Major General Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley

Rank or Title

Date of Birth

31 Jul 1857

Date of Death

19 Mar 1934

Place of Birth

United Kingdom

World War I Address

Highcliffe Castle
Rothesay Dr
BH23 4LE
United Kingdom

Place of Death

United Kingdom

Grave Location

United Kingdom

Soldier or Civilian

  • Soldier


Wikipedia , 30th May 2014
Edward and his staff at Stockwood House, he is in the centre 1914

Major General The Hon. Edward James Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, CB, CMG, DSO, MVO (31 July 1857 – 19 March 1934) was a general of the King's Royal Rifle Corps that served the British Army from 1877 to 1919. He saw extensive active service in many fields including Afghanistan, South Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Malta, Sudan, France and Ireland. During the First World War he was controversially dismissed after the Battle of the Somme due to the failure of his division's diversionary attack

On 1 June 1914, during World War I, Major General Montagu-Stuart-Wortley became GOC of the 46th (North Midland) Division, a Territorial Force division.

The 46th Division, billeted in Luton in the early stages of the war. On Monday 16th November 1914: The North Midland Division left the town. The order to move was issued late on 15th November, and speedy preparations were made, and the men started to leave early morning on the 16th, leaving the town eerily quiet. Major-General Edward Montagu-Stuart-Wortley, wrote a letter of thanks to the Mayor for the hospitality shown by the townspeople of Luton:

Luton, 16th November 1914  

Dear Mr Mayor, 

On the eve of leaving Luton, I wish to express to you, and through you to all the Borough Authorities, as well as to the inhabitants of Luton, my grateful thanks for all the assistance that has been given to the North Midland Division since their arrival in Luton. Nothing could have exceeded the kindness shown by everyone at Luton to the troops under my command. It has been a source of great satisfaction that the relationship between the military and civilian population has been all that could have been desired. The almost complete absence of crime and drunkenness both on the part of the military and civilian population has reflected the greatest credit on all concerned. 

On behalf of all ranks of the North Midland Division, I beg you once more to convey our thanks to all concerned, and to assure you of our best wishes for the prosperity of the town of Luton. 

Believe me, dear Mr Mayor,Yours very faithfully, E. Stuart Wortley, Major-General, North Midland Division.

In October 1915, the Division saw action in France during the Battle of Loos when it made a costly attack against the Hohenzollern Redoubt. Wortley proposed a bombing attack, but was overruled and ordered to go ahead with a frontal attack by General Richard Haking (his Corps commander). In the event, the attack was a disastrous failure and the Division lost 180 officers and 3,583 men killed wounded or missing. The action was described in the Official History as a ‘tragic waste of infantry’.

Wortley incurred Haig's displeasure by writing regularly to King George V about the activities of the 46th Division (despite having the permission of Sir John French to do so). This and the disagreement with Haking about the Hohenzollern Redoubt attack left Wortley as a "marked man" against whom Haig conspired". At the time opening of the Somme, he was a few weeks short of his 59th birthday, but in ill-health, suffering from sciatica. Despite his experience, he was "past his fighting best" and his fitness for operational command was questionable. One officer later described him in 1916 as: "a worn-out man, who never visited his front line and was incapable of inspiring any enthusiasm."

As part of General Sir Edmund Allenby's Third Army, the 46th Division was involved in the diversion at Gommecourt on the first day on the Somme, 1 July 1916. The initial assault at 7.30am had failed completely and Montagu-Stuart-Wortley was called upon to renew the attack at midday, the neighbouring 56th Division having made good progress and needing support. With no artillery preparation or smoke screen, it was clear to Montagu Stuart-Wortley that there was no prospect of success so at 3.30pm he ordered a token effort to be made by two companies. In the end only one platoon went over with only one man surviving unscathed.

The division's attack failed completely and it had the distinction of suffering the lowest casualties, 2 455 killed, wounded and missing, of all 13 British divisions involved on the day. In the opinion of the VII Corps commander, Lieutenant General Thomas D'Oyly Snow:

"the 46th Division ... showed a lack of offensive spirit. I can only attribute this to the fact that its commander, Major-General the Hon. E.J. Montagu Stuart-Wortley, is not of an age, neither has he the constitution, to allow him to be as much among his men in the front lines as is necessary to imbue all ranks with confidence and spirit."

General Allenby ordered a Court of Inquiry but on 5 July, before it had even delivered its findings, he sacked Montagu-Stuart-Wortley. Given that Montagu Stuart-Wortley's orders prior to the attack had been "to occupy the ground that is won by the artillery" his dismissal remains a subject of controversy. According to Alan MacDonald, "the Division and its General were made scapegoats for the failure of a fatally flawed concept dreamt up by higher authority - the diversionary attack at Gommecourt".

Later life

Upon his return he was given command of the 65th Division in Ireland until March 1919. He retired from service on 31 July 1919.

He made several appeals to the hierarchy about his perceived mistreatment by General Haig but the stain on his name remained. He died 19 March 1934 at age 76.

Personal life

Edward married Violet Hunter Guthrie on 5 February 1891; she was the daughter of James Alexander Guthrie, 4th Baron of Craigie and her sister Rose Ellinor Guthrie was married to General the Hon Sir Cecil Edward Bingham. They had two children Major Nicholas Rothesay Stuart-Wortley (1892 - 1926) and Elizabeth Valetta Montagu-Stuart-Wortley (1896-1978).

Individual Location

Author: David

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