William Riddell Birdwood, later General Sir William Birdwood, later still Field Marshal the 1st Baron Birdwood of Anzac and of Totnes, with a string of letters after his name, may be little known in this hemisphere, but for most of the past century, Lord Birdwood has been well-remembered Down Under by a shorter name; Birdy. There is a whole subcategory of folklore devoted to "Birdy" and his rapport with the men under his command, much of it centered around his moving among the men without his rank insignia, and echoing Shakespeare's Henry V before Agincourt in being mistaken for a common soldier.
|Birdwood at dugout, Anzac Cove, Gallipoli|
Once the Ottoman Empire entered the war, the Imperial troops originally scheduled for the European front had been redirected to the Middle Eastern war. The Australian, New Zealand, and Indian troops were already being trained in Egypt, the British having felt it was better to train them there than in a British winter on the Salisbury plain. Now they were repurposed for the defense of Egypt, and would become famous for their sacrifices at Gallipoli and their daring during the Palestine campaign.
Birdwood was not himself from Australia or New Zealand. He was born in India, son of a British member of the Indian civil service and later judge. Both his parents were also Indian-born. Birdwood attended Sandhurst and served in the British Army in India, and in the Second Boer War. He became attached to the staff of Lord Kitchener, and when Kitchener was sent to India, he followed, soon becoming Kitchener's Military Secretary, and thereafter rose through the Indian military.
Kitchener of course served in Egypt thereafter, until being named to the War Office in the summer of 1914. When the defense of Egypt became an issue, he turned to Birdwood to forge a corps from the "Imperial" (colonial) forces.
|In a bush hat on a visit to Australia|