Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside

Field Marshal William Edmund Ironside, 1st Baron Ironside GCB, CMG, CBE, DSO (born 6 May 1880 in Edinburgh, † September 22, 1959 in London) was a British officer and chief of the Imperial General Staff from 1939 to 1940.


Ironside was born as the son of a medical officer of the Royal Horse Artillery. After the early death of his father, he traveled with his mother to the Continent, where he earned his first foreign language skills. Ironside would dominate later seven languages ​​fluently. After an education at schools in St. Andrews and the private school in Tonbridge in 1898 he was admitted to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, aged 17 years.

In 1899 he joined the Royal Artillery and was in the same year with the 44th Battery Royal Field Artillery relocated to South Africa where he participated in the Second Boer War. Here he was wounded three times and first time in 1901 Mentioned in Despatches. At the end of the war he was part of the military escort that accompanied the Boer General Jan Christiaan Smuts to the peace negotiations. Later, he disguised himself as Bure and entered into German South West Africa in the service of the security force, but was unmasked after a short time as a spy.

Thereafter, he served in the Royal Horse Artillery in British India in 1908 and promoted to captain. In 1912 he returned to England to complete a two year course at the Staff College, Camberley. After the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914 he was assigned as a staff officer to Boulogne-sur-Mer and Saint-Nazaire. He was promoted to Major and in October 1914 the staff of the 6th Division allocated. In 1916 he became Chief of Staff of the newly formed Division 4 Canadian Division. In this capacity he participated in the Battle of the Somme, the Battle of Vimy Ridge and the Battle of Passchendaele in part. In March 1918 he was given command of a brigade as a brevet brigadier general.

In September 1918 he was assigned to the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Northern Russia in November and took over the command of this association. In November 1919 he gave the job to Henry Rawlinson and returned to England, where he was awarded the Bathorden and promotion to major general. Early in 1920 he commanded a military mission that monitored the withdrawal of Romanian troops to the Hungarian-Romanian War. In the summer of that year he was assigned to the occupation forces in Izmit, Turkey. In August 1920 he was sent to Persia, where he was appointed commander of the Cossack Brigade, Reza Khan among others. With his departure from Persia early 1921 Ahmad Shah Qajar gave him the sun and lion north. At the Cairo Conference in March 1921 Winston Churchill convinced him to take command of the British forces in Mesopotamia, but he was injured in a plane crash and was unable to take the post.

After his recovery was Ironside In May 1922, for four years commandant of the Staff College, Camberley. During this time he published numerous articles and a book about the battle of Tannenberg. He also distinguished himself as an advocate of military theorist JFC Fuller and Basil Liddell Hart, whose views on accelerated modernization of the army and the future importance of armored forces and air force, he took over. In 1926, he was for two years commander of the 2nd Division, after which he served for three years as district commander in the Indian Meerut. In March 1931 he was promoted to lieutenant general. Back in England, he was temporarily constable of the Tower of London before he was transferred in 1933 as Quartermaster-General again to India.

In 1936 he was appointed as General Commander of the Eastern Command. In 1937 he was promoted to Chief in the Imperial General Staff in favor of John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort ignored. In 1938 he was Governor of Gibraltar, which seemed to have ended his military career. Nevertheless, looking at him, the then Minister of War, Leslie Hore-Belisha as inspector general of armed forces abroad and possible candidates for the leadership of the British armed forces overseas, there should be a war. Following his appointment as inspector general of the foreign forces in July 1939, he traveled to Poland, where he explored the Polish attitude to a possible war with Germany.

On 3 September 1939, the day Britain declared war in the beginning of the Second World War, he was after the appointment Gorts Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) – the post which Ironside had expected for herself – at the instigation of Churchill as his successor as Chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) appointed. In this position, he sat by the enlargement of the BEF used on the French-Belgian border by the Territorial Army Associations. He also advocated a smaller landing of British troops in Norway in order to cut off the Germans from their running about Narvik’s major iron ore supply and to assist Finland in the Winter War with the Soviet Union. Since Norway and Finland but remained neutral in early 1940 came under severe pressure and had to close the Peace of Moscow in March, these plans were dashed. In early April the Germans landed shortly after the British mining of Norwegian waters in company Weserübung strong troops in Norway. British and Allied forces landed at several points in turn the West Coast to support the Norwegians. The German ground superiority and the situation developing in the West after the beginning of the German campaign in the West’s ultimately led to the withdrawal of troops.

Ironside himself was on 20 May flown to France to be with the commander of the northern French Army Group, General Gaston Billotte, to discuss the situation. Looking back on the encounter Billotte he described later as “defeated man”. His proposal of an Allied armored retaliation at Arras did not produce the hoped-for success, and had to retreat to Dunkirk result. On 27 May Ironside was appointed commander in chief of homeland defense, his post as Chief of the Imperial General Staff took over his former deputy, John Dill. Due to the enormous material losses of the British Army during the evacuation from Dunkirk, he developed a plan for the defense in depth and had to add anti-tank ditches and also start at the south coast invasion risk the construction of pillbox s. Disagreements with Churchill in July led to his replacement by General Alan Brooke.

In August 1940 he was appointed field marshal and raised in early 1941 as Baron Ironside of Archangel and of Ironside in the County of Aberdeen in the hereditary nobility of the Peerage of the United Kingdom. He retired to his estates in Norfolk back, gave lectures and devoted himself to writing books. Few spoke in the House of Lords have survived. After a fall in his home, he was taken to the Queen Alexandra Military Hospital in London, where at 22 he September 1959 aged 79 died. His coffin was escorted with full military honors in Westminster Abbey, the burial took place near his home in Norfolk instead. His son Edmund succeeded him in the peerage.

Ironside led his life, a comprehensive diary with daily entries. Parts of it were later published in one volume, covering the period 1937-1940. Another band that is based in narrative form on his records and covers the period 1920-1922, compiled by him shortly before his death and also published posthumously.


•The Ironside diaries, 1937-1940. Edited by Colonel Roderick Macleod and Denis Kelly. London, Constable in 1962.

•High Road to Command. The Diaries of Major-General Sir Edmund Ironside, 1920-1922. Edited by Lord Ironside. Leo Cooper, London, 1972, ISBN 0-85052-077-0.


•James Eastwood: General Ironside (= “How They Did it.”Life Stories 17). Pilot Press, London, 1940.

•Andrew Soutar: With Ironside in North Russia. Hutchinson, London, 1940.

Politicians (20th century)

Governor (Gibraltar)

Field Marshal (United Kingdom)

General Staff Officer (United Kingdom)

Person in the Second Boer War

Commander in the First World War (UK)

Person in the Russian Civil War

Person in WWII (United Kingdom)

Baron (peer)

Member of the House of Lords

Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath

Commander of the Order of the British Empire

Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George

Winner of the Distinguished Service Order

Of the Order of the Rising Sun

Member of the Legion of Honour (Grand Cross)


Born in 1880

Died in 1959


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