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Edward Northey (British Army officer)

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Edward Northey
Governor of Kenya
In office
MonarchGeorge V
Preceded byCharles Calvert Bowring
Succeeded byRobert Coryndon
High Commissioner of Zanzibar
In office
Personal details
Born(1868-05-28)28 May 1868
Cockerham, Lancashire, England
Died25 December 1953(1953-12-25) (aged 85)
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/service British Army
Years of service1888–1926
UnitKing's Royal Rifle Corps

Major General Sir Edward Northey GCMG CB (28 May 1868 – 25 December 1953)[1] was a senior British Army officer of the First World War who commanded a brigade on the Western Front until wounded in 1915. Returning to service in 1916, Northey took command of a colonial force in Nyasaland in the East African campaign, later becoming Governor of Kenya. He later served as a general of Territorial forces and retired in 1926.

Birth and early career[edit]

Edward Northey was born in 1868 at Cockerham, Lancashire, and educated at Eton College and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, being commissioned into the King's Royal Rifle Corps as a second lieutenant on 7 March 1888.[2][3] He was promoted to lieutenant on 7 May 1890, and served in expeditions to Hazara and the Miranzai Valley in 1891 and one to Isazai the following year. Promotion to captain followed on 1 July 1895.[4] From late 1899, Northey took part in the Second Boer War, remaining in South Africa until 1902.[3]

On his return, he was appointed adjutant of a volunteer battalion, the 1st Middlesex Rifles (Victoria and St. George′s).[5]

First World War[edit]

When the First World War broke out in 1914, Northey was a lieutenant colonel in the King's Royal Rifle Corps and served with the regiment, commanding the regiment's 1st Battalion, on the Western Front during the first year of the war.[3] In March 1915, Northey was promoted to brigadier-general and took over the 15th Infantry Brigade but was seriously wounded during the Second Battle of Ypres. The date is unclear,[6] but Northey was reportedly surveying the site of a new communication trench when he was struck in the thigh by shrapnel.[3]

Returning to the army in 1916 after recovering from his wound, Northey was posted to Nyasaland in command of the Nyasa-Rhodesia Field Force, operating against Lettow-Vorbeck's indigenous and German forces in the East African Campaign. Northey was appointed Companion of the Order of the Bath in 1917 and was appointed Knight of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1918 for his war service, the same year he was promoted to major-general. He was elevated Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George.[3]

Governor of the British East Africa Protectorate[edit]

At the war's end Northey was appointed Governor of the British East Africa Protectorate, which became known as Kenya in 1920.[3]

On 16 October 1919 The Times newspaper reported that Sir Edward Northey had met with an accident, while playing polo, which required the removal of his right eye. The accident occurred in British East Africa.[7]

In 1919, Northey issued a circular which instructed government officials to coerce African labour to work on European-owned farms and estates, despite earlier Colonial Office objections to this plan. The scandal generated by the Northey proposal caused the Colonial Office to make clear in 1921 that compulsory paid labour by local Africans could only be used on government projects, not to direct labour to European estates, and then only if absolutely necessary and with Colonial Office approval.[8]

In 1922, Northey was transferred to the lesser post of High Commissioner of Zanzibar, returning to Britain in 1924 to return to military service.[3]

Late career[edit]

On his return, Northey was placed in command of the 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division, a Territorial Army formation. This responsibility was shared with command of the South West Area of Britain, and Northey performed well at both duties until his retirement from military service in 1926. Northey died on 25 December 1953 after a peaceful retirement.[3]


  1. ^ Poel, Jean van der (5 April 2007). Selections from the Smuts Papers: Volume 4, November 1918-August 1919. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-03367-1.
  2. ^ "No. 25793". The London Gazette. 6 March 1888. p. 1427.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Davies 1997, p. 173.
  4. ^ Hart′s Army list, 1903
  5. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36953. London. 17 December 1902. p. 8.
  6. ^ Bloody Red Tabs claims that he was talking to Captain William Henry Johnston on 22 June 1915 when he was wounded, but Johnson had been killed on 8 June
  7. ^ The Times, London, 16 October 1919
  8. ^ O. Okia, (2008). The Northey Forced Labour Crisis, 1920–1921: A Symptomatic Reading. The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 41, No. 2 pp 263–4, 288


Military offices
Preceded by GOC 43rd (Wessex) Infantry Division
Succeeded by