William Donovan Stamer

William Donovan Stamer
Born (1895-06-14)14 June 1895
Died 21 September 1963(1963-09-21) (aged 68)
Eastbourne, East Sussex, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1914–1948
Rank Major-General
Service number 4225
Unit North Staffordshire Regiment
Commands held 1st Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment
161st Infantry Brigade
161st Indian Infantry Brigade
1st Sudan Defence Force Brigade
131st Infantry Brigade
General Officer Commanding Sudan and Eritrea
Battles/wars First World War
Second World War
Awards Companion of the Bath
Order of the British Empire
Companion of the Distinguished Service Order
Military Cross
Legion of Merit
Mentioned in despatches (3)

Major General William Donovan Stamer CB, CBE, DSO, MC (14 June 1895 – 21 September 1963) was a senior British Army officer who was commissioned into the North Staffordshire Regiment at the outbreak of the First World War and served in the Army until retirement in 1948, finishing his career with the temporary rank of Major-general and serving as General Officer Commanding Sudan and Eritrea.

First World War

After being educated at Rugby School, Stamer attended the Royal Military College, Sandhurst and was commissioned as a second lieutenant into the North Staffordshire Regiment on 19 August 1914[1] (just two weeks after Great Britain declared war on Germany), although this was subsequently backdated to 8 August 1914.[2] He joined the regiment's 1st Battalion on the Western Front, then serving as part of the 17th Brigade of the 6th Division, in November 1914[3] and was promoted to lieutenant in December 1914.[4] After a period as an acting captain, Stamer was promoted to captain in March 1917.[5] In November 1917 he was mentioned in despatches by Field Marshal Sir Douglas Haig, Commander-in-Chief (C-in-C) of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) on the Western Front,[6] and about the same time was appointed the battalion adjutant.[7][8] Stamer was still the battalion adjutant when the German Army launched its Spring Offensive in March 1918. On the first day of the offensive the battalion headquarters position was overrun and Stamer led a rearguard action despite during which he was wounded in the head.[9][10] For his actions on that day he was awarded the Military Cross, the citation read:

For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He directed the defence of battalion headquarters when the enemy had broken through in a fog. He showed fine courage and energy, and was of the utmost assistance to his commanding officer in a very desperate situation.
The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30901. p. 11018. 13 September 1918.

It was July before he returned to duty[11] and in September he was appointed as second-in-command (2-i-c) of the battalion[11] with the rank of acting major.[12] In the closing weeks of the war Stamer assumed command of the battalion when, during the Battle of the Selle, the Commanding Officer (CO) was severely wounded[13] and continued to command the battalion until the Armistice with Germany and after, being appointed an acting (later temporary) lieutenant colonel.[14]

Between the wars

In 1920, Captain Stamer was seconded for service with the Egyptian Army[15] until 1925, from 1925 until 1930 he was attached to the Sudan Defence Force and it was not until 1930 that he rejoined the North Staffords.[16] Having been promoted to Major in 1933[17] he was, by 1937, serving with 2nd Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment in Palestine. On Christmas Day 1937, Stamer was commander of a small force comprising two companies of his own battalion and a company of 1st Battalion, Border Regiment on operations against Arab raiders from Syria. Stamer's force came under fire and in an engagement that lasted most of the day Stamer's men inflicted 25 to 30 casualties upon their enemies while suffering less casualties themselves.[18] Stamer was awarded the DSO for his leadership during the engagement,[19] the citation read

During the operations on 25th December 1937, against the Arab armed bands in the Tiberias district, Major Stamer, who was in charge of a mixed column, displayed fine leadership, discretion and gallantry. At a critical moment, when his advanced guard, composed of young soldiers recently arrived from England, was pinned to the ground by frontal and enfilade fire, losing one officer and one N.C.O., Major Stamer organized and led in person an attack on that portion of the enemy's position which was causing him most trouble. The attack was very effective and accounted for a number of enemy casualties. Later in the day Major Stamer organized and withdrew his column over difficult ground with great skill and without further casualties, Throughout the whole action his conduct was an inspiration to those under his command and it is very largely due to his fine leadership that the enemy was dealt a crippling blow.
Awards and Mentions in Despatches recommended by the G.O.C. British Forces in Palestine and Trans-Jordan[20]

A further Mention in Despatches also arose from Stamer's involvement in the operations in Palestine during 1937–1938.[21] Stamer was promoted to Lt-Col in December 1938.[22]

Second World War

By late 1940 he was an acting Colonel and Area Commander for Sollum and later Benghazi within Middle East Command.[23] This work resulted in him being made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in July 1941.[24] The citation read:

For excellent work as Area Commander. Col. STAMER was mainly responsible for the organisation of the Port of Sollum. This entailed dealing with the off-loading and disposal of stores and embarkation of prisoners of war. Much of the work was carried out in face of heavy bombing attacks. Later Col. STAMER was transferred to BENGHAZI as Area Commander. Here he tackled the many problems connected with Italian and Arab civilian populations and Italian prisoners of war with his usual efficiency and drive

At the end of 1941, Stamer had assumed command of 161st Infantry Brigade (later 161st Indian Infantry Brigade) then on garrison duties in Cyprus with the rank of temporary Brigadier.[26] This was a short lived command as in May 1942 he was appointed command of 1st Sudan Defence Force Brigade.[27] A further move followed shortly and Stamer was appointed to command 131st Infantry Brigade and led it at the Second Battle of El Alamein.[28] Later in the war Stamer was Mentioned in Despatches for a third time.[29]

Post war

Following the end of the war, Stamer was appointed to the post of General Officer Commanding British Troops in Sudan and Eritrea,[30] with the acting rank of Major-General. A further honour upon him in the same year was to be appointed Colonel of the Regiment for the North Staffordshire Regiment,[31] a post he held for 10 years.[32]

In 1947 he was honoured by the American government with the award of Officer of the Legion of Merit[33] and a year later was appointed a Companion of The Most Honourable Order of the Bath.[34] A final substantive promotion to the substantive rank of Brigadier followed in March 1948,[35] before he retired in November 1948 with the honorary rank of Major-General.[36]


  1. The London Gazette: no. 28873. p. 6497. 18 August 1914. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  2. The London Gazette: no. 29835. p. 11412. 24 November 1916. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  3. Medal Index Card, Army Medal Office
  4. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 29176. p. 5198. 28 May 1915. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  5. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30217. p. 7980. 3 August 1917. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  6. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30441. p. 13369. 18 December 1917. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  7. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 30496. p. 1351. 25 January 1918. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  8. History of the 1st & 2nd Battalions (1932), p. 65.
  9. History of the 1st & 2nd Battalions (1932), p. 74.
  10. Cook (1970), p. 91.
  11. 1 2 History of the 1st & 2nd Battalions (1932), p. 86.
  12. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31006. p. 13379. 12 November 1918. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  13. History of the 1st & 2nd Battalions (1932), p. 92.
  14. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31424. p. 8189. 27 June 1919. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  15. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 31934. p. 6416. 8 June 1920. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  16. The London Gazette: no. 33605. p. 2964. 13 May 1930. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  17. The London Gazette: no. 33964. p. 5046. 28 July 1933. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  18. Cook (1970), pp. 103–105.
  19. The London Gazette: no. 34492. p. 1669. 11 March 1938. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  20. "Interdepartmental Rewards Committee, Memo 265", Discovery, The National Archives, January 1938, WO 373/92/91
  21. The London Gazette: no. 34582. p. 8177. 23 December 1938. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  22. The London Gazette: no. 34584. p. 8306. 30 December 1938. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  23. Army List (April 1941), pp. 95–106.
  24. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 35209. p. 3882. 4 July 1941. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  25. "XIII Corps Troops recommendations for awards", Discovery, The National Archives, March 1941, WO 373/75/837
  26. Brett-James (1951), p. 156.
  27. Joslen (2003).
  28. Latimer (2008), p. 329.
  29. The London Gazette: no. 36327. p. 258. 11 January 1944. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  30. East Africa & Rhodesia (1964), p. 87.
  31. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37335. p. 5377. 2 November 1945. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  32. Journal of the Royal United Services Institute (1955), p. 485.
  33. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 37909. p. 1311. 18 March 1947. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  34. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38161. p. 4. 30 December 1947. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  35. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38242. p. 2007. 19 March 1948. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
  36. The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 38446. p. 5782. 29 October 1948. Retrieved 20 January 2013.
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