Lionel Dunsterville

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Lionel Dunsterville
Born(1865-11-09)9 November 1865
Lausanne, Vaud, Switzerland
Died18 March 1946(1946-03-18) (aged 80)
Torquay, Devon, England
AllegianceUnited Kingdom
Service/branchBritish Indian Army
RankMajor General
Commands heldDunsterforce
Battles/warsNorth-West Frontier
First World War
AwardsCompanion of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of the Star of India

Major General Lionel Charles Dunsterville, CB, CSI (9 November 1865 – 18 March 1946)[1] was a British Army officer, who led Dunsterforce across present-day Iraq and Iran towards the Caucasus and Baku during the First World War.

Early life[edit]

Lionel Charles Dunsterville was born in Lausanne, Switzerland on 9 November 1865, the son of Lieutenant General Lionel D'Arcy Dunsterville (1830–1912) of the Indian Army and his wife, Susan Ellen (1835–1875). He went to school with Rudyard Kipling and George Charles Beresford at The United Services College, a public school later absorbed into Haileybury and Imperial Service College, which prepared British young men for careers in Her Majesty's Army. He served as the inspiration for the character "Stalky" in Kipling's collection of school stories Stalky & Co. He was also uncle to H.D. Harvey-Kelly, the first Royal Flying Corps pilot to land in France during the First World War.

Military career[edit]

Dunsterville was commissioned into the British Army as a lieutenant in the Sussex Regiment on 23 August 1884. He later transferred to the Indian Army, was promoted to captain on 23 August 1895, and served on the North-West Frontier and in Waziristan.[2] As a railway staff officer he served in China during the Boxer Rebellion 1900–02, for which he was mentioned in despatches (by Major-General O'Moore Creagh, commander of British forces in China after the end of the main hostilities),[3] and was promoted to major on 23 August 1902.[4]

Major-General L. C. Dunsterville, GOC Dunsterforce, with Commodore D. T. Norris of the Royal Navy on the Caspian, 1918.

In the First World War Dunsterville held a posting in India. At the end of 1917 the army appointed Major-General Dunsterville to lead an Allied force (Dunsterforce) of fewer than 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand troops, drawn from the Mesopotamian and Western Fronts, accompanied by armoured cars, from Hamadan in the Zagros Mountains of Persia for some 350 km across Qajar Persia. His mission set out from Baghdad in January 1918, aiming to gather information, to train and command local forces, and to prevent the spread of German propaganda.[5] On his way to Enzeli on the Persian Caspian coast he also fought Mirza Kuchik Khan and his Jangali forces in Manjil.

Dunsterville was assigned to re-inforce the defence of the key oil-field and port of Baku (in present-day Azerbaijan), held from 26 July 1918 by the anti-Soviet Centro Caspian Dictatorship. Dunsterforce personnel first arrived in Baku on 6 August 1918. However, the British and their allies had to abandon Baku on 14 September 1918 in the face of an onslaught by 14,000 Ottoman troops, who took the city the next day. The Allies regained control of Baku within two months as a result of the Ottoman armistice of 30 October 1918.

Promoted to major general in 1918, Dunsterville died in 1946 at Torquay, Devon, England.


Captain Lionel Charles Dunsterville of the Indian Staff Corps married Margaret Emily (known as "Daisie"), daughter of Captain John Walter Keyworth late 48th Regiment, in November 1897 at Bishopsteignton, Devon, England.

Their elder son, Lionel Walter Dunsterville, was born on 9 September 1902 at Tientsin, China; their younger son Galfrid Charles Keyworth was born on 18 February 1905; and their daughter Susannah Margaret on 14 July 1911. Galfrid co-authored books on Venezuelan orchids with L. A. Garay. Susannah's first husband was the Swiss lawyer and diplomat August R. Lindt, the son of a renowned chocolate manufacturer. Her second husband was Colditz escapee Damiaen Joan van Doorninck, whom she met in Switzerland during the Second World War as a Resistance worker.



  1. ^ de:Lionel Dunsterville
  2. ^ Hart′s Army list, 1903
  3. ^ "No. 27497". The London Gazette. 21 November 1902. p. 7532.
  4. ^ "No. 27495". The London Gazette. 14 November 1902. p. 7245.
  5. ^ The Azerbaijani Turks: power and identity under Russian rule, Audrey L. Altstadt
  • Altstadt, A. L. (1992). The Azerbaijani Turks: Power and Identity under Russian Rule. Studies of nationalities. Stanford, CA: Hoover Institution Press, Stanford University. ISBN 0-81799-181-6.
  • Bean, C. E. W. (1941) [1937]. "Appendix 5: Australians in Mesopotamia". The A. I. F. in France: December 1917 – May 1918. Official History of Australia in the War of 1914–1918. Vol. V (8th, online Australian War Memorial ed.). Sydney, NSW: Angus & Robinson. OCLC 12752507.
  • Dunsterville C. B., Major-General L. C. (1920). The Adventures of Dunsterforce. London: Edward Arnold. OCLC 317431.
  • Stalky's Reminiscences by Major-General L. C. Dunsterville (London: 1928; re-issued under title Stalky's Adventures in 1941)
  • Something of myself by Rudyard Kipling
  • Stalky and Co. by Rudyard Kipling
  • S. P. Menefee, "Dunsterville, Lionel Charles," in H. C. G. Mathews and Brian Harrison (eds.), Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, vol. 17 (2004): pp. 361–63.
  • Moberly, F. J. (1997) [1927]. The Campaign in Mesopotamia 1914–1918. History of the Great War Based on Official Documents, Compiled at the Request of the Government of India, under the Direction of the Historical Section of the Committee of Imperial Defence. Vol. IV. Part V: The Campaign in Upper Mesopotamia, 1917–18, North-West Persia and the Caspian, 1918 (Imperial War Museum and Battery Press repr. ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 0-89839-290-X.
  • Moberly, F. J. (1987) [1929]. Operations in Persia 1914–1919. History of the Great War based on Official Documents by Direction of the Committee of Imperial Defence (Imperial War Museum facsimile of the confidential 1929 ed.). London: HMSO. ISBN 0-11-290453-X.

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