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Generals' Nicknames

No. 119 Gerald James Cuthbert ('Bluebell')

Major-General Gerald James Cuthbert (1861-1931) was a Scots Guardsman who commanded 13th Brigade (1914), 140th Brigade (1914-16), and 39th Division (1916-17). He was replaced as a divisional commander after a critical report by his corps commander, Sir Ivor Maxse. Cuthbert’s nickname is mentioned in ‘With the Post Office Rifles in France and Flanders 1915-18, Tales from the Trenches!’, written by Rifleman Walter Young (IWM: 88/57/1). Cuthbert was given the nickname because he was always getting his troops to clean things: bluebells=spring=cleaning?

J.M. Bourne
Nick Lloyd

Geoffrey Blades comments:
I’m probably the 82nd person to offer this suggestion, but could ‘Bluebell’ Cuthbert be something to do with Bluebell polish?

Geoffrey Blades
Friend of the Centre for First World War Studies  

Nick Lloyd adds:
It seems that ‘Bluebell’ was not Cuthbert’s only nickname. He was also called ‘spit and polish’ (see Lyn Macdonald’s 1915, pp. 468-9). He apparently wanted the trenches swept with brooms!

Nick Lloyd
Centre for First World War Studies

Jill Knight adds:
Further to the discussion of nicknames applied to General Cuthbert, may I add yet another reference, to the wonderful account in the regimental history of the Civil Service Rifles (pp. 101-2) of a riotous revue performed by the 1st Battalion (then in 140 Brigade) in the cinema at Divion on 10 June 1916.  Entitled 'Spit & Polish', it culminated in an audacious impersonation of Cuthbert by a civil servant called Teasdale, who brought the house down.  From a separate account I have come across, it emerges that the character played by Teasdale was known as "General Brasso"! 

Jill Knight
Friend of the Centre for First World War Studies


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