James Steele (British Army officer)

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Sir James Steele
Born (1894-10-26)26 October 1894
Ballycarry, County Antrim, Ireland
Died 24 July 1975(1975-07-24) (aged 80)
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1914–1950
Rank General
Unit Royal Irish Rifles
Sherwood Foresters
Commands held 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters
132nd Infantry Brigade
59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division
II Corps
British Troops in Austria
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire
Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross

General Sir James Stuart Steele GCB, KBE, DSO, MC (26 October 1894 – 24 July 1975) was a senior British Army officer who served as Adjutant-General to the Forces.

Military career[edit]

Born in Ballycarry, County Antrim[1] and educated at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and at Queen's University Belfast, Steele was gazetted as a temporary second lieutenant in the Royal Irish Rifles, British Army, in September 1914 during the First World War and posted to the 7th (Service) Battalion.[1] He served on the Western Front from 1915 to 1917.[1] He served at the battles of Messines, Somme and at Passchendaele.[1] He was given a regular commission in June 1916.[1] He was mentioned in despatches in April 1917 and was awarded the MC in August 1917.[1] Steele served the rest of the war in India and was mentioned in despatches again.[1]

He stayed in the army and attended the Staff College in Quetta, India in 1926.[1] He was promoted to brevet lieutenant colonel and commanded the 1st Battalion, Sherwood Foresters from 1937 to 1939: the battalion was deployed to Jamaica in 1937 and to Palestine 1939.[1] He was promoted to colonel in 1939.

In July 1939 Steele was posted to the mobilization branch of the War Office Staff.[1] He signed the executive signal for the mobilization of the army.[1] He took over command of the 132nd Infantry Brigade in November 1939.[1] He served in France and Belgium in 1940.[1] He was awarded the DSO for his part in the engagement on the River Escaut and the subsequent withdrawal to Dunkirk.[1] He became General Officer Commanding (GOC) 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division in February 1941.[1] He commanded II Corps as an acting lieutenant general in 1942.[1] He became Deputy Chief of Staff for Middle East Command in 1942.[1] He was then appointed Director of Staff Duties at the War Office in 1943.[1] He was promoted to major general in 1944.

Steele was promoted to lieutenant general in 1946. He was appointed Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) and High Commissioner in Austria in 1946.[1] In that capacity he signed a treaty with Marshal Tito.[2] He was promoted to general in 1947. He was Adjutant-General to the Forces from 1947 to 1950 when he retired from the British Army.[1]

He was Aide-de-camp general to H.M. The King in 1950.

He was awarded the CB in 1943, the KCB in 1949 and the GCB in 1950.[1] He was also awarded the KBE in 1946.[1]


He received an honorary LLD from Queen's University, Belfast in 1947. He was Colonel Commandant of the Royal Ulster Rifles from 1947 to 1957. He was the President of the Army Benevolent Fund from 1954 to 1964. In 1966 he became Chairman of the Northern Ireland Government Somme committee. He lived in Blandford Forum, Dorset.


He married Janet Gibson Gordon and together they went on to have two daughters.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w "James Steele". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. 
  2. ^ Hume, David. "A Man of Steel Who Served His Kingdom Well". New Ulster (Spring 1993). Archived from the original on 8 October 2011. 
Military offices
Preceded by
Frederick Witts
GOC 59th (Staffordshire) Infantry Division
Succeeded by
William Bradshaw
Preceded by
Kenneth Anderson
GOC II Corps
April 1942 – September 1942
Succeeded by
Sir Gerald Templer
Preceded by
Sir Richard McCreery
GOC British Troops in Austria
Succeeded by
Sir Alexander Galloway
Preceded by
Sir Richard O'Connor
Adjutant General
Succeeded by
Sir John Crocker