Coote Hedley

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Sir Coote Hedley
Born (1865-12-12)12 December 1865
Heathfield, Somerset, England
Died 27 December 1937(1937-12-27) (aged 72)
Sunningdale, Berkshire, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1884–1920
Rank Colonel
Unit Royal Engineers
Commands held MO4
Battles/wars Second Boer War
First World War
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire,
Companion of the Order of the Bath,
Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Relations James Fellowes (father-in-law)
Other work Amateur first-class cricketer, rackets player and golfer

Colonel Sir Walter Coote Hedley KBE, CB, CMG (12 December 1865 – 27 December 1937) was a British Army officer who began his career in the Royal Engineers and later moved into military intelligence. He was also a gifted amateur sportsman who played first-class cricket for several County Championship sides as a right-handed batsman and right-arm fast-medium bowler. He also competed to a high level in rackets and golf.

Hedley was commissioned into the Royal Engineers in 1884. He became a surveyor in the 1890s and was attached to the Ordnance Survey. This work was interrupted by service in South Africa throughout the Second Boer War, and from 1906–1908 by his appointment as an advisor to the Survey of India. In 1911 he was appointed to command MO4, also known as the Geographical Section of the General Staff. During the First World War this organisation was responsible for producing all the maps required by British Empire forces around the world, and in particular mapping the ever-changing trench system on the Western Front. Following the end of the war, he retired from the army in 1920. He was also a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and served on the society's council.

Hedley's first-class cricket career began in 1888 with the Gentlemen of England and Kent County Cricket Club. The majority of his county matches were for Somerset County Cricket Club whom he first represented in 1886 in non-first-class games. His first County Championship games for them were in 1890, and he had a regular place in the side from 1892. He also made first-class appearances for I Zingari and Marylebone Cricket Club on various occasions. On his return he played minor counties cricket in 1902, but played no more high-level cricket until 1905 when he briefly returned to the County Championship, playing for Hampshire County Cricket Club in three matches.

Hedley was also a useful rackets player—reaching the final of the amateur championships, held at the Queen's Club, in 1890. In later life he turned to golf, playing off a scratch handicap.

Early life and army career[edit]

Hedley was born at Heathfield, Somerset on 12 December 1865.[1] He was educated at Marlborough College, and then proceeded to Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.[2] He was commissioned into the Royal Engineers (RE) as a lieutenant on 9 December 1884,[3] and promoted captain on 17 January 1894.[4] However, a report in The Times in 1890, on the final of the rackets amateur championship at Queen's Club already refers to him as "Captain W. C. Hedley".[5] Also, a history of 20 Survey Company RE published by the Royal Engineers Museum lists him as captain and officer commanding from 1893.[6] In October 1899 he briefly moved to 19 Survey Company.[7] From 1895 he was attached to the Ordnance Survey.[8]

The outbreak of the Second Boer War then took Hedley to South Africa, one of the biggest problems facing the British was the lack of suitable maps, so his surveying experience was in demand.[2][9] Serving with 17 Field Company Royal Engineers,[10] which went to South Africa in November 1899,[11] he was present at the Relief of Ladysmith,[2] and was Mentioned in Despatches in a despatch dated 30 March 1900, though this was not gazetted until February 1901.[10] The same Gazette carried a further Mention in a despatch dated 9 November 1900.[12] He had been hospitalised earlier in 1900, and was discharged to return to duty in the week ending 18 May 1900.[13] He received a third Mention in September 1901 for service up to April 1901.[14] On 9 July 1901 he left Port Natal on the transport City of Cambridge which was due to arrive at Southampton on 3 August.[15] His obituary in The Times records that he served in the Boer War until 1902, so he must have returned at a later date.[2] In September 1901 it was gazetted that he had received brevet promotion to major for his South African service on 29 November 1900,[16] substantive promotion to that rank came on 18 January 1902.[17] He also received the Queen's South Africa Medal, with six clasps, for his service during the Boer War.[2]

Hedley returned to 19 Company once the war was over, and remained with them until 1903,[9] and he continued in surveying duties with the Ordnance Survey until 1906.[8] He was then appointed as an advisor to the Survey of India in order to modernise the methods used to produce maps, following efforts by the previous Viceroy of India, George Curzon, 1st Marquess Curzon of Kedleston, to reform the Survey. Though Hedley faced some resistance to the proposals he made, he was ultimately successful in achieving reform.[8] The Geodetic & Research Branch of the Survey of India still holds in its archives, Notes on the organization, methods and process of the photo-litho office, Calcutta by Major W.C Hedley.[18] He returned to the United Kingdom, and the Ordnance Survey, in 1908, now concentrating on new colour printing techniques.[8] He was promoted lieutenant-colonel on 27 May 1910.[19]

Hedley was appointed a General Staff Officer, Grade 1 at the War Office on 20 September 1911,[20] and took command of the Geographical Section General Staff, also known as MO4.[8] The MO prefix stood for "Military Operations" and in 1916 would be changed to "Military Intelligence", thus give rise to the familiar abbreviations, MI5 and MI6. Hedley succeeded Charles Close who had been appointed Director General of the Ordnance Survey. The duties of the department were to provide to the British Army maps of all areas of the world—other than the United Kingdom, for which the Ordnance Survey was responsible, and India, which was the responsibility of the India Office, via the Survey of India. Its remit also extended to advising government departments on geographical matters, particular relating to international boundaries.[21]

Hedley later reached the rank of Colonel and was appointed Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Companion of the Order of the Bath and Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George. He headed up the geographical section of British Military Intelligence, designated MO4, leading a 24 man staff.[22]

Cricket career[edit]

Cricket information
Batting style Right-handed
Bowling style Right-arm fast-medium
Domestic team information
Years Team
1905 Hampshire
1902 Devon
1890–1904 Somerset
1890 & 1893 Marylebone Cricket Club
1888 Kent
Career statistics
Competition FC
Matches 103
Runs scored 2,834
Batting average 17.28
100s/50s 2/13
Top score 102
Balls bowled 14,299
Wickets 343
Bowling average 19.32
5 wickets in innings 23
10 wickets in match 5
Best bowling 8/18
Catches/stumpings 76/–
Source: Cricinfo, 23 February 2010

Early years[edit]

Hedley made his first-class debut for the Gentlemen of England against Cambridge University in 1888, opening the bowling for the Gentlemen in both innings, returning 4 wickets for 44 runs (4/44) in the first, and 3/42 in the second.[23] After playing a second match for the Gentlemen against Oxford University, Hedley made his county debut later in the same season for Kent against Gloucestershire. Hedley represented Kent in two more matches during the 1888 season against Middlesex, where he took fourteen Middlesex wickets for 109 runs at Lord's,[24] during which doubts were expressed about his delivery. With Lord Harris striving to stamp out unfair bowling, Hedley did not get a regular place in the Kent team. Hedley's final match for Kent came against Surrey a couple of weeks later.[25] Hedley represented I Zingari against the Gentlemen of England three years running from 1888 as part of the Scarborough Festival,[25] claiming fourteen wickets at an average of 14.00.[26]

In 1890 Hedley made his debut for the Marylebone Cricket Club against Cambridge University. Hedley played 4 matches for the Marylebone Cricket Club, with his final match for the club coming against Cambridge University in 1893.


Having played two matches for Somerset in 1886, when the county did not have first-class status, and a further two in their successful 1890 season, Hedley started playing regularly for the county in 1892, when he made his first-class debut for the county against Kent in the County Championship. Hedley played 84 first-class matches for Somerset from 1892 to 1904, with his final first-class match for the county coming against Hampshire. In his 84 first-class matches for the county Hedley scored 2,395 runs at a batting average of 18.14, with 12 half centuries, 2 centuries and a high score of 102 against Yorkshire in 1892. An all-rounder, with the ball Hedley took 254 wickets at a bowling average of 20.77, with 14 five wicket hauls, 3 ten wicket hauls in a match and best figures of 8/18 against Yorkshire in 1895. In the field Hedley took 55 catches for Somerset.

Later years[edit]

In 1902 Hedley turned out for Devon in a single Minor Counties Championship match against Glamorgan. In 1905 Hedley joined Hampshire, making his debut for the county against Northamptonshire. Hedley played just two further matches for the county in 1905, with those matches coming against Surrey and finally Derbyshire.

As well as playing first-class matches for those teams already mentioned, Hedley also represented AJ Webbe's XI and the Gentlemen in Gentlemen v Players fixtures.

In Hedley's overall first-class career he scored 2,834 runs at a batting average of 17.28, with 13 half centuries, 2 centuries and a high score of 102. With the ball Hedley took 343 wickets at a bowling average of 19.32, with 23 five wicket hauls, 5 ten wicket hauls in a match and best figures of 8/18. In the field Hedley took a combined total of 76 catches.


Hedley died on 27 December 1937 at Sunningdale, Berkshire.


  1. ^ "Coote Hedley". Cricinfo. ESPN. Retrieved 27 February 2010. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Colonel Sir Coote Hedley" (Obituaries). The Times (London). Wednesday, 29 December 1937. (47878), col C, p. 12.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: no. 25423. p. 5826. 16 December 1884. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  4. ^ The London Gazette: no. 26492. p. 1370. 6 March 1894. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  5. ^ "Racquets. The Amateur Championship" (Sport). The Times (London). Monday, 14 April 1890. (47878), col C, p. 12.
  6. ^ "20 Coy" (PDF). Unit histories. Royal Engineers Museum. 2000. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  7. ^ "19 Coy" (PDF). Unit histories. Royal Engineers Museum. 2000. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c d e MacLeod, Malcolm Neynoe (April 1938). "Obituary: Colonel Sir W. Coote Hedley, K. B. E., C. B., C. M. G., Late R. E.". The Geographical Journal (Blackwell Publishing for The Royal Geographical Society) 91 (4): 399–400. JSTOR 1788239. 
  9. ^ a b "A brief history of 19 Topographic Squadron 1827–1977" (Microsoft Word). Defence Surveyors' Association. 1977. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  10. ^ a b The London Gazette: no. 27282. pp. 940–944. 8 February 1901. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  11. ^ "17 Coy". Unit histories. Royal Engineers Museum. 2000. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  12. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27282. pp. 966–975. 8 February 1901. Retrieved 27 February 2010.
  13. ^ "Officers Discharged To Duty" (News). The Times (London). Friday, 1 June 1900. (36157), col B, p. 10.
  14. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27353. pp. 5927–5935. 10 September 1901. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  15. ^ "The War. The King And The Siege Of Kimberley" (News). The Times (London). Thursday, 11 July 1901. (36504), col A, p. 13.
  16. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27359. pp. 6310–6303. 27 September 1901. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  17. ^ The London Gazette: no. 27399. p. 453. 10 September 1901. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  18. ^ "Archived material". Geodetic & Research Branch, Survey of India. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  19. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28378. p. 3709. 27 May 1910. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  20. ^ The London Gazette: no. 28538. p. 7196. 3 October 1911. Retrieved 28 February 2010.
  21. ^ Heffernan, Michael (1996). "Geography, Cartography and Military Intelligence: The Royal Geographical Society and the First World War". The Geographical Journal. New Series (Blackwell Publishing for The Royal Geographical Society) 21 (3): 504–533. JSTOR 622594. 
  22. ^ Heffernan, Michael (1 July 2002). "The politics of the map in the early twentieth century.". Cartography and Geographic Information Science. Retrieved 26 February 2010. 
  23. ^ "Cambridge University v Gentlemen of England". CricketArchive. 17 May 1888. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  24. ^ "Middlesex v Kent". CricketArchive. 31 May 1888. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  25. ^ a b "First-Class Matches played by Coote Hedley (103)". CricketArchive. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 
  26. ^ "First-class Bowling For Each Team by Coote Hedley". CricketArchive. Retrieved 28 February 2010. 

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