Tom Bridges

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Sir
Tom Bridges
KCB KCMG DSO
Tom Bridges 1918.jpg
Sir Tom Bridges in 1918
19th Governor of South Australia
In office
4 December 1922 – 4 December 1927
Monarch George V
Premier Henry Barwell (1922–24)
John Gunn (1924–26)
Lionel Hill (1926–27)
Richard Butler (1927)
Preceded by Sir Archibald Weigall
Succeeded by Alexander Hore-Ruthven, 1st Earl of Gowrie
Personal details
Nationality British

Lieutenant General Sir George Tom Molesworth Bridges KCB KCMG DSO (20 August 1871 – 26 November 1939), known as Sir Tom Bridges, was a British military officer and Governor of South Australia.

Bridges was born at Park Farm, Eltham, Kent, England, to Major Thomas Walker and Mary Ann Bridges.[1] He was educated at Newton Abbot College and later at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was married in London on 14 November 1907, to a widow, Janet Florence Marshall; they had one daughter, Alvilde Bridges, who ws married first to Anthony Chaplin, 3rd Viscount Chaplin, and then to James Lees-Milne.[2][3]

Bridges had a distinguished military career, seeing service in Africa, India, South Africa, and most notably Europe in World War I, where he was involved in the first British battle of the war at Mons, and later commanded a division at The Somme and Passchendaele. After WWI, he served in Greece, Russia, the Balkans and Asia Minor. He was Governor of South Australia from 1922–27.

Military career[edit]

After graduating from the Royal Military Academy, Bridges joined the Royal Artillery in 1892, and soon served in India and Nyasaland (now Malawi). In the Boer War in South Africa, for a few months in 1901 he commanded two West Australian Mounted infantry contingents.[1] In 1908, he became the chief instructor at the Cavalry School at Netheravon. Seeking a more rapid promotion in the army, Bridges transferred to the 4th (Queen's Own) Hussars in 1909, attaining the rank of major. He was appointed military attaché to the Low Countries and Scandinavia between 1910 and 1914.

Early in World War I, Bridges was involved in the Battle of Mons, where he suffered a shattered cheekbone and concussion. During the British Army's retreat, he met two battalions of exhausted British soldiers at Saint Quentin, whose officers planned to surrender to save the town from bombardment. In a celebrated incident on 27 August, the injured Bridges used a tin whistle and toy drum purchased from a toy shop[4] to rally the men and led them to rejoin General French's army. In October, French flew Bridges to the besieged Belgian city of Antwerp to provide intelligence there for the British headquarters.

He was appointed CMG in 1915 and given command of the 19th division of the New Army, which was demoralised after the phyrric Battle of Loos.[4] In 1916 he was promoted to Major General. He set about turning the 19th division into an efficient fighting unit, purging the senior officers. The division was in reserve on the disastrous first day of the Battle of the Somme, and thus avoided serious casualties. It acquitted itself well in the small subsequent attacks around La Boiselle in July.[4]

In 1917, Bridges was sent on the military liaison to the United States under Arthur Balfour, soon after the Americans entered the war, to coordinate the sending of American soldiers to Europe.[5] He ran into some difficulty because like most British generals and politicians he pushed for the amalgamation or incorporation of Americans into understrength British units to be commanded by British officers. This caused much friction as the American general staff felt that US troops should be commanded by US officers.

Bridges returned in time to lead his division at Passchendaele in 1917. He was severely injured on 20 September at the Battle of the Menin Road Ridge, losing a leg. However he recovered quickly, and after a brief stint as head of the trench warfare department of Churchill's Ministry of Munitions, was sent back to Washington to coordinate the dispatch of American reinforcements to the Western Front. The rate of reinforcements was soon increased threefold.[4]

Subsequently, Bridges was appointed to liaison missions to Greece, the Balkans, and Russia (where he was responsible for the evacuation of the British Mission and the remains of the anti-Bolshevik White Army from Novorossiysk in March 1920). His final active service was in Greece, fighting against the Turks in Asia Minor.[1][4]

After the war, he was appointed KCMG (1919) and KCB (1925). His uncle, the Poet Laureate of England Robert Bridges, also honoured him with an ode To His Excellency.[1]

Governor of South Australia[edit]

Bridges in 1927

Bridges was appointed Governor of South Australia in 1922, at the instigation of his friend Winston Churchill. Bridges arrived in Adelaide in December of the same year.

Bridges was a conservative governor, defending capital punishment, supporting the Legislative Council, and denouncing "unemployables". He was also popular with returned servicemen. His speeches were dominated mostly by denouncements of Bolshevism, and promotion of immigration. He was scornful of the prohibition movement, and created a political storm by addressing a licensed victualler's dinner, entertaining them with G.K. Chesterton drinking songs and other hilarious prohibition stories.[1]

Bridges became frustrated with the Labor ministries of 1924–27. He was particularly angered by Premier John Gunn's publishing of a secret memorandum of a former premier to the governor. When he was offered a second term as governor in 1927 he refused it, and returned to London that year.[1]

Retirement[edit]

Bridges devoted his retirement to painting and writing. He published several books:

  • Alarms and excursions: reminiscences of a soldier (Longmans & Co, London, 1938)
  • compiler, Word from England: an anthology of prose and poetry (English Universities Press, London, 1940)
  • Friedrich Adam Julius von Bernhardi, Cavalry in war and peace translated from the German by Major George Tom Molesworth Bridges (Hugh Rees, London, 1910)

He had also studied at the Slade School of Fine Art, and was an accomplished painter. He held many one-man exhibitions in Adelaide and London where his oils and watercolours were sold.[1]

He died at 12 Dyke Road, Brighton, on 26 November 1939.[4]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g P. A. Howell. "Bridges, Sir George Tom Molesworth (1871–1939)". Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  2. ^ Lt.-Gen. Sir George Tom Molesworth Bridges – The Peerage, page 4570
  3. ^ Bloch, Michael (2013-08-06). James Lees-Milne: The Life (Kindle Locations 3174–3175).
  4. ^ a b c d e f William Philpott. "Bridges, Sir (George) Tom Molesworth". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
  5. ^ "BRIDGES, George Tom Molesworth (1871–1939), Lieutenant General". Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives. Retrieved 14 April 2013. 
Government offices
Preceded by
Sir Archibald Weigall
Governor of South Australia
1922–1927
Succeeded by
Hon. Alexander Hore-Ruthven
Military offices
Preceded by
William Edward Marsland
Colonel of the 5th Dragoon Guards
1920–1922
Regiment consolidated
Preceded by
Formed from the 5th Dragoon Guards and the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons
Colonel of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards
1922–1937
Succeeded by
Roger Evans