Sir Eustace Francis Tickell

Major-General Sir Eustace Francis Tickell KBE CB MC

In my last post about the landed gentry I mentioned that many became involved in the church, politics, or the military. While researching the descendants of Thomas Tickell of Carnolway I came across members of the clergy, and army and naval officers. One striking fact was that several of the military men served in India and some were born there. This post is about one such man, Eustace Francis Tickell, who had a distinguished military career and fought in both the First and Second World Wars.

His Family Background

Eustace Tickell was born on 10 December 1893 in Srinagar, Kashmir, India, the most northerly city in India. His grandfather was Lieutenant-General Richard Tickell C.B., born in Ireland, who served in the Bengal Engineers. He retired to Cheltenham, as did many members of the British Indian Army. Eustace’s father, Charles Tickell, was born in Cheltenham but he too spent time in India. At the time of Eustace’s birth, he was a Civil Engineer working for the Maharajah of Kashmir (1892 -1894). His mother was Alice Esther Francis, from whom he inherited his middle name.

Eustace’s younger brother, John Kaye Tickell, was also born in India, but their sister, Lilain Gladys, was born in Cheltenham so it appears the Tickells moved back to England, possibly to school their three children. The family can be found in the 1901 census in Egham, Berkshire and in the 1911 census in Bedford. They lived in Waterloo Road, a prestigious address in the Castle Quarter of Bedford., close to the town centre and adjoining the Embankment and the River Ouse. They were comfortably off; the household included a cook and housemaid.

Eustace was educated at Bedford School, an independent school for boys. He then attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, London. As his father and grandfather were both engineers, it is perhaps unsurprising that Eustace joined the Royal Engineers (RE), a corps of the British Army that provides military engineering and other technical support to the army. The Royal Engineers are commonly known as the Sappers.

Military Service

Eustace received his first commission, as Second Lieutenant, Royal Engineers on 18 July 1913. During World War I, from 9 September 1914, he served on the Western Front. He was promoted to Lieutenant on 9 June 1915 and to Captain on 3 November 1917. He saw action in Greek Macedonia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, the Aegean Sea, and Egypt. I believe he was wounded at some point but have no details at present. Once the National Archives reopen after the pandemic I will try to find out more.

He was awarded the Military Cross in 1914, and was twice Mentioned in Despatches, in 1915 and 1917. Further promotions were to Major on 22 November 1928, Lieutenant-Colonel on 1 October 1933, and then Colonel three years later on 1 October 1936. During World War II he served as Chief Engineer of the British troops in Egypt and the Middle East and was Chief Engineer to Field Marshal Montgomery during the North West Europe Campaign. Eustace was Mentioned five times in Despatches (London Gazette 30.12.1941; 30.6.1942; 6.4.1944; 22.3.1945; 9.8.1945). He became a Major-General on 30 September 1941, and Engineer-in-Chief, of the Royal Engineers in 1945.

He retired from the British Army on 9 February 1949 but held the honorary position of Colonel Commandant, Corps of Royal Engineers from 1950-1958.

Decorations and Campaign Medals

The image above is of fifteen miniature medals attributed to Eustace Tickell that were sold at auction in 1990. I believe they include the Knight Commander´s (K.B.E.) Badge, The Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Military Division, Companion´s (C.B.) Badge, the Military Cross,, British War and Victory Medals, and two medals issued by the Republic of France on the right – the Legion of Honour, Officer’s Badge, and the Croix de Guerre. I know very little about military medals, so please feel free to comment below and correct me if I have omitted or incorrectly identified any of his decorations.

Personal Life

He married Mary Violet Buszard on 14 Jul 1921 in St Peter’s, Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea, London. Mary was one of the twin daughters of Marston Buszard, a Barrister and K.C. There may be a story to be found there as her mother, Annie Violet, was at least 35 years younger than her husband. While Eustace’s own upbringing was comfortable, Mary Violet’s family were definitely upper class. She is shown on the 1911 census living in Paddington in a household with seven domestic servants and a governess for the two girls.

Eustace and Mary had two children – Irene Violet, b.1922 and Marston Eustace, b.1923, both born in Medway, Kent. I have seen an Ancestry tree showing a third child, but with private details, as the person may still be living. Their son, Marston Tickell, also became an officer in the Royal Engineers and went on to have a distinguished military career in his own right. He was awarded the Military Cross in 1945. Marston Tickell served as Chief of Staff in Northern Ireland from early 1971 to the end of 1972, a significant period in that country’s history. Like his father, he became Engineer in Chief of the British Army, from 1973 to 1976. I will cover his life at some point in the future.

The portrait photograph of Sir Eustace Francis Tickell at the top of this post was taken in June 1944 by Walter Stoneman. It is one of 7 portraits of him in the National Portrait Gallery. He is described as Major-General and President, Royal Institute of Engineers

Sir Eustace Francis Tickell died in Cobham, Surrey on 28 December 1972.

If you are related to this family and have any photographs or other details you’d be prepared to share about them, do please get in touch with me.

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