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Remembered Today:

Major George Frederick Cortlandt Shakespear DSO MC


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Introducing my grandmother’s cousin, Major George Frederick Cortlandt Shakespear DSO MC, (aka Fred) who served throughout the Great War in the East African Expeditionary Force. He survived the war and came home in early 1919 only to succumb to influenza on 24th February aged 29.

He was commissioned into the Indian Army (88th Carnatic Infantry) in October 1909 and then served with the 94th Russell’s Infantry and attached to the 2nd Royal Berkshire Regiment. In December 1914, he was attached to the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry (I think) and then became a staff officer (GSO2) dealing with Intelligence, where he distinguished himself throughout the campaign.

He was awarded the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order as well as a Mention in Despatches.

I attach some photos of him and his medals and also some copies from his Army Pay Book and Officer’s Service Records, both books and medals being in my possession. I only really started looking at them recently as I was left them by my great aunt about 30 years ago and apart from the odd inspection, they have lain in the little display case they have been in for the last 100 years or so. I also have his ‘death penny’ and a Portuguese medal he was awarded, which I understand to be the Military Order of Saint Benedict of Aviz; Grand Cross. The original MC, DSO and Portuguese star are at Sandhurst where they were donated by his sister in the 1970s.

I would love to know more about his activities in Africa. The campaign was a bit of a forgotten war where the Germans seemed to run rings around the British forces and their allies. I include a glowing reference from Brigadier General S H Sheppard in his OSR book – if anyone can decipher the reference to the ‘rather queer folk’ referred to and who they were I would be grateful!

 

My translation so far is as follows:

 

Dar-es-Salaam  Sept 15th 1918

For the last few years, Major Shakespear has been in sole charge of the Intelligence of the E.A.Exp.Force. This has been a difficult job, entailing a great deal of responsibility; he has had many ? and ? agents under him (some of the latter being rather queer folk to deal with), and in addition, Major Shakespear has been primarily responsible for raising and maintaining a corps of well over a thousand Int. ? (African). The work has been very well done and the Intelligence results have been most satisfactory. I have never met a Staff Officer of Major Shakespear’s service (9 years) who shaped better. He can control men, is not at all afraid of responsibility and is thoroughly to be relied on in every way.

S.H.Sheppard B.Gen

B.G.G.S.

E.A.Ex.Force

Major Fred Shakespear DSO MC 001.jpg

Fred's Officer's Service Record 6 001.jpg

Fred's Officer's Service Record 1 001.jpg

Fred's Officer's Service Record 3 001.jpg

Fred's Officer's Service Record 4 001.jpg

 

Fred's Pay Book 1 001.jpg

Fred's Pay Book 2 001.jpg

Fred's medals.JPG

Edited by Mr.Spigot
duplicate and missed a bit.
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charlesmessenger

Man y thanks for sharing with us. I note that his DSO was awarded in the 1918 New Year Honours and hence was for overall distinguished service rather than for a particular act.

 

Charles M

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5 minutes ago, charlesmessenger said:

Man y thanks for sharing with us. I note that his DSO was awarded in the 1918 New Year Honours and hence was for overall distinguished service rather than for a particular act.

 

Charles M

 

Thanks. Yes, I guessed that was probably the case, but I would love to find out more about his activities during the campaign, what he did and where he was.

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Sappersnooper

You could try any of the following books. May not mention your grandmother's cousin by name but BG Sheppard etc my appear. I have not read any of these but they were recommended at a recent lecture I had on the E.Africa Campaign. Tip and Run possibly best option.

 

Tip and Run - Edward Paice

The Forgotten Front - Ross Anderson

The Greater War - Jonathan Krause (Chapter on E.Africa)

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7 minutes ago, Sappersnooper said:

You could try any of the following books. May not mention your grandmother's cousin by name but BG Sheppard etc my appear. I have not read any of these but they were recommended at a recent lecture I had on the E.Africa Campaign. Tip and Run possibly best option.

 

Tip and Run - Edward Paice

The Forgotten Front - Ross Anderson

The Greater War - Jonathan Krause (Chapter on E.Africa)

Thanks for the advice. I have got two of those books and Sheppard is mentioned several times, but not Fred.  There are so many books on the campaign, most of which are quite long and it is a bit like looking for a needle in a haystack! I just don't have time (or money!) to get and read all of them so thought I might try some alternative research via this forum.

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Kew has a file series in WO157 entitled Intelligence Reports East Africa GHQ, mostly in monthly sections, i.e. Feb 1915 is WO157/1114, which run up to 1918.

You may be able to glean some info about your subject's participation from some of these.

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Kimberley John Lindsay

Dear Mr.Spigot,

Fred Shakespear was obviously a gallant and capable Officer, whose loss - to the influenza epidemic of all things - one regrets, even reading about it today!

Kindest regards,

Kim.

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George Frederick Cortlandt Shakespear

His Military Cross was awarded in the London Gazette of 26 June 1916 (pages 6316 / 6317) under the following header:

 

War Office,

26th June, 1916.

His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to approve of the undermentioned rewards for Distinguished Service in the Field, dated 3rd June, 1916: —

 

Awarded the Military Cross.

 

Lt. George Frederick Cortlandt Shakespear, 88th Carnatic Infy., Ind. Army.

 

This is what is called a (Kings) Birthday Honour so had no published citation.

 

Just to clarify a bit on what you earlier posted, he was commissioned onto the Unattached List for the Indian Army in September 1909. When he arrived in India he was attached to the 2nd battalion Royal Berkshires for a year to gain experience. He was then accepted for admission to the IA posted to his permanent Indian Army unit on 31st October 1910, which in his case was the 94th Russell's Infantry. However he transferred to the 88th Carnatic Infantry on the 12th April 1913, and was appointed adjutant 1 July 1913. He was promoted Lieutenant 8 December 1911. He was one of a number of officers attached to the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry before it went to East Africa as they were very short of junior officers.

 

In October 1914 the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry moved to East Africa as part of IEF B. As a result he was probably present for the disastrous battle of Tanga or shortly afterwards.  It was part of the British landing force defeated by German colonial troops on 3 November 1914. At an early stage in the landing the regiment disintegrated when it came under heavy fire from the 6th Field Company of German Askaris. Of 762 officers and men present at Tanga, the 63rd Light Infantry lost 85 killed, wounded and missing. It spent the remainder of the War on lines of communication service in East Africa before returning to India.

 

I hope that helps,

 

Matthew

 

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On 08/04/2018 at 10:59, Matthew B. said:

 

Just to clarify a bit on what you earlier posted, he was commissioned onto the Unattached List for the Indian Army in September 1909. When he arrived in India he was attached to the 2nd battalion Royal Berkshires for a year to gain experience. He was then accepted for admission to the IA posted to his permanent Indian Army unit on 31st October 1910, which in his case was the 94th Russell's Infantry. However he transferred to the 88th Carnatic Infantry on the 12th April 1913, and was appointed adjutant 1 July 1913. He was promoted Lieutenant 8 December 1911. He was one of a number of officers attached to the 63rd Palamcottah Light Infantry before it went to East Africa as they were very short of junior officers.

 

 

Thanks very much for that Matthew. Where does this information come from? According to his service record, he did not join 63rd Palamcottah LI until December 1914, a month after the Tanga debacle.

Edited by Mr.Spigot
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  • 3 years later...
Mr.Spigot

I have a distant relative Major George Frederick Cortlandt Shakespear DSO MC (Fred), who was a staff officer who, I understand, headed up the above from 1915-1918 but I have not yet been able to find out much about his work in East Africa. He gets a single mention in Meinertzhagen's Army Diaries, (and it is clear they would have worked together) although Meinertzhagen seems to be an unreliable source and prone to 'blowing his own trumpet' and being somewhat creative with the facts. Fred worked under General Smuts and General Sheppard, the latter giving him a glowing reference in his officer's pay book, which I have. 

 

Any information or guidance on where to look would be greatly appreciated.

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Mr.Spigot

Thanks, that was an earlier post of mine giving more information about Fred.

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On 02/05/2021 at 08:49, Mr.Spigot said:

Any information or guidance on where to look would be greatly appreciated.

George Frederick Cortlandt Shakespear, I knew that name rang a bell...  I was looking for something else and, although doesn't add much additional detail, I have noticed that Captain G. F. C. Shakespear had been signing off the daily Intelligence Reports for the East African General Staff from 17/11/1916 onwards.  The reports I was looking at in particular were from October to December 1916, are held in the East African General Staff War Diaries (National Archives ref. WO 95/5292-1_1 and WO 95/5292-1_2) and, if nothing else, will at least give you a flavour of what he was involved in.

 

If you haven't already perhaps create yourself an account with the National Archives and you can download these war diaries for free at the moment.  Link to the file is here... https://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/details/r/b75ae03f268f43adb0f2dfbc0469f5a8

 

Steve

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Mr.Spigot

Many thanks for passing on that link. I had heard about a reference in The Meinertzhagen Mystery by Brian Garfield mentioning that Fred had signed off reports when Meinertzhagen was absent. I will look it up.

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ss002d6252

Threads merged.


Craig

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bushfighter

Spiggers

Greetings

I have tabulated all awards for the WW1 East Africa Campaign and these are my relevant notes:

Shakespear, George Frederick Cortland

Lt

Ind Army

88th Carnatic Inf & EA Int Dept

MC

26.6.16

6317

No citation

EAGRO 03 July 1916

Made Brevet Major for EA.

Shakespear, George Frederick Cortland

Capt & Bt Maj

Ind Army

88th Carnatic Inf & EA Int Dept

DSO

1.1.18

26

TO CHECK IN 88 INF WD

 

In index of Pretorious book

 

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bushfighter

Spiggers

Greetings

Your very helpful posts, and those of fellow Members above, have allowed me to research Fred's intelligence service more thoroughly.

I interpret the two blanks in your transcription of Sheppard's reference as being "Intelligence ors (other ranks)" and "Intelligence Agents".

Intelligence Agents were indeed out of the ordinary folk - they had to be to live behind enemy lines with their African Scouts for lengths of time.

Here are the entries in my forthcoming book for:

 

1.  MC

For Distinguished Service in the Field

“Fred” Cortlandt arrived in East Africa in December 1914 to serve with the 63rd Palmacottah Light Infantry who needed effective officers, but he was soon attached to the Intelligence Department.  Meinertzhagen wrote on page 188 “Smuts left Old Moshi today (22nd May 1916) taking young Shakespear as my representative on his staff.  I am to remain with General Headquarters.”  Pretorious wrote (page 163): “I well remember my first meeting with General Smuts.  He too supreme command after the campaign had been in progress some time, and when he arrived Major Shakespear of the Intelligence, took me over to see him.”  It is most likely that General Smuts endorsed Shakespear’s recommendation for the Military Cross.  Shakespear later received a DSO.

 

2.  DSO

For distinguished service in the Field

Took over as Chief Intelligence Officer when R. Meinertzhagen was posted out of theatre in November 1916.  On September 15th 1918 Brigadier S.H. Sheppard commented: “For the last two years Major Shakespear has been in sole charge of the Intelligence of the East African Expeditionary Force . . . . and in addition Major Shakespear has been primarily responsible for raising and maintaining a Corps of well over a thousand Intelligence Scouts (African).  The work has been very well done – and the Intelligence results have been most satisfactory.”

(Entry in Shakespear’s Record of Service Book.)

 

3.  PORTUGUESE AWARD

Officer – Military Order of Avis

(Awarded posthumously as Frederick Shakespear died of Spanish Influenza on 24 February 1919.)

 

4.  MENTION IN DESPATCHES

Entered as Gazetted on 30 June 1916.

 

My own interpretation of the whole East African Campaign Intelligence effort is that Meinertzhagen needed the limelight to begin with, and he did produce some very useful guides to German officers and units, but his blatant fabrications (eg: flying over Mount Kilimanjaro when planes in theatre could not reach that altitude) distort his diary entries too much and invalidate some of them.

 

Then Fred took over, did an excellent job, did not beat his own drum, and the details of his very conscientious work are hard to find.  It looks as though as well as sound man-management and tasking of Intelligence Agents and their Scouts, he could collate information, refine it into intelligence, and disseminate if effectively.

 

Well Done Fred!

 

Harry

 

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Mr.Spigot

Many thanks Bushfighter.  I am grateful for your research and filling in the gaps in Sheppard's reference. Threading together the evidence, I would agree with your conclusions about Fred. He was held in great affection by the family and was by all accounts a popular chap who whilst being both bright and good at sports, remained modest (in contrast to Meinertzhagen!).  He was Head Boy at Wellington and whilst there met the Battenburgs, the King and Queen of Spain and King Edward VII, making a good impression on all of them. According to (my great aunt) his cousin's family history book, he 'lit King Edward's cigar, arranged Queen Alexandra's footstool and then came home to his mother's humble terraced house in Chiswick, picked up her string bag and went out to do her shopping'. 

Although he died nearly half a century before I was born, I feel honoured to be able to keep his memory alive and shed some light on his achievements, one of the many unsung heroes of that campaign. I look forward to hearing more about your book!

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