Arthur Asquith

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Arthur Melland Asquith

Brigadier-General Arthur M Asquith, by Ambrose McEvoy.jpg
Brigadier General Arthur M. Asquith (Ambrose McEvoy, 1918)
Born(1883-04-24)24 April 1883
Died25 August 1939(1939-08-25) (aged 56)
Devon, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchRoyal Navy
Years of service1914–1917
RankBrigadier General
UnitRoyal Naval Division
Commands held189th Brigade, 63rd Division
Battles/warsFirst World War
AwardsDistinguished Service Order & Two Bars
Mentioned in Despatches
Croix de guerre (France)

Brigadier General The Honourable Arthur Melland Asquith, DSO & Two Bars (24 April 1883 – 25 August 1939) was a senior officer of the Royal Naval Division, a Royal Navy land detachment attached to the British Army during the First World War. His father, H. H. Asquith was the British Prime Minister during the first three years of the conflict and later became the Earl of Oxford and Asquith. Arthur Asquith was wounded four times in the war and three times awarded the Distinguished Service Order for his bravery under fire. In December 1917, Asquith was seriously wounded during fighting near Beaucamp and was evacuated to Britain where one of his legs was amputated. Asquith retired from the military following his wound and worked for the Ministry of Munitions.

Early life[edit]

Arthur Asquith was born in 1883, the third son of politician H. H. Asquith and his wife Helen Melland, who died when Arthur was seven in 1891. Asquith was educated at Winchester College with his brothers and later attended New College, Oxford as an undergraduate. After completing his studies, he joined the trading firm Franklin & Herrera, with whom he did extensive business in Argentina.[1]

Military career[edit]

When the First World War broke out in the summer of 1914, Asquith resigned from Franklin & Herrera and joined the Royal Navy, explaining that he could not "sit quietly by reading the papers" during the conflict. His elder brothers also joined up, Raymond Asquith was commissioned in the London Regiment and was killed in action in 1916 while Herbert Asquith joined the Royal Artillery. As the Royal Navy had too many recruits in the early months of the war, they formed a separate division to deploy on land known as the Royal Naval Division. This force was rapidly deployed to Belgium with Asquith as a junior officer.[2]

The Royal Naval Division suffered heavy casualties in the Siege of Antwerp, and was withdrawn shortly before the city fell, but in 1915 it was redeployed to the Mediterranean for use in the Gallipoli campaign. Shortly after arrival, Asquith's friend and colleague Rupert Brooke died from an infected mosquito bite. During the Gallipoli Campaign, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) for his actions but was also wounded, resulting in his withdrawal to staff work.[3]

In 1916, The Royal Naval Division, now designated the 63rd Division, was sent to the Western Front. Asquith remained as a staff officer until April 1917, when heavy casualties forced him to replace Bernard Freyberg in command of the 189th Brigade. At the head of this formation, he participated in heavy fighting throughout the year, earning two Bars to his DSO and being wounded twice more.[3]

On 17 December 1917, Asquith was badly wounded forcing his evacuation to Britain. Despite extensive surgery, his leg was amputated in January 1918, forcing his retirement from the military with the rank of brigadier general. He then served the remainder of the war with the Ministry of Munitions, in the Controller of the Trench Warfare Department.[1] Asquith retired from the Navy following the end of the war to his home Clovelly Court, Devon.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

On 30 April 1918, Asquith married Betty Constance Manners, the sister of Francis Manners, a Grenadier Guards officer then serving as his aide-de-camp.[4] They had four daughters.[5]

Later life[edit]

Following the end of the war, Asquith chaired the committee which established the Royal Naval Division War Memorial outside the Admiralty building in London.[6]

In the Directory of Directors for 1935, the Hon Arthur M Asquith of 1 London Wall Buildings EC2 is listed as chairman of Brazil Plantations Syndicate Ltd, chairman of Parana Plantations Ltd and a director of San Paulo (Brazilian) Railway Co Ltd.[7]

Asquith came across many risk factors throughout his military career and eventually died of Hodgkin Lymphoma at Clovelly Court, Devon on 25 August 1939.[8]


  1. ^ a b Hon. Arthur Melland Asquith, Centre for First World War Studies, John Bourne, University of Birmingham, Retrieved 3 July 2008
  2. ^ P.109, Bloody Red Tabs, Davies & Maddocks
  3. ^ a b P.110, Bloody Red Tabs, Davies & Maddocks
  4. ^ Vivian Reed, ed., An American in Europe at War and Peace: Hugh S. Gibson’s Chronicles, 1918-1919, p. 707
  5. ^ Burke's Peerage, volume 1 (2003), p. 430
  6. ^ Page, p. 180.
  7. ^ Directory of Directors 1935
  8. ^ Brig.-Gen Hon. Arthur Melland Asquith,, Daryl Lundy, Retrieved 3 July 2008


  • Frank Davies & Graham Maddocks (1995). Bloody Red Tabs. Leo Cooper. ISBN 0-85052-463-6.
  • Page, Christopher (1999). Command in the Royal Naval Division: A Military Biography of Brigadier General A. M. Asquith DSO. Staplehurst, Kent: Spellmount. ISBN 9781862270480.

External links[edit]