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General French's bodyguard


shancrom
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During my recent research, on a local soldier in the North Irish Horse ,i have found details from a local newspaper that he was a bodyguard at the funeral of General French, can anyone identify General french, would he have been an officer in the NIH, my soldier enlisted 1914 and returned home 1919/20.

Shancrom

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I assume Field Marshall Sir John French who led the British Expeditonary force in France until Sir Douglas Haig replaced him.

If you search this site or just google the name you should find quite a bit.

Bernard

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He was Field Marshall and CinC BEF in 1914. After a brief spell in the Royal Navy he was commissioned into 8th (King's Royal Irish) Hussars in 1874 and also became Colonel, The Royal Irish Regiment.

TR

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The only General French of whom I am aware, was Sir John French, who's last command had been in Ireland. His ashes lay in state at the Guards Chapel and then were given a State Funeral before being taken to Ripple in Kent for interment. He was actually a Field Marshal so it may be that there was another general with the same name.

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There is only one General French whose funeral might just have fallen somewhere close to your man's service period. This was Major General Sir G A French CMG who died in England in July 1921. Born in Roscommon Ireland in 1841 he had originally served with the Royal Irish Constabulary before he went to Sandhurst. Although an artilleryman he accepted a posting to the Canadian Mounted Police (possibly because of his RIC experience) and played a major part in expanding that forces influence westwards) He eventually resigned and resumed his military career because of political disagreements with the Canadian politicians of the time. He served in most parts of the British Empire. Given the Irish connection and the relative closness of the dates I wondered. Could your man for instance have joined the RIC after leaving the army?

The only other General Frenches (apart from the Earl of Ypres) I can find are out of period (there was one on both sides in the ACW, One in the USAF in the 1950s and a more recent General French in the British Army).

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French was the last Viceroy of Ireland. Is it possible either that the report was confused and he was French's bodyguard then or that the man was no longer a soldier and had joined the RUC or Ulster Special constabulary and then went to the funeral in that capacity?

Greg

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Sir John served in several positions and for several years as a Fieldmarshall. That was how he would normally be known. I suspect a lesser known officer and almost certainly one in Centurion's post.

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The soldier, returned home either 1919 or 1920, i have no info to suggest him being in the RIC, on return from the war he went on to establish one of the best known dairy cattle herds in N.Ireland, the newspaper reports state that he enlisted in Lord Roden's platoon (Lord Roden resided in an area of County Down called Tollymore, just a few miles from the seaside town of Newcastle.

Shancrom

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The soldier, returned home either 1919 or 1920, i have no info to suggest him being in the RIC, on return from the war he went on to establish one of the best known dairy cattle herds in N.Ireland, the newspaper reports state that he enlisted in Lord Roden's platoon (Lord Roden resided in an area of County Down called Tollymore, just a few miles from the seaside town of Newcastle.

At which time both General Frenches were definitely still breathing so unless someone can locate a third General French who died between 1914 and 1920 there's something definitely wrong with that newspaper report. Can you tell us exactly what it said (and when it dates from)?

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At which time both General Frenches were definitely still breathing so unless someone can locate a third General French who died between 1914 and 1920 there's something definitely wrong with that newspaper report. Can you tell us exactly what it said (and when it dates from)?

I have managed to get my hands on an earlier newspaper report, the initial one i had was the obituary notice in 1970 to the soldier stating he had been part of the bodyguard at the funeral of General French, the same paper carried a report of this man in 1966 (50th anniversary of the Somme battle), it states that he was part of a bodyguard troop for General French, so i guess General French must have visited the troop in France, or some other location, and the NIH had provided a troop of bodyguards.

Kenny

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Found it! Your newspaper got it a little garbled - no funeral involved! I've lifted the following intact from a now defunct web site ( ony available as cached so no point in trying to link

Battle of the Rivers, September - October 1914

The North Irish Horse arrived in France on August 20th, and pushing forward at once reached the French and Belgian frontier in time to relieve the pressure on the retreating forces. They had their baptism of fire near Compiègne on September 1st, and fought again a few days later at Le Cateau. These little side details or footnotes of history are not without their interest. Often, indeed, they excite the mind even more than the big, decisive events.

During the Battles of the Marne and the Aisne both the North and the South Irish Horse were employed rounding up parties of Uhlansin the woods, and scouring the isolated villages and deserted farmhouses for stragglers. The Uhlans, by all accounts, were contemptible as foes. "They run like scalded cats when they see you," writes Captain N. G. Stewart Richardson, of the North Irish Horse, to a friend in Belfast, "and are always in close formation as if afraid to separate. I had a grand hunt after twenty (there were five of us), and we got four dead, picking up two more afterwards. We came on them round the corner of a street, and they went like hunted deer."

The duties were discharged with varying good luck and bad. Corporal Fred Lindsay tells how the North Irish Horse discovered one of those minor tragedies of war and lost Troopers Jack Scott of Londonderry and W. Moore of Limavady. "With a Sergeant Hicks they were sent to patrol as far as a ford in the river which, unknown to us, was held by a German force with a machine gun. When the three reached the ford they found a British officer dead across his motor-car and some of his men dead around the car. They were about to dismount to investigate when the machine-gun fired upon them, instantly killing the two troopers. Sergeant Hicks escaped on Moore's horse, his own being shot under him." On another day, the same troop came upon a force of Uhlans in a wood near a village, and succeeded in killing some, taking a good many prisoners, and capturing a number of horses. "In this action," Corporal Fred Lindsay relates, "Trooper McClennaghan, of Garvagh, accounted for three Uhlans and took two horses single-handed; and two others and myself, firing simultaneously at an escaping Uhlan, brought both horse and rider down at 900 yards' distance. Sitting on the roadside later eating biscuits and bully beef with the rest of us Viscount Massereene complimented us, saying, 'Boys, you have done a good day's work. If we only had an opportunity like this every day!'" Subsequently the North Irish Horse had the distinction of forming the bodyguard of Sir John French. The South Irish Horse took service, like the cavalry, in the trenches.

From Michael MacDonagh, The Irish at the Front, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1916, pp.35-36.

Sir John was then commander of the BEF
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Would he have been Field Marshall then?

Yes - from 1913 but strangely enough many contemporary accounts still refer to him as General French

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Absolutely fantastic result, many thanks, never expected that kind of result.

Shancrom

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Is it possible that the North Irish Horse were involved in the processions and ceremonial that followed the death of Field Marshal Lord Roberts VC in France in November 1914. Roberts had strong Irish connections, French would have been closely involved in the ceremonial and the NIH (even if not then finding French's bodyguard) might have been expected to be involved. In the way that families have of getting stories slightly wrong and the way newspapers have of transforming fact to news, this might account for the garbled reference to 'funerals' in the original article. Certainly, I have seen accounts of soldiers who set some store by having been involved in the Roberts 'funeral' processions in France and thought it a major event in their military careers.

Ian

PS I have never quite understood why French was often referred to as General French but I suppose that he retained his Boer War handle in the minds of press and public.

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Although he died in France 'Bobs' was buried in England (St Pauls) and so his funeral procession was in London. Looking at the list of units involved in this the NIH was not amongst them. The escort of the body to the port in France was primarily carried out by various Indian Cavalry units and the RA. There was some British Cavalry involvement in this but this seems to be relatively slight. It is just possible that the NIH were involved but it would have been likely to be peripheral as the close escort was provided by the Indians.

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BB Lieutenant John Montford, who is a sergeant in the North Irish Horse, is attached to the body-guard of General Smith Dorrien.

see picture

and Kinnear below who also relates French bodyguatd story. May be of interest to see some of his comrades. Pics and small write up from Ballymena Observer, December 1914.

http://www.freewebs.com/snake43/weeklywar1914.htm

post-1582-1234266824.jpg

post-1582-1234266978.jpg

post-1582-1234267081.jpg

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I've extracted some details of the units involved in the Funeral of Lord Roberts from articles on this

-

GHQ France

Coffin Carrying Party - RA (8 men) Irish Guards 2 men.

Initial Guard of Honour Various Indian Army Units

Street Guard of Honour - British Infantry.

Procession to Church (in order)

British Cavalry

French Cavalry

Indian Cavalry

British and French Generals and Dignitaries (inc HRH PoW)

The Gun Carriage and Pall bearers (8 Generals)

French Cavalry

RHA Who fired salutes after the ceremony

Motor Ambulance to Boulogne

Boulogne

Guard of Honour Royal Welsh Regiment

Pall bearers French and Indian General Officers lead by General Sir Henry Wilson

Folkstone

Coffin taken to family home at Ascot for private ceremonies - no military involvement

Ascot Station

Pall bearers Irish Guards

Funeral Procession to St Pauls

14th County of London Battalion of the London Scottish

5th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment

4th Battalion of the Grenadier Guards

2nd Battalion Irish Guards

Royal Naval Brigade

Eton Officers Training Corps

No 2 Mountain Battery Indian Army

RHA battery (number unknown but probably P battery)

Gun Carriage

1st Life Guards

King Edwards Horse.

From this the only point at which the NIH might have been involved was in the procession from GHQ to the local church

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Apologies on this one - I was thinking of the 1914 period when NIH seem to have been on staff protection duties. Missed the funeral part!

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Thanks to Centurion for the details of the ceremonial that accompanied the return of FM Lord Roberts to the UK, particularly that in France.

Ian

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According to the Dictionary of National Biography: Field Marshal French, John Denton Pinkstone, first earl of Ypres lived between 1852–1925. He was already a Field Marshal in 1914; I have not made a match for a MIC to a General French using the UK National Archives Medal Index Cards online.

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  • 4 months later...
BB Lieutenant John Montford, who is a sergeant in the North Irish Horse, is attached to the body-guard of General Smith Dorrien.

see picture

and Kinnear below who also relates French bodyguatd story. May be of interest to see some of his comrades. Pics and small write up from Ballymena Observer, December 1914.

http://www.freewebs.com/snake43/weeklywar1914.htm

Desmond

Any chance I could include these pictures on my North Irish Horse website? www.northirishhorse.com.au

That's the site Centurion described as 'defunct' earlier in this thread - not sure what happened there, but it's working fine now :)

Cheers

Phillip

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Sorry if slightly off topic

This was Major General Sir G A French CMG who died in England in July 1921. Born in Roscommon Ireland in 1841 he had originally served with the Royal Irish Constabulary before he went to Sandhurst. Although an artilleryman he accepted a posting to the Canadian Mounted Police (possibly because of his RIC experience) and played a major part in expanding that forces influence westwards)

He formed the first contingent of the North West Mounted Police (which became the RCMP), and they were sent west to combat the whiskey traders and provide some order in the new Canadian territories of Rupert's Land. Sitting Bull and the Sioux and the Great White Mother time. A 15 year old ancestor of my wife signed on as a bugler. His initial role in Canada was to organise the militia to replace the British troops being withdrawn.

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  • spof changed the title to General French's bodyguard

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