William Birdwood
Born: 13 Sep, 1865
Died: 19 May, 1951
Field: Soldier
Location in the Abbey: Lady chapel
Type of memorial: Stall plate

William Riddell Birdwood, 1st Baron Birdwood, was commander of the new Australian and New Zealand contingents (ANZACS) in the Great War 1914. As a Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath he has a stall plate in the chapel of that Order in Westminster Abbey. This is on the north side of the Lady Chapel on the farthest stall from the entrance. He is not buried in the Abbey.

He was born in 1865 in India, one of five sons of Herbert, who was in the Bombay government, and his wife Edith. Educated at Sandhurst he served in India and South Africa and was an assistant to Lord Kitchener. Birdwood was strongly opposed to landing on the beaches of Helles at Gallipoli after a naval attack had failed and therefore alerted the enemy but this went ahead and on 25 April 1915 ANZAC troops landed. But this was not successful and the men were forced to defend their small part of the coast for many months until eventually they were evacuated. 

A memorial service to commemorate the losses was held in April 1916 at the Abbey and the ANZAC service is now an annual event. Read the Order of Service from the 1916 service of commemoration. (PDF, 356 KB)

By 1917 William was a General and fighting with Australian divisions in France. After the war he was made a Field Marshal and later created Baron Birdwood of Anzac and Totnes. He died in 1951 and is buried at Twickenham cemetery. His son Christopher succeeded to the title.

A photo of the stall plate can be purchased from Westminster Abbey Library.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography 2004

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