April 1893. Concurrently, he passed
both lower and higher standard Hindustani and obtained qualifications in Transport and Musketry
in 1894. Promotion to lieutenant came in November 1892 and was accompanied by the duties of
acting adjutant in May 1893; during the same period, he changed companies three times, thus
obtaining wide experience of the men of his battalion. He also took leave, no doubt to go shooting,
and caught his fair share of the illnesses associated with life in India. The battalion remained in
northern India until embarking for Aden in October 1896. Dobell continued on to Malta to join the
2nd battalion and become its adjutant. No sooner had he settled into the appointment with his new
battalion than a crisis emerged that set him on course for advancement.

Tipped for Stardom

Crete’s Greek population had long resented Turkish rule. Early in 1897, this resentment became
sectarian violence: the Cretans proclaimed union with Greece and rose in rebellion against the Turks;
the Turks responded, bloodily. An international force from the ‘Great Powers’ was assembled and
deployed to Crete to control the situation; as part of that force, 2nd Bn. The Royal Welsh Fusiliers
disembarked at Candia early in April 1897. Working with allies attempting to separate warring
factions, while also exercising objectivity and military discipline, has become commonplace for British
soldiers in the post-1945 world but was relatively new in 1897. The senior officers of 2nd Royal
Welsh Fusiliers were very good at it and three brevet promotions were awarded in recognition. One
was to Dobell, who was to be made brevet major when promoted to captain: the promotion and thus
the brevet happened almost immediately and simultaneously in 1899.

The crisis in Crete being resolved in 1898, the battalion embarked for Hong Kong and arrived in
January 1899. War broke out in South Africa in October 1899 and Dobell began firing off telegrams
asking for permission to join any unit, anywhere, on leave if necessary: anything to be involved.
Eventually, his persistence (and his father’s influence) triumphed and by late December 1899 he was
attached to the staff of 2nd (Special Service) Bn., Royal Canadian Regiment. In February 1900, he
was given command of 2nd Mounted Infantry battalion and exercised it with such success as to be
mentioned in dispatches and created a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in

In July 1900, long before his DSO was gazetted, he was recalled from South Africa to China to
resume the adjutancy of the 2nd battalion, then engaged in suppressing the ‘Boxer Rebellion’. Once
again, Dobell served in an international force created by the ‘Great Powers’ for a peace-keeping role.
Relinquishing the adjutancy late in 1900, he continued to serve in Peking until the final withdrawal
of British forces from that city in 1901. In 1902, he passed the examination for entry to the Staff
College, entering the College in January 1903. Thus, as a captain and brevet major, aged 33, with a
DSO, three campaign medals and experience of both administration and field command, Dobell
joined an elite cadre of future staff and general officers.

The Staff Officer

A photograph of the Staff College students in the intake of 1903, contained in one of Dobell’s
photograph albums, is an evocative image of a departed age. Sir Henry Rawlinson, later Field Marshal
Lord Rawlinson, was the commandant; few officers are without campaign medals, many have DSOs
and two have VCs; all are in their regiment’s full dress uniform.

Leaving Staff College in 1904, Dobell was appointed temporary lieutenant-colonel to command 1st
Bn. the Northern Nigeria Regiment, West African Frontier Force, in 1905. He commanded that unit
in the Northern Nigeria campaign of 1906, being mentioned in dispatches twice and awarded the
brevet of Lieutenant-Colonel, concomitant upon his being promoted major; he also added basic
Hausa to his various linguistic skills.

Promoted substantive Major and thus brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in 1907, he returned to England
to enter the War Office as General Staff Officer grade 3, to be promoted GSO2 in 1909, to be
appointed ADC to King George V and brevet Colonel in 1910, to relinquish his War Office
appointment in 1911 and to be promoted substantive Lieutenant-Colonel commanding 2nd Bn.
The Bedfordshire Regiment in 1912, then stationed in South Africa. In time of peace, such rapid
advancement was unusual and must reflect not only Dobell’s innate talent but also his ambition,
professionalism and connections. Command of 2nd Bedfordshires was short-lived: he was promoted
substantive Colonel and temporary Brigadier-General in September 1913 and given the post of
Inspector-General of the West African Frontier Force.

During his rapid rise in the Army in the decade 1904-14, he found time to marry, in March 1908:
his wife was a widow with two daughters and would present him with a daughter, Judith, in South
Africa in 1912. Earlier in 1908, he had saved one R.E. Ford from drowning in the lake at Stoke Park,
Buckinghamshire, and received a Testimonial from the Royal Humane Society as a result: as with so
many other papers relevant to his long career, this Testimonial is pasted into his scrapbook.
The outbreak of war in August 1914 found Dobell home on leave. Since it was evident that
Germany’s two West African colonies of Togoland and the Cameroons were vulnerable to attack,
Dobell’s advice was sought on how best to capture them.

Success in the Cameroons

Britain’s principal targets were the colonies’ wireless stations and the ports: the one able to report
movements of British shipping in the Bights of Benin and Biafra to German surface raiders, the other
able to shelter and re-provision the surface raiders. In addition, capture of the ports would enable a
blockade to be established that ought to starve the colonies of Togoland and the Cameroons into
submission, thus minimising the need for extensive land operations in an unfavourable terrain and
climate. Thus Dobell advised, specifying that naval support of ground troops would be necessary.
Given command of British forces, and ultimately Allied forces, for the expedition, Dobell sailed with
his staff for West Africa in S.S.Appam on 31st August 1914. By the time he arrived off the
Cameroons port of Duala, on 25th September, events had overtaken planning and Togoland had
already, effectively, fallen to British and French troops. Duala was briefly bombarded by H.M.S.
Challenger and, increasingly encircled by British and French ground troops, surrendered, the
German forces having already evacuated the port and retreated inland. However, although the coastal
strip had been secured, a sizeable German presence remained in the interior. German tactics
throughout the ensuing campaign reflected their strategy of holding ground and denying Allied
forces overall victory in order to retain the colony as a bargaining tool for the end of the war.
German defence was stubborn and protracted: despite severe limitations in materièl and in
Intelligence, its unity of purpose contrasted significantly with that of the Allies, all three of whom -
British, French and Belgian - pursued their own nationally inspired aims and consequently failed
effectively to work together. Dobell’s experience, in Crete and in China, was unable to counteract
that. The longer the campaign continued, the more attenuated through casualties the Allied forces
became; there were limitations in the number and quality of reinforcements available. The campaign
became one of attrition, largely fought by black infantry on both sides, until eventually German
forces escaped into the neutral Spanish colony of Muni. Dobell could only direct the campaign to a
limited extent, so diverse were the Allied forces engaged and so limited the communications, but his
role in the eventual Allied victory, when it came in February 1916, was undeniably significant. It was
recognised too: by the KCB and the Commander’s Cross of the Légion d’Honneur in 1916, coming
after the CMG in the New Year Honours of 1915 and promotion to major general in June 1915. By
1916, so stagnant had the campaign in France and Flanders become, any success of Allied arms had
to be celebrated, rewarded and publicised and so it was for Dobell in West Africa.

Disappointment in Palestine

The logic of taking a General fresh from success in a torpid campaign in tropical Africa and
appointing him to command a desert-based force in the Middle East may escape those equipped with
20:20 hindsight but, in mid-1916, that is what the War Cabinet did with Dobell. His first role in
that theatre was as Commander Western Frontier Force in June 1916. He was then appointed
Commander of troops on the Suez Canal and Eastern Frontier Force in October 1916, following
promotion to temporary Lieutenant-General in September. In that role, he and his superior, Sir
Archibald Murray, have been held responsible for the failure of the first two battles of Gaza in 1917.
While not a wholly unfair judgment, it has been made in hindsight and with little appreciation of the
circumstances, among which the evident chaos of the Middle Eastern Force’s command structure,
inadequate staff work and Intelligence and reasonable concerns about the Force’s logistics, especially
in relation to the wellbeing of its horses, loom large. The first two attacks on Gaza were certainly
badly handled and the second disastrously bloody. However, small recognition has been given to the
immense and successful preparation work executed by Dobell and Murray before their replacement
by Chetwode (his Field Marshal’s Baton sold in these rooms) and Allenby that led to the eventual
capture of Gaza and then Palestine. That said, it was certainly not Dobell’s finest hour: perhaps too
much was expected of him by the politicians in London, always hungry for favourable headlines and
expecting miracles.

Redemption in India

Despite the modern condemnation of Dobell for his part in the failure to take Gaza after two
attempts in 1917, he cannot have been wholly damned in the opinion of the British War Cabinet
since no sooner had he returned home than it sent him abroad again, this time to Command 2nd
(Rawalpindi) Division in India. He remained there until 1920, serving during the 3rd Afghan War
of 1919 and being mentioned in dispatches twice. Briefly officiating as G.O.C. Northern Command
India in 1920, he returned home to go on half pay in that year and in 1923 retired as an honorary
Lieutenant-General. In 1926, he was appointed Colonel of The Royal Welch Fusiliers and retained
that post until 1938, being noted as a particularly active and attentive Colonel. Even after
relinquishing the Colonelcy, he retained his links with the Regiment, throughout the Second World
War and until a few months before his death.


So: Sir Charles Dobell. How to rate him? His rise in the Edwardian decade was meteoric and it seems
fair to say that his posting to West Africa in 1914, rather than to France and Flanders, was fortunate
for him. If translation to Palestine in 1916 did not end well, he was but one General among many
in that theatre for whom that was the case - and he did better, and lasted longer, than most. It is
evident from his archive that he was liked and respected by his peers and his subordinates and deeply
loyal to his Regiment. That he was assiduous in collecting so many souvenirs of his career permits us
today to enter a world long departed and see it through the lens of an officer who promised so much,
achieved a great deal but, despite being among the youngest of the Field Marshals and Generals
portrayed by Sargent, is now almost a forgotten figure, probably fairly ranked as being at the top of
the second division of the ‘Generals of The Great War’.
Dr David Biggins

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Boer War DSOs 1 year 9 months ago #73616

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Following on from the post by Bicolboy59.

Picture courtesy of Dominic Winter

QSA (4) Cape Colony, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill, Witterbergen (Lieut: C. Wilson. D.S.O. I.Y.)
KSA (2) (Lt. C.H.A. Wilson. D.S.O. Damants Hrs.),

With dress miniature awards, presented in a sloping mahogany and glass display case with Holderness Hunt buttons applied to the red cloth lining which is presumably made from his red hunting tunic

DSO London Gazette 27 September 1901: 'In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa'

MID London Gazette 10 September 1901
MID London Gazette 25 April 1902

Lieutenant Clive Henry Adolphus Wilson was born in 1876, he served in the Boer War with the Imperial Yeomanry and Damant's Horse from 1900-02 where he was severely wounded. He was twice mentioned in despatches and retired from the East Riding of Yorkshire Yeomanry on 6 December 1902 and given the honorary rank of Captain.

Wilson was a Director of Thomas Wilson and Company, Hull and the United Shipping Company, London and the Smithson and Company, Hull. He was also Master of the Holderness Hounds.
Dr David Biggins

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Boer War DSOs 1 year 9 months ago #73716

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The group to Dobell sold yesterday for a hammer price of £20,000. Totals (inc VAT on the commission for the UK only): £24,800. R492,000. Au$43,440. Can$41,520. US$32,160.
Dr David Biggins

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Boer War DSOs 1 year 8 months ago #74433

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Picture courtesy of DNW

DSO VR., silver-gilt and enamel, with integral top riband bar, obverse central medallion depressed;
QSA (4) Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill (Capt. A. Reid. CIV);
BWM and VM with MID oak leaves (Lt. Col. A. Reid.);
Coronation 1902, silver;
Volunteer Officers’ Decoration, EdVII, silver and silver-gilt, hallmarks for London 1905, with integral top riband bar;
Volunteer Force Long Service Medal, VR (Captain. A. Reid. 1/V.B. Middx. Rgt.).

Together with a hallmarked silver identity disc on a leather wrist-strap inscribed ‘Lt. Col. A. Reid DSO V.D. C.O. 18th Cheshire Regt. C. of E.’

DSO LG 27 September 1901: ‘In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa.’

Alexander Reid was born on 2 October 1863, the son of Thomas Reid of Hampstead, and was educated at Highgate School. ‘In 1880 he joined the Hampstead Detachment of the 3rd Middlesex Rifles, as the 7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment was then called, just after Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Joseph Warner had effected the consolidation of the Battalion. After serving six and a half years in the ranks, he was appointed a Second Lieutenant in 1887, was promoted Lieutenant in 1889, Captain in 1892, Major in 1902, and was granted the honorary rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in 1905, resigning his commission the following year. In 1902, on the occasion of the Coronation of his late Majesty King Edward VII, he commanded the representative contingent of the Battalion and received the Coronation Medal. His total service in the battalion was 26 years and three months, and he commanded the Hampstead Detachment from 1893 to 1904. The Volunteer Officer’s Decoration was conferred upon him in 1905 (LG 27 April 1906).

On the outbreak of the South African War in 1899, Captain Reid, as he then was, at once volunteered for active service, and on 3 January 1900 was selected to command “A” Company of the City Imperial Volunteers, and was the senior Captain in that regiments. He sailed for South Africa on the Kinfauns Castle on 20 January, and shared in the operations in Cape Colony, south of Orange River, from February to April. His regiment took part in Lord Roberts’ march on Pretoria, being included in Major-General Bruce Hamilton’s 21st Brigade, and Captain Reid was engaged in the operations in the Orange Free State April and May 1900, including the action at Zand River on 10 May, and in the operations in the Transvaal in May and June, including the actions near Johannesburg on 29 May, Pretoria on 4 June, and Diamond Hill on 11-12 June. He was subsequently engaged in the operation in the Transvaal, west of Pretoria, from July to October 1900, including the relief of Colonel Hore’s garrison at Eland’s River on 16 August, returning to England with his regiment on 28 October. In all these engagements he had greatly distinguished himself, and his commanding officer, Colonel Henry Mackinnon, in a personal letter to Colonel Sir Reginald Hennell, then commanding what is now the 7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, spoke of his services in the following terms:

“I must write you a line to tell you of Reid’s good work with the CIV He has not only done exceedingly well during all that time when we were not in contact with the enemy, but in action he showed exceptional ability and bravery. I especially mentioned him in my report to the Field Marshal.”

On the disbandment of the City Imperial Volunteers, Captain Reid was granted the honorary rank of Captain in the Army. In recognition of his services he was Mention in Despatches for gallant and distinguished services in the field (LG 10 September 1901), and was gazetted a Companion of the Distinguished Service Order on 27 September of the same year.

During the European War, Lieutenant-Colonel Reid was granted a temporary commission in the New Armies, and on 9 March 1916 was appointed to the command of the 18th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment. On 13 April 1917 he was transferred to the newly-formed Labour Corps, and served on the Western Front for over three years in command of a Labour Group. He was again Mentioned in Despatches for his services (LG 10 July 1919), and finally retired in 1920. He died on 25 February 1927.

Always a keen soldier, Lieutenant-Colonel Reid did much in his time to improve the musketry of his battalion, and was for many years by far the finest shot amongst its officers. One of the kindest and most genial of men, he endeared himself to all with whom he came in contact, and his name will ever be remembered with pride in the 7th Battalion Middlesex Regiment, as the first of its officers to gain distinction on the field of battle.’ (The recipient’s obituary in The Die Hards, the Regimental Journal of the Middlesex Regiment, February 1927 refers).
Dr David Biggins
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Boer War DSOs 1 year 7 months ago #75039

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Picture courtesy of DNW

GCVO, nr 461
QSA (5) Relief of Kimberley, Paardeberg, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Diamond Hill (Colonel Lord E. B. Talbot, DSO);
Coronation 1902, silver;
Jubilee 1935

MVO. 4th Class, 22 August 1902, for services at the Coronation of the King.

GCVO, 3 June 1919, for services as Deputy Earl Marshal of England.

Edmund Bernard Talbot (né FitzAlan-Howard), later 1st Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent, K.G., GCVO., DSO, was born on 1 June 1855, the second son of the 14th Duke of Norfolk, and educated at the Oratory School, Edgbaston, prior to being commissioned into the 11th Hussars in 1875. Named as the principal beneficiary in the will of Bertram Arthur Talbot, 17th Earl of Shrewsbury provided he took the surname and arms of ‘Talbot’, he duly did so by royal licence in 1876. However, the late earl's distant relatives contested the will, and the peerage and concomitant property were awarded after much litigation to Henry Chetwynd-Talbot, 3rd Earl Talbot, leaving Lord Edmund Talbot with only scattered minor lands. Acting as Adjutant of the 11th Hussars from 1881-83, Lord Edmund Talbot served in a similar capacity in the Auxiliary Forces from 1883-88, and was promoted to Major in 1891. In 1894 he was elected MP for Chichester and remained in Parliament until 1921. When war broke out in South Africa he was involved in operations leading to the relief of Kimberley and at Paardeberg, in addition to the actions at Poplar Grove, Driefontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria, Diamond Hill, and Colesburg. He was awarded the DSO (LG 19 April 1901) and mentioned in Despatches. On 17 June 1900, he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel although he did not command the 11th Hussars.

Returning to politics he held various appointment, as: Private Secretary to the Secretary of State for War and India, and between 1905-06 he was Junior Lord of the Treasury and Whip. Also between 1915-21 he was Joint Parliamentary Secretary at the Treasury. He was appointed Deputy Earl Marshal of England in 1917 as his nephew, the 16th Duke of Norfolk, was too young. In 1921 he was Lord Lieutenant and the last Viceroy of Ireland, the first Roman Catholic to hold the post since 1685, but the position only lasted until 1922 when the Irish Free State came into being. In his capacity as Viceroy of Ireland he was appointed as the very last Honorary Grand Master of the Order of Saint Patrick, which Order became obsolete in 1922. In 1925 he was honoured with the appointment of Knight of the Garter. He reverted to his name of FitzAlan in 1921 and was raised to the peerage as the Right Hon. The Viscount FitzAlan of Derwent in the County of Derby.

On 5 August 1879, he was married to Lady Mary Bertie, daughter of the Earl of Abingdon. They had two children, a daughter and a son, and lived at Cumberland Lodge in Windsor Great Park. Viscount FitzAlan died on 18 May 1947.
Dr David Biggins

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Boer War DSOs 1 year 3 months ago #76672

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Jubilee 1897, silver, unnamed as issued;
QSA (1) Cape Colony (Capt. & Adjt. M. A. Foster, D.S.O., Som. L.I.) engraved naming, unit officially corrected to include post-nominal letters;
KSA (2) (Maj. & Adjt. M. A. Foster. D.S.O., Som. L.I.)

DSO London Gazette 27 September 1901: ‘In recognition of services during the operations in South Africa.’

Confirmed on the medal roll for the 1897 Jubilee Medal: ‘Captain M. A. Foster, 2nd Battalion Somerset Lt. Infy’.

Montagu Amos Foster was born on 19 March 1861, the son of William Foster of Wilbury Road, Brighton, Sussex. Appointed as Gentleman to be Second Lieutenant in the 2nd or East Norfolk Militia on 10 December 1879, he was then gazetted to a regular commission in the Somerset Light Infantry in January 1882. Promoted Captain in September 1887, he served as an Adjutant in the Militia from May 1899 until February 1904.

Foster served as Adjutant to the 4th (Militia) Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry in South Africa during the Boer War, in which period he was present in operations in Cape Colony from April 1900 until April 1902, initially serving south of the Orange River (April-November 1900). Garrison duties aside, he would have been employed in mobile columns and it was likely just such work that resulted in the award of his DSO. He was also twice Mentioned in Despatches (London Gazettes 10 September 1901 and 29 July 1902).

A large contingent of officers and men of the 4th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry returned to the U.K. aboard the S.S. Sicilia in April 1902 and Foster was probably among them. He had, however, previously returned home to receive his DSO from the King at an investiture held on the 29 October 1901.

Advanced Major in April 1902, he was placed on the Retired List in March 1909, and died on 30 April 1940.

Dr David Biggins

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