James Grierson (British Army officer)

Lieutenant-General Sir James Moncrieff Grierson, KCB, CMG, CVO ADC (Gen.) (27 January 1859 – 17 August 1914) was a British soldier.

Sir James Grierson
Sir James Grierson.jpg
Grierson as a Colonel
Born27 January 1859
Glasgow, Scotland[1]
Died17 August 1914 (aged 55)
AllegianceUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service1877–1914
UnitAnglo-Egyptian War
Boxer Rebellion
Second Boer War
World War I
Commands held1st Division
Eastern Command
AwardsKnight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George
Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
The grave of Lt General James Moncrieff Grierson, Glasgow Necropolis
Plaque to Sir James Moncrieff Grierson, Glasgow Cathedral


He was born in 1859 the son of George Moncrieff Grierson and his wife Allison Lyon Walker.[2]

Grierson was commissioned into the Royal Artillery in 1877.[3]

He served in the Egyptian War including the actions at Kassassin and Tel el Kebir, as Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General with the Indian contingent in 1882.[3] He was Deputy Assistant Adjutant and Quartermaster General for the Sudan expedition and was involved in actions at Suakin, Hasheen and Tamai in 1885.[3] He was Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General for 2nd Brigade during the Hazara expedition in 1888.[3] He was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant General, Intelligence, at Army Headquarters in 1890 and then became Brigade Major for the Royal Artillery at Aldershot from 1895 to 1896 when he became Military Attaché in Berlin[3] acquiring what Sir John French later described as "an intimate knowledge of the German army."[4]

He served in China during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, and later the same year in the Second Boer War in South Africa. Lt-Col Grierson was in charge of army baggage during Roberts’ march on Bloemfontein.[5]

After returning from the war he became Assistant Quartermaster General for the 2nd Army Corps and Chief Staff Officer to Sir Evelyn Wood, commanding the corps;[6] and was promoted to the substantive rank of colonel on 28 October 1901.[7] In early 1902 he was ordered for temporary duty in the Remount Department.[8] Later that year he returned to his position in the 2nd Army corps, where he was appointed a Brigadier-General on the Staff and Chief Staff Officer of the corps from 4 September 1902.[9][10][11]

Grierson was appointed Director of Military Operations at Army Headquarters in 1904.[3] As DMO, Grierson and his deputy Robertson organised the Strategic War Game of 1905, which persuaded them that British intervention (still expected to be deployed to Antwerp at this stage) was necessary to avoid French defeat in the event of a Franco-German war.[12][13] Grierson acted as umpire for the wargame.[14] In January 1906, as the First Moroccan Crisis continued, Grierson was tasked with drawing up detailed plans for deployment of an expeditionary force to Le Havre in the event of war.[15] Grierson and Robertson began talks with the French General Staff and with the French military attaché Colonel Victor Huguet, and that same year Grierson, Robertson and Huguet toured the Charleroi to Namur area. However, little further progress was made until after Wilson became DMO in 1910.[16][17]

Grierson was then appointed General Officer Commanding, 1st Division at Aldershot Command in 1906 and General Officer Commanding-in-Chief for Eastern Command in 1912.[3]

In the Army Manoeuvres of 1912, he made full use of aircraft reconnaissance to decisively beat Douglas Haig, despite Haig having the odds in his favour.

In the Army Manoeuvres of 1913, Grierson acted as Chief of the General Staff (CGS) for Sir John French. Douglas Haig noted in his diary, "Sir John French's instructions for moving along the front of his enemy (then halted on a fortified position) and subsequently attacking the latter's distant flank, were of such an unpractical nature that his Chief of the General Staff demurred. Some slight modifications in the orders were permitted, but Grierson ceased to be his CGS on mobilization, and was very soon transferred to another appointment in the BEF."[18] Even before leaving the field of the manoeuvres (26 September 1913), French told Wilson that he was not satisfied with Grierson's performance. Murray was appointed chief of staff designate in his place.[19] French himself described Grierson as a "dear old friend and comrade", ..who astonished French soldiers by his knowledge of the history of their regiments and whose "military acquirements were brilliant and in every respect up to date."[4]

Grierson was very overweight, and used to go red in the face from bending over, due to high blood pressure, and Edmonds later claimed that his staff were issued with penknives to bleed him if necessary.[20] He died of an aneurism of the heart on a train, near Amiens at 7:00 a.m. on 17 August 1914. His replacement as commander of II Corps was Sir Horace Smith-Dorrien. Grierson spoke French fluently and was a personal friend of Haig, the commander of I Corps, so it is possible that relations over the next few days, both between the two British corps and with the French, might have been better had he lived.[21]

Grierson's body was repatriated, a practice allowed at that time, and is buried in the Glasgow Necropolis in PRIMUS 38 with his sister, father and mother. These were full interments.[22] The grave lies north of the path connecting the south-east corner of the upper plateau with the low-lying southern section.


The Sir James Moncrieff Grierson Prize for languages was later established at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.

Medals and OrdersEdit

Grierson at Rheims in 1909 (shown in the centre with hands behind back)

British decorations

Foreign decorations

Publications by GriersonEdit

  • Notes on the Turkish Army Simla 1882 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, India)
  • A Vocabulary of the Arabic Language Roorkee 1882
  • The War in Turkomania: Skobeleff's Campaign of 1880-81 Translated from the Russian of Major-General N. I. Grodekov. Simla 1884-85
  • The Armed Strength of Russia Two editions: London 1886 and 1892 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • The Armed Strength of Japan London 1886 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • The Armed Strength of the German Empire Two editions: London 1888 and 1892 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • Staff Duties in the Field: With Notes by Lieut.-General H. Brackenbury London 1891
  • Handbook of the Military Forces of Russia London 1894 (compiled for the Intelligence Branch, London)
  • Umpiring at Field Manoeuvres as practised by various foreign armies (Aldershot Military Society Lectures, No. 51) Aldershot 1894
  • Die Heere und Flotten der Gegenwart: II: Grossbritannien und Irland The British Army. Berlin 1897
  • Records of the Scottish Volunteer Force, 1859–1908 Edinburgh and London 1909
  • Military Papers and Articles, Translations, Reviews contributed to military journals both British and foreign, and to the daily press.

Further readingEdit

The Life of Sir James Moncrieff Grierson by D.S. Macdiarmid (London: Constable, 1923)

  • Holmes, Richard (2004). The Little Field Marshal: A Life of Sir John French. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-84614-0.
  • Jeffery, Keith (2006). Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson: A Political Soldier. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-820358-2.Harper
  • Terraine, John (1960). Mons, The Retreat to Victory. Wordsworth Military Library, London. ISBN 1-84022-240-9.
  • Travers, Tim (1987). The Killing Ground. Allen & Unwin. ISBN 0-85052-964-6.
  • Tuchman, Barbara (1962). August 1914. Constable & Co. ISBN 978-0-333-30516-4.


  1. ^ https://livesofthefirstworldwar.iwm.org.uk/lifestory/1468621
  2. ^ Grierson grave, Glasgow Necropolis
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives
  4. ^ a b Sir John French (1919). 1914. London: Constable & Co. p. 37.
  5. ^ Holmes 2004, p99
  6. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36645. London. 23 December 1901. p. 8.
  7. ^ "No. 27387". The London Gazette. 13 December 1901. p. 8840.
  8. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36703. London. 28 February 1902. p. 5.
  9. ^ "Army Corps appointments". The Times. No. 36871. London. 12 September 1902. p. 6.
  10. ^ "No. 27474". The London Gazette. 16 September 1902. p. 5964.
  11. ^ "Naval & Military intelligence". The Times. No. 36864. London. 4 September 1902. p. 4.
  12. ^ Jeffery 2006, p85-6
  13. ^ Tuchman 1962, p55-6
  14. ^ Wilson, Andrew (1968). The Bomb and the Computer. London: Barry & Rockliff.
  15. ^ Holmes 2004, p139-41
  16. ^ Jeffery 2006, p85-6
  17. ^ Tuchman 1962, p55-6
  18. ^ Warner, Philip Field-Marshal Earl Haig (London: Bodley Head, 1991; Cassell, 2001) pp110–111
  19. ^ Holmes 2004, p149-50
  20. ^ Travers 1987, p14
  21. ^ Terraine 1960, p50-1
  22. ^ CWGC record
  23. ^ "The Coronation Honours". The Times. No. 36804. London. 26 June 1902. p. 5.
  24. ^ "No. 27456". The London Gazette. 22 July 1902. p. 4669.
  25. ^ "No. 27385". The London Gazette. 10 December 1901. p. 8715.
  26. ^ "No. 27393". The London Gazette. 3 January 1902. p. 1.
  27. ^ "Court Circular". The Times. No. 36068. London. 17 February 1900. p. 11.

External linksEdit

Military offices
Preceded by
William Nicholson
(As Director General of Mobilisation and Military Intelligence)
Director of Military Operations
Succeeded by
Preceded by General Officer Commanding the 1st Division
Succeeded by
Preceded by GOC-in-C Eastern Command
Succeeded by
Preceded by
New Post
GOC II Corps
August 1914
Succeeded by