Field Marshall William Riddell Birdwood

Field Marshall William Riddell Birdwood

Field Marshal William Riddell Birdwood. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Field Marshal William Riddell Birdwood. Courtesy of Australian War Memorial

Len Kenna 17.04.2015

William Riddell Birdwood was born on 13th September 1865 at Kirkee, India.  He was the second son of Herbert Mills Birdwood, and and Edith Marion, daughter of Surgeon Major E. G. H. Impey of the Bombay Horse Artillery and postmaster-general of the Bombay Presidency.  His father Herbert was also born in India at Belgaum in 1837.  Herbert was educated in England before returning to India and returned to India, after passing the Indian Civil Service examination in 1859, where he took up his first judical post with the Indian Civil Service.  In 1881 he was the Judicial Commissioner and Judge of the Sadar Court in Sind and later an acting Judge of the Bombay High Court.  He held this as a permanent position until being appointed a Judicial Member of the Bombay Government in 1892.  Herbert became Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bombay and a Member of the Council of the Governor of Bombay and acted as Governor in 1895 for a short time. 

William Birdwood like his father was educated in the England although he attended Clifton College, Bristol, and the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, England, from which he was commissioned early in 1885. He was posted to the 12th Lancers in India, and transferred in 1887 to the 11th Bengal Lancers.

In November 1914, William was instructed by Kitchener to form the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps, and was promoted to temporary Lieutenant-General on the 12th of December 1914 to command the Corps, which became known as the ANZAC Corps.   The ANZAC Corps was then placed under the command of General Sir Ian Hamilton who ordered William Birdwood to carry out a landing on the 25th April 1915, north of Kabatepe, the site now known as Anzac Cove.  William Birdwood was given command of the all forces in the Australian Imperial Force in May 1915, while he was still in command at Gallipoli.  He was promoted to Lieutenant-General on the 28th of October 1915 taking command of the Dardanelles Army that had been formed.  In December 1915 he led the evacuation of the entire force from Gallipoli which was a great success. Field Marshall William Birdwood was made Baronet of Anzac and of Totnes, in the County of Devon on 29 December 1919