The Forgotten General: New Zealand's World War I Commander, Major-General Sir Andrew Russell

The Forgotten General: New Zealand's World War I Commander, Major-General Sir Andrew Russell

The Forgotten General: New Zealand's World War I Commander, Major-General Sir Andrew Russell

The Forgotten General: New Zealand's World War I Commander, Major-General Sir Andrew Russell

Synopsis

The biography of one of NZ's greatest military leaders, whose story has remained untold until now. The Forgotten General highlights the courage, intelligence, and determination of an exceptional New Zealander. Major-General Sir Andrew Russell was a distinguished soldier and a dedicated leader of men. He was among the top-ranked divisional commanders in the British armies that fought on the Western Front in World War I. He has been described as 'the one military commander of genius that New Zealand produced in the 20th century. Yet little of his story is known. Born into pioneer farming stock, Russell's early days were spent on sheep stations in the Hawke's Bay region; he was educated at Harrow and at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, and later served in the British Army in India and Burma. When World War I broke out, Russell commanded the New Zealand brigade that served with distinction at Gallipoli. He was subsequently knighted and given command of the 20,000-strong New Zealand Division that under his leadership became one of the finest fighting formations on the Western Front. The Forgotten General, however, is not just about a consummate military commander. It also tells the story of the men he led through four unbroken years of war, starting with the raw and inexperienced brigade that arrived on Gallipoli in May 1915 and finishing with the elite division at the spearhead of the British counteroffensive that finally ended the war on the Western Front.

Excerpt

‘A born leader of men, with natural gifts for the military art which
fell little short of genius.’

So wrote Colonel Hugh Stewart, the official historian of the 20,000-strong New Zealand Division that fought in France and Belgium in World War I. His subject: the division’s commander, Major-General Sir Andrew (Guy) Russell. Seventy-seven years later, prominent military historian Dr Chris Pugsley went much further, rating Russell as not only the outstanding divisional commander among the British armies that fought on the Western Front, but the one military commander of genius that New Zealand produced in the twentieth century.

Under Russell’s leadership, Pugsley wrote, ‘New Zealand produced the finest fighting division of all the British and Dominion divisions among the British armies in France, and perhaps the consistently finest division of any of the armies—British, French, or German—that fought on the Western Front.’

Bold claims indeed, given that the New Zealand Division was only one of 60 British and Dominion divisions fighting on the Western Front by 1918, and there were many more French and German divisions. Many of these were first-class formations commanded by men of great military ability, among them Lieutenant-General Sir John Monash, who rose to command the Australian Corps; and General Sir Clive Currie, who led the four Canadian divisions.

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