A Short Biography

Hessey, William Francis

Many thanks once again to my cousin Sarah Baker for the following

Son of Major General W H Hessey, he was educated at Wellington and Sandhurst and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on 29 March 1890. Promoted Lieutenant on 4 June 1891, he was Adjutant of the 1st Battalion from 1894 to 1898. He was promoted Captain on 13 April 1898 and on 5 November 1899, embarked with 1st Battalion for South Africa.

He was severely wounded at the Battle of Colenso (15 December 1899) but was fit enough to be with the Battalion at the Battle of Inniskilling Hill (23/24 February 1900). He commanded a Company (not identified) and was only one of seven officers of the Battalion not to have been injured. When Captain F G Jones (qv) was injured, Captain Hessey took the Battalion off Inniskilling Hill to safety. Handing over command to Captain W L P Gibton (qv), he reassumed command when Captain Gibton fell ill, until the arrival of Major G M Mackenzie (qv). He subsequently became Adjutant and then Quartermaster, earning himself the title of ‘The Handyman of the 27th.’ He later (27 August 1900) took part in the Battle of Belfast. The Regimental History tells of an incident at the end of November 1900

“A working party of the Battalion were on a wagon bound for one of the outlying defences; the driver took the wrong road....and the wagon had nearly reached Boer lines when Captain Hessey, who was in camp at the time, saw the party were walking into a trap. Promptly ordering every available man to follow him, he galloped after the wagon, caught it up, and headed it back towards Middelburg. One of the soldiers who was walking beside the wagon failed to jump into it, so Captain Hessey dismounted, slung the man onto the saddle , and started the pony homewards....”

For his services in the Boer War he was promoted Brevet Major on 9 November 1900, was mentioned in Dispatches twice (Sir Redvers Bullers’ dispatches of 30 march 1900 and 13 September 1900), and received the Queen’s medal with five claps and the King’s medal with two. After the war he became Adjutant of Durham University OTC from 1908 to 1912 he left this post with a Master of Arts degree. He retired as a Major, in 1913.

On the outbreak of World War 1, in August 1814, he rejoined from the Reserve. He over command of the 11th Battalion, and in July 1916 was promoted from temporary Lieutenant Colonel to temporary Brigadier General, on assuming command of the 110th Brigade, Canadian Forces (he had previously, briefly, commanded 109th Brigade.

He was promoted Brevet lieutenant Colonel (London Gazette 1 January 1917) and at some stage in 1917, reassumed command of 109 Brigade, in 36 (Ulster) Division, which command he retained to the end of the war. He was promoted Brevet Colonel (London Gazette 1 January 1919).

For his services in the war he was awarded the DSO, without citation (London Gazette 1 January 1918) and Bar*. He was mentioned in Dispatches four times and was awarded the Russian Order of Stanislas 3rd Class, with Swords (London Gazette 15 February 1917 and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm (London Gazette 19 June 1919).

Brigadier General Hessey, who was married, with four daughters, died at his home, Sheepcote, Castle Hedlingham, Essex on 8 December 1939.

*Bar to DSO London Gazette 16 September 1918 - citation

“For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. For 24 hours he remained on the firing line, rallying and organising men and checking the enemy, and then conducted a withdrawal with great skill. He personally led a counter-attack, and temporarily regained 1000 yards of ground. Two days later, after maintaining his position for 36 hours, he withdrew without leaving a wounded man behind. He set a fine example of energy and good leadership.”