Jump to content
The Great War (1914-1918) Forum

Remembered Today:

King George the Fifth


PhilB
 Share

Recommended Posts

"For seventeen years he did nothing at all but kill animals and stick in stamps."

Harold Nicolson, English diplomat and writer, while writing his biography of George V (1865-1936)

That seems a bit harsh, but as the senior soldier of Britain`s WW1 army he deserves more consideration from the forum. I`m not aware that his role has been discussed before, so what can we say about him?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

He frequently visited Salisbury Plain to review troops, usually just before they left for the Front. Contemporary accounts, mostly by officers, suggest there was quite a bit of patriotic fervour on these occasions, but I suspect mixed feelings among the other ranks, who spent hours assembling on the parade area so the King could trot past them on his horse.

Moonraker

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Who was senior to him, Thomas? He`s certainly first in the Army List and shown as a Field Marshal..

Did KGV have a defined role or was it whatever he chose to make it? I can`t imagine there was a job description but there must have been some limitations placed upon him by er what? parliament? Or could parliament define his role?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Phil B

I've seen several references to him visiting troops on the Western Front. In one War Diary I read a few months ago both he and the Queen did so,but not together at the same place at the same time.

Best wishes

Sotonmate

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I believe he was quite influential in the choice of senior officers, and his support or otherwise could be important. As with Royalty generally, their influence may sometimes be indirect, through third persons, so as not to compromise their constitutional position.

Anyway, a chap who does a bit of hunting and has a stamp collections must be preferable to a good many politicians.

Edwin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It wasn't just senior officers who appreciated his review before they left for the front. I have read letters and dairy entries from soldiers involved who were pleased with the attention. When the boss takes the time to visit, it usually means a lot. After all, the effort was "For King and Country", wasn't it?

Mike Morrison

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Here's a local newspaper report of a visit the King and Queen made to soldiers undergoing training for the New Army at Inkerman Barracks, Nr Woking, Surrey:

http://1914-1918.invisionzone.com/forums/i...st&p=793140

As the men had signed up to fight for "King and Country" this must have been a great morale booster for the men as well as the locals and I don't think that the importance of this aspect of the Royal family's duties at that time should be overlooked. (The Princess Mary Gift boxes being another good example)

NigelS

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Phil,

In a long letter home dated 30 September 1916, John Monash goes into great detail describing the visit of the King to review his troops (about 27,000 men). During the review he says that the King asked hundreds of questions about the men, their training and equipment,

eg: "Have the men all got overcoats?" Monash replied indicating yes, they had coats and waterproof capes.

A couple of weeks later on the 12th October 1916, Monash again writes home and tells of a visit from Lt- Gen Sir John Cowan, a member of the Army Council and Quartermaster-General.

"The King had insisted on his coming to see me to make sure I had all the warm clothing I wanted. As a result I have got him to promise me a special issue of 20,000 leather vests."

This seems to indicate some attention to detail on the part of KGV

regards

Michael

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes he seems to have had a significant, though ill defined role. While we`re waiting for Tom to say who was senior to the King, this from Holmes` "The Little Field Marshal":- French, trying to get the King to intervene in a dispute - "I want to approach the King as our Commander-in-chief and Military Head". Clearly the King had huge influence.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I have a photo of him and the King of Belgium on the beach near Nieupoort :rolleyes: www.ypressalient.co.uk - King George

Actually there are loads of reports of him inspecting Divisions prior to their departure and visiting troops both at home and at the front.

No doubt did a lot more than the politicians - Did LG ever leave UK?

sm

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Yes LlG did - but he did have a country to run! Whether LlG did much visiting of troops I don`t know and I`m not sure how he would have been received, though modern politicians seem to be received quite enthusiastically, some surprisingly so! It may be that visiting the troops was one of KGV`s most effective pursuits. I suspect that his influence behind the scenes may have also been very effective, not least in officer selection, though we`ll never know the extent.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I often refelct on how proper kings like Henry V or Richard III would have viewed George V rear echelon role.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I was off inspecting a front line unit. ;)

The Queen Mother was Colonel in Chief of The Black Watch. She was not a soldier. The royal family all have honorary titles as they did then. The Crown Princess wears the uniform of an officer in the services, I do not know her actual titular rank. None of them apart from the serving officers, Andrew and Charles' sons, are service personnel. The Kaiser was a Field Marshal and a vice Admiral I believe, I forget the actual titles he held. He was not a soldier in the British Army nor a matelot in the Andrew. In other threads I have stated that the King took a great interest in the srvices and had great influence. He did not hold a command. On one recorded occasion when he quarreled with Lloyd George, he threatened to do the only thing he could. He threatened to make his views public. LG retaliated by saying that he would then go to the country. The king was forced to back down. His role was advisory only, he had no power and he knew it. He was not even entitled to all of the intelligence from the war which is why he recruited so many officers to communicate with him personally. You say he was a soldier, I ask you, in what way, apart from a figurehead.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Gen French considering him as "Commander-in-chief and Military Head" sounds like a good indication, though he was, of course, largely a figurehead. He was actually commissioned into the RN IIRC (and commanded a torpedo boat) and it`s quite possible that his RN commission may still have been active. He`s reported to have made 450 visits to troops and 300 to hospitals.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

George V's military appointments (from Wikipedia entry):

Military

http://' target="_blank">
Link to comment
Share on other sites

There is a vast difference between an honorary title and a rank in the services. The reigning Monarch is in a unique and somewhat anomolous position since Service personnel serve in HM Forces. In the same way G. Brown is prime minister of HM Government. This does not mean that The Queen is an MP or indeed that she has any part in the government. Quite the opposite!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think that it is worth drawing attention to SG's list above

and reminding one's self that he did complete 15 years service in the RN

"In 1898, as Captain of the Crescent, he carried out a last routine cruise in home waters. The entry in my father's diary in which he recorded the breaking of his ties with the Navy, after 15 years' service, was matter of fact and unemotional. Yet the abrupt and irreversible closing of the door upon a life in which his ambitions and aspirations had been focused since boyhood, no doubt affected him deeply. If the curse of seasickness had kept him from ever loving the sea, he did love the Navy. The associations that he had formed in the Service ripened into friendships that lasted all his life; and long after he had taken up his work ashore, the habits and outlook he had formed in the Navy continued to regulate his daily routine. He retained a gruff, blue-water approach to all human situations, a loud voice, and also that affliction so common to Navy men, a damaged eardrum. From his years at sea he retained a fund of stories and reminiscences, in which he delighted to indulge whenever he had as guest a contemporary who had shared the same experiences. And finally, he never lost the nautical habit of consulting the barometer the first thing every morning and the last thing at night."

From 'A King's Story' by the Duke of Windsor

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think this thread has demostrated that, whatever one might think of our Royal Family (and I am a staunch supporter), King George V played an active part - within the constraints of his position - in promoting the interests of officers and men in the services Harold Nicolson's comments are manifestly bitchy and untrue.

And the poor chap (KGV) gave up booze for the duration!

Edwin

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...