Picture creates general interest

Who are these military top brass on a Great War visit to Oswestry?

The military top brass at Oswestry.
The military top brass at Oswestry.

That's the question we asked when we published this postcard, from the collection of Ray Farlow of Bridgnorth, in our Pictures From The Archive slot the other day.

Apart from "C W Lloyd" and "Oswestry" being printed on the front, there was no other information at all.

But Michael Webb from Hanwood thinks he may be able to identify at least some of these high ranking officers.

"The First World War is one of my interests with both local and national history and I have read widely about the Generals involved," he said.

"If we assume that 'C W Lloyd' was the photographer and 'Oswestry' the location of the event the picture was taken in, if not where the photographer's business was based, it appears the photograph was taken at a spot being used as a saluting base to review a parade.

"The one in the foreground who looks as if he is saluting or about to raise his hat does look, if compared with other photographs taken of him, like Sir John French. I don't think he visited this country while he was commanding the British Expeditionary Force in France from 1914 to December 1915 but after he was relieved of command following the disastrous Battle of Loos, he was then appointed Commander in Chief of Home Forces – all troops in Great Britain – and served in that role until 1918.

"This would have involved him visiting and inspecting troops that were stationed or training within the UK so it's possible he might have visited Shropshire where there was a major army camp at Park Hall, near Oswestry.

"The general 'third from left' to that general's right hand side, after a close look, is quite possibly Lieutenant General Sir William Pitcairn Campbell, who was a tall and bulky man with, like Sir John French, a large moustache and was in the UK through the First World War.

"After being GOC (General Officer Commanding) Southern Command he was from 1916 to 1918 GOC Western Command whose territory included Shropshire and would have been in the position to host visits from higher command.

"I rule out him being Sir Douglas Haig, who was not so bulky a man, younger, and had a trimmer moustache."

We had speculated that this officer might be Haig.

Michael sent in photos of French and Campbell for comparison.

He added: "Hanwood, by the way, was between 1914 and 1916 home to Lieutenant General Sir Edwin Alderson on whom I did much research for the benefit of local history exhibitions. Alderson was first commander of the Canadians on the Western Front.

"Before his first Canadian Division went to France they came territorially under Southern Command and I have seen photos taken of a visit of King George V to them in late 1914 when Lt Gen Campbell appears accompanying them. His height and bulk are quite noticeable in contrast to the King and Alderson who were both not very tall and were leaner men.

"On another royal visit to the Canadians while in England, the King was accompanied by Lord Kitchener who at 6 feet 2 inches was also overtowering."

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