Sir Hugh Bruce Williams

As Major General General Staff of Second Army from July 1915 until June 1916, Hugh Bruce Williams was one of the fifteen soldiers to hold this position on the Western Front. He was born in 1865, the son of a general. Educated at Winchester, he joined the Royal Engineers in 1885 and attended the “Shop’ at Woolwich. He progressed to the Staff College course at Camberley in 1899. In common with many of the senior command of the British army he fought in the Boer War and was awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 1901. When the First World War broke out, Bruce Williams was forty nine years old. After serving as a senior staff officer he went on to take command of 137 Brigade in the 46th Division. There were many officers who moved from staff roles into operational commands. My research has looked at how these men fared in both positions.

Senior Staff Officers

The highest level of staff officer in the British army was a Major General General Staff. On the Western Front each of the five armies had an MGGS heading a team of staff officers. For example, Major General ‘Tim’ Harrington was the senior staff officer at Second Army. He worked closely with the Commander in Chief General Sir Herbert Plumer. The MGGS was a key individual in the command team.

During the war, there were only fifteen officers who served in the MGGS position on the Western Front. A small group of individuals who had a significant influence on the way operations were planned and prosecuted. They were all regular soldiers with an average age of forty five. All of them had been to Staff College.

Although this group of senior officers played a critical role during the war, little has been written about them. I am currently researching this small cohort to evaluate just how important they were to achieving victory.