by John Powell
Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2018. Pp. vii, 294+.
Illus., maps, stemma, tables, append., notes, biblio, index. $49.95. ISBN: 1526722607
An Irish General in the Great War
Brigadier Powell has written an excellent biography of Edward Bulfin (1862-1939), one of his predecessors as colonel of the Green Howards. Scion of a successful Irish Catholic family -- his father was Lord Mayor of Dublin in 1871 -- Bulfin entered the British Army through the militia.
Bulfin saw active service in the Boer War, went to France with the BEF in 1914 in command of a brigade, doing well in several actions, most notably the defense of Ypres. In 1915 he commanded a very green division with some success, again at Ypres. He was then assigned to raise and train the new 60th Infantry Division, which he commanded at the Somme in 1916, and then took it into action at Salonika briefly, and then in Palestine. In June of 1917 Bulfin was then given command of the newly formed XXI Corps, which he led ably in the Third Battle of Gaza and the Battle of Megiddo.
Postwar Bulfin served on occupation duty in the Middle East, suppressed an uprising in Egypt, and politely declined to serve during the Irish War for Independence.
Bulfin, who rose to full general, was quick to adopt new ideas and technologies – such as the rifle grenade – and was devoted to his troops. Powell tells his story well, covering not only his military career and operations, but weaving into his account some commentary on Britain’s religious politics, social life, the “Irish Question”, and more.
Haig’s Tower of Strength is a very interesting look an officer who ought to be better known, offering further evidence that most Great War generals were not “Donkeys”.
Note: Haig’s Tower of Strength is also available in several e-editions