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Field Marshal Francis Wallace Grenfell GCMG. (1841 - 1925)

Francis Wallace GrenfellGRENFELL, FRANCIS WALLACE, first BARON GRENFELL, of Kilvey, Glamorganshire (1841-1925), field-marshal, the fourth son of Pascoe St. Leger Grenfell, J.P. D.L., of Maesteg House, Swansea, Glamorganshire, by his first wife, Catherine Anne, daughter of James Du Pre, M.P., of Wilton Park, Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire, was born at Maesteg House 29 April 1841. The Grenfells are an old Buckinghamshire family, well known as bankers in the City of London and also as sportsmen, foremost among the latter being the present Lord Desborough. An aunt of Francis Grenfell, Frances Eliza Grenfell, married Charles Kingsley in 1844. The Du Pre’s also are an old Buckinghamshire family. Grenfell was educated at Milton Abbas School, Dorset, but left school early, and after passing the army entrance examination, purchased his commission into the third battalion of the 60th Rifles (later the King’s Royal Rifle Corps) in 1859. His early service was uneventful and advancement slow; he actually purchased his commission as captain in 1873 in the last gazette in which purchase was allowed. Then in 1874 he decided to leave the army, going so far as to send in his papers and give away his uniform. At that instant he was unexpectedly invited to become aide-de-camp to General Sir Arthur Cunynghame [q.v.] in South Africa, and accepted the offer at the last moment. Thereafter Grenfell’s prospects improved rapidly. In 1875 he took part in the bloodless Diamond Fields expedition in Griqualand West. Again in 1878 he acted as staff officer during the last of the Kaffir wars. A successful expedition was undertaken against the Galeka tribe during which Grenfell was present at the action of Quintana Mountain; this was followed by a march against the rebellious Gaika tribe, in the north-east of Cape Colony, and ended with their complete rout in the Gwili Gwili Mountains. For his services Grenfell received a brevet majority. Next, the Zulus began to trespass on British territory, committing many provocative acts; these, early in 1879, led to the invasion of Zululand. Grenfell was then given an appointment on the head-quarters staff, and so took part in the final defeat of the Zulus at Ulundi on 4 July 1879. Returning home he was appointed brigadier-major at Shorncliffe, receiving a brevet-lieutenant-colonelcy, for his services.

Early in 1881, when the first Boer War broke out, Grenfell returned to Natal to act as deputy-assistant-quartermaster-general, but saw no fighting, as peace was made soon after his arrival. In 1882 he was again selected for staff service, this time as assistant-adjutant-general to Sir Garnet (afterwards Viscount) Wolseley [q.v.] in the Egyptian expedition of that summer; he was thus present at the battle of Tel-el-Kebir (13 September). After the close of that campaign he remained in Egypt as assistant-adjutant-general to the permanent garrison, and was at the same time promoted brevet-colonel and aide-de-camp to Queen Victoria. Desiring to continue serving in Egypt he accepted the appointment under Sir Evelyn Wood [q.v.] as second in command of the Egyptian forces, which were then placed under British tutelage. At that time the revolt of the Mahdi was making great headway in the Sudan, so that General Gordon was dispatched to Khartoum in January 1884 in order to extricate the Egyptian subjects and garrisons from the Sudan. By the autumn of 1884 Gordon’s position had become grave, and Lord Wolseley was sent out to rescue him. Grenfell thereupon proceeded to Assuan in order to command the Egyptian troops on the Nile and the communications of the whole expedition. After the failure of the attempted relief (January 1885), Grenfell remained at Assuan in command of the Egyptian detachments, being finally appointed sirdar of the Egyptian army in succession to Sir Evelyn Wood in April 1885. He thus came to play an important part in the operations undertaken for the defence of the frontiers of Egypt against the Dervishes during the next few years. He commanded a division of the Anglo-Egyptian forces at the battle of Ginnis on 30 December 1885, for which action he received the C.B. and the grand cordon of the Medjidie, while next year he was created a K.C.B. and promoted major-: general. Shortly after, he assumed sole command of the Egyptian forces which repulsed Osman Digna’s attack on Suakin at Gamaiza (20 December 1888) and then signally defeated the amir of Kordofan at Toski (3 August 1889). Two years later (1891) he consolidated the Egyptian hold on Suakin. On the death of the Khedive Tewfik, in the ensuing spring (1892), Grenfell reluctantly resigned the sirdarship. His tenure of office was memorable for the reorganization of the Egyptian forces which were to prove of such value during Lord Kitchener’s subsequent re-conquest of the Sudan. Without ever giving proof of any outstanding gifts of generalship, which indeed were not required at this period, Grenfell had completed his task in Egypt with rare common sense and to excellent purpose.

On his return home, and after being. rewarded with the G.C.M.G., Grenfell was appointed deputy-adjutant-general for reserve forces at the War Office, a post which involved the supervision of reserves, militia, yeomanry, and volunteers. In 1894 he was, raised to the position of inspector-general. During 1896 he was dispatched to Moscow to attend the coronation festivities of the young Tsar Nicholas II, and in 1897 figured prominently at the celebration of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee. Shortly afterwards he was appointed to the command of the British garrison in Egypt. This new position was not easy, since (Lord) Kitchener [q.v.] was now in command of the expedition which had been working up the Nile since the spring of 1896. But Grenfell, with great self-effacement, refrained from the slightest act that might hinder Kitchener; indeed, although he was the latter’s senior in rank – having been promoted lieutenant-general in 1898 – he subordinated his own authority to that of the sirdar in very generous fashion. After Kitchener’s victory of Omdurman (2 September 1898), Grenfell in the following January was appointed governor and commander-in-chief of Malta. There he proved a successful governor, displaying much interest in the antiquities of the island and in the methods of cultivation in use. Finally, at the coronation of King Edward VII in 1902, he was raised to the peerage as Baron Grenfell, of Kilvey, co. Glamorgan. In 1903 he was selected for the command of the newly created fourth Army Corps and, on promotion to full general in 1904, was appointed commander-in-chief in Ireland, a post which he held until 1908 when he was promoted field-marshal. During the remainder of his life he devoted himself to work on behalf of the Church Lads’ Brigade, the Royal Horticultural Society, of which he was president, and to various other voluntary services. He died at Windlesham , Surrey, 27 January 1925.

Lord Grenfell was a man of wide and deep sympathies, taking a profound interest, wherever he served, in the daily life and history of the people around him. He was an Egyptologist and an antiquary of no small attainments. His popularity, both in the army and in society generally, never waned.

Grenfell was the recipient of many honours: he was a colonel commandant of the 60th Rifles from 1899 until his death and colonel of the 2nd Life Guards from 1898 to 1907, when he exchanged this colonelcy for that of the 1st Life Guards. He received the honorary LL.D. degree of Edinburgh University in 1902 and of Cambridge University in 1903. He was sworn of the privy council of Ireland in 1909.

Grenfell was twice married: first, in 1887 to Evelyn (died without issue 1899), daughter of Major-General Robert Blucher Wood; secondly, in 1903 to the Hon. Margaret (died 1911), daughter of Lewis Asshunt Majendie, M.P., J.P., of Hedingham, Essex, by whom he had two sons and a daughter. He was succeeded as second baron by his elder son, Pascoe Christian Victor Francis (born 1905).

H de Watteville

[The Times, 28 January1925; Lord Grenfell, Memoirs, 1925; Army Lists]

Text reproduced from the Dictionary of National Biography 1922 – 1930 edited by JRH Weaver by permission of Oxford University Press.

Photograph by Walter Stoneman reproduced under Creative Commons license from the National Portrait Gallery.

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