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Haig's Tower of Strength (Hardback)

General Sir Edward Bulfin – Ireland's Forgotten General

Military > Biographies Military > Pre-WWI > Boer Wars WWI

By John Powell
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 320
ISBN: 9781526722607
Published: 5th September 2018



National Publicity!

Former Brigadier and author John Powell talks about his biography of General Sir Edward Bulfin on the Mentioned in Dispatches by the Western Front Association with Dr Tom Thorpe. Click here to download and listen to this episode via iTunes.

As featured by The Irish Times: Haig’s ‘tower of strength’ – An Irishman’s Diary on Sir Edward Bulfin

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This is the first biography of General Sir Edward Bulfin, who rose to high rank, despite his Irish Catholic birth and close nationalist relations. Not only that but, by the outbreak of the Great War, Bulfin was a brigade commander never having attended Sandhurst, Staff College or commanded a battalion.

In his early career, he was a protégé of Sir William Butler, a fellow Irishman, and earned his spurs in the Boer War. In 1914 Haig found him a 'tower of strength', helping to save the day at First Ypres. Seriously wounded at the height of the battle, Bulfin, on recovery, was given 28th Division, which he led through Second Ypres and Loos. Unable to get on with Gough, he was sent home to raise 60th London Division, taking it to France, Salonika and Egypt where Allenby chose him to command a corps. His success against the Turks at Gaza, Jerusalem and Megiddo justified Allenby's confidence.

Despite ruthlessly crushing an uprising in post-war Egypt, Bulfin refused Churchill's order to command the police against his fellow Irishmen in 1920.

A private man, Bulfin left few letters and no papers. The author is to be congratulated on piecing together this fascinating biography of an enigmatic figure, who deserves to be better known, both in Britain and Ireland.

This well-presented Pen and Sword volume is expertly written. It enjoys good maps and well-chosen, well-captioned illustrations.
Warmly recommended.

The Western Front Association

This is a fine, well-written, and very balanced biography of a little-known but distinguished Irish soldier. His achievements and his failings are equally addressed. This book is a fine tribute to Bulfin, and can be unreservedly recommended to students of the First World War and of the role of Irishmen in the forces of the British Empire.

Military History Society of Ireland

Brigadier Powell is somewhat overly modest in his epilogue, hoping that he has filled a gap in the historiography. Given that Bulfin left no papers in public or private, save some diaries, this reviewer would say that this is not merely a work that fills a gap, but is a necessary biography which adds considerably to the record and also serves as a model for other biographers. He has avoided the most tempting of traps – overidentification with and sympathy for his subject. It is balanced and analytical, yet showing that Bulfin was a man of principle, a fine field commander and to be admired on many levels.
His biographer has done his subject and historians a great service.

Society of Friends of the National Army Museum

Publicity for 5th of April talk with John Powell @ the NAM as featured by

The Armourer, May 2019

Unfortunately like some other senior officers, including Plumer, Bulfin left few diaries or papers. Consequently, as General the Lord Richard Dannatt notes in his foreword, this makes Powell's book a 'triumph'.

Stand To! Journal of the Western Front Association

As featured on

Dispatches Podcast of the Western Front Association

As referenced in article on Haig's anti-Catholicism

The Catholic Herald, 9 November 2018

Whenever I read the word 'Forgotten' in the title of a military history, I shudder with a dose of cynicism at its overuse in recalling long ago generals and battles. In this instance, however, John Powell - a retired British Army brigadier - is quite correct to do so in this fine and refreshing biography of General Sir Edward Bulfin, GOC XXI Corps under Allenby in Palestine.

John Powell has done Bulfin and us a great service in bringing this little known general of the Great War to our attention. It is a most worthy addition to the historiography of the war, and one hopes he will do more in filling the gap in our knowledge of the lesser known generals who commanded at brigade, divisional and corps level.

Australian Army Journal

Rising from command of the 2nd Brigade at First Ypres, where he was seriously wounded on 1st November, Bulfin was appointed GOC of the 28th Division in early 1915 in France and found himself relieved of command as a consequence of standing up to Gough over the latter’s impossible demands. Some may consider that Bulfin was a scapegoat but no one can deny that following a long and extremely costly week in front of Loos during his Division lost 146 officers and 3,230 men almost one third of the infantry strength of the Division. Back in UK Bulfin was then tasked with raising the 60th London Division which he commanded at Vimy in 1916 and in Salonika and Egypt. He was chosen by Allenby to command XX1 Corps which he led with success at the capture of Gaza, Jerusalem and Megiddo. This is a fascinating and important biography by Brigadier John Powell, who like Bulfin was Colonel of the Green Howards, which fills a big gap in our understanding of this very private and proud Irishman about whom Allenby wrote: “There is no one I would rather have as a colleague in battle; no one I would less like to have as an opponent.”

Military Historical Society

John Powell has done Bulfin and us a great service in bringing this little known general of the Great War to our attention. It is a most worthy addition to the historiography of the war, and one hopes he will do more in filling the gap in our knowledge of the lesser known generals who commanded at brigade, divisional and corps level.

Read the full review here

Amazon Customer

As featured in 'First Flush'

Books Ireland, November/December 2018

As featured in

The Irish Times 7/9/18

About John Powell

John Powell retired from the Regiment in 1998. He had served as CO of the 1st Battalion in Londonderry from 1987-1989 and for the tercentenary in Catterick. He was Deputy Colonel of the Green Howards from 1996-2001, he currently lives in Hampshire

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