Sir Alfred Rawlinson, Bt
|Born||17 January 1867|
|Died||1 June 1934(aged 67)|
|Service/||British army, Royal Naval Reserve|
Royal Naval Air Service, Armoured Car Section,
Royal Garrison Artillery,
|Battles/wars||World War I,|
Battle of Aubers Ridge,
German strategic bombing during World War I,
Mesopotamian campaign (1918),
Turkish War of Independence
|Awards||Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George,|
Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire,
Distinguished Service Order
Alfred was the second son of Major-General Sir Henry Creswicke Rawlinson, 1st Baronet, a soldier, diplomat and expert in Persian antiquities. His mother was Louisa Caroline Harcourt, the daughter of Henry Seymour the Tory MP for Taunton. Two uncles, Henry Danby Seymour and Alfred Seymour were also MPs. His older brother became General Henry Rawlinson, 1st Baron Rawlinson, who masterminded the Battle of Amiens and the Hundred Days Offensive that brought World War I to a close.
Alfred, known to family and friends as "Toby", was born on 17 January 1867 at the family home in Charles Street, Mayfair, in the West End of London. He was educated at Eton College and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, after which he obtained a commission as a lieutenant in the 17th Lancers.
Rawlinson was a polo player in the 1900 Summer Olympics; he was part of the Foxhunters Hurlingham polo team which won the Olympic gold medal. He was also a keen motor racing driver, resigning from the army to concentrate on the sport. He took part in the 1908 Isle of Man RAC Tourist Trophy ("TT") race, driving his Darracq into 7th place.[nb 1]
At the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Rawlinson was 47 and too old to be called up as a reservist. He therefore offered himself and his Hudson sports car to the Royal Automobile Club, who were assembling an "RAC Corps of Volunteer Motor Drivers". Rawlinson was one of twenty-five car owners selected to accompany the British Expeditionary Force to the continent to act as chauffeurs and dispatch carriers for the General Staff. He and the other drivers worked with the British Army in the first battles of the war, his car being adapted by the addition of a machine gun and a Union Jack. By October, he had been transferred to a staff position with IV Corps (which was commanded by his brother) and had been given the rank of colonel by Sir John French, despite having left the cavalry as a subaltern. His driving exploits were described in his Adventures on the Western Front August, 1914 - June, 1915 (1925). On 9 May 1915, he was injured by a German heavy shell at the Battle of Aubers Ridge and returned to England. While recovering at home on 20 June, he was visited by a staff officer from the War Office with a message stating that commissions could not be issued in the field and that he could not consider himself an officer. Despite being "hurt to the very soul" by the manner of his dismissal, Rawlinson went straight to the Admiralty and volunteered his services.
On 20 June 1915, he was appointed lieutenant-commander of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and tasked with raising a new squadron of the RNAS Armoured Car Section. However, in August, he was interviewed by Commodore Murray Sueter RN, who was the commander of London's anti-aircraft defences. Owing to previous experience in the air defence of Paris, Rawlinson was "invited", in his spare time, to suggest improvements to the weapons and ammunition in use, as they had proved ineffective in the first Zeppelin attacks on London in the previous weeks. In September, he was placed under the direct command of Admiral Sir Percy Scott, who had been ordered to establish the London Air Defence Area. Rawlinson was tasked with forming a mobile anti-aircraft battery, using picked men from his armoured car squadron. He set off at once to France, in the hope of obtaining an example of the lorry mounted Autocanon de 75 mm mle 1913 anti-aircraft gun and returned to London with one within 72 hours. This weapon became the nucleus of the Royal Naval Anti-Aircraft Mobile Brigade, under Rawlinson's personal command; it was first used in action against a Zeppelin on 13 October at Moorgate in the City of London. Eventually, the brigade was armed with four French 75mms, two QF 3 inch 20 cwts, and eight QF 3 pounder Vickers with four powerful searchlights, all mounted on lorries. Operating from the stables at Kenwood House, the guns could be rushed to prepared positions around the capital at very short notice. When the army took over the air defence of London in February 1916, the RNVR continued to operate the mobile guns under Army command. In August 1916, the brigade relocated to Norfolk, with the intention of intercepting the Zeppelins as they crossed the coast. Throughout this time, Rawlinson was continually refining the techniques of anti-aircraft gunnery, and claimed to have pioneered the use of acoustic location in detecting aircraft hidden by cloud. In January 1917, the brigade moved to the coast of Essex to counter the threat from German aeroplanes. In May 1917, Rawlinson was offered command of the newly created Western Sub-Command of the London defences, which required a transfer back to the army, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. His new command consisted of 19 gun and 36 searchlight positions. He commanded these assets during the heavy air raids of late 1917.
In January 1918, Rawlinson tendered his resignation and sought a post in pursuance of "an ardent desire to once more get a little closer to the enemy". In February, he obtained a transfer to the Intelligence Corps with the rank of colonel. Assignments include tours of duty in the Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia during 1918-1922. His mission was to guard the Tiflis-Baku railway, and to oversee the demobilizing Turkish forces. Under Lionel Dunsterville, he was sent on a mission to the Mountainous Republic of the Northern Caucasus.
On his last assignment, to establish whether Turkey was obeying the armistice conditions, he and his party were held prisoner in Erzurum by the Turkish authorities, placing the British Government in an awkward position because his elder brother was a highly placed military man. He was eventually released in a prisoner exchange in 1921.
His book, Adventures in the Near East (1923, Andrew Melrose, London), chronicles the state of affairs during the armistice days at the end of World War I. In particular, he gives accounts of the landscape after the Russian withdrawal and the beginnings of the Turkish nationalist movement.
On 25 June 1890, Alfred married Margarette Kennard, the 6th daughter of William Bunce Greenfield DL. They had four children; twins Alfred Frederick and Honour Louisa were born 23 August 1900, Honour died aged 12. They had a second daughter, Irene Margarette (died 1974) and a third, Mary, who died in infancy. Margarette died on 18 September 1907 aged about 49.
On 13 December 1913, Alfred remarried Jean Isabella Griffin Aitkin, an actress also known by her stage name of Jean Aylwin. They were divorced in 1924; the composer Hubert Bath was named as co-respondent in the case.
|Baronetage of the United Kingdom|
(of North Walsham, Norfolk)