Charles Gwynn

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Sir Charles Gwynn
Born 4 February 1870
County Donegal, Ireland
Died 12 February 1963 (aged 93)
Dublin, Ireland
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch  British Army
Years of service 1889–1931
Rank Major General
Unit Royal Engineers
Commands held Staff College, Camberley
Battles/wars World War I
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order

Major General Sir Charles William Gwynn, KCB, CMG, DSO, FRGS (4 February 1870 – 12 February 1963) was an Irish born British Army officer, geographer, explorer and author of works on military history and theory.

Military career[edit]

Charles William Gwynn was the fourth son of John Gwynn (1827–1917), Regius Professor of Divinity at Trinity College, Dublin, and his wife, Lucy Josephine (1840–1907) daughter of the Irish nationalist William Smith O'Brien. He was born at Ramelton, County Donegal, while his father was rector of the local church. He was educated at St. Columba's College, Dublin and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on 15 February 1889.[1]

Promoted to lieutenant on 15 February 1892, he saw active service in West Africa 1893–94 in operations against the Sofas,[2] and in 1897 joined the geographical section of the Intelligence Branch of the War Office.[1] Following the reconquest of Sudan from the Mahdi, Gwynn undertook survey work there,[2] remaining until 1904. He was promoted to captain on 15 February 1900,[3] received a brevet promotion to major on the following day,[4] and was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) for his survey work determining the Sudanese/Abyssinian border.[1] He attended the Staff College, Camberley from 1905 to 1906.[5]

In June 1911, he was detailed to Australia as an instructor at the Royal Military College, Duntroon,[2] where he served as the director of military art, instructing cadets in tactics, strategy and military history, with the local rank of lieutenant colonel. During much of his time there he acted as Commandant while the head of the College, Brigadier General W.T. Bridges, was away on tour.[5] With the outbreak of World War I, he returned to England, where he unsuccessfully sought a posting to France. In July 1915, he was sent to the Middle East and was appointed General staff Officer Grade 1 (GSO1) of the Australian 2nd Division at Gallipoli. He was eventually posted to serve as the Chief of Staff of the II Anzac Corps, a position he held until the end of the war. He was present at the battle of Messines in June 1917.[5] His brother, Stephen, and Stephen's son, Dennis, also served in the Great War.[6]

Gwynn was appointed a Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1918. During the Great War he was mentioned in dispatches six times, received the brevet ranks of lieutenant-colonel and colonel, and was awarded the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the French Légion d'honneur.[5]

After World War I, he served in a variety of staff assignments, culminating in May 1926 when he was made Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley.[2] Upon his retirement in 1931,[2] he was appointed a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath.[5]

After his retirement, in 1934, Major General Gwynn wrote Imperial Policing, now regarded as a classic in the field of low intensity conflict and small wars.[7]

Gwynn was of medium height and wiry in build. He had a slight stammer.[8]

Publications by Charles Gwynn[edit]

  • The Frontiers of Abyssinia: a retrospect Journal of the Royal African Society, Vol. 36, No. 143 (Apr. 1937), pp. 150–161
  • Imperial Policing London: Macmillan, 1934



  1. ^ a b c The Geographical Journal, Vol. 129, No. 2 (Jun. 1963), pp. 251–251
  2. ^ a b c d e Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  3. ^ "No. 27167". The London Gazette. 20 February 1900. p. 1172. 
  4. ^ "No. 27168". The London Gazette. 23 February 1900. p. 1260. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Gavin Long, 'Gwynn, Sir Charles William (1870–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, Melbourne University Press, 1983, pp 146–147
  6. ^ Irish Times, 22 May 2017
  7. ^ Command of the Army, Charles Gwynn and Imperial Policing: The British Doctrinal Approach to Internal Security in Palestine 1919–29, Robert Johnson, in The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History Volume 43, 2015, Issue 4, pp 570–589
  8. ^ Full Circle, General Sydney F. Rowell, 1974

External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by
Edmund Ironside
Commandant of the Staff College, Camberley
Succeeded by
John Dill