Lieutenant-General John Denton Pinkstone French

Born 1852, in Ripple Vale, Kent. He was the son of a naval captain he joined the Royal Navy in 1866 but transferred to the Army in 1874. His regimental service was with the 19th Hussars with whom he served with in the Soudan in 1884-5, winning a mention in despatches for his behaviour at Abu-Klea. From 1881 to 1884 he was a Yeomanry Adjutant, then from 1885 to 1887 an Assistant Adjutant-General at Army HQ and from 1897 to the outbreak of the second Boer War, he commanded the Cavalry Brigade at Aldershot and during the Second Boer War he commanded the Cavalry Division, South African Field Force.

Extract from "British Commanders in the Transvaal War 1899-1900" published by W.D. & H.O. Wills Ltd:


As succeeding despatches are received from the seat of war, there is one name to which the public are looking with increasing confidence and expectancy—that of General French, the leader of the Cavalry Division. Naturally sound in judgment, clear headed, patient and with perfect self control, he was additionally fortunate in securing training in one of, the best Cavalry Regiments of the service, viz., the 19th Hussars. With this regiment he accompanied Lord Wolseley in the Nile Expedition of 1884-5 as Major. Here Lieut. General French first became known to Sir Redvers Buller, and since then a strong bond of friendship has existed between them; in fact it was due to General Buller's appreciation of his ability that the important post of First Cavalry Leader was given him.

The confidence thus placed is being more than ever justified as the war proceeds. At Elands Laagte, on October 21st, he gained a brilliant victory. Escaping from Ladysmith on the eve of its investment, his attention was devoted to the situation in the north of Cape Colony in the district of Colesberg. Later, acting under Lord Roberts' orders, he commanded the force which relieved Kimberley on February 15th, after completely outwitting Cronje, and for distinguished service was promoted to the rank of Major-General.

After a long forced march, with heavy fighting, LieutGeneral French was the first to reach Bloemfontein on March 12th, 1900.

Last updated 5 February, 2009
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