William Garnett Braithwaite
William Garnett Braithwaite
CB CMG DSO
Portrait of William Braithwaite, a lieutenant-colonel at the time, circa 1911 to 1915
21 October 1870|
Kendal, Westmorland, England
|Died||15 October 1937
Camberley, Surrey, England
|Allegiance|| United Kingdom
|Service/branch|| British Army
New Zealand Military Forces (1911–1917)
|Commands held||3rd New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade
2nd Infantry Brigade
New Zealand Division (acting)
16th Infantry Brigade
|Awards||Companion of the Order of the Bath
Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Mentioned in despatches (9 times)
Brigadier-General William Garnett Braithwaite CB, CMG, DSO (21 October 1870–15 October 1937) was a British Army officer who participated in the Boer War and the First World War. He was seconded to the New Zealand Military Forces from 1911 to 1917. He commanded the New Zealand Division's 2nd Infantry Brigade for nearly two years on the Western Front and had periods as acting commander of the division. In December 1917, he was medically evacuated to England. After a period of rest, he returned to military duty with the British Army, and ended the war in command of the 16th Infantry Brigade. Retiring from the army in 1925, he died in 1937.
Braithwaite was born in Kendal, Westmorland, England on 21 October 1870. After completing his schooling at Marlborough College, he attended the Royal Military College at Sandhurst before joining the British Army in 1891.
Braithwaite was commissioned in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as a second lieutenant. From 1899 to 1902, Braithwaite fought in the Boer War, having reached the rank of captain. As well as being appointed to the Distinguished Service Order, he was mentioned in despatches three times for his service in South Africa. After the war he returned to the Royal Military College for a period of time as an instructor.
In 1911, and now a major, he was seconded to the New Zealand Military Forces under the command of the then Major-General Alexander Godley. Braithwaite was appointed General Staff Officer for the Auckland Military District, and later, promoted to temporary lieutenant-colonel, Godley's Chief of General Staff. At the time, Godley was restructuring the New Zealand Military Forces and creating a Territorial Force to replace the inadequate Volunteer Force. Braithwaite assisted in the establishment of the Territorial Force, and was responsible for staff organisation and training.
First World War
Braithwaite volunteered for the New Zealand Expeditionary Force (NZEF) following the outbreak of the First World War. He left for the Middle East as the staff officer responsible for the operational planning of the NZEF. His wife, Gwendolen, whom he married in 1901, and the couple's three children also left New Zealand but to live in England.
Following a period of training with the NZEF in Egypt, Braithwaite served as a staff officer in Godley's headquarters, who was not only commander of the NZEF but also the New Zealand and Australian Division, during the Gallipoli Campaign which commenced in April 1915. He fulfilled his duties well and was twice mentioned in despatches for his work during the August offensive. He took ill the next month and required evacuation for medical treatment, returning to duty in October. He took over temporary command of the New Zealand Infantry Brigade when its nominal commander, Brigadier-General Francis Johnston, went on sick leave in November. After the withdrawal of the Allied forces from Gallipoli, Braithwaite returned to Egypt. He was appointed to the Order of St Michael and St George for his work during the Gallipoli Campaign.
In December 1915 Braithwaite was promoted temporary brigadier-general and placed in command of the New Zealand (Rifle) Brigade. Within a few months, he was appointed commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade, one of the three brigades of the newly formed New Zealand Division.
The New Zealand Division moved to the Western Front in April 1916. Braithwaite had a brief period in command of the division while its commander, Major-General Andrew Russell, was on leave. During the division's first major engagement, the Somme Offensive, Braithwaite led his brigade in the Battle of Flers-Courcelette in which it incurred 700 casualties.
In June 1917, Braithwaite was promoted to colonel, although he remained a temporary brigadier-general. His brigade had a central role in the Battle of Messines and was able to achieve its objectives with minimal casualties. However, heavy losses were incurred by his brigade later in the year during the First Battle of Passchendaele on 12 October. After his initial attack faltered and came to a halt, Braithwaite protested orders from Russell later that day to resume the attack, 2nd Infantry Brigade having incurred heavy casualties for little ground. When it became apparent to Russell that flanking units had not achieved their objectives, the orders were cancelled.
Braithwaite had a further period in command of the division while Russell was on sick leave in late October and in early December led his brigade in attacks on Polderhoek Chateau. Heavy losses were incurred by the brigade and the attack was regarded as a failure. At this stage of the war, Braithwaite was one of the longest serving brigade commanders of the NZEF. Worn down by stresses of command, his health was so poor it forced his evacuation to England.
Following a period of convalescence, Braithwaite, rather than rejoining the New Zealand Division, resumed service in the British Army with his parent unit, the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. A popular commander amongst the New Zealanders, rumours circulated in the division that his return to the British Army was due to his refusal to continue with the 12 October 1917 attack at Passchendaele. Braithwaite returned to the front in February 1918 as a staff officer in a British Corps and was made a companion of the Order of the Bath in June 1918. He finished the war as commander of the 16th Infantry Brigade, having been mentioned in despatches six times for his service during the First World War.
Braithwaite remained in the army after the war, eventually retiring in 1925. He died in Camberley, Surrey, on 15 October 1937.
- Tonkin-Covell, 1996, pp. 64–65
- Haigh & Polaschek, 1993, p. 48
- McGibbon, 2000, p. 527
- Waite, 1919, p. 329
- Waite, 1919, p. 309
- Harper, 2007, pp. 90–91
- Gray, 2010, pp.162–165
- Harper, 2007, p. 119
- Gray, John H. (2010). From the Uttermost Ends of the Earth: The New Zealand Division on the Western Front 1916 – 1918. Christchurch, New Zealand: Wilson Scott Publishing. ISBN 9781877427305.
- Haigh, J. Bryant; Polaschek, A. J. (1993). New Zealand and The Distinguished Service Order. Christchurch, New Zealand: Privately published. ISBN 0-473-02406-3.
- Harper, Glyn (2007). Dark Journey: Three Key New Zealand Battles of the Western Front. Auckland, New Zealand: HarperCollins Publishers New Zealand Limited. ISBN 9781869505790.
- McGibbon, Ian, ed. (2000). The Oxford Companion to New Zealand Military History. Auckland, New Zealand: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-558376-0.
- Tonkin-Covell, John (1996). "Braithwaite, William Garnett (1870–1937)". In Orange, Claudia. Dictionary of New Zealand Biography: Volume 3. Auckland, New Zealand: Auckland University Press. ISBN 1-86940-200-6.
- Waite, Fred (1919). The New Zealanders at Gallipoli. Auckland, New Zealand: Whitcombe & Tombs Limited. OCLC 6268942.