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Lionel Charles DUNSTERVILLE (1865-1946)

Biographical Details

Major-General Lionel Charles Dunsterville (1865-1946) was a British general who led the Dunsterforce military mission across present-day Iraq and Iran towards the Caucasus and oil-rich Baku.  Cyril Sladden joined the Dunsterforce expedition in July 1918.

Lionel Dunsterville was born in Lausanne, Switzerland, on 9th November 1865, the son of Lieutenant-General Lionel D’Arcy Dunsterville and his wife, Susan (née Richardson).  He was educated at The United Services College, Westward Ho!, which prepared young British men for careers in the Army.  Here he met Rudyard Kipling, and it was Dunsterville who was the inspiration for the character, Stalky, in Kipling’s collection of school stories, Stalky & Co.

Dunsterville was commissioned into the British Army infantry in 1884. Later he transferred to the colonial Indian Army and served on the North-West Frontier, in Waziristan and in China.  In the First World War he held a posting in India.  He married Margaret Emily Keyworth in 1897.

At the end of 1917 the Army appointed Dunsterville to lead an Allied force of under 1,000 Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand troops, accompanied by armoured cars, from Hamadan across the Persian hills. His mission was to gather information, train and command local forces, and prevent the spread of German propaganda.  Dunsterville was assigned to occupy the key oil-field and port of Baku, held by the Centro Caspian Dictatorship.  But Dunsterforce was under-staffed and under-supplied, and was disbanded in September 1918 after it was forced to abandon Baku in the face of an onslaught by 14,000 Turkish troops, who took the city the next day.

In retirement, Dunsterville participated in many activities, including the founding of the Kipling Society.  He died at Torquay on 18th March 1946.

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