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William Raine Marshall Edit Profile

military , army officer

Lieutenant General Sir William Raine Marshall was a British Army officer who in November 1917 succeeded Sir Frederick Stanley Maude (upon the latter's death from cholera) as Commander-in-Chief of the British forces in Mesopotamia. He kept that position until the end of the First World War.


Marshall was born the village of Stranton, near Hartlepool, County Durham. He was the younger son of solicitor William Marshall and his wife, Elizabeth.


He first went to Repton School and then Royal Military College, Sandhurst. He received a commission into the Sherwood Foresters in 1886, after which he served on the Malakand expedition, on the North West Frontier and on the Tirah expedition before fighting in the Second Boer War.


He was promoted captain in India in 1893 and four years later took part in the Malakand campaign. Marshall was sent to Malta in 1899, and from there went to South Africa to join the Seventh Mounted Infantry Battalion; he was cited for valor in the fighting around Bothaville. Marshall was promoted major in 1908 and four years later as colonel took command of the First Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters in India.

Sir William Marshall was ordered home in October 1914, and during the winter of 1914/1915 his battalion engaged as part of the Eighth Division in the fighting at Neuve Chapelle on the western front in water-logged trenches. In January 1915, Marshall was given the Eighty-seventh Brigade of the Twenty-ninth Division, then being formed for the projected Gallipoli campaign; on April 25 he led this unit during the landing at the so-called X beach. He proved to be cool under fire, and was promoted major general in June 1915. Toward the end of that year he took an active part in the evacuation of British forces from Cape Helles and Suvla Bay under Sir Charles Monro.

From January to September 1916, Marshall commanded the Twenty-seventh Division at Salonika, but saw little action on the Macedonian front in this period. He was next entrusted with command of the III (Indian) Corps in Mesopotamia, and on February 24, 1917, led this unit in retaking Kut el Amara; this success was exploited on March 11 by the capture of Baghdad. In fact, the chief of the Imperial General Staff, Sir William Robertson, had admonished the local commander in "Mespot," Sir Stanley Maude, to press on towards Baghdad. It was feared in London that Grand Duke Nikolai of Russia, commanding the Army of the Caucasus, might take the fabled city on the River Tigris before the British.

When General Maude died of cholera in November 1917, Marshall replaced him as commander in chief of the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force. Although the Seventh Division was taken from him and sent to General Edmund Allenby in Egypt, Marshall managed not only to hold his own in Mesopotamia, but also to force the surrender of the Turkish army on the Upper Tigris in October 1918, and to occupy the entire Mosul vilayet, or administrative district. In effect, the dream of a "Southern British World" was a reality: a semicircle including the entire Indian Ocean and passing through Africa from the Cape to Cairo, from Palestine through India to Australia, patrolled by British sea power.

Marshall was promoted lieutenant general in January 1919, and given the Southern Command, India, in August of that year. He retired in 1924, and died at Bagnoles de l'Orne, France, on May 29, 1939. Marshall had not been a theorist, much less a student of war, but a natural leader endowed with imperturbable courage and a gift for making the right decision quickly.