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primrose

Sir George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood
M.D.(Edin)., K.C.I.E., C.S.I., LL.D.(Camb).

primrose

The london based firm of Numismatic Auctioneers and Dealers, Dix Noonan Webb Ltd, offered the following impressive group of medals in their 12th June 1991 auction, as lot 332. The notes that accompanied the medal listing (reproduced below) contain some interesting Primrose League information.

Sir George Christopher Molesworth Birdwood, K.C.I.E., C.S.I., (1832-1917), the eldest son of General Christopher Birdwood, Indian Army, was born at Belgaum in the Bombay Presidency on the 8th December 1832. Married Frances Ann eldest daughter of Edward Tolcher of Harewood House, Plympton St. Mary's, Devonshire. No mention of issue has been found. His family had long been connected with the Indian Army and public services. He was sent at the age of seven to England to be educated, and went first to the Plymouth new grammar school, then to the Dollar Academy, and finally to the University of Edinburgh where he took his M.D. degree.
In 1854 he was appointed to the Bombay establishment of the Indian medical staff, and he took part as a Naval Surgeon in the Persian expedition of 1856-57. Serving aboard the steam frigate Ajdaha he was present at the capture of Muhamara and received the medal with clasp. During the following ten years, whilst practising in Bombay and holding professorships of anatomy and physiology and of botany and materia medica at the Grant medical college, he laid the foundations of his future work by devoting himself to the study of many unexplored aspects of Indian life, social, economic and scientific. He was registrar to the newly founded University of Bombay, Curator of the Government Museum, Secretary to the Bombay branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, and one of the founders of the Victoria botanical gardens and the Victoria and Albert Museum at Bombay. His appointment as Sheriff of Bombay in 1864 was one of many forms of recognition of his work in Bombay, but he was forced to return to England in 1868 due to ill health.
Whilst in England he began a long career of valuable service as an interpreter to his own countrymen of Indian life, art and culture. He was Special Commissioner of the Bombay Government for the Paris Exhibition of 1867 and after he had recovered his health at home, he was appointed to assist Dr. John Forbes Watson in the annual exhibitions at South Kensington, of which the first was held in 1871. In 1878 he was posted as special assistant in the statistics and commerce department of the India Office, and he was in charge of the Indian sections of the chief international exhibitions down to that of Chicago in 1893.
With the assistance of Professor Chenery, Demetrius Boulger and others, he had an important share in the foundation of Primrose Day (19th April).
His literary output both before and after his retirement in 1902, was enormous and besides special treatises on Indian botanical subjects, his two most important works were his 'Report on the Miscellaneous Old Records of the India Office' (1879), and 'The Industrial Arts of India' (1880).
Birdwood was made C.S.I. in 1877, knighted in 1881, and made K.C.I.E. in 1887. He died at the age of 84 at Ealing on the 28th June 1917.
His nephew Field-Marshal Lord Birdwood wrote in his autobiography 'Khaki and Gown':- 'In this year I lost my old uncle, Sir George Birdwood, who had for many years had a distinguished career both in India and at the India Office. Lord Curzon, who had a great thirst for knowledge, once told me that whenever he wanted information about any obscure point of Indian mythology, folklore, or theology, my uncle could always be relied on to give the details required.'
Sir George, who combined a great admiration for Disraeli with a profound knowledge and love of flowers, is said to have been the real originator of the 'Primrose League.'


Field Marshal Lord William Riddell Birdwood
G.C.B., G.C.M.G., G.C.V.O., G.B.E., D.S.O., M.A., LL.D.(Camb).


He was born on 13 September 1865 in India and was the son of Herbert Mills Birdwood CSI, MA, LL.D(Camb), JP. Judge of High Court and member of council, Bombay 1885-99 (died 1907). He was educated Clifton College and R.M.C. Sandhurst. He married in 1894 Janette Hope Gonville eldest daughter of Col. Sir Benjamin P. Broomhead and they has issue one son (born 22nd May 1899) and two daughters.
He was posted to India where he served on the north-west frontier. During the Boer War Birdwood served on Lord Kitchener's staff. He was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1908 and in 1911 was promoted to Major General. Birdwood's career was characterised by a series of successful postings and steady promotion. When the First World War began, Britain's Minister for War, Lord Kitchener, placed Birdwood in command of the Australian and New Zealand forces bound for Europe. Before they reached England, however, the ANZACs, as they would soon be known, were ordered to disembark for training in Egypt. Birdwood met them there in December 1914.
Four months later Birdwood's troops landed at Gallipoli. He impressed the men by regularly visiting the front lines and taking daily swims in the sea, heedless of the danger from Turkish shrapnel aimed at men seeking such refreshment. His bravery earned Birdwood the enduring respect of the AIF, and he was appointed its temporary administrative commander, as well as its operational commander, following the death of General William Bridges in May 1915. The appointment was made permanent in September 1916.


F.M. Lord Birdwood

Having watched all attempts fail to make headway against the Turks on Gallipoli, Birdwood was nevertheless opposed to the evacuation when the question was raised. In this he was overruled and he oversaw the successful withdrawal in December 1915. In early 1916 the ANZAC Corps was split in two. Birdwood assumed command of I ANZAC Corps, accompanied it to France, and directed its operations throughout 1916 and 1917.
Birdwood made a point of appointing Australians to command and staff positions but took command of the Australian Corps when it was formed from the five AIF divisions in November 1917. He was succeeded by Lieutenant General John Monash in May 1918 and took command of the British 5th Army, but still retained command administrative command of the AIF with the support of almost all senior Australian officers. Despite his having commanded Australians through some of the Western Front's more disastrous actions, Bullecourt being one example, Birdwood continued to be held in high regard. His willingness to support those he commanded, to argue on their behalf and indeed to make it known that he had done so, earned Birdwood a respect from Australians that was given to few British senior commanders.
In 1920 Birdwood was made a general in the Australian Military Forces and five years later was made Field Marshal. He toured Australia and New Zealand in 1920 to wide public acclaim and was given command of the Indian Army in 1925. He retired from the military in 1930 and was thwarted in his desire to become Australia's Governor-General when the prime minister insisted on the office being held by an Australian. Birdwood died in England in 1951 and was buried with full military honours. Heir: Christopher Broomhead Birdwood.
Housed in the Private Records collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial are various papers relating to Birdwood and include in the Personal papers 1916-1920 section, a Primrose League Diploma issued to Lady Birdwood.


Lieut.-Colonel Lord Christopher Bromhead Birdwood
M.V.O.


He was born on the on the 22nd May 1899 only son of Field-Marshal Lord W. R. Birdwood. Married Vere Drummond daughter of Lt.-Col. Sir George D. Ogilvie. Had issue one son and one daughter. Educated at Cliffton College and R.M.C. Sandhurst. European war: awarded a Mention in Despatches and Military Order of Aviz, 5th Class. N.W.Frontier, India, 1919-20 and 1936-37. Retired from the India Army 1945. Amongst his publications is the book 'The Worcestershire Regiment 1922-1950' published by Gale & Polden Ltd, Aldershot. 1952. He died on the 5th January 1962. Heir: Mark William Ogilvie Birdwood born 23rd November 1938.


Main Index Page References:
Who's Who 1901, 1952 and 1984.
Kelly's 1945 Handbook of the Titled, Landed and Official Classes.
Dix Noonan Webb Ltd Web Site.
Australian War Memorial Web Site.
The Worcestershire Regiment 1922 - 1950. by Lieut.-Colonel Lord Birdwood M.V.O.
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