About Lieutenant General Sir Fenton John Aylmer, 13th Baronet of Donadea VC KCB
Lieutenant General Sir Fenton John Aylmer, 13th Baronet of Donadea VC KCB (5 April 1862 – 3 September 1935) was an Anglo-Irish recipient of the Victoria Cross. He was in command of the first failed efforts to break the siege of Kut in 1916.
He was the son of Captain Fenton John Aylmer (24 December 1835 – 9 April 1862) and Isabella Eleanor Darling (died 27 December 1908).
He attended the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, as a Gentleman Cadet and was promoted Lieutenant on 27 July 1880.
The Victoria Cross
Fenton won the VC for the following deed: On 2 December 1891 during the assault on Nilt Fort, British India, Captain Aylmer, with the storming party, forced open the inner gate with gun-cotton which he had placed and ignited, and although severely wounded, fired 19 shots with his revolver, killing several of the enemy, and remained fighting until, fainting from loss of blood, he was carried out of action. Fenton was 29 years old, and a captain in the Corps of Royal Engineers, British Army and Bengal Sappers & Miners (British Indian Army), during the Hunza-Naga Campaign, India when he won the Victoria Cross in 1891.
He was promoted Major on 18 October 1893 in recognition of his services during the 1891-92 Hunza-Nagar Expedition. He was part of the Chitral expedition in 1895.
In 1913 he married Lady Risley, the widow of Sir Herbert Risley, head of the Indian Civil Serevice. Born Elsie Julie Oppermann, daughter of Friedrich Oppermann, she was considered a great beauty and had, for many years prior to her marriage to him had an affair with Aylmer—an affair that was well-known within Indian society and apparently tolerated by Sir Herbert. Lady Elsie Julie Aylmer died on 18 July 1934.
World War I
Having been appointed Lieutenant General, he was put in charge of the first effort to end the siege of Kut. General Aylmer was in command of the Tigris Corps, consisting of the 7th (Meerut) Division, the 12th Indian Division, and a number of other smaller military units. All told he had more than 20,000 men. They left Basra in late December 1915 and arrived at Sheikh Sa'ad in 3 January 1916. While the 12th Indian Division (under command of General George Gorringe) made a diversionary move near Nasiriyeh, the 7th (under the command of General Younghusband) staged a direct assault on the Ottoman positions on 6 January (the Battle of Sheikh Sa'ad). After two days of fighting, the Ottoman army withdrew. The British sustained approximately 4,000 casualties - much more than the medical units could cope with. The Ottoman troops, under the generalship of Baron von der Goltz only withdrew some six miles up river and occupied another defensive position near the edge of the Suwaikiya Marshes. A British assault on this position on 13 January was partially successful, the position was carried but again with significant losses (some 1,600 casualties) (the Battle of Wadi).
By now, a third division had been added to Aylmer's Tigris Corps, the 3rd (Lahore) Division. This new division, along with the weakened 7th Division, attacked Ottoman defensive works at Hanna on 21 January (the Battle of Hanna). This assault was a complete failure. The Ottoman troops held their trench lines while some 2,700 British soldiers were killed or wounded.
General Aylmer was reinforced with another division, the 13th (Western) Division. The next month was spent resting the troops and probing the Ottoman defensive positions. With time running out on General Townshend's garrison in Kut, Aylmer finally launched a two pronged attack on the Ottoman positions, one attack at the Sinn Abtar Redoubt, the other attack at the Dujaila Redoubt. The attacks were launched on 7 March 1916. Both attacks failed due to lack of initiative and an inability to coordinate the timing of the assaults (they ended up being sequential, not simultaneous). The British lost some 4,000 casualties.
Fenton Aylmer was replaced by the former commander of the 12th Indian division, General George Gorringe. He did not command in battle again, retiring from the army in 1919. However from 1922 till his death he was the Commandant of the Royal Engineers. Following his death in 1935 he was cremated at the Golders Green Crematorium where his ashes remain.
His Victoria Cross is displayed at the Royal Engineers Museum in Chatham, Kent, England.