Ernest Dunlop Swinton

Major General Sir Ernest Dunlop Swinton KBE, CB, DSO, RE(1868 -1951) was a military writer and British Army officer. ( see "Swinton Family" & "Clan Swinton".)

Swinton is credited as having an influence on the development of the tank and for coining the phrase "no-mans land", the latter popularised when using the pseudonym 'Eye-Witness' reporting on military matters.

Swinton was born in Bangalore, India in 1868. He became an officer in the Corps of Royal Engineers in 1888, serving in India and becoming Lieutenant in 1891.

He received the DSO in the Second Boer War (1899-1902). After the war, he wrote his book on small unit tactics, The Defense of Duffer's Drift, a military classic on minor tactics that has been used by the United States military to train its officers [] [ [] .In the years leading up to the First World War he served as a staff officer and as an official historian of the Russo-Japanese War.

First World War

The War Minister, Lord Kitchener appointed Swinton as the official British war correspondent on the Western Front. Journalists were not allowed at the front and Swinton's reports were censored leading to an effectively uncontroversial although evenhanded reporting.Born in Bangalore, India in 1868. Swinton recounts in his book "Eyewitness" how he first got the sudden idea to build a tank on 19 October 1914, while driving a car in France. It is known he in July 1914 received a letter from a friend, the South-African engineer Hugh Merriot, asking his attention for the fact that armoured tractors might be very useful in warfare. November 1914 Swinton, then a Major, suggested the idea of an armoured tracked vehicle to the military authorities. [] . In the same year he prepared from his own resources a propaganda leaflet and had it dropped from aircraft over German troops. His armoured vehicle proposal was stalled within the British Army but Colonel Maurice Hankey late December took it to Winston Churchill, then at the Admiralty, which led to the formation of the Landships Committee, in which Swinton did initially not participate. In 1916 Swinton became as a Lieutenant Colonel responsible for the training of the first tank units. He created the first tactical instructions for armoured warfare. The Royal Commission on Awards to Inventors decided after the war that the inventors of the tank were Sir William Tritton, managing director of Fosters and Major Walter Gordon Wilson.

In 1919 he retired as Major General. He subsequently served in the Civil Aviation department at the Air Ministry. He thereafter joined Citroën in 1922 as a director. He was Professor of Military History at Oxford University and Colonel Commandant of the Royal Tank Corps from 1934-38.


*"The Defence of Duffer's Drift" pseudonym of "Lieutenant Backsight Forethought" BF.
*"The Green Curve" (1909)
*"Tab Dope" (1915) pseudonym of "O'le Luk-Oie"
*"The Study of War" (1926)
*"Eyewitness" (1932)
*"An Eastern Odyssey" (1935)

External links

* [ The Defence of Duffer's Drift]
* [ Biography]

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