b. 07/09/1871 Guildford, Surrey. d. 21/09/1917 Ypres, Belgium.
Francis Aylmer Maxwell (1871-1917) was born on 7th September 1871 at “Westhill”, The Grange, Guildford, Surrey, the son of Surgeon-Major Thomas Maxwell. He was gazetted into the Royal Sussex Regiment on 24th November 1893, but quickly transferred into the Indian Staff Corps. He served in Waziristan in 1895 (Medal with clasp), in Chitral 1895 (Medal and clasp) and on the North West Frontier as Aide-de-Camp to the GOC Tirah Expeditionary Force from the 23rd December 1897 to 1898. He was mentioned in despatches and was awarded the DSO (London Gazette, 20th May 1898).
He was presented with the insigna of the DSO by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle on 25th June 1898. He then served in South Africa with Roberts’ Horse, and as Aide-de-Camp to Lord Kitchener, Chief of Staff, South Africa from 1st November 1900 to 28th November 1900, and as Aide-de-Camp to Lord Kitchener, in his new role, as General Officer Commanding in Chief the Forces in South Africa from 29th November 1900 to 12th July 1902. For his services in the Second Boer War he was presented with the Queen’s South Africa Medal with six clasps, the King’s Medal with two clasps, a Brevet majority, and was awarded the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 6th March 1901).
Lieutenant Maxwell was one of three Officers not belonging to "Q" Battery, Royal Horse Artillery, specially mentioned by Lord Roberts as having shown the greatest gallantry, and disregard of danger, in carrying out the self-imposed duty of saving the guns of that Battery during the affair at Korn Spruit on 31st March, 1900. This Officer went out on five different occasions and assisted, to bring in two guns and three limbers, one of which he Captain Humphreys, and some Gunners, dragged in by hand. He also went out with Captain Humphreys and Lieutenant Stirling to try to get the last gun in, and remained there till the attempt was abandoned.
During a previous Campaign (the Chitral Expedition of 1895) Lieutenant Maxwell displayed gallantry in the removal of the body of Lieutenant-Colonel F. D. Battye, Corps of Guides, under fire, for which, though recommended, he received no reward. Francis Maxwell was invested with his Victoria Cross by the Duke of York (the future King George V ) at Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on the 14th August 1901.
In November 1902, the now Captain Maxwell was again appointed as Lord Kitchener’s Aide-de-Camp, now Commander in Chief, East Indies. In 1905, he went to the Staff College, Camberley, and in 1906, married Charlotte Alice Hamilton, third daughter of P. H. Osborne from New South Wales, Australia. They went on to have two daughters. He attained his majority in the Indian Army in November 1909, and served as Brigade Major from then until March 1910 before being promoted to Major in the Australian Commonwealth Military Forces. From 1910 onwards, he became Military Secretary to Lord Hardinge, Governor-General of India.
He was created a CSI in 1911, and became brevet Lieutenant-Colonel in November 1915. In the Great War, he commanded the 12th Battalion of the Middlesex Regiment from June to October 1916, and in November 1916, was awarded a Bar to his DSO. For his actions taking Thiepval, he was given command of the 18th (KGO) Lancers, Indian Army in October 1916.
Maxwell was shot and killed by a German sniper on 21st September 1917 close to Ypres, Belgium. He was buried in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery. His medals were sold at Spink’s on 25th November 1998 for a hammer price of £78,000. The purchaser was the Ashcroft Trust and they are displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: YPRES RESERVOIR CEMETERY, YPRES, BELGIUM.
Francis Maxwell's medals including VC, and his DSO with Bar on display at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (August 2014).
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT I, ROW A, GRAVE 37.
War Illustrated, 3rd November 1917
St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh (Andy Wright)
Haileybury College (Paul Deeprose)