Military Wiki
Sir James Grierson
Lt. Gen. Sir James Grierson
Born (1859-01-27)January 27, 1859
Died August 17, 1914(1914-08-17) (aged 55)
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Rank Lieutenant General
Unit Second Boer War
World War I
Commands held 1st Division
Eastern Command
Awards Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order

Lieutenant General Sir James Moncrieff Grierson KCB, CMG, CVO, ADC (27 January 1859 – 17 August 1914) was a British soldier.

Military career

Grierson was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1877.[1]

He served in the Egyptian War including the actions at Kassassin and Tel el Kebir, as Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General with the Indian contingent in 1882.[1] He was Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General for the Sudan expedition and was involved in actions at Suakin, Hasheen and Tamai in 1885.[1] He was Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General for 2nd Brigade during the Hazara expedition in 1888.[1] He was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, Intelligence, at Army Headquarters in 1890 and then became Brigade Major for the Royal Artillery at Aldershot from 1895 to 1896 when he became Military Attaché in Berlin[1] acquiring what Sir John French later described as "an intimate knowledge of the German army."[2]

He served in the Second Boer War in 1900-1901 and then became Assistant Quartermaster General for the 2nd Army Corps in October 1901.[3] He was appointed Director of Military Operations at Army Headquarters in 1904, General Officer Commanding, 1st Division at Aldershot Command in 1906 and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Eastern Command in 1912.[1]

In the Army Manoeuvres of 1912, he made full use of aircraft reconnaissance to decisively beat Douglas Haig, despite Haig having the odds in his favour.

In the Army Manoeuvres of 1913, Grierson acted as Chief of the General Staff (CGS) for Sir John French. Douglas Haig noted in his diary, "Sir John French's instructions for moving along the front of his enemy (then halted on a fortified position) and subsequently attacking the latter's distant flank, were of such an unpractical nature that his Chief of the General Staff demurred. Some slight modifications in the orders were permitted, but Grierson ceased to be his CGS on mobilization, and was very soon transferred to another appointment in the BEF."[4] French himself described Grierson as a "dear old friend and comrade", ..who astonished French soldiers by his knowledge of the history of their regiments and whose "military acquirements were brilliant and in every respect up to date."[2]

Grierson was very overweight, and used to go red in the face from bending over, due to high blood pressure, and Edmonds later claimed that his staff were issued with penknives to bleed him if necessary.[5] He died of an aneurism of the heart on a train, near Amiens at 7:00 a.m. on 17 August 1914. His replacement as commander of II Corps was Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. Grierson spoke French fluently and was a personal friend of Haig, the commander of I Corps, so it is possible that relations over the next few days, both between the two British corps and with the French, might have been better had he lived.[6]

Grierson's body was repatriated, a practice allowed at that time, and is buried in the Glasgow Necropolis in PRIMUS 38 with his sister, father and mother. These were full interments.

The Sir James Moncrieff Grierson prize for languages was later established at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Medals and Orders

Grierson at Rheims in 1909 (shown in the centre with hands behind back)

Publications by Grierson

  • Notes on the Turkish Army Simla 1882 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, India)
  • A Vocabulary of the Arabic Language Roorkee 1882
  • The War in Turkomania: Skobeleff's Campaign of 1880-81 Translated from the Russian of Major-General N. I. Grodekov. Simla 1884-85
  • The Armed Strength of Russia Two editions: London 1886 and 1892 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • The Armed Strength of Japan London 1886 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • The Armed Strength of the German Empire Two editions: London 1888 and 1892 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • Staff Duties in the Field: With Notes by Lieut.-General H. Brackenbury London 1891
  • Handbook of the Military Forces of Russia London 1894 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • Umpiring at Field Manoeuvres as practised by various foreign armies (Aldershot Military Society Lectures, No. 51) Aldershot 1894
  • Die heere und Flotten der Gegenwart II Gross-Britanien und Irland The British Army. Berlin 1897
  • Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force, 1859–1908 Edinburgh and London 1909
  • Military Papers and Articles, Translations, Reviews contributed to military journals both British and foreign, and to the daily press.

Family tree

Below is a family history of Sir James Moncrieff Grierson: George Lyon of Garemount, Dumbartonshire, born 25 August 1793; died 21 February 1872; married at Falkland, 14 June 1825, Jane, daughter of Harry HOPE of Millfield, Fife, and had 9 children:

(issue 3) ALLISON LYON, born 12 February 1829; married, 31 March 1858, GEORGE MONCRIEFF GRIERSON, (Merchant), Glasgow, 2nd son of the (Reverend) JAMES GRIERSON, Doctor of Divinity, (Minister) of Errol, & his wife, MARGARET MONCRIEFF. George died 4 February 1896; issue (3) three sons and six daughters:

  1. (Lieutenant-General) James Moncrieff Grierson, born 27 January 1859; a large, polished-brass plaque is located in the Glasgow Cathedral, dedicated to his memory,
  2. (Captain) George Lyon Walker Grierson, of Royal Horse Artillery, born 6 February 1861; educated at Glasgow Academy and Woolwich; entered the Royal Artillery in 1880, served in the Afghan[istan] War of that year (medal) and in the Bikanir expedition; went to India in 1891 and died of cholera at Lucknow, India, 19 October 1892; a polished-brass plaque is located in the Glasgow Cathedral, dedicated to his memory,
  3. Jane Hope Grierson, born 2 February 1863
  4. Margaret Moncrieff Grierson, born 14 March 1865
  5. ALLISON Mary Grierson, born 23 January 1867; married, 28 April 1897, THOMAS HARVEY, and has issue a son, THOMAS BARNETT HARVEY, born 11 September 1899
  6. David Alexander Grierson, born 13 December 1869; died 9 January 1870
  7. Mary Hope Walker Grierson, born 14 June 1871; married 12 June 1895, JOHN TRAIL CARGILL, and has issue a daughter, ALLISON HOPE CARGILL, born 13 August 1896
  8. Jessie Moncrieff Grierson, born 13 April 1873; died 3 June 1877
  9. Robina Constance Grierson, born 31 July 1874.[8][9]

Further reading

The Life of Sir James Moncrieff Grierson by D.S. Macdiarmid (London: Constable, 1923)

  • Terraine, John (1960). Mons, The Retreat to Victory. Wordsworth Military Library, London. ISBN 1-84022-240-9. 
  • Travers, Tim (1987). The Killing Ground. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-85052-964-6. 


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  2. 2.0 2.1 Sir John French (1919). 1914. London: Constable & Co. p. 37. 
  3. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 26 October 1901. 
  4. Warner, Philip Field-Marshal Earl Haig (London: Bodley Head, 1991; Cassell, 2001) pp110–111
  5. Travers 1987, p14
  6. Terraine 1960, p50-1
  7. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". 1 November 1901. 
  8. David Alan Grierson (aka Lyon) RootsWeb: GRIERSON-L Compilations on Lyon, Walker,Grierson families of Scotland
  9. RootsWeb: GRIERSON-L David Alan Grierson (aka Lyon), & others

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Arthur Paget
General Officer Commanding the 1st Division
1906 – 1910
Succeeded by
Samuel Lomax
Preceded by
Sir Arthur Paget
GOC-in-C Eastern Command
Succeeded by
Sir Charles Woollcombe
Preceded by
New Post
GOC II Corps
August 1914
Succeeded by
Horace Smith-Dorrien

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