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Charles Edward Callwell
Born (1859-04-02)2 April 1859
Died May 1928 (aged 68–69)
Place of birth London, England
Place of death Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, Millbank, London
Allegiance United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland
Service/branch British Army
Rank Major-General
Unit Royal Artillery
Royal Garrison Artillery
Commands held Directorate of Operations & Intelligence (1914–16)
Other work Author

Major-General Sir Charles Edward Callwell KCB (2 April 1859–May 1928), was an Anglo-Irish officer of the British Army, who served in the artillery, as an intelligence officer, and as a staff officer and commander during the Second Boer War, and as Director of Operations & Intelligence during World War I. He was also a noted writer of military biography, history, and theory.[1]


Early life and career[]

Callwell was born in London, the only son of Henry Callwell, of Lismoyne, Ballycastle, County Antrim, by his wife, Maud Martin, of Ross, Connemara. He was educated by a German governess, and then at Haileybury, before entering the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, in 1876. He was commissioned as a lieutenant in January 1878, joining a battery of the 3rd Brigade, Royal Field Artillery, then stationed in India, and serving in the closing stages of the Second Anglo-Afghan War. In January 1881 his battery was transferred to Natal, arriving just in time to take part in the final operations of the ill-fated expedition against the Transvaal Boers. Shortly afterwards Callwell returned to Woolwich; then in late 1884 he passed the entrance examination to the Staff College,[1] where he was a student from February 1885[2] into 1886. He was promoted to captain on 17 March 1886.[3]

Small Wars[]

In 1886 Callwell was awarded the Trench Gascoigne Prize Essay Competition gold medal by the Royal United Service Institution[4] for his essay Lessons to be learned from the campaigns in which British Forces have been employed since the year 1865.[5] This was later expanded into a book Small Wars, which was adopted as an official British Army textbook, and won wide recognition.[1] It was revised and republished in 1899 and 1906, was translated in French, and was eagerly read by members of the Irish Republican Army during the Irish War of Independence.[6] The United States Marine Corps Small Wars Manual, originally published in 1935, drew heavily on Callwell's book,[7] and as the first comprehensive study of what came to be known as "asymmetric warfare", it gained renewed popularity in the 1990s,[8] and remains in print. Douglas Porch, in his preface to the 1996 edition called Callwell "the Clausewitz of colonial warfare".[9]

Intelligence and Staff officer[]

On 1 October 1887 Callwell was seconded for service as a Staff Captain in the Intelligence Branch at Army Headquarters.[10][11] On 13 July 1891 he was appointed Deputy Assistant Adjutant-General,[12] serving until September 1892,[13] when he returned to the Royal Artillery as a captain.[14] Callwell was seconded for service on the General Staff on 9 September 1893,[15] and was later was appointed a brigade major in the Western District of the Royal Artillery,[1] serving until September 1896,[16] having received promotion to the rank of major on 25 March 1896.[17]

On the outbreak of the Greco-Turkish War in February 1897, Callwell was attached to the Greek army and spent a year in the Near East. In October 1899, when war was declared against the Boer Republics in South Africa, Callwell was appointed to the staff of Sir Redvers Buller, and was present throughout the operations which ended with the relief of Ladysmith on 28 February 1900.[1] In September 1901 he received a mention in despatches from Earl Roberts,[18] and was awarded the brevet rank of lieutenant-colonel,[19] and given command of a mobile column, with which he served in the Western Transvaal and in Cape Colony until the close of the war in 1902.[1]

On returning to England, on 6 October 1903[20] he was appointed a Deputy Assistant Quartermaster-General in the mobilization branch of the War Office,[1] and by April 1904 was working in Intelligence once again.[21] On 1 October 1904 he was appointed an Assistant Director of Military Operations, with the substantive rank of Colonel.[22] In June 1907 Callwell was made a Companion of the Bath, at which time he was General Staff Officer, 1st Grade, at Army Headquarters.[23] In October 1907 he appointment to the Staff came to an end and he was placed on half-pay.[24] Having seen several of his contemporaries promoted to general officer rank over his head,[1] Callwell eventually quit the army in June 1909,[25] to devote himself to writing.

First World War[]

On the outbreak of the First World War in August 1914, Callwell was recalled to active service, being appointed Director of Military Operations and Intelligence at the War Office[1] with the temporary rank of major-general.[26] He carried out much important work successfully, not least the preparation of various plans for the organization of the Dardanelles campaign, an operation which he personally opposed. Callwell remained at the War Office until January 1916, when a complete reorganization took place, following on the appointment of Sir William Robertson as Chief of the Imperial General Staff. Operations and intelligence were divided into two independent branches, and Callwell was sent on a special mission to Russia in connexion with the supply of munitions to that country and with the general question of Russian co-operation in the War.[1]

In April 1916 Callwell was made a Commandeur of the Légion d'honneur by the French,[27] and in June 1916 was awarded the honorary rank of major-general.[28]

On his return to England late in 1916 he was given an position in the Ministry of Munitions as an adviser on questions affecting the supplies of ammunition to the various armies. In June 1917 he was created a Knight Commander of the Bath for his wartime services.[29] Callwell eventually relinquished his position in October 1918,[30] to return to literature and journalism.[1]

In recognition of his wartime service he received the Order of the Rising Sun, 2nd Class, from Japan in October 1918,[31] was made a Grand Officer of the Order of the Crown of Italy in November 1918,[32] and a Commander of the Order of the Redeemer by the King of the Hellenes in October 1919.[33] Callwell also received the Order of the Crown from Belgium, the Order of the Crown from Romania, the Order of Saint Stanislaus from Russia, and the Order of the White Eagle from Serbia.[34]

Later career[]

From the time of the publication of Small Wars, Callwell had a reputation as a writer on military topics. Mainly these were studies on tactics and on subjects connected with the World War; he also produced works that satirized army procedure and War Office routine; this may have contributed to his being passed over for promotion. In 1921 he was awarded the Chesney medal of the Royal United Service Institution for his services to military literature.[1]

Major-General Callwell died at Queen Alexandra's Military Hospital, Millbank, London, in May 1928. He never married.[1]



  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 de Watteville, Hermann Gaston (1937). "Charles Edward Callwell". In Weaver, J. R. H.. Dictionary of National Biography. (Fourth Supplement, 1922–1930). London: Oxford University Press. pp. 154–155. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  2. "No. 25452". 17 March 1885. 
  3. "No. 25575". 6 April 1886. 
  4. "Trench Gascoigne Essay Prize". Royal United Services Institute. 2014. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  5. Callwell, C.E. (1887). "Lessons to be learned from the campaigns in which British Forces have been employed since the year 1865". pp. 357–412. Digital object identifier:10.1080/03071848709415824. 
  6. "Small Wars by Colonel C. E. Callwell : a Military Times Classic". Military History Monthly. 11 November 2010. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  7. Ford, Allen S. (1989). The Small War Manual and Marine Corps Military Operations other than War Doctrine (Thesis). U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  8. Bellamy, Christopher (2003). "Maj.-Gen. Sir Charles Edward Callwell". In Holmes, Richard. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  9. Callwell, C. E. (1996). Small Wars: Their Principles and Practice. University of Nebraska Press. ISBN 9780803263666. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  10. "No. 25746". 11 October 1887. 
  11. "No. 25784". 7 February 1888. 
  12. "No. 26185". 21 July 1891. 
  13. "No. 26323". 6 September 1892. 
  14. "No. 26330". 30 September 1892. 
  15. "No. 26446". 3 October 1893. 
  16. "No. 26785". 13 October 1896. 
  17. "No. 26724". 24 March 1896. 
  18. "No. 27353". 10 September 1901. 
  19. "No. 27359". 27 September 1901. 
  20. "No. 27612". 6 November 1903. 
  21. "No. 27676". 13 May 1904. 
  22. "No. 27720". 7 October 1904. 
  23. "No. 28034". 25 June 1907. 
  24. "No. 28067". 8 October 1907. 
  25. "No. 28256". 1 June 1909. 
  26. "No. 28873". 18 August 1914. 
  27. "No. 29548". 14 April 1916. 
  28. "No. 29640". 23 June 1916. 
  29. "No. 30111". 1 June 1917. 
  30. "No. 31009". 12 November 1918. 
  31. "No. 30945". 8 October 1918. 
  32. "No. 30999". 5 November 1918. 
  33. "No. 31615". 21 October 1919. 
  34. Boyd, Hugh Alexander (1930). A History of the Church of Ireland in Ramoan Parish. Belfast: R. Carswell & Son Ltd.. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 

Further reading[]

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