Bannatine-Allason, R (1855–1940) Major-General
GOC Infantry Division CB CMG
Wellington College RMA Woolwich Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery

Bannatine-AllasonRichard Bannatine-Allason was the son of Richard Cunninghame Bannatine of Glaisnock, Ayrshire.

He was commissioned in the Royal Artillery on 28 January 1875. He saw active service in the Afghan War (1878–80), the Sudan (1885) and South Africa (1899–1902), where he took part in the actions at Magersfontein, Poplar Grove, Dreifontein, Karee Siding, Vet River, Zand River, Reit Vlei and Belfast as well as the relief of Kimberley. In 1905 he was afforded a further opportunity to witness the emergence of modern firepower at close quarters through his appointment as British Attaché to the Japanese army, fighting the Russians in Manchuria. He completed a four-year tour as GOC Nowshera Brigade in India in April 1914 and was unemployed when the war broke out.

On 27 August 1914 he succeeded Major-General C J Mackenzie as GOC 51st (Highland) Division TF. His command of this famous formation was not entirely happy. The division took casualties even before it was sent abroad. Soldiers brought up in the pure air of the Highlands fell prey to the miasmas of urban England soon after the division's arrival at Bedford, suffering cruelly from measles in particular. 51st Division's first experience of battle at Festubert (19–25 May 1915) and Givenchy (15–16 June), where its attack failed completely, was also unpromising. Lieutenant-General Sir Ivor Maxse later characterised the division during this period as 'ill-organised and unsoldier-like'. [1]

Bannatine-Allason's staff were equally critical of their chief. 'The divisional commander's mind was not attuned to light chatter,' wrote Colonel W N Nicholson, the AA and QMG. 'He demanded the "How" and "Why" of any feeble sally; and when at last he understood said "Oh" instead of "Ha". He liked to sit long hours over his meals, grunting monosyllabic replies, staring out at the troops that marched below the window. A square shouldered, square faced man with a gift for putting the hardest and squarest of fingers on the spot; not by any reasoning power, that I was aware of, but by instinct. If he had left it there, and said nothing his vision would have seemed impressive. But he had a fatal habit of explaining. A general of the old school; relying on force of character rather than knowledge.' [2]

Bannatine-Allason was replaced on 24 September 1915. The divisional history tried to sugar the pill. 'General Bannatine- Allason ... had for some time been in indifferent health. The strain of the past four months, in which he had commanded the division in its first experiences of war, had been severe and the General therefore felt that he could not continue either with justice to himself or the Division in so responsible a position until his health was sufficiently recovered.' [3]

But, in truth, he had been dismissed.

He later commanded 61st (2nd South Midland) Division TF and 64th (2nd Highland) Division TF at home. He retired from the army on 10 September 1918.

He was Colonel Commandant of the Royal Horse Artillery from 1920 to 1940 and was knighted in 1926.

 

Dr John Bourne

References:

1 IWM: Maxse Papers 69/53/12, Box No 54.
2 W N Nicholson, Behind the Lines. An Account of Administrative Staffwork in the British Army 1914-1918 (1939; Stevenage: Strong Oak Press, n.d.), p. 26.
3 Major F W Bewsher, History of the 51st (Highland) Division 1914-1918 (Edinburgh: Blackwood, 1921), p. 46.

 

Image credit: sketch of Richard Bannatine-Allason from the 51st Division War Sketches by Fred Farrell digitised by Brigham Young University

 

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