GENERAL SIR WALTER CONGREVE – LION OR DONKEY?
General Sir Walter Congreve is naturally best remembered in Malta as Governor-General between 1924 and 1927 when he died in office and was buried at sea between Filfla and the mainland.
The public view of British generals of the First World War is not flattering. They were the donkeys who sent lions (their men) to be slaughtered on the barbed wire of the Western Front from the comfort and security of their chateaux. That stereotype has been challenged by “revisionist” historians but until recently attention has been focused on the highest level of command and the reputation of Field Marshal Haig in particular. Increasingly now academic research is turning to study a wider range of more junior generals, the divisional and corps commanders whose decisions had a more direct influence on the fate of their men. General Sir Walter Congreve repays study as an example of these leaders. Renowned for his courage and awarded the Victoria Cross during the Boer War, he was wounded while visiting the front line in 1917 and lost his left hand. But how did he perform as a general? The lecture will focus on two episodes during Congreve’s time as a corps commander. In July 1916, during the Battle of the Somme, his Corps made two successful attacks, in contrast to most of the British offensives at the time. But in March 1918 Congreve’s Corps effectively disintegrated during the German offensive and he was removed from front-line command. How much influence did Congreve have on both these operations and what were his strengths and weaknesses as a commander?
Entrance for this event is free but pre-booking is advisable to secure a seat. Bookings can be made by sending an email to [email protected]
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Michael Orr was born in Coventry, Warwickshire in 1948. He read Modern History at Balliol College, Oxford and then became a lecturer in the Department of War Studies at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. He subsequently joined the Soviet Studies Research Centre at Sandhurst as a Senior Lecturer. Since retirement he has concentrated on First World War research and has led many battlefield tours for military and civilian groups. He was Secretary General of the British Commission for Military History from 2004 to 2009.
Michael and his wife Jane are life members of the FWA and spend as much time as possible in their apartment in Kalkara. Jane’s father served in Malta during the Second World War.