Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet

Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet
Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet
General Sir David Dundas
Born 1735
Edinburgh, Kingdom of Great Britain
Died 1820 (aged 84 or 85)
Royal Chelsea Hospital, London, United Kingdom
Allegiance United Kingdom United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service 1755 - 1820
Rank General
Battles/wars French Revolutionary Wars
Awards GCB

General Sir David Dundas, 1st Baronet, GCB (1735 – 18 February 1820) was a British general who served as Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1809 to 1811.


Military service

Dundas came from an impoverished Scottish background and reputedly walked from Edinburgh to London to enroll as a “fireworker” in the Royal Artillery in 1755.[1] He exchanged to the 56th Foot as Lieutenant in 1756,[1] serving with this regiment during the Seven Years War and took part in combined operations against French ports St. Malo, Cherbourg, Battle of Saint Cast in 1758 and the Battle of Warburg in 1760.[1] He was then in Cuba in 1762. In 1778 he was appointed Quartermaster-General in Ireland, a post which he was to retain until 1789.[1] At some point he transferred to the 22nd Foot before becoming Colonel of the 14th Foot in February 1781.

Army improvements

In the 1780s Dundas became an advocate of officer training in the British Army and wrote many manuals on the subject, the first being Principles of Military Movements published in 1788.[2]

But Dundas was a conservative military thinker. He chose to ignore the light infantry tactics that generals such as Lord Cornwallis or Willam Howe used in the American War of Independence. Instead Dundas, after witnessing Prussian army manouvres in Silesia in 1784, favoured the army model that Frederick the Great had created. Its use of drilled battalions of line infantry marching in formation was a stark contrast to the light brigades that fought in small independent groups and with cover.

Dundas, like many at Horse Guards, failed to learn anything from the fighting in the Americas. Battle-hardened regiments returning from America returned to outmoded training manuals and anachronistic drills. It was not until the formation of an "Experimental Corps of Riflemen", in 1800 that 'the wheel was reinvented'. This change led to light infantry successes in the Peninsular Campaign under the Duke of Wellington.

Later career

He was promoted Major-General on the 24 April 1790 and as Britain became involved in the French Revolutionary Wars was appointed 2nd in command at the siege of Toulon under O’Hara & Lord Mulgrave from September 1793,[1] where he commanded an abortive attack on the Arenes Heights on 30 November with 2,350 men. Dundas became commanding officer under Lord Hood after O’Hara’s capture in this action. He lost Fort Mulgrave & Mount Faron after a 3-day bombardment on 17 December 1793.[3][4] Dundas commanded the initial expedition to Corsica in 1794,[1] landing 7 February and capturing the Mortella Tower. He captured the Port of San Fiorenzo and Bastia, an important first step ultimately leading to the capture of the island and establishment of a short-lived Anglo-Corsican Kingdom by forces under Hood and Admiral Lord Nelson.[5] Dundas was forced to resign by Hood on the 10th March 1794 and transferred to serve in the Flanders Campaign under the Duke of York.[1] Appointed commander of the 2nd Cavalry brigade after the death of John Mansel at Beaumont on 26 April 1794, he distinguished himself at Willems on 10 May 1794, and was attached to Otto’s column at Tourcoing17th/18 May. Dundas replaced Laurie at the head of his brigade during the retreat to Antwerp, where he saw more action at Tuyle. He commanded the Right wing under Harcourt in December 1794, and led the defence at the action at Geldermalsen on 5 January 1795.[6] He was made commander of the British forces (mainly cavalry) left behind at Bremen from April to September 1795.

From 23 December 1795 to 16 May 1801 he was Colonel of the 7th Light Dragoons. He was promoted Lieutenant-General on 21 January 1797.[1]

in 1797 Dundas refused the post of Commander-in-Chief in Ireland due to an unwillingness to leave England. Instead he was appointed Quartermaster-General to the Forces then General on the Staff,[7] to 1803 in which role he authored the army’s official drillbook for Foot & Horse.

Dundas commanded the 3rd Division under York in the Helder Campaign 1799,[1] seeing action at Den Helder on 27 August, Zype on 10 September, Bergen on 19th, Egmont-op-Zee (Alkmaar) on 2 October and Castricum on 6 October.[8][9] He was Colonel of 2nd Dragoons (Scots Greys) from 16 May 1801 to 27 January 1813, promoted General on 24 April 1802[1] and made commander in Kent and Sussex from 1803.[1] Dundas was appointed Knight of the Bath in 1804 and went into semi-retirement in 1805.[1]

He chaired the hearing against Le Marchant in charges of calumny from 23 January 1807,[10] was a member of the Court Martial that tried Whitelocke for the failure of the Buenos Aires expedition on 28 January 1808 and was a member of the Board of Enquiry of the Convention of Cintra in 1808.[1] He was appointed Colonel-in-Chief of the 95th Foot on 31 August 1809 and was Commander-in-Chief of the Forces from 1809 to 1811, during the Duke of York’s period of disgrace. He was also a Privy councillor from 1809 and Colonel of the 1st Dragoon Guards from 27th January 1813.

He was created a baronet on 22 May 1815.

Dundas was Governor of the Royal Hospital Chelsea from 1804 until his death in 1820.[11] He died there on 18 February 1820.[1]


In the army Dundas was nicknamed “Old Pivot” for his Prussian-style drill books. Burne describes him as “A level-headed officer”,[12] but “cautious”,[13] while Bunbury writes "“He...was an aged man...a brave, careful, and well-skilled soldier...Dundas was a tall, spare man, crabbed and austere, dry in his looks and demeanour...there were peculiarities in his habits and style which excited some ridicule amongst young officers. But though it appeared a little out of fashion, there was ‘much care and valour in that Scotchman’”.[14]

“Dundas was perhaps not as graceful nor as polished as some of his contemporaries, but he was as sound as oak and utterly reliable”.[15]


  • The Principles of Military Movements chiefly applicable to Infantry, 1788. Commonly known as "Dundas's drill-book"
  • Rule and Regulations for the Movement of His Majesty's Infantry, 1792. An amended version of the 1788 drill-book order by the Adjutant General, William Fawcett.[16]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n David Dundas at Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  2. ^ Military organisation
  3. ^ Baines A History of the Wars of the French Revolution(1817) Volume I p.90
  4. ^ John Fortescue A History of the British Army
  5. ^ The Battle of the Nile
  6. ^ Fortescue British Campaigns in Flanders 1690-1794 p.396
  7. ^ London Gazette: no. 13950. p. 1090. 12 November 1796. Retrieved 2009-12-27.
  8. ^ Fortescue
  9. ^ Alfred Burne The Noble Duke of York Staples Press 1949 p.265-270; p.276-278
  10. ^ Thoumine p.125
  11. ^ Survey of London, volume 11, edited by Walter H. Godfrey (editor), Published 1927
  12. ^ Burne p.198
  13. ^ p.266
  14. ^ Bunbury p.29-30
  15. ^ Thoumine R.H. Scientific Soldier, A Life of General Le Marchant, 1766-1812p.56
  16. ^ Philip J. Haythornthwaite. British Napoleonic Infantry Tactics 1792-1815, Osprey Publishing, 2008. ISBN 1846032229, 9781846032226. p. 4
  • Mark Urban:Fusiliers: Eight Years with the Redcoats in America (2007)

External links

Military offices
Preceded by
George Morrison
Quartermaster-General to the Forces
Succeeded by
Sir Robert Brownrigg
Preceded by
The Duke of York
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces
Succeeded by
HRH The Duke of York
Preceded by
Charles O'Hara
Colonel of the 22nd (the Cheshire) Regiment of Foot
Succeeded by
William Crosbie
Preceded by
Sir Henry Clinton
Colonel of the 7th (or Queen's Own) Regiment of (Light) Dragoons
Succeeded by
Lord Paget
Preceded by
Sir Ralph Abercromby
Colonel of the 2nd (Royal North British) Regiment of Dragoons
Succeeded by
The Marquess of Lothian
Preceded by
Coote Manningham
Colonel-in-Chief of The Rifle Brigade
Succeeded by
The Duke of Wellington
Preceded by
The Lord Heathfield
Colonel of the 1st (The King's) Dragoon Guards
Succeeded by
Francis Edward Gwyn
Honorary titles
Preceded by
Sir William Fawcett
Governor, Royal Hospital Chelsea
Succeeded by
Sir Samuel Hulse
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Richmond)
Succeeded by
William Dundas

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