Who's Who - Sir Frederick Maurice

Sir Frederick Maurice (1871-1951) served as a close colleague of Sir William Robertson on the Imperial General Staff from 1915-18 before being retired by the army following newspaper publication of a letter of protest directed at Prime Minister David Lloyd George's manipulation of British army strength figures on the Western Front.

Born in Dublin on 19 January 1871 Maurice was educated at St. Paul's School and Sandhurst before he joined the army with the Derbyshire Regiment in 1892.

Having served for a period as aide-de-camp to his own father, Major-General John Frederick Maurice (1897-98), he served during the South African War of 1899-1902 and was mentioned in despatches.  Promotion to Major followed.

A return to England saw Maurice employed at the War Office under Douglas Haig.  In 1913 he took up a position as instructor at the Military Staff College where he became close with Sir William Robertson.

With Britain's declaration of war in August 1914 Maurice was posted to France and saw action during the Battle of Mons.  From thereon Maurice's career was tied to that of his mentor Robertson.  The latter's appointment as Chief of the General Staff in January 1915 brought Maurice a position at the head of the operations section at G.H.Q.

When Robertson was promoted to Chief of the Imperial General Staff in December 1915 Maurice - now Major-General - was consequently made Director of Military Operations.

1918 was a turbulent year for both Robertson and Maurice.  Maurice was himself knighted in January.  In February Robertson was forced to step aside as Chief of the Imperial General Staff by Lloyd George.  Maurice, fearing that British Commander-in-Chief Haig was next in line to be dismissed by the Prime Minister, took drastic action.

Having noted that the Prime Minister had apparently given misleading statistics regarding the strength of the British army on the Western Front to Parliament at the start of 1918 - a matter of significance given the British army defeats suffered in March and April - Maurice wrote to Robertson's replacement Sir Henry Wilson pointing out the PM's inaccuracies.

Wilson ignored Maurice's letter and, following a period of reflection - knowing full well that the action he was contemplating would bring an end to his military career - he wrote a letter of protest to The Times newspaper on 7 May 1918 baldly accusing Lloyd George of misleading Parliament.

Publication of the letter caused a short-lived political storm.  A crisis debate on the issue was held in the House of Commons on 9 May.  Lloyd George, in a virtuoso performance, successfully implied that the origin of the misleading statistics was Maurice's own office, thereby discrediting both Maurice and (more usefully) former Prime Minister and arch-critic of the Prime Minister, Herbert Asquith.

Maurice himself was suspended from his post and forcibly retired by the British army having committed a grave breach of discipline (although he was denied a request for a courts martial where he expected to be able to successfully prove his case).

Taking up a career as a military journalist thereafter Maurice occasionally ran up against Lloyd George (who effectively prevented his employment by the Daily Chronicle by the useful expedient of persuading friends to buy out the newspaper).  He next served as military correspondent of the Daily News.

After the war Maurice published numerous works including Intrigues of the War (1922) and Governments and War (1926).  He also lectured at the Working Men's College from 1922-33 and at the East London College from 1933-44.  In 1926 he was appointed professor of military studies at London University, also teaching at Trinity College, Cambridge.

He died in Cambridge on 19 May 1951 at the age of 80.

Click here to read Maurice's account of the Battle of the Canal du Nord of September-October 1918.  Click here to read Maurice's account of the reasons why the Allies accepted peace on 11 November 1918 rather than pursue the German Army into Germany.

A cartwheel was a particular type of aerial manoeuvre.

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