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Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton
Sir Ian Hamilton
Born (1853-01-16)January 16, 1853
Died 12 October 1947(1947-10-12) (aged 94)
Place of birth Corfu,
United States of the Ionian Islands
Place of death London, England
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1873-1915
Rank General
Commands held

1st Gordon Highlanders
Commandant, School of Musketry at Hythe
Colonel - 9th Royal Scots, 3rd Manchester Regiment, and the Queen's Own Cameron Highlanders
7th Brigade (South Africa)
Southern Command

Mediterranean Expeditionary Force

Second Anglo-Afghan War
First Boer War
Mahdist War
North West Frontier skirmishes
Second Boer War
Russo-Japanese War

First World War (Battle of Gallipoli)

Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath
Knight Grand Cross of the Order of St Michael and St George
Distinguished Service Order
Territorial Decoration
Order of the Red Eagle
Order of the Crown (Prussia)
Spanish Order of Merit

Order of the Sacred Treasure
Spouse(s) Jean Muir
Relations (father) Colonel Christian Monteith Hamilton (mother) Corinna, daughter of the 3rd Viscount Gort
Other work Aide-de-camp to Sir Frederick Roberts (1882-1893);
Military Secretary to C-in-C for India, Sir George Stuart White (1893-95)
Deputy Quartermaster-General, India (1895-1897)
Chief of Staff for Lord Kitchener (1899-1901)
Quartermaster-General (1903-05)
General Officer Commanding Southern Command (1905-09)
Adjutant-General of the Army (1909-10)
General Officer Commanding Mediterranean and Inspector-General of Overseas Forces (1910-1914)
Commander-in-Chief of Home Forces (1914-1915)
Lieutenant of the Tower (1918-20)
Rector of the University of Edinburgh (1932-35)

General Sir Ian Standish Monteith Hamilton GCB GCMG DSO TD (16 January 1853 – 12 October 1947) was a general in the British Army and is most notable for commanding the ill-fated Mediterranean Expeditionary Force during the Battle of Gallipoli.


Hamilton was politically a Liberal. He spoke English, German, French and Hindi, was considered charming, courtly and kind. He appeared frail, yet was full of energy. He was twice recommended for the Victoria Cross, but on the first occasion was considered too young, and on the second too senior.[1] He was wounded in the wrist in the First Boer War (1881) at the Battle of Majuba, leaving his left hand almost useless. His left leg was shorter than the right, as a result of a serious injury falling from a horse.

Different people came to hold differing opinions of him. Prime Minister Herbert Asquith remarked that he had 'too much feather in his brain',[2] whereas Charles Bean, war correspondent covering the Gallipoli campaign considered he had 'a breadth of mind which the army in general does not possess'. He opposed conscription and was considered less ruthless than other successful generals.[3] He wrote a volume of poetry and a novel contemporarily described as risqué. Works included The fighting of the future, Icarus, A jaunt on a junk, A Ballad of Hadji and A Staff officer's Scrapbook. Writing in the introduction of his Gallipoli Diary, he commented: There is nothing certain about war except that one side won't win.[4]

Jean Miller Hamilton (nee Muir) (Charles Wellington Furse)

Hamilton's father was Colonel Christian Monteith Hamilton, former commander of the 92nd Highlanders. His mother Corinna was the daughter of the 3rd Viscount Gort. His mother died giving birth to his brother, Vereker. He was educated in Cheam, Surrey, and then at Wellington college. His father then sent him to stay with General von Damimers, a Hanoverian who had fought against Prussia. He married Jean Muir in 1887, daughter of a Glasgow businessman.

In 1934, at the age of eighty-one, Hamilton was filmed as part of a war documentary film called Forgotten Men.[5]

Military career

Hamilton attended Royal Military Academy Sandhurst in 1870, the first year that entrance to the army was by examination rather than by purchasing a commission. In 1871 he joined the Suffolk regiment but shortly after transferred to the second battalion Gordon Highlanders stationed in India, taking part in the Afghan War.

In the First Boer War he was present at the battle of Majuba, where he was injured and then taken prisoner. He returned to England to recover, where he was treated as a hero and introduced to Queen Victoria. In 1882 he was made captain and took part in the Nile expedition of 1884-1885, becoming brevet major. In Burma 1886-1887 he became Brevet Lieutenant Colonel. In Bengal from 1890-1893 he became Colonel in 1891 together with a Distinguished Service Order. 1893-1895 part of Chitral Expedition as military secretary to Sir George Stuart White, commander in chief of forces in India. 1895-1898 Deputy Quarter Master General in India. 1897-1898 commanded the third brigade in the Tirah Campaign, where his left arm was injured by a shell.

In the Second Boer War he was attached to the Natal Field Force as acting adjutant general and commanded the infantry at the Battle of Elandslaagte. He took part in the Battle of Wagon Hill at Ladysmith and was frequently mentioned in despatches. He was promoted major general, and was knighted as a Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath (KCB)[6] before returning to the United Kingdom in early 1901. The war correspondent Winston Churchill told of his campaign from Bloemfontein to Pretoria in Ian Hamilton's March (London, 1900, reprinted as the second half of The Boer War), having first met Hamilton in 1897 when they sailed on the same ship. Hamilton travelled 400 miles from Bloemfontein to Pretoria fighting 10 major battles with Boer forces (including the battle of Rooiwal) and fourteen minor ones, and was recommended twice for the Victoria Cross (which was considered inappropriate because of his rank).

Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton (facing front) with Japanese General Kuroki Tamemoto after the Japanese victory in Battle of Shaho (1904).

Western military attachés and war correspondents with the Japanese forces after the Battle of Shaho (1904): 1. Robert Collins; 2. David Fraser; 3. Capt. Francois Dhani; 4. Capt. James Jardine; 5. Frederick McKenzie; 6. Edward Knight; 7. Charles Victor-Thomas; 8. Oscar Davis; 9. William Maxwell; 10. Robert MacHugh; 11. William Dinwiddie; 12. Frederick Palmer; 13. Capt. Berkeley Vincent; 14. John Bass; 15. Martin Donohoe; 16. Capt. ____; 17. Capt. Carl von Hoffman; 18. ____; 19. ____; 20. ____; 21. Gen. Sir Ian Hamilton; 22. ____; 23. ____; 24. ____; 25. ____.

In May 1901Hamilton was appointed Military Secretary at the War Office,[7] but the following November he was again asked to return to South Africa as Chief of Staff to the Commander-in-Chief, Lord Kitchener.[8] He arrived in South Africa in December 1901, and received the local rank of Lieutenant-general.[9] Following the end of the war he returned to his post at the War Office, and in 1903 to 1904 he was Quartermaster-General to the Forces.[10] From 1904 to 1905, Hamilton was the military attaché of the Indian Army serving with the Japanese army in Manchuria during the Russo-Japanese War. Amongst the several military attachés from Western countries, he was the first to arrive in Japan after the start of the war.[11] This military confrontation between a well-known European army and a less-familiar Asian army was the first time the tactics of entrenched positions for infantry were defended with machine guns and artillery. This was the first twentieth century war in which the technology of warfare became increasingly important, factors which came to dominate the evolution of warfare during the First World War. Hamilton wrote that cavalry was obsolete in such a conflict, although many cavalry forces were deployed during the War by the British Army. He became a supporter of non-traditional tactics such as night attacks and the use of aircraft. Hamilton went on to serve as General Officer Commanding Southern Command between 1905 and 1909 and as Adjutant-General to the Forces between 1909 and 1910.[12]

The Dardanelles

Kitchener appointed Hamilton to command the Allied Mediterranean Expeditionary Force to gain control of the Dardanelles straits from Turkey and capture Constantinople in March 1915.[13] Hamilton was 62 and had been in charge of Land defenses for England. Whilst a senior and respected officer, perhaps more experienced in different campaigns than most, he was considered too unconventional, too intellectual and too friendly with politicians to be given a command on the western front.[14] Hamilton was not given a chance to take part in planning the campaign. Intelligence reports were poor and grossly underestimated the strength of defending forces and their willingness to fight. It was conceived that a force of 70,000 men would be adequate to rapidly overpower the defenders.

The plan to take control of the Dardanelles and open a new front in the war had been considered in various forms in 1914. In November that year, British ships shelled the outer forts, causing the magazine at Seddülbahir castle to explode. In December, a submarine entered the channel and attacked a Turkish battleship, Çannakkale. Both these events raised the hopes of the British that an easy victory might be had, but as a consequence the Turks set about laying mines through the channels to prevent ships approaching and strengthened the fortifications. On 3 January 1915 First Sea Lord, Admiral Fisher presented a plan to the War council for a joint naval and military attack, using 75,000 troops, but only if the attack could be launched immediately. By 21 January, he wrote privately to Admiral Jellicoe that he could not approve the plan unless 200,000 men were available. Churchill himself, as First Lord of the Admiralty, had initially suggested in September 1914 that the support of 50,000 men would be needed. An attempt was made commencing 19 February to take the strait using naval power alone. For the large ships to approach and shell the forts, the mines had to be cleared. The mines could not be cleared because of inadequate minesweepers, and the ongoing shell fire from the forts. The plan had been conceived with the idea of only sending second-rate ships which were considered expendable. On 18 March the British and a squadron of French ships mounted a more determined attack, with the result that three were sunk and three disabled by undiscovered mines. There was little effect on the defenders, except to cause them to expend the majority of their ammunition. Churchill ordered admiral John de Robeck to continue the operation, but De Robeck, replacing the intended commander of the fleet, Admiral Sackville Carden (who had become ill) saw no sense in losing further ships, and withdrew. It was then decided that an invasion by troops would be required. Had the bombardment continued it is likely the defending guns would have ceased firing for lack of shells, the minesweepers could have worked effectively and the British ships could have moved in to their objectives.[15] .

General Hamilton in a formal pose (1910).

Hamilton became responsible for organising armed landings. He had no specialised landing craft, the disparate troops he had been given had no training[citation needed], and supplies for the army had been packed in ways which made them difficult to access for landings. Hamilton believed that the navy would make further attacks during his landings. The navy, realising likely losses and fundamentally opposing the idea that tactical losses of ships was acceptable declined to mount another attack. The Turks had been allowed two months warning from the first serious navy attack to prepare ground defences before the follow-up ground landing could be mounted, and they used the time effectively.[16]

Following the failure of the Dardanelles expedition, Hamilton was recalled to London on 16 October 1915, effectively ending his military career.

Later life

In retirement, Hamilton was a leading figure in the ex-servicemen organization, the British Legion holding the position of Scottish President. Hamilton was also a founding member and vice-president of the Anglo-German Association in 1928 which promoted pro-German sentiment in Britain. Hamilton remained with the Association after Adolf Hitler's rise to power and described himself as "an admirer of the great Adolph [sic] Hitler"[citation needed], dismissing Mein Kampf as a youthful excess.

Professor Ian Kershaw in his book "Making Friends with Hitler" describes Hamilton in the following terms, "Hamilton was a pillar of the British establishment, no Nazi despite his expressed approval of much of what Hitler and his regime stood for...". Kershaw also comments on Hamilton's latent anti-Semitism.[17]

Selected works

Hamilton's's published writings encompass 83 works in 168 publications in 8 languages and 2,998 library holdings.[18]

Honours, awards and decorations

Hamilton received the honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D) from the University of Glasgow in June 1901.[19]

A statue of the then Lt.-Gen Hamilton still stands on the Boer War memorial in Cheltenham.


Most Honourable Order of the Bath

  • CB : Companion - 1896 - Chitral reliefe force
  • KCB : Knight Commander - 29 November 1900 - in recognition of services in connection with the Campaign in South Africa 1899-1900[6]
  • GCB : Knight Grand Cross - 1910

Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George

  • GCMG : Knight Grand Cross - 1919


  • Hamilton Preparatory School, in Ladysmith is named after Hamilton.[20]

See also


  1. Carlyon, Les. (2002). Gallipoli, p.17.
  2. Asquith as war leader By George H. Cassar, p.78
  3. Carlyon, p. 18.
  4. Hamilton, Ian. (1920). Gallipoli Diary, p. __.
  5. "Forgotten Men". 1934. Retrieved 2 June 2008. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 "No. 27306". 19 April 1901. 
  7. "No. 27311". 7 May 1901. 
  8. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 8 November 1901. 
  9. "No. 27376". 12 November 1901. 
  10. General Sir Ian Hamilton, G.C.B The War Illustrated, Volume, pg 1,290
  11. Chapman, John and Ian Nish. (2004). "On the Periphery of the Russo-Japanese War," Part I, p. 53 n42, Paper No. IS/2004/475. Suntory Toyota International Centre for Economics and Related Disciplines (STICERD), London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).
  12. Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  13. Beginnings of the Memorial Day
  14. Carlyon, pp. 16-17.
  15. Carlyon, pp. 65-72.
  16. Carlyon, pp.79-83.
  17. Making Friends with Hitler, Lord Londonderry and Britain's Road to War: Ian Kershaw: published 2005 by Penguin Books
  18. WorldCat Identities: Hamilton, Ian, Sir 1853-1947
  19. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 14 June 1901. 
  20. "About Us". Hamilton Preparatory School. 


External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Sir Coleridge Grove
Military Secretary
Succeeded by
Sir Ronald Lane
Preceded by
Sir Charles Clarke
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Herbert Plumer
Preceded by
Sir Evelyn Wood
GOC-in-C Southern Command
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Douglas
Preceded by
Sir Charles Douglas
Adjutant General
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Sir Spencer Ewart
Academic offices
Preceded by
Winston Churchill
Rector of the University of Edinburgh
Succeeded by
The Viscount Allenby

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