27th July - No Letter
Secret diary: No entry
Official diary (27th July): No entry
Location: House near Herbertstown, Bruff.
Things in Ireland have gone quiet. The mood is changing and a move to the care of a different brigade is being planned for the captured general.
Steve Warburton takes us on another journey of stories from the start of CHTL’s military career. He also includes diary extracts from CHTL’s time at Gallipoli.
CHTL - the Making of a Soldier and Leader of Men
CHTL was a professional soldier. It was his chosen profession as a teenager though his teachers at Marlborough forced him to confront the reality that his Maths wasn’t good enough to make it into Woolwich (the training academy for engineers and the Artillery) and that it was a good idea for him to leave Marlborough ‘early’ to go to a ‘crammer’ for Sandhurst entrance.
After the initial excitement of the Boer War at the beginning of his career CHTL did not want to settle into the life of a regimental officer waiting – via the rule of seniority – for his next opportunity or promotion.
Like many of his peers he chose service overseas within colonial administration as an avenue for advancement. He never left the army, but effectively had two periods of secondment. These opportunities were taken up by many of his contemporaries as a way of broadening their experience and encountering adventure (compared to the ‘rinse & repeat’ monotony of peacetime soldiering). The first was to the Egyptian Police Force in southern Egypt. It is likely that his focus would have been on the disruption caused by an increase in Egyptian nationalism (a forestaste of Ireland in 1920 perhaps?) and the disturbance caused by incidents such as that at Denshawai.
The Denshawai Incident in 1906 accelerated ill will towards British high-handedness. A group of British officers had been out hunting birds near the village of Denshawai. The villagers, who relied upon the birds for food, intervened. In the resulting scuffle, one officer was hurt, became separated and later died died of sunstroke, despite the efforts of a friendly Egyptian to help him. Both men were then found by a party of British soldiers who, assuming the fellah had murdered the officer, beat him to death. The British authorities over-reacted as they regarded this incident as the by-product of nationalist stirring. A special tribunal was set up to try the villagers. Of the 52 accused, four were sentenced to death, two to penal servitude for life, six to imprisonment for seven years and the rest to 50 lashes. The sentences of hanging and flogging were carried out on the site of the incident - and the villagers were compelled to watch. The effect on Egyptian opinion of the savage punishment of the villagers was electric. There was almost universal Egyptian condemnation for the "atrocity" of Denshawai and the Nationalist cause was boosted significantly.
After Egypt, CHTL’s next posting was into the Sudan. Here his task was to develop the port facilities at Port Sudan – a new port and city developed by the Anglo-Egyptian Condominium from 1905 to ensure that effective trade with the area.
Return to the UK and direct service in the regiment followed so that by 1910 he had been promoted to Captain and served in an Adjutant role in one of the Regiment’s battalions.
He doesn’t specifically state it but with his application to Staff College in 1911 and again in 1912, it appears that Lucas had recognised that the traditional route to promotion within his Regiment would be slow. A potentially fruitful area of research concerning CHTL would be his regular command assessments during the decade after the Boer War. Unfortunately we believe that these were destroyed in the WWII Blitz as were a significant proportion of WW1 Officer’s records. At this time the Army was still bound by the principles of seniority for such appointments (rather than strictly ‘merit’, although lack of efficiency and effectiveness might result in a slowed rate of progress).
The Staff College course was preparation for the higher echelons of Army command. A decision to attend Staff College – in pursuit of the highly sought-after 'psc' (passed staff college) designation - indicates that after some uncertainty at the beginning of the decade, CHTL was determined to progress within the Army. The Staff College course was focused on Command and Control – with a concentration on Brigade-level (four battalions – 4000 men) operations for the practical elements. As suggested by an excerpt (below) of the course listing below from the 1913 Senior course, the course included lectures, war games, staff tours, history, languages and even astronomy!
Staff College - Sample Course Listing (excerpt)
1 Memoir – 1870, The Commandant.
2 Exercise in English composition, Col Oxley.
3 Indoor exercise based on army manoeuvres, 1912, Maj Howell.
4 Astronomy – diagram of stars, Lt Col Fowler.
5 France and Germany (army corps), Lt Col Malcolm.
6 Exercise on wastage of personnel in war, The Commandant.
7 Map of the Balkans, Maj Howell.
8 Canada. Geographical and general conditions, Lt Col Hoskins.
9 Franco-German War 1870-71. Transport and supply, Maj Percival.
10 Franco-German War 1870-71. Transport and Supply (syndicated 3&4), Maj Percival.
11 War game, the Commandant.
12 War game, the Commandant.
13 Paper on Canada, the Commandant.
14 Beaune-la-Rolande, 28/11/70, situation 2/12/70, Lt Col Bols.
15 'Cavalry in 1870'. Situation on the night 12-13 Aug 1870,
16 War game, Col Oxley.
17 War game, Col Oxley.
18 Engagement at Kirk Killise, Maj Howell.
19 Table showing liabilities for services of the various categories, Lt Col Hoskins.
20 Preliminary staff tour (Col Oxley’s party), Col Oxley and Col Jeudwine.
21 Preparation of a tactical exercise, Lt Col Bols.
22 Night operations, Lt Col Bols.
23 Overseas expeditions (list of books on subject), Lt Col Jebb.
24 Russian forces 8/2/04, Lt Col Malcolm.
25 Staff tour, Col Oxley and Col Jeduwine.
CHTL enjoyed Staff College and the sporting activities he participated in showed that he’d lost none of his youthful prowess (he was to captain the Hockey team (see photo), Tennis team and join the Ski team!)
The connections he made would serve him well during the war as the majority of his fellow graduates progressed into staff positions in the rapidly-expanding Army. CHTL’s career followed a slightly different course: back into his regiment and into the Western Front battles and trenches before Gallipoli and then Brigade command on the Somme (1916) and in the Arras, Passchendaele and Cambrai battles (1917).
In the 200,000 words CHTL wrote in letters and diaries during the First World War, he never does anything as grand as set out his philosophy of war. His diaries in particular are not great literature, there’s no following descriptive prose, little emotional engagement ... they are very ‘CHTL’, not intended for publication, never re-worked into Memoirs. Their function was to be records of events more than a journal of thinking. However, those recorded events give some clues about his perspectives on what professional leadership means.
CHTL believed that an officer should not waste the lives of his men or subject them to unnecessary risk or hardship. He did not hold back from ordering his troops into harm’s way for the right reasons: he’d only had command of the Brigade for 5 days when the 87th repeatedly attacked the tactically-significant Scimitar Hill at Suvla Bay in August 1915 resulting in 50% casualties in the attacking battalions. But if a plan was irresponsible, seemingly doomed to failure or likely to result in loses unacceptable for the objective gained, he would not hesitate to try and influence senior officers to change their mind. On multiple occasions he was to present the case of the inadvisability of attempted attacks whilst wasteful commands and irresponsible behaviour also drew his ire.
May 27th 1915
Hunter Weston issued orders suddenly this afternoon for the whole British line to advance to within 200 yards of the Turkish trenches after dark and dig in. Most of the Brigadiers had somehow assembled at General Lee’s hd qrs at about 3pm, all protesting, and no one much liking to tell Hunter Weston straight. The operation would have been difficult with the best troops on a dark night without giving the show away and having heavy casualties. This however was to be done mainly with territorials and a full moon. A telephone message was sent to ask some staff officers to come out and discuss the matter, fortunately Hunter Weston arrived himself, got a little annoyed but was eventually brought to reason. The result was that about a mile of the centre of the line advanced as had already been arranged up to 250x in places, with hardly a shot being fired or a casualty.
June 27th 1915
Conference of COs at 10AM, Genl de lisle turned up in the middle, and explained some additions to the original plan of operations. It is remarkable how the plans grow, Genl Hunter Weston must be at the bottom of it; his plans grow daily, and tend to upset the arrangements without giving time to make alterations.
July 11th 1915
Everything is absolutely disorganised here, but a start is being made to put things straight. It is almost incredible to conceive the muddle that is going on both in the army and navy behind the actual firing line, or rather off the Peninsula.
July 30th 1915
De Lisle came round the trenches this morning, and took me with him. He had a bad attack of liver, cursed everyone and everything. As the battalions had been working night and day for 2 days at putting things straight, and as he had already admitted it was the best brigade he had ever seen; it seemed a little unreasonable. He put all the officers’ backs up.
He sent an insulting memo up after he got back. Last time he had a bad go of liver he apologised. I hope he will do so again.
August 2nd 1915
Have been a little cheap the last couple of days with head cold , and throat. Suspected case of cholera turned out to be dysentery. De Lisle came up this morning, and was quite pleased with my proposals for making Turks think we are going to attack. He is mad at present on making stone parapets instead of sandbags. We keep on trying to sidetrack him. If a shell hits a stone parapet everyone in the trench will be killed.
September 2nd 1915
Quiet day. Genl De Lisle took me round part of the 2nd line. McCauley came too. Of course most of it was wrong and has to be remade. It is a pity he does not go round before the work is started and say what he wants, instead of wasting a week’s work; there is plenty without wasting labour.
Sept 18th 1915
I was up at the SWB hd qrs at the time as I had to Genl’s Byng & De Lisle there at 5.30pm. They turned up about 5.45pm. Genl Reid came too. The 3 of them, Col Going (SWB) and myself (led by De Lisle) then proceeded to walk out in the open within 400x of their trenches and full view of them and their guns to look at a machine gun emplacement. The fact that the guns or men did not open fire was no fault of ours as De Lisle had a bright red band round his hat, & they generally shell a party of four or more.
Sept 20th 1915
De Lisle rode up this morning. We shall very soon have our head quarters shelled if he rides in like this every day.
On July 1st 1916 he had the presence of mind and necessary grip on reality to delay and then ensure the cancellation of the 4th wave of attacks in front of the formidable Beaumont Hamel defences that his Brigade had been ordered to attack as he witnessed the 3rd emasculation of his Brigade (Cape Helles landings/early battles were the first in the Spring of 1915, followed by Scimitar Hill in August 1915).
CHTL features in Trevor Harvey’s excellent work ‘An Army of Brigadiers: British Brigade Commanders at the Battle of Arras 1917 (Helion Press 2017) pp. 77 – 79. He is identified as being ‘typical of the Arras brigadier-generals’ in some ways but also a ‘rarity – ‘an officer commissioned into an infantry regiment who commanded a brigade without having commended a battalion’.
Apart from CHTL’s 10 ‘Mentioned in Despatches’ recognition, the best summary of CHTL’s professionalism comes from his CO in 1915 – William Marshall. His reference for CHTL described him thus:
"When I, unfortunately had to relinquish command the choice fell on Major Lucas, and that without a dissentient voice, though there were many officers senior to him serving with the brigade.
I mention this (probably an unique instance of a Brigade Major succeeding to the command of a Brigade) as showing the degree of confidence placed in Major Lucas by his seniors and juniors alike."
Tomorrow back to Ireland and the final ‘billet’. Last letter to Poppy before ‘Escape’!