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Acquisition – Full dress tunic of Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode GCB, OM, GCSI, KCMG, DSO, DCL, later Lord Chetwode, (1869-1950)

By August 17, 2016 Acquisitions No Comments

In July 2016, the Museum acquired the full dress tunic of a Colonel of The Royal Scots Greys; it was worn by Field Marshal Sir Philip Chetwode, who was Colonel of the Regiment 1925-47. A full dress tunic such as this would have been worn for important parades and ceremonial events, such as attendance at Court to present officers of The Royal Scots Greys to the King and Queen.

The body of the tunic is made from ‘Melton’ or ‘doeskin’, a tightly woven woollen cloth of exceptionally high quality; it is lined with silk, wool and cotton and embellished with gold gimp, round-cord and regimental lace. The shoulder-cords of the tunic bear the silver insignia of an Aide-de-Camp General to King George V, a post held by Chetwode 1927-31. On the left of the chest are numerous sewn loops or ‘beckets’ that would have supported Chetwode’s decorations and medals: his bar-brooch of medals would have been worn uppermost, with the stars of four Orders of Knighthood arranged in a diamond formation beneath. Inside the tunic, beside the buttonholes, are attached a number of buttons to which the ribbons of the badges of Orders of Knighthood would have been fastened, enabling the badges to be suspended from the buttonholes.

The Eton-educated eldest son of a baronet, Chetwode had a long and successful military career. First commissioned into 3rd (Militia) Bn, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire Light Infantry in 1888, he obtained a regular commission in 19th Hussars in 1889. He first saw active service in the Chin Hills expedition in Burma 1892-93 and then served throughout the Second Boer War (1899-1902), including in the defence of Ladysmith in 1899, emerging from that conflict with two mentions in dispatches, the DSO and the high opinions of his superiors. He inherited the baronetcy in 1905.

Having commanded 19th Hussars 1908-12, Chetwode was given command of 5th Cavalry Brigade on the outbreak of the First World War; The Royal Scots Greys comprised one of his three regiments. Chetwode’s brigade helped cover the British Expeditionary Force’s withdrawal from Mons to the Marne, during which retreat the Greys and 12th Lancers memorably – if briefly – checked the German advance at Cérizy on 28 August 1914. In November 1916, Chetwode was transferred to command the Desert column within the Egyptian Expeditionary Force. The Near East proved to be a theatre of war in which Chetwode excelled as a very able commander of cavalry; his service there brought him two British and one Egyptian knighthoods and eleven mentions in dispatches.

After the war, Chetwode was appointed to several senior positions, including those of Deputy Chief of the Imperial General Staff (1920-22) and Commander-in-Chief Aldershot (1923-27). In 1928, he became Chief of the General Staff, India, and between 1930 and 1935 was Commander-in-Chief, India, receiving his field marshal’s baton in 1933. Chetwode’s time in India was one marked by political tension as Indian nationalism grew in strength but his active support not only for the ‘Indianisation’ of the Indian Army but also for the modernisation of India’s armed forces (including the foundation of India’s military academy at Dehra Dun in 1932) probably remains his greatest legacy.

Retiring from the Army in 1935, Chetwode was re-employed in wartime as chairman of the Executive Committee of the Red Cross and St John Joint War Organisation (1940-47), a post that brought him honours from China, Greece, the Netherlands and Norway. He was ennobled in 1945 and served as Constable of the Tower of London 1943-48.

Although perhaps best-known to military historians for the quintessential cavalry soldier that he undoubtedly was, Lord Chetwode also appears in the literary biographies of the inter-war years as the father-in-law of the poet Sir John Betjeman (1906-84). Betjeman, appointed Poet Laureate in 1972, had married Penelope Chetwode (1910-86) in secret, and despite her father’s opposition, in 1933: it is generally agreed that the poet and the field marshal found little in common, other than mutual incomprehension.

Our thanks to the National Fund for Acquisitions (National Museums Scotland) who supported our museum in the purchase of this tunic once worn by Field Marshal Lord Chetwode.

Chetwode Tunic Front
Chetwode tunic reverse
Tunic shoulder cord
[The shoulder cords holds the rank badges of a Colonel, plus the Royal cypher of King George V; indicating Chetwode was ADC General to the King.]
Chetwode tunic inside
[The interior buttons from which the ribbons of the badges of the Orders of Knighthood would be fastened - enabling the badges to be suspended from the buttonholes.]