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Sir Thomas D'Oyly Snow, KCB, KCMG 1858-1940

Sir Thomas Snoworn on 5th May 1858, Old Etonian Snow had joined the army in 1879 having spent just one year as an undergraduate at St John's, Cambridge. As a 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Foot (later the Somerset Light Infantry) he first saw service at the end of the Zulu campaign of that year and in 1884 he saw combat in Egypt with the 1st Mounted Infantry Regiment of the Camel Corps in the Nile Expedition of 1884-5, being severely wounded in his second action, the Battle at Gubat. In 1892-3 he attended the Staff College at Camberley, a contemporary of Generals Rawlinson and Henry Wilson, and in 1895 he was appointed Brigade Major at Aldershot. He was then promoted Major in the Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers in May 1897.

In January 1898 he was given a position on Kitchener's staff during the Sudan campaign. Returning to regimental duties in 1899 he was transferred to the the 2nd Northamptonshire Regiment then based in India, an appointment not greatly to his taste, not least because he was prevented from seeing action in the Boer War. To his relief in 1903 he joined the staff of Eastern Command (IV Corps) as Assistant Quarter Master General, progressing to command of the 11th Brigade in 1909 and when the war started he was the GOC of 4th Division during the retreat from Mons, fighting at Le Cateau, the Marne and the Aisne.

On the Aisne he sustained a heavy fall from his horse which necessitated home leave for health reasons. Pressed to return by Kitchener, in November 1914 he was appointed GOC, 27th Division although not fully fit to do so. In this capacity he found himself the only divisional general east of the Ypres Canal on 22nd April 1915, the day when the Germans first employed poison gas. His performance in helping to stabilise the line after the collapse of the French troops worst affected by the gas cloud drew praise and he was created a KCB in recognition of this and his other war-time services.

He was given command of VII Corps on 15th July 1915. His nicknames were either the obvious 'Snowball' or the rather less kindly 'Slush'. But Snow was not a well man. His fall in September 1914 had left him prone to severe back and leg pains which required regular trips home. One such ten day trip occurred within a few days of the opening of the Battle of the Somme, leaving his staff to carry on the planning of the Gommecourt attack on their own. His position was already under threat and Maj Gen S E Hollond, then a GSO2 on Third Army's Staff, would later describe how he had tried to persuade Allenby to sack him because of the "monstrously bad" planning of the Gommecourt attack.

Snow survived to lead his Corps in the Battles of Arras and Cambrai in 1917 being made KCMG in 1917. In January 1918 his injuries at long last got the better of him and he left France taking temporary command of Western Command from August 1918 to September 1919. Confined to a bath chair for much of the rest of his life, Snow became patron of the Crippled Boys' Home for Training in Kensington and held the colonelcy of his old regiment, the Somerset Light Infantry for ten years from July 1919.

He was married with two sons and two daughters, his wife, Geraldine, being the sister of Brig. Gen. Edward Sacheverell D'Ewes Coke, the commander of 169th Brigade, 56th Division which formed part of VII Corps at the time of Gommecourt.


Alan MacDonald 2006. All rights reserved. No publication without permission.

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