Fitzclarence, Charles 1865-1914, brigadier-general, the eldest son of the Hon. George Fitzclarence, third son of the first Earl of Munster [qv.], by his wife, Lady Maria Henrietta Scott, eldest daughter of the third Earl of Clonmell, was born 8 May 1865, and was educated at Eton and Wellington. He was gazetted lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers in 1885, and promoted captain in 1898. In 1899 he was sent out to South Africa as a special service officer, and distinguished himself greatly in the defence of Mafeking by his remarkable fearlessness and leadership. He was severely wounded in leading an attack at Game Tree Hill in December 1899. His repeated acts of gallantry won him the Victoria Cross and the brevet rank of major, and on the reopening of the Staff College he was among the officers specially selected as students. He had been transferred in 1900 to the newly raised regiment of Irish Guards, of which he held battalion command from 1909 to 1913. On vacating command of the battalion he received command of the regiment, an appointment which carried with it command of the 5th London infantry brigade of the territorial force.
On the outbreak of war in August 1914 Fitzclarence mobilized his territorial brigade, but was sent out to France in September to succeed Brigadier-General F. I. Maxse as brigadier-general commanding the 1st (Guards) brigade in the 1st division, joining in time to command the brigade in the battles of Ypres, October-November 1914. His most conspicuous service was on 31 October, when one of the most powerful of the German attacks broke the line in front of Gheluvelt and captured that village. Fitzclarence's brigade was holding the line south of Polygon Wood, north of the point penetrated, and although the South Wales Borderers, the battalion on his immediate right, held on to Gheluvelt Château, checking the Germans by a spirited counter-attack, there was grave danger lest the Germans should push on farther to the right and roll up the thin line of the South Wales Borderers and 1st brigade. Fitzclarence reinforced the Borderers with the few men of his immediate reserve, hurried back to divisional head-quarters to inform his divisional commander, General S. H. Lomax, of the situation, and was by him directed to throw in the 2nd Worcestershires, of the 2nd division, who were in reserve south-west of Polygon Wood, having previously been placed at the disposal of the 1st division in view of such a contingency as had occurred. The counter-attack of the Worcestershires achieved a remarkable success, restoring the line and driving the Germans back from Gheluvelt just as a retirement of the whole of the 1st corps seemed inevitable. If this counter-attack had its origin in a pre-arranged plan for the use of the 2nd division's reserves, its success was in large measure due to Fitzclarence's promptitude, judgement, and decision. [See Military Operations, France and Belgium, 1914, vol. ii, 322-30.]On the night of 11 November, after the attack of the Prussian Guard had broken the line south and east of Nonne Boschen Wood, though driven back by a counter-attack which cleared the wood, Fitzclarence, who had done much to check the Prussian advance by skilful handling of his scanty reserves, was bringing up two fresh battalions to recover the lost front trenches of the 1st brigade when he was killed at the head of the Irish Guards. He was a fighting soldier of great courage and dash, and his initiative and promptitude were largely responsible for the restoration of the situation at a highly critical moment on 31 October. The official historian of the war has spoken [op. cit., ii, 444] of his wondrous spirit that had inspired the 1st brigade and made its influence felt far beyond his own battalions. Fitzclarence married in 1898 Violet, youngest daughter of Lord Alfred Spencer Churchill, second son of the sixth Duke of Marlborough, and left one son and one daughter.
The Times, 17 November 1914
J. E. Edmonds, (Official) History of the Great War. Military Operations, France and Belgium, 1914, vol. ii, 1925.
Contributor: C. T. A. [Christopher Thomas Atkinson]