For faster navigation, this Iframe is preloading the Wikiwand page for Ernest Alexander.

Ernest Alexander

Ernest Wright Alexander

Born(1870-10-02)2 October 1870
Liverpool, England
Died25 August 1934(1934-08-25) (aged 63)
Kingsbridge, Devon, England
Buried 51°26′26″N 0°14′22″W / 51.440624°N 0.239389°W / 51.440624; -0.239389
Service/branchBritish Army
Years of service1889–1934
UnitRoyal Artillery
AwardsMentioned in Despatches
Knight of the Order of Savoy (Italy)
Grand Officer of the Order of Aviz (Portugal)[1]
Croix de Guerre (France)

Major-General Ernest Wright Alexander, VC, CB, CMG, DL (2 October 1870 – 25 August 1934) was a British Army officer and an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Military career

Early career

Ernest Wright Alexander was born at 87 Everton Road, Liverpool on 2 October 1870, the son of one of the directors of the Suez Canal.[2][3][4] Alexander was educated at Harrow School before going to the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. He was commissioned into the Royal Field Artillery as a second lieutenant on 27 July 1889.[3][5][6] In 1892 he travelled to serve in India, where he was promoted to lieutenant on 27 July, and to captain on 26 December 1899.[3][5] Alexander returned to England in 1900 before completing a second tour of India between 1903 and 1906, leaving upon his promotion to major on 25 April.[3][5] The military historian J. M. Bourne describes Alexander's career to this point as "unspectacular".[7]

Action at Elouges

Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914, and Alexander began his service in the First World War. Stationed in Belgium, he took part in the Great Retreat later the same month.[3] Commanding the 119th Battery, Royal Field Artillery, Alexander was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for gallantry on 24 August, during the action of Elouges. When the flank guard was attacked by a German corps, Alexander handled his battery against overwhelming odds with such conspicuous success that all his guns were saved notwithstanding that they had to be withdrawn by hand by himself and volunteers led by a Captain (Francis Octavius Grenfell) of the 9th Lancers. This enabled the retirement of the 5th Division to be carried out without serious loss. Subsequently, Major Alexander rescued a wounded man under heavy fire.[8] The full citation for his VC reads as follows:

For conspicuous bravery and great ability at Elouges on 24th August, 1914, when the flank guard was attacked by a German corps, in handling his battery against overwhelming odds with such conspicuous success that all his guns were saved, notwithstanding that they had to be withdrawn by hand by himself and three other men. This enabled the retirement of the 5th Division to be carried out without serious loss. Subsequently Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander (then Major) rescued a wounded man under a heavy fire, with the greatest gallantry and devotion to duty.

Later service

Grenfell also received the VC, and two of Alexander's sergeants were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.[9] Alexander's VC was the third to be won during the First World War, two having been achieved on the day before his.[3] He was subsequently created a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in June 1915.[10]Alexander's bravery saw him gain quick promotion during the war, being promoted to brigadier-general within a year of fighting at Elouges.[7][11]

Towards the start of 1916 he was appointed Brigadier General Royal Artillery to XV Corps, a unit which played a large role in the First day on the Somme. Alexander laid down effective artillery barrages as XV Corps advanced, playing a large part in the success of its attacks at Fricourt and Mametz.[12] The military historian Sir James Edmonds was so impressed by Alexander's techniques that he reproduced full plans of his barrages in the History of the Great War. Alexander continued to develop his creeping barrages which proved pivotal in XV Corps' victory at the Battle of Bazentin Ridge on 14 July.[7]

Alexander was subsequently given command of the Royal Artillery serving in XI Corps in May 1917. He continued with XI Corps until April 1918 when he was promoted to major-general and given command of First Army's Royal Artillery.[9] [13] This promotion came about because First Army was commanded by General Sir Henry Horne, who had been promoted off the back of his successes while in command of XV Corps in 1916, and perceived he owed a debt to Alexander for this.[7]

Alexander continued to receive awards as the war came to an end, being created a Cavalier of the Military Order of Savoy in September 1918, and a Companion of the Order of the Bath in January 1919. In August he then received the French Croix de Guerre and was created a Grand Officer of the Military Order of Avis by Portugal. He went on to command the Royal Artillery within the Southern Area of Aldershot Command.[9][10]

A tall granite headstone in the shape of a cross, surrounded by other graves
The grave of Major-General Ernest Alexander VC at Putney Vale Cemetery, London.


In retirement Alexander became a deputy lieutenant of Devon on 17 June 1931.[14]

He died in his 64th year on 25 August 1934 in Kingsbridge, Devon, and was buried at Putney Vale Cemetery.[2][15] His medal group is on display at the Ashcroft Gallery in the Imperial War Museum, London.[16]


  1. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas. Retrieved 12 October 2021.
  2. ^ a b Foster (2013), p. 225.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Ashcroft (2006), p. 153.
  4. ^ Murphy 2008, p. 110.
  5. ^ a b c Hart (1907), p. 96d.
  6. ^ "No. 25963". The London Gazette. 9 August 1889. p. 4318.
  7. ^ a b c d Bourne (2001), p. 4.
  8. ^ "No. 29074". The London Gazette (Supplement). 16 February 1915. p. 1699.
  9. ^ a b c Ashcroft (2006), p. 154.
  10. ^ a b Murphy 2008, p. 118.
  11. ^ Murphy 2008, p. 116.
  12. ^ Murphy 2008, pp. 116–117.
  13. ^ Murphy 2008, p. 117.
  14. ^ "No. 33737". The London Gazette. 21 July 1931. p. 4788.
  15. ^ Murphy 2008, p. 119.
  16. ^ "Ernest Wright Alexander VC". Lord Ashcroft Medal Collection. Retrieved 29 June 2020.


Further reading

{{bottomLinkPreText}} {{bottomLinkText}}
Ernest Alexander
Listen to this article

This browser is not supported by Wikiwand :(
Wikiwand requires a browser with modern capabilities in order to provide you with the best reading experience.
Please download and use one of the following browsers:

This article was just edited, click to reload
This article has been deleted on Wikipedia (Why?)

Back to homepage

Please click Add in the dialog above
Please click Allow in the top-left corner,
then click Install Now in the dialog
Please click Open in the download dialog,
then click Install
Please click the "Downloads" icon in the Safari toolbar, open the first download in the list,
then click Install

Install Wikiwand

Install on Chrome Install on Firefox
Don't forget to rate us

Tell your friends about Wikiwand!

Gmail Facebook Twitter Link

Enjoying Wikiwand?

Tell your friends and spread the love:
Share on Gmail Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Share on Buffer

Our magic isn't perfect

You can help our automatic cover photo selection by reporting an unsuitable photo.

This photo is visually disturbing This photo is not a good choice

Thank you for helping!

Your input will affect cover photo selection, along with input from other users.


Get ready for Wikiwand 2.0 🎉! the new version arrives on September 1st! Don't want to wait?