21st Division 1914-18...a divisional history

Brigadier-General H R Headlam

Hugh Headlam is perhaps an over looked performer in commanders circles, suffering from having more light grabbing generals surrounding him in 21st division. The likes of George Gater, Andrew McCulloch, Cecil Rawling and Hanway Cumming tending to take the limelight and push him into the back ground.


The achievements of these able commanders of the divisions brigades tends to over shadow the work of Hugh Headlam, who quietly got on with his job and was actually the longest serving brigade commander of the 21st division during 1914-18!


Born on July 15th 1877, the fourth son of F J Headlam, being educated at Wellington before passing out of the Royal Military academy Sandhurst in 1897 into the York and Lancaster regiment in 1897. His exploits in South Africa earned him two mentions in dispatches and six clasps for his Queens and two for his Kings South Africa medals. He also served as a staff officer whilst out in Africa.


From 1903 until 1913 he served almost exclusively with the Egyptian army and was involved in the 1905 expedition in to the Sudan, which once again earned him a mention in despatches. In 1912 he passed the examination for the staff college at Camberley. In April 1914 he married Maria Teresa Goldmin


With the approach of war Headlam saw service initially again on the staff in 1914 until he took over command of the 1st/5th battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s regiment in 1915. Then in June of 1916 he was promoted to command the 64th brigade of the 21st division, commanding during some of the heaviest fighting on the western front.


Headlam's command of 64th brigade during the opening stages of the Somme offensives and subsequent action during Arras and 3rd Ypres stands good test as does 21st divisions performance. Headlam only relinquishing command after the German offensives had been halted in 1918 and the BEF was in advance. It was a well-organised brigade that Andrew McCulloch took over command of for this month of glory that tends to over shadow the hard competent work that Headlam had done in his twenty-five months at the head of the brigade. He returned to England to the position of inspector of infantry, home forces. Once again he was mentioned seven times in despatches and was awarded the DSO in 1915 and the CMG in 1918.


The end of the war saw him leave the shores of England for India and action as a GSO1 in the Waziristan campaign earning the medal with clasp. After this he was given command of the 1st battalion of the Kings own Royal regiment in 1920, holding this for four years, after which he took over command of the Secunderabad brigade.


He retired from the army in 1930 being awarded a CB, however his army career was not over as he once again returned to Africa and the position of Inspector staff school of the Iraq army, he held this for four years.


Hugh Roger Headlam died on October 25th 1955 at his home in Shillingstone, near Blandford Dorset and he was buried at the local parish church on the 28th.