George Milne, 1st Baron Milne
|The Lord Milne|
Field Marshal Lord Milne
5 November 1866|
|Died||23 March 1948
|Years of service||1885–1933|
|Commands held||27th Infantry Division
|Battles/wars||Second Boer War
World War I
|Awards||Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Field Marshal George Francis Milne, 1st Baron Milne GCB, GCMG, DSO (5 November 1866 – 23 March 1948) was a British military commander who served as Chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1926 to 1933. He served in the Second Boer War and during World War I he served briefly on the Western Front but spent most of the war commanding the British forces on the Macedonian front. As Chief of the Imperial General Staff he generally promoted the mechanization of British land forces although limited practical progress was made during his term in office.
Born the son of George Milne and Williamina Milne (née Panton) and educated at MacMillan's School in Aberdeen and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, Milne was commissioned into the Royal Artillery on 16 September 1885. He was initially posted to a battery at Trimulgherry in India and then joined a battery at Aldershot in 1889 before being posted back to India to a battery at Meerut in 1891. Promoted to captain on 4 July 1895, he joined the garrison artillery in Malta and then took part in the Suakin Expedition in 1896. Next he was appointed battery captain at Hilsea and then attended Staff College, Camberley in 1897. There was became a friend of his classmate William Robertson. He took part in the Nile Expedition in 1898, seeing action at Omdurman and scoring a direct hit on the Mahdi’s tomb with his battery. He served in the Second Boer War earning promotion to major on 1 November 1899, and having been appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General on 18 February 1900, saw further promotion to lieutenant colonel on 1 November 1900. He was mentioned in despatches on 2 April 1901 and then awarded the Distinguished Service Order in June 1902.
He was appointed a Deputy-Assistant Quartermaster-General in the intelligence division at Headquarters on 26 January 1903 and then, having been promoted to colonel on 1 November 1905, became a general staff officer at Headquarters 46th (North Midland) Division (a Territorial Force formation) on April 1908. He joined the general staff at Headquarters 6th Division in Cork in 1909 and, having been appointed CB in the King's Birthday Honours 1912, became Brigadier-General Royal Artillery for 4th Division at Woolwich on 1 October 1913.
World War I
At the outbreak of World War I in July 1914, Milne was commanding the divisional artillery of 4th Division which formed part of the British Expeditionary Force in France. He fought on the Marne and the Aisne. He joined the general staff of III Corps in January 1915 and, having been promoted to major-general on 23 February 1915, was mentioned in despatches for his service during the Second Battle of Ypres.
Milne was appointed to command XVI Corps in Salonika in January 1916 with orders to oppose Bulgarian advances on the Macedonian front.When he succeeded Bryan Mahon as Commander-in-Chief of the British Salonika Army, Milne became overall Commander-in-Chief of British Troops in Macedonia on 9 May 1916. As late as 3 June 1916 Milne was ordered by Robertson, now CIGS, not to participate in any attack on the Bulgars. He was awarded the Grand Cross of the Order of the White Eagle (1st Class, with Swords) by the King of Serbia on 1 July 1916.
The British Government accepted the need to maintain a presence in Salonika to keep the French happy, but Robertson, who often communicated by secret letters and "R" telegrams to generals in the field, privately told Milne that he did not favour offensive operations. Milne broadly agreed with Robertson that any attempt to attack across the mountains to cut the Nis-Sofia-Constantinople railway was logistically impractical, although he did stress that his forces must either advance or retreat from the malaria-infested Struma Valley and that the Bulgarians might be beaten if pressed hard. On 23 July he was told to “engag(e) the maximum of Bulgar forces” whilst the Romanians mobilised and attacked, followed by secret messages from Robertson that he should “guard against being committed for any serious action” until it was certain that Romania was coming in. With Bulgaria seeming close to collapse in October and November 1916, Milne advised Robertson (5 November) that the Germans would do all they could to keep her in the war.
60th London Division was sent to Salonika in December. Milne was promoted to permanent lieutenant general on 1 January 1917. On 3 January 1917 Milne arrived at the Rome Conference independently of the French General Sarrail. The official French record of the Rome Conference did not even mention Milne as a participant. As a result of the Conference Milne was placed under Sarrail's command, with right of appeal to his own government – who overruled him when he protested against Sarrail's movement of a British brigade outside the British zone. This precedent was much discussed in the next few months when Lloyd George attempted to place Britain's Western Front forces under Nivelle.
Milne undertook numerous offensives in support of his French and Serbian Allies with limited resources. His attack at Lake Doiran in spring 1917 cost 5,000 dead and seriously wounded, one quarter of all British casualties throughout the entire Salonika Campaign. Another British attack in the Struma Valley was more successful. His troops were constantly suffering from malaria. Milne was appointed a Grand Officer of the Order of Saints Maurice and Lazarus by the King of Italy on 31 August 1917 and advanced to KCB on 1 January 1918. Although Milne was repulsed again at Lake Doiran in September 1918, French and Serbian units were successful in defeating the Bulgarian Army at the Battle of Dobro Pole which took place that same month. Bulgaria then signed an armistice.
After World War I
In September 1918, Milne became responsible for the military administration of a vast area around the Black Sea at a time of considerable internal disorder following the Russian Revolution and the start of the Turkish War of Independence. Small British forces had twice occupied Baku on the Caspian, while an entire British division had occupied Batum on the Black Sea, supervising German and Turkish withdrawal. British (including Indian and some Arab) troops were in Persia (partly to protect the oilfields at Abadan) and larger British forces were also deployed in Mesopotamia and Syria.
Milne toured the Caucasus in early 1919 and thought “the country and the inhabitants are equally loathsome” and that British withdrawal “would probably lead to anarchy” but “the world would (not) lose much if the whole of the country cut each other’s throats. They are certainly not worth the life of a single British soldier”. At the end of August 1919 the British withdrew from Baku (the small British naval presence was also withdrawn from the Caspian Sea), leaving only 3 battalions at Batum. Lord Curzon, Foreign Secretary, wanted a British presence in the region, although to Curzon’s fury (he thought it “abuse of authority”) the CIGS Henry Wilson gave Milne permission to withdraw if he deemed it necessary. After a British garrison at Enzeli (on the Persian Caspian coast) was taken prisoner by Bolshevik forces on 19 May 1920, Lloyd George finally insisted on a withdrawal from Batum early in June 1920. Financial retrenchment forced a British withdrawal from Persia in the spring of 1921.
Milne was appointed Grand Cross (First Class) of the Order of the Redeemer by the King of the Hellenes in October 1918, appointed KCMG on 1 January 1919, advanced to GCMG on 3 June 1919 and given the Greek Military Cross in July 1919. He was also awarded the Grand Cross of the French Legion of Honour in August 1919 and made a Knight of Grace of the Venerable Order of Saint John on 9 April 1920. In March 1920 he occupied Constantinople and took over the administration of the City which was collapsing.
Later Life and Career
Promoted to full general on 26 April 1920, he was appointed Lieutenant of the Tower of London on 15 December 1920 and General Officer Commanding Eastern Command on 1 June 1923. Having been made ADC to the King on 31 July 1923, he became Chief of the Imperial General Staff on 19 February 1926. In that role he supported the publication of the study Mechanised and Armoured Formations (issued in 1929) and generally promoted the mechanization of British land forces although limited practical progress was made during his term in office. Having been advanced to GCB in the New Year Honours 1927, he was promoted to field marshal on 30 January 1928 before retiring in 1933. On 26 January 1933 he was raised to the peerage as Baron Milne, of Salonika and of Rubislaw in the County of Aberdeen.
He was also Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery from 21 November 1918, Honorary Colonel of Hampshire Heavy Brigade from 24 April 1926, Master Gunner, St James's Park from 1929, Constable of The Tower of London from 1933 and Colonel Commandant of the Pioneer Corps from 1940.
In 1905, he married Claire Maitland, daughter of Sir John Nisbet Maitland, 5th Baronet; they had a son and a daughter.
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- Heathcote, Tony (1999). The British Field Marshals 1736–1997. Barnsley (UK): Pen & Sword. ISBN 0-85052-696-5.
- Jeffery, Keith (2006). Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820358-2.
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