Gibraltar Governor William Ironside (William Edmund Ironside), first Baron Ironside (1880-1959), army officer and farmer, was born on 6 May 1880 at Joks Lodge House, South Leith, Edinburgh, the second child and only son of William Ironside (1835-1881) of Athling, surgeon-major in the Indian army, and his wife, Emma Maria (1844-1939), daughter of William H. Richards of Stapleton House, Martock, Somerset. Intensely proud of his name and ancestors, whom he traced to John Ironside (b. 1636) at Rothie in the parish of Fyvie, Aberdeenshire (and proud of being a man of Buchan), Ironside was raised, he said, in the hard, simple ideas of a Scot by his widowed mother, attributing everything to her strength and intelligence. He was encouraged to learn languages, and famously succeeded, being credited with a working knowledge of anything from a dozen to eighteen.
An indifferent student in the town of St Andrews (at St Leonard’s Kindergarten, St Salvator’s School, and St Andrew’s School), and at Tonbridge School (he later regretted missing a Scots secondary education), Ironside left Tonbridge for a crammer in 1896, and in January 1898 entered the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, where he worked hard, boxed, and captained the second rugby fifteen. Something of a bruiser, as he said, at 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds, he acquired the nickname ‘Tiny’, by which he was known to friends, comrades, eminent supporters, and others ever after.
Career, character, and characteristics
Ironside’s soldiering-a mix of imperial adventure, wartime field command, routine peacetime posting, and high command in war-took him from the Cape to the Arctic, from the Atlantic to the Indian Ocean, to Europe east and west, and Whitehall. Meteoric in the First World War and its immediate aftermath (he was appointed CMG in 1918, became a KCB in August 1919, and GCB in June 1938), his career slowed between the wars before unexpectedly taking him to the position of chief of the Imperial General Staff (CIGS) (4 September 1939-27 May 1940), then commander-in-chief, home forces (27 May-20 July 1940) at the outset of the Second World War.
Healthy, solidly built, handsome into old age, keenly observant, and with something like a photographic memory, he was warm, sensitive, impetuous, mercurial, and blunt. He had virtually no appreciation of music or poetry, little of theatre, none of dance, but wrote easily, indefatigably, better than he believed. Photography, architecture, and practical handicrafts delighted him. No stranger to the vulgar racial, cultural, and gender prejudices of his class, nation, and time, he made harsh judgements even of friends and often shattering criticism of others-especially air marshals, time-serving soldiers, politicians, pacifist university dons, diplomats, shipboard companions, nearly all women in what he considered the male domain, and most foreigners. Certain of British superiority, he professed special dislike of the Irish, Jews, Latins, and ‘lesser races’, that is, most of mankind. Readily excepting individuals, he acknowledged his prejudices: the fate of European Jewry appalled him. A good mixer, without side, as he remarked of others, he saw himself with some reason (although judging his military record superior to that of any contemporary) as a simple and humble person.
Ironside was as happy working under his car with his servant Kosti, or in the fields with a hired man, as hunting tigers with the nawab of Bhopal, golfing, fishing, shooting, or riding to hounds. Without inheritance, harassed by accounts and overdrafts, and obsessively worried about providing for wife and children-he married Mariot Ysobel Cheyne (d. 1984) on 26 June 1915, and had a daughter (b. 1917) and a son (b. 1924)-he lived comfortably, even in so-called hand-to-mouth periods. Accustomed to establishing an immediate ascendancy by name, personality, and reputation, and capable of both severity and great kindness, he knew he was not easy to live with, but was perpetually surprised to discover some considered him difficult-that he had enemies. A brilliant, high-spirited companion and amusing raconteur, a public speaker of charm, force, and wit, he was compulsively introspective. For all his worldly experience he avowed a lack of intimates, a need for solitude, an inability to open his soul to anyone. The love and loyalty of his dogs he held sacred: the accidental death at Gibraltar of his bull-terrier, Caesar, caused him grief beyond anything felt from almost any other loss.
Young Ironside prided himself on being a swashbuckler, a trainer, and leader of men, an almost self-educated soldier, a thinker in an institution inclined to intellectual decay. Sure of his destiny, he interpreted fate’s (or the War Office’s) decrees as inscrutable opportunities. Although tempted to nudge destiny by appeal to the political great whom he knew (against an obdurate army council or a CIGS deemed hostile), he mostly let matters take their course. His patrons included Sir John Asser, Sir Henry Wilson, Lord Byng, Lord Haldane, Lord Rawlinson, Sir Lyndon Bell, Lord Chetwode, Sir Cyril Deverell, and not least, Winston Churchill, whom he judged ruthless, prodigiously energetic, imaginative, meddlesome, and infuriating, the greatest man he had ever known.
The South African and First World wars
Commissioned second lieutenant, Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery, on 28 June 1899, Ironside first savoured the joy of commanding men, was three times lightly wounded, and met Churchill, in the South African War. Proficient in Cape Dutch, he afterwards undertook intelligence work in South-West Africa, a clandestine escapade that lent support to the view that he was the inspiration for John Buchan’s character, Richard Hannay. A season in India (August-November 1906), and a return to South Africa (February 1908-December 1912) preceded his becoming an unruly student at the Staff College, Camberley (January 1913-3 August 1914)-an arid experience cut short by the outbreak of war, which he greeted joyfully, leaving at once for France.
Staff and command skills made Ironside’s reputation; he was appointed DSO in 1915, and mentioned in dispatches six times. Promoted major following duty at the Boulogne and St Nazaire bases (4 August-25 October 1914), he served with 6th division (29 October 1914-2 March 1916). Accompanied on inspections of the front by his bulldog Gibby (whose collar bore the Mons star), he was appointed temporary colonel and general staff officer, grade 1 (GSO1) to the 4th Canadian division (3 March 1916-6 January 1918) which he trained and effectively commanded through the Vimy and Passchendaele battles. Following a brief period as commandant of a small arms school at Camiers (7 January-26 March 1918) and then as brigadier-general commanding 99th infantry brigade, 2nd division (27 March-19 September 1918), he was sent to Archangel to bolster the faltering allied expedition in north Russia. It was, he said, his chance of chances.
Archangel and Persia
As CGS in Russia (20 September-16 November 1918), Ironside was to prepare a winter campaign against German forces and/or revolutionary units, and to train a local army to take over. He found a tower of Babel of squabbling Russian politicians, motley diplomats, disconsolate officers, and ragtag international units. Although initially a temporary major-general, he became general officer commanding (GOC), north Russia (17 November 1918-3 March 1919), then GOC-in-chief, Archangel (4 March 1919-11 November 1919). For a year he was a whirlwind of proconsular activity in a sub-Arctic opera bouffe. By aeroplane, ship, and sled he travelled to ginger up or restrain units along the River Dvina. In Archangel, where, he said, he lived like a king, Ironside maintained order, lectured, arbitrated international squabbles, suppressed mutinies, reluctantly signed death warrants, and was saved from assassination by his young servant Kosti (earlier, in France, a Canadian soldier had saved his life), recording it all in his diary. But he saw that the enterprise, animated by Churchill, and less military than political, was doomed: the Whites could not win; the ‘Bolos’ would overwhelm the Russian army he had cobbled together. General Rawlinson, sent to co-ordinate allied evacuation, assumed the moral burden of abandoning Russia and left Ironside master of the affair.
After such northern excitements Ironside dreaded inaction and half pay. An almost comedic cross-European diversion as chief of military mission to supervise evacuation of Romanian troops from Hungary (1 March-May 1920), and a brief posting to Izmit (4 July-August 1920) to ginger up Sir George Milne’s Black Sea army in preparing what Ironside called a ‘second scuttle’ (abandoning the Greeks), prefaced his command of the north Persia force (23 August 1920-February 1921), prelude to still another withdrawal. Proconsul again in a futile imperial cause, and trying to bring order, security, and reform to what he considered a degenerate, invertebrate society, he informally selected Colonel Rezha Khan as the rising power behind the decayed Peacock throne.
Summoned to the marathon colonial conference in Cairo (February-April 1921), and after surviving a snow-bound forced landing en route, Ironside sat for Eric Kennington, mordantly sizing up T. E. Lawrence (as a charlatan with a wonderful pen), Gertrude Bell, and other notables, before succumbing to Churchill’s seductive promise that they would do great things together: Ironside was to run Iraq (in co-operation with the RAF). Flattered that his superiors should turn to him in such outlandish places but convinced that empire could be of no interest to ordinary people, he doubted Britain should or could (employing the RAF alone) remain in Iraq. It made no difference: flying back to Persia, his aeroplane crashed near Basrah (8 April); after months spent reading Clausewitz and other military writers, he was invalided home.
Years of frustration
Rescued from half pay by his appointment as commandant of the Staff College (1 May 1922-30 April 1926), and believing he was training, as he said, the army’s future brains, he gave the school a distinguished quadrennium. Furiously active, and employing half a dozen languages with his visitors, he administered, lectured, published articles and a significant book, Tannenberg: the First Thirty Days in East Prussia (1925), while intermittently rushing about Europe to attend manoeuvres. Influenced by his brilliant colleague J. F. C. Fuller (as he had been by C. E. Callwell), he advocated an elite mechanized army with close air support for use in global small wars, and a unified Ministry of Defence. An often indiscreet, mutually self-interested correspondence with Basil Liddell Hart (whom he alternately dubbed a genius and a charlatan) dates from that time. Endemic army council anti-intellectualism and War Office failure to modernize ahead of the still constrained German army depressed him. His special grief was the half pay system, the old men clogging the promotion list. His criticisms brought reprimand in a serious row with Sir G. F. Milne, then CIGS.
After two years with 2nd division (1 October 1926-November 1928)-which he characterized as a phantom command, training infantry without modern weapons-Ironside was posted to the Meerut district, India (21 November 1928-31 May 1931). The move rekindled former emotions: rage at this veritable museum of antiquated weaponry, at officers he judged dead from the neck up, and mindless social obligations; pleasure from visiting cultural sites and participation in princely big-game hunting. India’s problem, he discerned, was less north-west frontier defence than looming dominion status and religious war. Restless, teeming with ideas about mechanized forces, and yearning for a man’s job (such as reorganizing Chiang Kai-shek’s army), he sat calculating his pension, and conjuring his chances of ever becoming CIGS before his powers waned.
Promoted lieutenant-general (1 March 1931), home on half pay marginally augmented by a sinecure as lieutenant of the Tower of London (1 June 1931-October 1933), and so disgusted he threatened to throw his uniform away, Ironside fretted about War Office torpor while Hitler seized power in Germany. Judging war at least ten years distant, he still opposed sending an army to France. When posted back to India as quartermaster-general (4 October 1933-February 1936), he made the best of it, working with the commander-in-chief, his friend Sir Philip Chetwode, Indianizing the regiments, gingering things up, delegating the routine. Promoted general (30 June 1935), he fought the boredom by riding, hunting, and motoring enthusiastically to inspect the Khyber and other outposts.
Eastern command and Gibraltar
After travelling home through the Far East and Canada to take up eastern command (12 April 1936-November 1938), Ironside found Sir Cyril Deverell’s War Office (and an honorary degree from the University of Aberdeen) more cheering, but concluded that his own ten-year estimate was off: he thought the fat was in the fire all round the world. Britain’s decayed imperial and home defences shocked him. Claiming to understand the German mind (though unfamiliar with current military literature), he neither knew how fast the Wehrmacht was moving nor resolved his own contradictions. Opposed both to Anglo-French staff talks and to sending men to France, he nevertheless believed France could not be let go under. But how a British army should be transported there and supplied under air attack he could not think. The September 1937 German manoeuvres (during which he had a five-minute talk with Hitler) suggested to him that war would come in 1940 when Britain could not be ready.
Eastern command palled; he could affect little. Being aide-de-camp to the king (from 12 October 1937) was devoid of interest. He witnessed Deverell frustrated, angry, unable to get the Baldwin government to take things seriously, and predicted they would all be hanged if they did not get on with it. Like the government, Ironside seemed to turn away from Europe. Recommending an all-purpose field force for landing and small operations wherever needed, he naturally envisioned himself as commander. Checked by Deverell’s criticism (drafted by Alan Brooke) of his handling of the mobile division at Bedford, in September 1937, he was shocked (despite not desiring the post) when Deverell was replaced by Viscount Gort, whose abilities he deemed inferior to Sir John Dill’s or his own. Some had feared Ironside would turn the office upside down; the minister, Leslie Hore-Belisha, told him he was too old. Friends counselled patience. Churchill, considering Ironside the army’s finest military brain, branded Hore-Belisha’s decision a disaster. Believing he had missed the bus, Ironside proposed appointment as inspector-general for higher training (hoping to become wartime commander-in-chief, home forces); he then accepted a traditional voie de garage, Gibraltar.
Saying he had had a pistol to his head, Ironside argued that there was anyway no army at home to train, no men, no materiel, no tanks. When visiting Belgium in May 1938 he concluded an attaque brusquee would, within hours, take German armour deep into the Low Countries. The subsequent dismemberment of Czechoslovakia at Munich he judged inevitable. At Gibraltar he could save money, possibly obtain a field marshal’s baton, have time to think. As governor (5 November 1938-30 June 1939) he vigorously strengthened defences, dug deep shelters, reinforced the garrison, reassured the citizenry, studied Spanish, and learnt to sail. Now orientated to the Mediterranean and Middle East (expecting the Middle East command in war) and sceptical of Britain’s continental commitment, he reckoned the guarantee to Poland empty. Conscription he welcomed, but not a field force for France. The pursuit (unsuccessful) of alliance with the Soviet Union disturbed him, though he came round to it.
Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Brought home as inspector-general of overseas forces (1 July-3 September 1939) and shifting outlook in his disconcerting way, he reasonably believed himself to be commander-in-chief designate of the field force. But the War Office, annoyed by his importunings, press coverage, and supposed intrigues, told him nothing, let him mark time. His reported comments led Hore-Belisha to warn him in Neville Chamberlain’s name not to talk too freely to Churchill. As the Danzig crisis boiled up, he was dispatched to Warsaw (17-19 July) where the Poles satisfied him they intended no provocation. Alerted for a mission to Moscow, he worried about his rusty Russian but was not sent. Though realizing the Gort-Hore-Belisha quarrel might well make him CIGS two years after being told he was too old, he was upset when this decision came in the evening of 3 September. War had been declared; he felt he had to accept. Unhappy about certain cabinet opposition to him as CIGS (4 September 1939-27 May 1940), he was devastated to lose command of the skeletal British expeditionary force (BEF) to Gort.
Ironside’s situation seemed far from ideal. Britain was allied with a nation he had long considered decadent. The Chamberlain cabinet, with one or two exceptions, he judged unfit to run a war. A strong British army was years distant. With no War Office experience, he was further weakened by removal of key officers to France. Denied Fuller as deputy (because of the latter’s pro-fascist, anti-war views), he kept Ronald Adam, he said, against Hore-Belisha’s opposition. Placing the BEF under French command was what he had reiterated should never be repeated. But assured by the French commander-in-chief, Maurice Gamelin, that Gort’s tiny force would not be sacrificed in mad offensives, Ironside settled down to raising twenty divisions for France (ten by spring 1940), and twelve for the Middle East where, anticipating stalemate on the western front, he foresaw decisive action. Fifty-five divisions was the goal.
Ironside was no warlord: Chamberlain kept firm control; the naval and airforce chiefs of staff (of whom he took a dim view) were peers. Scarcely understanding who commanded the BEF-Gamelin or his deputy Alphonse Georges (who were locked in a damaging personal struggle)-and mistakenly thinking Gamelin completely frank (he was unaware that the French had not wanted him (Ironside) as commander-in-chief), Ironside was readily manipulated. The enormous imbalance between French and British land forces weighed on him, limited his options. When in November, Gamelin settled on the ‘Dyle plan’ to wheel his First Army (including the BEF) into Belgium if called ‘in good time’, Ironside acquiesced for political and military reasons, despite his and BEF reluctance to leave frontier defences. The subordination of British to French strategy he had so long condemned was again a fact.
Ironside was without illusion; he knew it would be for his second or third successor to bring in victory. The BEF’s build-up, though steady, was slow; production of tanks lamentable. Economic blockade showed no obvious results. No possibility of decisive action was then evident. Clearly Gamelin, far from planning offensives, did not intend to attack the Siegfried line for years, if ever: his written plan for 1940 was vacuous. Earlier allied notions of knocking out Italy had vanished; Ironside himself was now wary of ‘Easterners’. Surprised by German failure to bomb and gas London, his scepticism of strategic air offensives almost forgotten, he regretted the lost opportunity to bomb Germany in the autumn of 1939. Expecting assault in the west, but with little firm intelligence, he was prone to underestimate the enemy.
Relations with his minister grew difficult. Despite his own prejudice and Hore-Belisha’s insensitive methods and infuriating manners, Ironside had often been deferential and approving of his reforms. Now he was sometimes barely civil; his diary entries grew incandescent. That autumn, though forewarned, Hore-Belisha clumsily fell foul of Gort over a dominion report that the BEF was insufficiently constructing frontier defences. A campaign orchestrated by Gort’s staff, and supported by the king, compelled Chamberlain to sack him, on 6 January 1940. Criticized by all parties, Ironside welcomed this outcome but had no direct hand in it. Two days later, as it happened, he and Gort received the grande croix of the Legion d’honneur from the puzzled and worried French.
The Norway campaign
Frustrated, changeable, talking too freely in society, lecturing an indecisive cabinet, demanding closer RAF co-operation, Ironside was accused in Whitehall of throwing his weight about. Scathing about what he saw as Chamberlain’s dithering and ‘peace party’ defeatism, and chastising Paul Reynaud for criticizing Britain’s war effort, he wondered whether the empire was a spent force. Only the Russo-Finnish War seemed to offer an opening. In his mercurial way, influenced by Churchill (whose judgement he had often doubted and whose desire to halt Swedish iron-ore shipments to Germany he had resisted), Ironside rallied in late December 1939 to the idea of seizing the Gallivare mines under cover of dispatching a small allied force sent through Narvik to bolster the Finns. He remained reserved about landing in the Russian Arctic, bombing Soviet oil fields, and other fantastic schemes.
The gamble was that by occupying or destroying the mines, the allies would cripple German war industry, forcing Hitler to react in Scandinavia and abandon attack elsewhere. Almost deaf to War Office and BEF opposition, and dismissing Gamelin’s reservations, Ironside warmed to a scheme driven by the iron-ore illusion, sympathy for Finland, French domestic political warfare, and his own hunch that the Germans could be made to disperse, knocked off-balance in a trans-Baltic operation. This potentially calamitous enterprise, however, was aborted by allied delays, Scandinavian opposition, and above all, by Finland’s accepting terms on 12 March, rather than appealing for the help it knew would be too little, too late, and certain to worsen its plight.
Unfazed by public criticism for failing Finland, Ironside was loath to proceed with the Gallivare scheme alone and to bomb Baku, but agreed to try to halt ore shipments by mining Norwegian waters: should Germany react, allied forces would secure Narvik and other Norwegian ports. Like Gamelin and Chamberlain, he despised Reynaud’s insistence on action, but Ironside, too, believed destruction of its oilfields could immobilize Russia and seriously impede Germany. Blowing hot and cold about Hitler’s intentions, and underrating German capacity, he wrestled with the French refusal to mine the Saar and Moselle rivers (which delayed North Sea mining until 8 April) and constant attempts to hasten arrival of British forces in France.
The unexpected publication, four days before the Germans suddenly struck Norway, of a background interview Ironside was asked to give in order to influence US opinion, quickly proved embarrassing. Apparently daring the Germans to attack, Ironside had no intelligence of their imminent Norwegian coup. Thereafter, events overwhelmed all improvisations. Allied procedures broke down, the higher direction in Whitehall grew tumultuous. Ironside proved unsuited to wrangling with admirals, civilians, and Churchill-then rapidly becoming de facto minister of defence and reaching, as was said, for the crown. Two weeks of argument and reverses persuaded him that the small allied force put into central Norway must get out-one more withdrawal. Doubtless nothing could then have repulsed the Germans, but he believed Churchill’s early interference with the force sent ‘bitched’ the Norwegian campaign. Confrontation between them and long-simmering criticisms of Ironside led to Dill’s recall from France as vice-CIGS on 23 April. Though momentarily fancying himself a kind of super-CIGS, Ironside discerned the writing on the wall.
Amid rumours of his future posting to India as commander-in-chief (he would insist on the rank of field marshal) Ironside’s immediate concern was the potential threat to the United Kingdom. The German blow, however, fell, on 10 May, on the Low Countries and France. Expecting a Dutch collapse but hoping Gamelin, responding to Belgian appeals, would get his forces to the Dyle line, Ironside was puzzled by the unopposed allied advance and suspicious of the apparent enemy thrust. The subsequent dramatic German breakthrough and French paralysis stunned him. Supporting the dispatch of fighter aircraft to France, and fearing that most of the BEF would be lost, he had visions of Germany’s total triumph after a fight to the death. On 19 May he hurried to Gort with a cabinet order to cut south-west through the German-held corridor in order to join the French armies on the Somme. But Gort believed the BEF’s sole hope was to reach the channel. Failure of an unco-ordinated Franco-British attempt at breakthrough brought cabinet approval of retreat and evacuation. Dunkirk was Ironside’s final experience of military withdrawal.
Shaken but staying with him, Churchill agreed he should be commander-in-chief, home forces (27 May-20 July 1940), and promoted field marshal at an appropriate moment. Handing over to Dill but scarcely registering what had befallen him, Ironside reckoned his prestige would galvanize island defence. He rightly expected the Germans first to finish with France and seek air superiority; he was far from defeatist. Scornful of week-ending officials, meddlesome politicians, and the faint-hearted, he sounded an exaggerated fifth-column alarm, scrounged tanks and armoured cars, inspected defences, and consulted the royal family about their possible evacuation. He hoped to retain command, with Churchill (as he had imagined years before) as civilian dictator. Pondering France’s fate, he thought of Pitt and quoted Cromwell in a prospective exordium to the populace. But the vice-chiefs of staff and experienced BEF commanders were critical of his plans. Brooke (whose abilities he admired) persuaded Churchill of his own views and of the need for stronger mobile reserves. At 2.45 p.m. on 19 July, learning that Churchill had reluctantly decided against him, Ironside immediately resigned. If he knew of disagreeable rumours about him at that time, he was silent. He had been, he was to say, a bad chief of staff, but would have been a good commander-in-chief: that was his trade.
Ten months earlier, at their first war cabinet, Churchill had remarked to Ironside that they two alone were not responsible for the situation. Ironside had replied that, all the same, when the crisis came they would share the lamp posts with the others. Partly mistaken, he now knew his forty-one years of soldiering were over. Receiving his baton, on 28 August, he reflected that he had done his best, he could not undo what he had done. Virtually shunned by the War Office, and grieving that Britain was beleaguered by such armies as he and his friend Fuller had been unable to obtain, he resented identification with the old ‘Chamberlain gang’. Raised to the peerage on 29 January 1941, he constantly hoped for some military or civil mission. But though he gave lectures at home and wrote Ministry of Information commentaries for the Americas, no firm offer came. Residing at Hingham, Norfolk, he found visiting London expensive, the House of Lords unrewarding or comic. Irreparably wounded by his swift fall, he was stung by the incivility of more fortunate generals. He did not attend the London victory parade.
Compulsively introspective but deeply attached to his family, Ironside remained engaged with his times, criticizing the war crimes trials, predicting Bolshevism’s inevitable collapse, applauding American intervention in Korea, and regretting the loss of India and the Suez disaster. Year after year, he worked his fields and orchards (without financial success), laboured to restore Morley Old Hall, enthusiastically travelled the country to lead his South African or Old Contemptible warriors, hunted, attended school and military occasions, but largely avoided clubland. Personal disappointments and a serious motor accident left him indomitable. He published Archangel, 1918-1919 (1953) and numerous articles, worked on the posthumous High Road to Command: the Diaries of Major-General Sir Edmund Ironside, 1920-1922 (1972) and The Ironside Diaries, 1937-1940 (1962). And year after year he continued the remarkable diary kept almost without a break since 1918, an astonishingly full and vivid record set down at top speed almost without syntactical error.
Ironside was a gifted child of the fleeting high imperial moment. His professional itinerary, launched at ‘the Shop’ in the Victorian apogee, followed, for all its precocity and singularity, the Georgian decline of empire. Late in his career, in a war he had hoped might be avoided, fate placed him in a post he had contradictorily eyed and known was not for him. A larger than life fin de siecle romantic, imaginatively conjuring the possibilities of arms in his time without the discipline to formulate a clear doctrine, he resented civilian ascendancy in industrialized warfare. War as he loved and idealized it had seemed to him something quite different-the most interesting of crafts: the handling and leading of men.
When death, whose visit he anticipated, suddenly came for him at Queen Alexandra Military Hospital, London, on 22 September 1959, following his spirited recovery there from a fall at home, he still could catch the long-ago jingle of the horse artillery harness; still dreamt of adventure in an almost vanished landscape, of visiting or revisiting North Cape, Yugoslavia, Transylvania, Madeira, China, or St Helena, as he said, even for a day or two; longed to return to Buchan, and to glimpse once more his old haunts lying along the Orange River as they had been in the happy time sixty years before. With full military honours and a nineteen-gun salute, he was borne on a gun-carriage of the king’s troop, Royal Horse Artillery, from Millbank to Westminster Abbey, on 30 September. A private funeral service followed at Hingham, on 1 October, where he was buried.
John C. Cairns
Sources DNB + W. E. Ironside, Archangel, 1918-1919 (1953) + High road to command: the diaries of Major-General Sir Edmund Ironside, 1920-1922, ed. Lord Ironside (1972) + The Ironside diaries, 1937-1940, ed. R. Macleod and D. Kelly (1962) + B. Bond, ‘Ironside’, Churchill’s generals, ed. J. Keegan (1991), 17-33 + W. K. Wark, ‘Sir Edmund Ironside: the fate of Churchill’s first general, 1939-40’, Fallen stars: eleven studies of twentieth century military disasters, ed. B. Bond (1991), 141-63 + G. Powell, ‘John Buchan’s Richard Hannay’, History Today, 37/8 (1987), 32-9 + private information (2004) [R. Macleod; Lord and Lady Ironside] + CGPLA Eng. & Wales (1959)
Archives IWM, letters relating to his career since 1914 + NAM, Persian General Staff diary + NRA, priv. coll., corresp., diaries, and papers | King’s Lond., Liddell Hart C., corresp. with Sir B. H. Liddell Hart + King’s Lond., Liddell Hart C., Roderick Macleod papers relating to Ironside + NAM, letters to Roderick Macleod + Royal Artillery Institution, London, letters to Roderick Macleod relating to First World War and north Russia FILM IWM FVA, actuality footage + IWM FVA, documentary footage + IWM FVA, news footage SOUND IWM SA, oral history interview
Likenesses G. Adams, photograph, 1919, Hult. Arch. · W. Stoneman, photograph, 1920, NPG [see illus.] · H. F. Davis, photograph, 1939, Hult. Arch. · E. Kennington, pastel, 1940, IWM · group portrait, photograph, 1940, Hult. Arch. · photographs, 1940, Hult. Arch. · K. Hauff, oils, c.1941, Tonbridge School, Kent · C. Corfield, oils, Royal Artillery, Woolwich · E. Kennington, portrait, priv. coll.
Wealth at death £4577 13s. 1d.: administration with will, 31 Dec 1959, CGPLA Eng. & Wales