William Robertson, 1st Baronet

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Sir William Robertson (1917)

Sir William Robert Robertson, 1st Baronet , GCB , GCMG , GCVO , DSO (born January 29, 1860 in Welbourn , Lincolnshire , † February 12, 1933 in London ) was Chief of the Imperial General Staff and British Field Marshal.


Robertson was born on January 29, 1860, as one of seven siblings in the small village of Welbourn. He attended the village church school until he was thirteen and then worked as a domestic servant for four years.

In November 1877 he joined the 16th The Queen's Lancers regiment against his mother's wishes as a simple soldier . By 1885 he had already reached the rank of Sergeant Major . Encouraged by the pastor of his hometown and his officers, he took part in an examination that should give him access to the officer ranks. Robertson passed and became a lieutenant in the 3rd Dragoon Guards in June 1888 . It was unusual for a non-commissioned officer to rise to the rank of officer at the time - especially in the cavalry - in Great Britain it would even have been impossible. Robertson was at the time, however, in British India , where greater freedom existed.

He stayed with the Intelligence Corps in Shimla for four years and was wounded while trying to relieve the insurgent besieged Chitral . Robertson received the Distinguished Service Order for his services in Chitral . Promoted to captain, he attended Staff College in Camberley from 1895 to 1897 . Attending Staff College was career-enhancing, and Robertson was the first former team rank to attend.

After the outbreak of the Second Boer War , Robertson became a reconnaissance officer for General Frederick Roberts , the commander in chief of the British forces in South Africa. Robertson was promoted to Brevet Lieutenant Colonel in late 1900 . After the war, Robertson headed the foreign intelligence department of the War Office . In 1904 he reached the rank of colonel and in 1907 became Chief of Staff to General Horace Smith-Dorrien . From June 1910 to October 1913 Robertson was the command of Staff College , and he was promoted to major general. This was followed by a renewed transfer to head of military training at the War Office .

Robertson during the First World War

During World War I he held the post of Quartermaster General , and later, from January 1915, he became Chief of Staff of the British Expeditionary Force . In October 1915 Robertson was appointed lieutenant general and in December 1915 chief of the Imperial General Staff. In this office he acted as a strong supporter of General Douglas Haig and was responsible for the resignation of Prime Minister Herbert Henry Asquith . Robertson saw the Western Front as a crucial theater of war, while the new Prime Minister David Lloyd George believed Britain should focus on other fronts until troops from the United States arrived . This difference of opinion led to Robertson's resignation as Chief of the Imperial General Staff on February 11, 1918.

After the armistice, he commanded the occupation army in the Rhineland from 1919 to March 1920 .

1919 awarded him the Parliament expressed his thanks and confessed to him 10,000 pounds sterling to. In addition, he was awarded the hereditary title of Baronet , of Welbourne in the County of Lincoln on October 4, 1919 . On March 29, 1920 Robertson was promoted to Field Marshal . This makes him the only British soldier who has made it from the lowest team rank (private) to the highest officer rank (field marshal).

Robertson died on February 12, 1933 and was buried in Brookwood Cemetery. His son, who later became General Brian Robertson , succeeded him as a baronet.


  • William Robertson: From Private to Field Marshal. Constable, London 1921.

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Commons : William Robertson, 1st Baronet  - Collection of Pictures, Videos and Audio Files
predecessor Office successor
Henry Hughes Wilson Commandant of Staff College Camberley
Launcelot Edward Kiggell
Archibald Murray Chief of the Imperial General Staff
Henry Hughes Wilson
Sir Herbert Plumer Commander in Chief of the British Army of the Rhine
Sir Thomas Morland
New title created Baronet (of Welbourne)
Brian Robertson