General Sir Kenneth Wigram, GCB CSI CBE DSO

General Sir Kenneth or ‘Kitty‘ Wigram was born in 1875, was the son of Mr Herbert Wigram of the Madras Civil Service and nephew of Colonel the Lord Wigram, Private Secretary to HM King George V.  He was educated at Winchester College and Sandhurst before being gazetted in 1896 to The Duke of Cambridge’s Own Middlesex Regiment in India.  In 1897 he was appointed to the Bombay Staff Corps joining the 28th Bombay Infantry (Pioneers) and taking part in the Mohmand Expedition and Tirah campaign of 1897 -1898.

Wigram on leave in UK in 1898 (photo extracted from a family group kindly identified by Mrs Cassie Kaye, whose late husband Major Johnny Kaye served in the 2nd Goorkhas and was distantly related to the Wigrams)

In 1898 Wigram transferred to 2nd Bn 2nd Goorkhas on the Samana Ridge and in 1900 was on temporary Plague Duty in the North -Western Provinces and Oudh, before joining the 1st Bn as Quartermaster in Dehra Dun in 1901.  He later took part as officiating Adjutant in the Mahsud-Wazir Blockade of 1901-2  but by late 1903 he had left the Regiment to assume command of a yak transport corps and served as Quartermaster in The Younghusband Expedition to Tibet in 1904.  He returned to the 1st Battalion in 1905 and was appointed Adjutant and served with it in Chitral from 1907 to 1909.

A skilled horseman, Wigram played in the 2nd Battalion team which won the Infantry Polo Cup – the first occasion when the trophy was secured by an Indian unit.  Wigram received a special nomination to attend the Staff College, Camberley from 1911-1212 after which he was appointed GSO3 Military Operations Army HQ Simla where he remained until 1915 before becoming a GSO2 at
General HQ , France – and he was to remain a Staff Officer for the rest of the First World War.

In February 1916 he became GSO1 and in June 1916 he was promoted Brevet Lieutenant Colonel.  From February 1917 to October 1918 he was Brigadier General Staff as Head of Operations (B Section) being made Brevet Colonel in January 1918.  From October 1918 to April 1919 he was employed by the
Air Ministry as a Temporary Brigadier General (Air Staff) and given a temporary commission in the RAF as a Colonel while the employment lasted.

Wigram’s work as a wartime Staff Officer received remarkable recognition as evidenced by the awards and decorations he was given:

● 1916 – Mention in Despatches (2) – January and June 1916; Légion d’ Honneur, France Croix de Chevalier (5th Class) – February 1916; Distinguished Service Order – December 1916.

● 1917 – Mention in Despatches (3) – January , May and December 1917; Ordre de la Couronne , Belgium ,Commander (3rd Class) – February 1917.

● 1918 – Croix de Guerre , Belgium – March 1918; Mention in Despatches (1) – May 1918; Commander of the Order of the Bath – June 1918.

● 1919 – Mention in Despatches (1) – April 1919; Commander of the Order of the British Empire – May 1919.

On completion of his duties at the Air Ministry, Wigram returned to India and was appointed Director of Staff Duties Army HQ India from May 1919 to February 1921.  He was again mentioned in despatches and awarded Companion of the Order of the Star of India.  During February – March 1921 Wigram served as a member of the Imperial Service Troops Committee and represented Lord Rawlinson, C-in-C India, at the Imperial Conference, London.  He was awarded Order of the Crown of Siam (2nd Class).  He was appointed Commandant of the 2nd Battalion in April 1920 but remained in Staff appointments and did not assume command until April 1921.  In October 1921 he attended the Washington Conference as military advisor to the Indian Delegation and returned to India in January 1922 to resume command of the 2nd Bn until September 1922.   From then until April 1924 he commanded Delhi Independent Brigade Area and in October 1923 was promoted Major General.  In April 1924 Wigram was appointed DA & QMG Northern Command, India, and in November 1926 GOC Waziristan District during which time he was promoted Lieutenant General and was advanced to Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the Bath.

In May 1931 Wigram became Chief of the General Staff in India and was promoted General.  In July 1933 he was appointed ADC General to the King Emperor and in May 1934 he became General Officer Commanding-in-Chief Northern Command, India until his retirement in June 1936.  According to Lieutenant General Sir Francis Tuker, a later Colonel of the Regiment, he retired from the most responsible job in India besides Commander in Chief on a matter of principle.

Wigram was Colonel of the 2nd Goorkhas from March 1930 to December 1945.  On retirement he joined the staff of the Royal Institute of International Affairs at Chatham House. He developed a keen interest in hospitals and in particular the Royal Cancer Hospital.  He was a member of the Reorganization Council of the Nuffield Provincial Hospital Trust, Chairman of the Central
Provident Association and Vice President and Governor of the British United Provident Association (BUPA).  He was a man of strong Christian faith, high principles and independent judgement who never married.  He died in January 1949.

Tributes accompanying his obituary published in The Times included the following:

Lt Gen Sir Francis Tuker – ‘…the Gurkha soldier never had a greater admirer or one who would fight his battles with keener zest or greater ability whenever the need rose …..His distinguished career speaks of his ability.  Whatever he did was inspired by these qualities; to him, it matters little if the outcome of his
endeavours was to be to his personal disadvantage .’

Chairman of the Royal Cancer Hospital – ‘ …He possessed a far seeing wisdom free from the least taint of personal motive and backed by indefatigable enthusiasm which often disregarded completely his own comfort and health.  [This] enabled him to play an outstanding part in guiding the institution he loved.’

AHR [identity not known but presumably a senior official of BUPA] – ‘…in spite of failing health , he devoted his later years to social service …it was due in large measure to his foresight that it became possible to form the British United Provident Association which has ensured that provident benefits will continue to be available on a country wide basis for this who prefer private treatment …’

AJH – [identity not known] ‘ ….as churchwarden of St Matthew’s Westminster his daily presence at the altar, the humility and quiet dignity of his bearing, and his ever-increasing belief in the power of prayer have been a great and abiding inspiration to many of his fellow worshippers and will not soon be forgotten.’

General Wigram’s medals and decorations, which were in the Regimental Collection, were donated by the Regimental Trustees to the Gurkha Museum Winchester in 1998.


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