The Gordons


General Sir Ian Standish Montieth Hamilton GCB GCMG DSO TD


Hamilton is well known for being the man in charge of the failed landings at Gallipoli. He was an unlikely military figure because of his frail appearance and intellectual pursuits, ie writing poetry. He was a proclaimed Liberal and was less ruthless than his fellow Generals. However, during the inter war years he declared his pro-German sympathies, his admiration for Hilter, and his hatred of Jews.

He was born on 16th Jan 1853 and hardly knew his mother as she died while giving birth to one of his brothers. His father had been Commanding officer of the 92nd Gordon Highlanders from 1865 to 1869 so it was expected that he enter that regiment. Ian was educated in Cheam, then at Wellington. He also spent some years in Germany where he became fluent in the language. He was trained at Sandhurst and commissioned in 1871, first to the Suffolks, then the 92nd.

At Majuba Hill the 92nd suffered a terrible defeat during which Hamilton was badly injured in the left wrist which left him permanently disabled. He showed great bravery in other campaigns, notably the Nile Expedition, Burmah, Chitral and the Tirah. In the South African War of 1899-1902 he was in the Natal Field Force, commanding the infantry at Elandslaagte and Wagon Hill. He commanded the Mounted Infantry Division from April 1900.

In 1902 he was knighted, promoted to General and became Lord Kitchener's Chief of Staff in South Africa. Kitchener called him his 'bloody poet', but Winston Churchill wrote about him in glowing terms in 1900:

"He is a singularly good and rapid judge of character. He takes a very independent view on all subjects, sometimes with a slight bias towards their radical or democratic aspects but hardly ever influenced by the set of people with whom he lives. To his strong personal charm as a companion, to his temper, never ruffled or vexed by internal irritation or the stir and contrariness of events, his friends and those who have served under him will bear witness."

He was Colonel of the Cameron Highlanders from 7th Dec 1904 to 25th Oct 1914. The photo shows him wearing the full dress uniform of the Camerons. Following this appointment, on the 26th Oct 1914 he became Colonel of his old regiment, the Gordon Highlanders until 31st May 1939. He died on 12th Oct 1947 aged 94.

Suggested Reading

A Soldier's Life: General Sir Ian Hamilton 1853-1947 by John Lee (Macmillan 2000)

Sir Ian Hamilton's Despatches From The Dardanelles Introduced by FM Sir Evelyn Wood (originally published by George Newnes 1915) (Naval & Military Press 2010)

The Happy Warrior by Ian B M Hamilton (1966)


Regimental details | Colonels




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by Stephen Luscombe