Noel Birch

For the film critic, see Noël Burch.
Sir James Frederick Noel Birch

1917 portrait by Francis Dodd
Nickname(s) 'Curly'
Born 29 December 1865
Llanrhaiadr, Denbighshire
Died 4 October 1939(1939-10-04) (aged 73)
Allegiance  United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Rank General
Commands held Royal Artillery
Battles/wars Siege of Kimberley
Battle of Diamond Hill
First Battle of the Aisne

Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire

Knight Commander of the Order of the Bath
Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George
Other work Master-General of the Ordnance

General Sir James Frederick Noel Birch GBE KCB KCMG (29 December 1865 – 4 October 1939) was a British Artillery Officer during the Second Boer War and World War I and subsequently Master-General of the Ordnance. The Birch gun was named after him.

Military career

Birch was the second son of Major Richard Birch and was born at Llanrhaiadr, Denbighshire and educated at Giggleswick School, Marlborough College and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned into the Royal Horse Artillery in 1885. In 1895 to 1896 he took part in the Ashanti expedition, and in South Africa he served with the Royal Horse Artillery in the Cavalry Division under the command of Sir John French, taking part in the relief of Kimberley, the operations in the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, and being present at the Battle of Diamond Hill. He was promoted major in June 1900, and served in Cape Colony the following year. In January 1902 he received the temporary rank of lieutenant-colonel when he was given command of the 30th battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry,[1] which left Southampton for South Africa four months later.[2] They arrived in early May, shortly after conclusion of hostilities.

Birch was in command of the Riding Establishment at Woolwich from 1905 to 1907. In 1912 he was promoted to the substantive rank of Lieutenant Colonel and commanded the 7th brigade, Royal Horse Artillery.

Birch went with his brigade to France in August 1914, serving under the command of Sir Edmund Allenby, in the retreat from Mons and in the battle of the Aisne and Ypres-Armentières. In January 1915 he was appointed brigadier-general on the general staff of the Cavalry Corps, and a few months later C.R.A. of the 7th division going in the same position in July to the I Corps, then commanded by Sir Douglas Haig. In May 1916 Haig brought him to general headquarters as artillery adviser, a post he held until the end of the war. He was promoted Lieutenant-General in 1919 when he was made a Colonel Commandant of the Royal Artillery.

In 1920, he became director of remounts at the War Office. In the following year he was appointed director-general of the Territorial Army and the development of cadet corps. In 1923 he became Colonel Commandant of the Royal Horse Artillery, and in the same year he was appointed Master-General of the Ordnance, a post he held until 1927. He was promoted general in 1926 and retired from the army in the following year in order to become a director of Vickers-Armstrong.

Noel Birch married Florence Hyacynthe Chetwode (1876–1938) the third daughter of Sir George Chetwode and Alice Jane Bass, and sister of Philip Chetwode, 1st Baron Chetwode.



  1. The London Gazette: no. 27415. p. 1731. 11 March 1902.
  2. "The War – The reinforcements". The Times (36763). London. 9 May 1902. p. 10.
Military offices
Preceded by
Sir John Du Cane
Master-General of the Ordnance
Succeeded by
Sir Webb Gillman
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