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20th Century Portraits Catalogue

Sir William Robert Robertson, 1st Bt (1860-1933), Field Marshal

Born in Welbourn, Lincolnshire and worked as a domestic servant for four years from the age of 13; in 1877 he enlisted in the 16th lancers at Aldershot; in 1888 he was gazetted second lieutenant in the 3rd dragoon guards but was always conscious of his inferior social standing; he passed the entrance exam for the Staff College at Camberley, therefore joining Britain’s emerging military elite; after leaving the college he embarked on a brief service in the South African War and, in 1903, became one of the youngest colonels in the army; in 1910 he was appointed commandant and then major-general of the Staff College at Camberley and director of military training in the War Office in 1913; from the outset of the First World War Robertson was quartermaster general of the British expeditionary force in France; appointed chief of staff to Sir John French and then chief of the Imperial General Staff, both in 1915; resigned as CIGS in 1918; in October 1919 he received a grant of £10,000 and a baronetcy; he relinquished his command in Germany in March 1920 and returned to London; promoted field marshal and, in 1925, became colonel of his old regiment, the 3rd dragoon guards; became a business executive and served as director on numerous boards; published his autobiography, From Private to Field-Marshal, in 1921 and a two volume work, Soldiers and Statesmen, 1914-1918, in 1926; in 1932 he served as president of the British Legion; he died in London of a thrombosis in February 1933.