Sir John French (1852-1925)

Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres

Although his military career began in the Navy, French switched to the cavalry in 1870, after which he saw service in Ireland, India and Egypt before taking command of the 1st Cavalry Brigade, stationed at Aldershot. Following the Boer War French’s rise through the ranks continued until he was made a Field Marshal. In 1914 he was involved in the Curragh Incident, following which, he felt that his position had become so untenable that he resigned. The rank of Field Marshal, however, is given for life, so when war seemed inevitable in the summer of 1914, the British Government recalled him as Commander in Chief of the British Expeditionary Force. His performance in this position is generally considered to have been a failure and he was replaced by Sir Douglas Haig in December 1915, whereupon he was made Commander In Chief of Home Forces. French died at Deal in Kent in May 1925 and at his funeral at Westminster Abbey, one of the pallbearers was Sir Douglas Haig.