Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley

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Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley
Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, Vanity Fair, 1899-10-26.jpg
"Eddie". Caricature by Spy published in Vanity Fair in 1899.
Nickname(s) Eddie
Born (1857-07-31)31 July 1857
Died 19 March 1934(1934-03-19) (aged 76)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom / British Empire
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1877–1919
Rank Major General
Unit King's Royal Rifle Corps
Battles/wars Second Anglo–Afghan War, First Boer War, Anglo-Egyptian War (1882), Mahdist War, Second Boer War, World War I

Major General The Honourable Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, CB, CMG, DSO, MVO (31 July 1857 – 19 March 1934) was a senior British Army officer. He saw extensive active service in many parts of world, including Afghanistan, South Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Malta, Sudan, France and Ireland. During the First World War he was controversially dismissed after the Battle of the Somme due to the failure of his division's diversionary attack.

Early life[edit]

Wortley was born on 31 July 1857, the second son of Francis Dudley Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, grandson of John Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 2nd Baron Wharncliffe, and nephew of Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie, 1st Earl of Wharncliffe. He attended Eton College from 1866 and gained a commission in the King's Royal Rifle Corps (60th Foot) on 13 October 1877.[1]

Imperial wars[edit]

In 1879 during the Second Anglo–Afghan War (1878–80) he was the Superintendent of Army Signalling for the Kurram Field Force.

The First Boer War broke out in December 1880 with the Boer Commandos in the Transvaal besieging British garrisons there. The Governor of Natal Sir George Pomeroy Colley raised the Natal Field Force in which Stuart-Wortley took part in the actions at Laing's Nek, Schuinshoogte and Majuba Hill.[1]

The following year he acted as a Military Secretary to General Valentine Baker who at that time was in command of the Egyptian police and then during the Anglo-Egyptian War was Aide-de-Camp to Major General Sir Evelyn Wood.[2]

In 1884–85 he took part in the Nile Expedition to relieve General Gordon who was besieged in Khartoum. On 17 January 1885 their desert column of approximately 1,400 camel-borne troops was attacked at Abu Klea by a much larger force of approximately 13,000 Sudanese. The battle only lasted about 15 minutes and the attackers were repelled. After crossing the Bayuda Desert some British officers, Stuart-Wortley among them, plus some indigenous troops embarked on two Nile steamers and made a dash for Khartoum. They arrived there on 28 January 1885, two days after the town had been taken by the besiegers led by the Madhdi. Between 5000 and 10.000 citizens of Khartoum had been massacred by the Mahdi's men, as well as most of the garrison, including Gordon.

In 1885 he accompanied Tory politician Sir Henry Drummond Wolff to Constantinople as a Military attaché.[2] Later that year he was appointed as Deputy Assistant Adjutant General to Sir Francis Grenfell as he led his division at the Battle of Ginnis.

After attending Staff College, Camberley in 1889 he would become a Brigade Major serving in Malta from 1893 to 1896. He was promoted to the substantive rank of Major 4 April 1894.[3]

Lord Kitchener led a second Nile Campaign from 1896 where Wortley-Stuart was second in command of a gunboat flotilla and later led a band of Arab irregulars who secured the east bank of the Nile in the battle of Omdurman.[1] For his services in this campaign he would receive a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in 1896 and a Distinguished Service Order (DSO) in 1897.

During the Second Boer War Wortley-Stuart commanded a composite battalion of the King's Royal Rifles Corps and Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) at the Battle of the Tugela Heights, assisting in the Relief of Ladysmith.[4]

In July 1901, he received the promotion to Lieutenant-colonel,[5] and was appointed a military attaché to Paris, a post he would hold for three years.[1][6]

In the summer of 1907 Kaiser Wilhelm rented Wortley-Stuart's home Highcliffe Castle whilst he recovered from an acute throat trouble.[7] In return for his hospitality Edward was given 2 stained glass windows for the castle and invited to visit the German Army's manoeuvres at Alsace the next year.[1] He was then also rewarded with a Second Class Order of the Red Eagle.

Between 1908 and 1912 he commanded the 10th Infantry Brigade at Shorncliffe Army Camp and in 1914 became the commanding officer of the 46th (North Midland) Division Territorial Force.

First World War[edit]

Main article: World War I

On 1 June 1914, during World War I, Major General Montagu-Stuart-Wortley became GOC of the 46th (North Midland) Division, a Territorial Force division. In October 1915, the Division saw action in France during the Battle of Loos when it made a costly attack against the Hohenzollern Redoubt and Fosse 8. Wortley proposed a bombing attack, but was overruled and ordered to go ahead with a frontal attack by General Richard Haking (his Corps commander).[8] In the event, the attack was a disastrous failure and the Division lost 180 officers and 3,583 men killed wounded or missing. The action was described in the Official History as a "tragic waste of infantry".

Wortley incurred Haig's displeasure by writing regularly to King George V about the activities of the 46th Division (despite having the permission of Sir John French to do so).[9] This and the disagreement with Haking about the Hohenzollern Redoubt attack left Wortley as a "marked man" against whom Haig conspired".[10] At the time of the opening of the Somme, he was a few weeks short of his 59th birthday, but in ill-health, suffering from sciatica. Despite his experience, he was "past his fighting best"[11] and his fitness for operational command was questionable. One officer later described him in 1916 as:

"a worn-out man, who never visited his front line and was incapable of inspiring any enthusiasm."


As part of Lieutenant-General Sir Edmund Allenby's British Third Army, the 46th Division was involved in the diversionaryAttack on the Gommecourt Salient on the first day of the Battle of the Somme, on 1 July 1916. The initial attack by the Division launched from trenches located at the village of Foncquevillers at 7.30 A.M. failed within a half an hour of its commencement with heavy casualties from enemy fire, most of the Division's troops seeking cover and becoming entrapped in its own assembly trenches.[12] Montagu-Stuart-Wortley was ordered to renew the attack at midday as the neighbouring 56th (1/1st London) Division – a fellow Territorial Force Division – on its right had made good progress but was in need of support as it came under increasing counter-attack from numerically-superior rallying German forces besetting it on three sides simultaneously, another British attack to the immediate South at Serre also having failed. The 46th Divisional infantry force by this time however had become incapable of doing this due a chaotic situation in its own trenches, and was unable to seriously re-engage for the rest of the day. After continual failed attempts to organize a renewed attack by his troops throughout the morning and early afternoon, it was clear to Montagu Stuart-Wortley that there was no prospect of success, but at 3.30 P.M. under pressure from senior command's exhortations he ordered a token effort to be made by two rifle companies of men, only one platoon of 20 men actually going over-the-top on the receipt of the order, with only 2 men of it surviving the attempt unscathed.[13] In the evening the 56th Division was forced back out of the enemy trenches after 13 hours of continuous heavy fighting within the German position on its own, having sustained very heavy losses, sealing the defeat of the overall operation at Gommecourt.

Thus the 46th Division's attack failed completely, and it further had the distinction of suffering the lowest casualties in 2 455 killed, wounded and missing of 13 British divisions engaged that day. It was subsequently judged responsible for the failure of the Gommecourt action in having left its fellow Territorials from London to fight alone in an impossible tactical situation,[14] and was thereafter dogged by a reputation for being a poor quality military formation, a reputation that it would not come out from under the shadow of until its spectacular victory in the crossing of the St. Quentin Canal in 1918.

Reporting on the attack after its failure VII Corps commander, Lieutenant-General Thomas D'Oyly Snow, stated in official correspondence:

"the 46th Division ... showed a lack of offensive spirit. I can only attribute this to the fact that its commander, Major-General the Hon. E.J. Montagu Stuart-Wortley, is not of an age, neither has he the constitution, to allow him to be as much among his men in the front lines as is necessary to imbue all ranks with confidence and spirit."

General Snow ordered a Court of Inquiry on 4 July 1916 into the actions of the 46th Division during the attack, but before it delivered its findings General Haig as Commander-in-Chief ordered Montagu-Stuart-Wortley to leave the field and return to England.

Given that Montagu Stuart-Wortley's orders prior to the attack had been "to occupy the ground that is won by the artillery" his dismissal remains a subject of controversy. According to Alan MacDonald, "the Division and its General were made scapegoats for the failure of a fatally flawed concept dreamt up by higher authority – the diversionary attack at Gommecourt".[10]

Later life[edit]

Upon his return home he was appointed to the backwater command of the 65th (2nd Lowland) Division in Ireland until March 1919.[15] He retired from the British Army on 31 July 1919.[16]

Post-war Wortley made several protests to the Government about the perceived injustice that he had suffered at its hands, particularly with regard to not having received the customary honours issued to commanders of Divisional rank in the war, but to no avail. He died 19 March 1934 at age 76.

Personal life[edit]

Violet Stuart Wortley with her children, 1899

Edward married Violet Hunter Guthrie on 5 February 1891; she was the daughter of James Alexander Guthrie, 4th Baron of Craigie[17] and her sister Rose Ellinor Guthrie was married to General the Hon Sir Cecil Edward Bingham. They had two children Major Nicholas Rothesay Stuart-Wortley (1892–1926) and Elizabeth Valetta Montagu-Stuart-Wortley (1896–1978).

Edward's older brother the Hon Sir Francis Montagu-Stuart-Wortley-Mackenzie succeeded to the Earldom of Wharncliffe and his younger brother the Hon Sir Alan Richard Montagu-Stuart-Wortley KCMG DSO KCB became a Lieutenant-general in the British Army serving throughout World War I.[18]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Pro Patria Mori - Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley". Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Surnames beginning 'I' - 'M' - Lions led by donkeys - War Studies - University of Birmingham". Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  3. ^ "no. 26500". The London Gazette. 3 April 1894. p. 1882. 
  4. ^ Churchill, W.S. London to Ladysmith via Pretoria, London: Longmans, Green & Co. 1900, ch. XXII
  5. ^ "no. 27353". The London Gazette. 10 September 1901. p. 5982. 
  6. ^ "no. 27340". The London Gazette. 2 August 1901. p. 5128. 
  7. ^ Youngstown Vindicator, 13 October 1917, p. 2 D. Online reference https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=vShKAAAAIBAJ&sjid=roUMAAAAIBAJ&pg=1602,3583587&dq=highcliffe+castle&hl=en
  8. ^ Andrew Rawson, Loos-Hohenzollern (Battleground Europe series, Pen & Sword Books, 2003)
  9. ^ John Bourne, Centre for First World War Studies (http://www.birmingham.ac.uk/research/activity/warstudies/research/projects/lionsdonkeys/j.aspx)
  10. ^ a b Alan MacDonald,A Lack of Offensive Spirit? (Iona Books, 2008)
  11. ^ Richard Holmes, Tommy (HarperCollins, 2004, page 231)
  12. ^ 'Military Operations in France & Belgium 1916', Chapter 18, by James E. Edmonds (Pub. Committee of Imperial Defence 1932).
  13. ^ 'Military Operations in France & Belgium 1916' P.469 (Pub. 1932).
  14. ^ 'Military Operations in France & Belgium 1916' P.471 (Pub. 1932).
  15. ^ "Anglo Boer War website". Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  16. ^ London Gazette
  17. ^ "Person Page". Retrieved 22 June 2016. 
  18. ^ "Person Page". Retrieved 22 June 2016. 

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