Ernest Dunlop Swinton
|Ernest Dunlop Swinton|
Ernest Dunlop Swinton
21 October 1868|
|Died||15 January 1951
Oxford, Oxfordshire, England, UK
|Years of service||1888-1919|
|Awards||KBE, CB, DSO,|
|Other work||Air Ministry, Citroën, Chichele Professor of Military History at Oxford University, Colonel Commandant of the Royal Tank Corps|
Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton, KBE, CB, DSO, RE (21 October 1868 – 15 January 1951) was a military writer and British Army officer. Swinton is credited with influencing the development and adoption of the tank by the British during the First World War. He is also known for popularising the term "no-mans land". He published several books of non-fiction and fiction including two books under the pseudonym Ole Luk-Oie.
Early life and career
Swinton was born in Bangalore, India in 1868, his father worked for the Madras Civil Service. He was educated at University College School, Rugby School, Cheltenham College, Blackheath Proprietary School and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He became an officer in the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1888, serving in India and becoming Lieutenant in 1891.
He served as a Captain during the Second Boer War (1899-1901), and received the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in November 1900. After the war, he wrote his book on small unit tactics, The Defence of Duffer's Drift, a military classic on minor tactics that has been used by the Canadian and British Armies to train their NCOs and officers and US military to train its officers. In the years leading up to the First World War, he served as a staff officer and as an official historian of the Russo-Japanese War.
First World War
The War Minister, Lord Kitchener appointed Swinton as the official British war correspondent on the Western Front. Journalists were not allowed at the front and Swinton's reports were censored leading to an effectively uncontroversial although even-handed reporting.
Development of tanks
Swinton recounts in his book Eyewitness how he first got the sudden idea to build a tank on 19 October 1914, while driving a car in France. It is known that in July 1914 he received a letter from a friend, a mining engineer named Hugh F. Marriott whom he had met while in South Africa. Marriott occasionally sent Swinton news of technical developments that might have a military application, and his letter described a machine he had seen in Antwerp, an American-made Holt Caterpillar Tractor. He suggested that the machine might be useful for transport, and Swinton passed the information on to several military and political figures he thought it might interest. At the time, with no apparent prospect of war, the idea seemed to be a matter only of transport efficiency, and Swinton forgot about the matter. The idea of a caterpillar track as the basis for a fighting vehicle occurred to him only as he drove from St. Omer to Calais on the morning of 19 October.
In Britain, David Roberts of Richard Hornsby & Sons had attempted starting in 1911 to interest British military officials in a tracked vehicle, but failed. Benjamin Holt of the Holt Manufacturing Company bought the patents related to the "chain track" track-type tractor from Richard Hornsby & Sons in 1914 for £4,000. When World War I broke out, with the problem of trench warfare and the difficulty of transporting supplies to the front, the pulling power of crawling-type tractors drew the attention of the military.
The British War Office ordered a Holt tractor and put it through trials at Aldershot. Although it was not as powerful as the 105 horsepower (78 kW) Foster-Daimler tractor, the 75 horsepower (56 kW) Holt was better suited to haul heavy loads over uneven ground. Without a load, the Holt tractor managed a walking pace of 4 miles per hour (6.4 km/h). Towing a load, it could only manage 2 miles per hour (3.2 km/h). Most importantly, Holt tractors were readily available in quantity. The War Office was suitably impressed and chose it as a gun-tractor.
Major Swinton, sent to France as an army war correspondent, very soon saw the Holt artillery tractors in use and their potential for other uses. In November 1914 Swinton suggested to Sir Maurice Hankey, Secretary of the Committee of Imperial Defence, that the British build a power-driven, bullet-proof, tracked vehicle that could destroy enemy guns. The idea was initially ignored until Winston Churchill, First Lord of the Admiralty, learned of it. This led to the formation of the Landships Committee, although Swinton did not initially participate.
The War Office discarded Swinton's original proposal to use Holt company tractors, and instead chose to use a British firm, Foster and Sons, whose managing director and designer was Sir William Tritton.
In the same year he prepared from his own resources a propaganda leaflet and had it dropped from aircraft over German troops.[why?] In 1916 Swinton was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and given responsibility for training the first tank units. He created the first tactical instructions for armoured warfare. The Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors decided after the war that the inventors of the tank were Sir William Tritton, managing director of Fosters and Major Walter Gordon Wilson. By 1918, the War Office had received 2,100 Holt tractors.
In April 1918 General Swinton travelled to Stockton, California to publicly honour Benjamin Holt and the company for their contribution to the war effort and to relay Britain's gratitude to the inventor. Benjamin Holt was recognised by the General at a public meeting held in Stockton.
In 1919 Swinton retired as a Major General. He subsequently served in the Civil Aviation department at the Air Ministry. He thereafter joined Citroën in 1922 as a director. He was Chichele Professor of Military History at Oxford University and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford from 1925 to 1939; he was also Colonel Commandant of the Royal Tank Corps from 1934 to 1938. In 1938, he edited Twenty Years After: the Battlefields of 1914-18: then and Now a publication of George Newnes Limited which was planned for issue in 20 parts and which ultimately amounted to 42. The magazine-style publication contained wartime and present-day (ca. 1938) images of France.
Honours and awards
- DSO : Companion of the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) - 29 November 1900 - in recognition of services during operations in South Africa.
- CB : Companion of the Order of the Bath (CB) - 12 February 1917 - in recognition of services during the war.
- KBE : Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire - 2 June 1923 - in the King's Birthday Honours.
- Croix de Chevalier of the Legion of Honour - 1916 - in recognition of distinguished service during the campaign
- The London Gazette: . 27 September 1901.
- "The Defence of Duffer's Drift". Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- "Military Review". Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- Hoffman, George (2007-02-21). "Hornsby Steam Crawler". British Columbia.
- "Holt Caterpillar". Retrieved 2010-02-27.
- "Tanks for World War I". Retrieved 2010-02-25.
- "San Joaquin County Biographies: Benjamin Holt". California Genealogy & History Archives.
- Twenty Years After PartWorks - recycling classic collections
- "Maj.-Gen. Sir Ernest Swinton." Times [London, England] 17 Jan. 1951: 6. The Times Digital Archive. Web. 5 Aug. 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 12 February 1917. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 2 June 1923. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- The London Gazette: . 14 April 1916. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
- The Defence of Duffer's Drift pseudonym of "Lieutenant Backsight Forethought" BF.
- The Green Curve (1909) pseudonym of "O'le Luk-Oie"
- Tab Dope (1915) pseudonym of "O'le Luk-Oie"
- The Study of War (1926)
- Eyewitness (1932)
- An Eastern Odyssey (1935)
- Over My Shoulder (1951)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ernest Dunlop Swinton.|
- Air of Authority - A History of RAF Organisation - Major-General Sir Ernest Swinton
- The Defence of Duffer's Drift