Brethren Archive

Orde Charles Wingate

Born: 26th February 1903
Died: 24th March 1944

Intro, Biographical Information, Notes etc:

Tom said ...

I was vaguely aware of this guy before, but an article in the Telegraph from the other day came up in my Google saved search; The article is here, however you can only see the paragraph I quote below because it is behind a paywall.

World War Two was not short of memorable military commanders. One of the most unusual was Orde Wingate.

Wingate was born on 26 February 1903 in the foothills of the Himalayas, in Nainital, British India. His family were strict Plymouth Brethren, and he was brought up in an atmosphere of earnest Christianity and Bible study. He went to Charterhouse, and then to the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. He was not notable or successful there, and commissioned into the Royal Artillery.

Wingate’s first posting was to Sudan, after which he was sent to Palestine, where he assumed responsibility for training a Jewish militia during the Arab Revolt. In his mind he framed his work in Biblical terms, seeing...

I looked him up on Ancestry, his farther was a Colonel George Wingate (1852-1936) and his grandfather a Reverend William Wingate. Some interesting background on the family is seen in this book,

Would be interesting to know more about the family and their Brethren links. There are a few Wingates still in the PBCC to this day - I wonder if they are related?


Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 : 02:35
Timothy Stunt said ...
My 'Elusive Quest' (pp.234-6) discusses the Orde-Brown/Wingate/Dobbie brethren connection. For fuller details on Orde W, see Trevor Royle's excellent biography, 'Orde Wingate: Irregular Soldier' (London 1995) Timothy
Wednesday, Feb 28, 2018 : 04:52
Lance said ...
Have you looked at the defence of Malta?
Thursday, Mar 1, 2018 : 05:24
Tom said ...

Was there anything particularly interesting in that? I don't think Orde followed the faith of his fathers sadly 😓

Friday, Mar 2, 2018 : 17:52
Samuel said ...
The defence of Malta is well known for the role of General Sir William Dobbie. He was, Open Brethren, so far as I know. Peter Masters had a chapter on his life in his book "Men of Destiny". There is a more recent article here.
Saturday, Mar 3, 2018 : 00:36
Tom said ...

Thanks, this is a very interesting article; particularly this extract,

   By this time (1897) William had grown to his full height, which was 6' 2½". He must have been an attractive youth, with this remarkable height, fair hair, large blue eyes and fresh colouring. He was very strong, never having had a day's illness, a good cricketer, interested in many forms of sport, and enough of a musician to play the piano and the banjo. The banjo in those days occupied the place of the ukelele his sons were to play and the guitar favoured by his grandsons. Every age has its pop instrument!

   While he was a cadet at Woolwich two influences came into his life, two very lasting influences, and they were in a large measure connected. They were his association with the sect of the Brethren and his meeting with the family of Captain Charles Orde-Browne, late Royal Horse Artillery, who was leader of the Brethren at Woolwich.

   The Brethren were part of the Evangelical revival, but they may be considered as its extreme left-wing. They began in Ireland during the 1820s, where small groups of Christians tried to resurrect the exact form, as they considered it to be, of first century Christianity. They had no ordained ministers — though in fact their founder, John Nelson Darby, had formerly been a clergyman of the Church of Ireland — and the only ceremonies that they retained were Baptism and Holy Communion. These were modified to the extent that only adult believers were baptised (not infants) and Breaking of Bread, as they called it, took place every Sunday, participants sitting around a plain table spread with a white cloth, on which was placed a loaf of bread and a bottle of wine. The blessing and sharing out of the elements was carried out by any member of the group. There was no set form of service, and any believer, who felt moved to do so, could get up and pray or preach.

   In the simplicity of their services the Brethren resembled the Quakers, but they had no pacifist principles. There were of course

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the usual Evangelical tenets of reliance on the Bible, strict Sunday observance, the need to spread the Gospel at home and abroad and the demand for a simple and austere life.

   From 1828 onwards Brethren groups appeared all over England and also in France, Switzerland and Italy. In England they attracted an unexpectedly large number of army and naval officers, and among those who joined them was Captain Charles Orde-Brown, whom, in 1897, William met leading the group in Woolwich.

   He was a remarkable man, with considerable gifts. He was an able mathematician and astronomer, something of a poet and writer, a good amateur historian and leading authority on armour, and an excellent artist.

   He was the son of a land-owning family in Gloucestershire and had, at the age of 17, served in the Crimean War with the Horse Artillery. He had survived its hardships and done well enough to be awarded not only the Crimean medal but also a Sardinian order from England's Piedmontese allies. But among the battles in the snow he had also begun to think profoundly about the Christian truths, and before he returned he had undergone conversion. He found himself much dissatisfied with the strict High Church doctrines of his family, and particularly with the doctrine of infant baptism, leading to baptismal regeneration, which he considered disastrously misleading. When he came back from the war, he searched about for any believers like-minded with himself, and finally after a period of service in Ireland, he joined the Brethren.

   His family were horrified. Had he come back, like many young men released from war service, prepared to sow wild oats in a big way, they would have understood the situation, though they would not have liked it. But this religious eccentricity, to the extent of leaving the Church of England, seemed to involve treachery to class as well as church, and he was regarded as a disgrace to the family, and unbalanced into the bargain. Charles, however, stuck to his beliefs with an almost aggressive firmness, and presently he married a girl from Ireland who had, together with her four brothers, also army officers, undergone the same startling conversion.

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   This had come about through one of her brothers, whose methods were as direct as those of Samuel Hebich. She was an extremely pretty girl and one evening was going to a dance, wearing a new ball-dress — and ball-dresses in 1863 were something, 25 yards of muslin, tulle and ribbon mounted on a crinoline. Before leaving she pirouetted in front of her brother. He said:

"Yes, you look very pretty Annie, and your dress is very nice, but it wouldn't be any good to you in heaven or hell."

This unexpected comment left her dumbfounded, but the words struck home and ere long she too had undergone a conversion as direct, sudden and unchanging as that of any in her circle.

   A year or two later she married Charles Orde-Browne and came with him to England. His mother in Gloucestershire now finally accepted the situation, and with considerable grace and kindness became reconciled to Charles and his wife, if not to their beliefs.

   Charles was stationed in Woolwich with the Artillery and gradually became involved in mission work among the poor there. One of his associates for a time in Ragged School work had been General Gordon, who was one of his close friends. Charles finally provided the money for the building of a Brethren's meeting house, known as the Gospel Hall, and when the time came for him to be posted away from Woolwich, he decided to retire from the army, live on his pension and his private means and devote himself to the meeting. Helped by two other retired officers, one army and one navy, he became the leader of the meeting as completely as any ordained clergyman in a parish.

   The Gospel Hall was not far from the R.M.A., and William Dobbie, while he was a cadet, began to go there. The Brethren were not, in fact, new to him, for his grandfather, General Dobbie, had joined them and began meetings at Budleigh Salterton. But the movement never spread much to India, and after the general's death in William's childhood, his parents had not seemed much affected. Margaret, it is true, had by 1897 become interested in the movement in England, but her spirituality was of a more mystical nature — in earlier centuries she might

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have been a Madame Guyon — and she did not concern herself greatly about sects and labels.

   But as William attended the little meeting, the light that had shone around him since his conversion, became brighter, and showed him a path leading away from the orthodoxy of the Church of England. Falling under the spell of combined charm and considerable theological knowledge of Captain Orde-Browne, he became convinced that the simple system of the Brethren was more like the Church depicted in St. Paul's epistles than any other in the modern world. With his straightforward adherence to the literal teaching of the Bible this was enough for him, and during his time at Woolwich he joined the Brethren.

   He soon began to help with the Sunday School and other work in Woolwich, and before he left the Academy he had become firmly attached to this most simple of Protestant sects.

   Meanwhile he had, of course, become friendly with all the Orde-Browne circle. The Captain and his wife lived with their family at Blackheath, near Woolwich, in The Paragon, a fine and famous terrace of Georgian houses. Despite the austerity of the Brethren regime, it was a surprisingly gay household, for the family consisted of no less than six girls and one boy — all lively and intelligent. Charles Orde-Browne too had a strong sense of humour, and his wife a happy-go-lucky Irish temperament, together with enormous strength of character. All the girls were musical, one or two up to almost professional standards, and there was constant music and singing in the house. Despite the Evangelical embargo on dancing, there was none on other forms of exercise, and the girls all played hockey and tennis well, besides being keen cyclists — the 'with it' sport of the nineties.

   All the girls lived at home — very few with any pretensions to gentility undertook a paid job in those days unless they had to do so — but they had many artistic and intellectual interests, and they did a great deal of unpaid social work in Woolwich, mostly in connection with the Brethren's meeting. They organised women's meetings and taught in Sunday Schools.

   These activities involved a great deal of district visiting and they were constantly in an out of the poor houses in the back

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streets of Woolwich. They developed a great deal of knowledge of and wide sympathy with the very poor, which lasted all their lives. Even when they were very old ladies the Orde-Brownes showed a wisdom and a kindliness in dealing with poverty which might have been the envy of many a young worker with certificates in "social science."

   Mrs. Orde-Browne, who successfully combined remarkable worldly wisdom with great spirituality, was determined that the girls should meet as many young people as possible from suitable Evangelical and/or Brethren families of the professional classes — a fairly close knit circle. She herself, in the background, would of course vet and manipulate all friendships, but she was prepared to entertain widely, and with the plentiful servants and cheap food of the nineties, this was not difficult. As a result, Number 11, The Paragon, Blackheath was constantly full of lively girls and young men, mostly from army families, mostly Brethren and all Evangelical.

   To William Dobbie, straight from the austere regime of Charterhouse, used to quiet holidays with his mother alone in lodgings and with little young companionship, for his sister had married and gone away, the Orde-Browne household was fascinating. He began to come over from Woolwich and join in with whatever the girls and their friends were doing, whether it was mixed hockey on the Heath, bicycle riding, painting texts, helping at some religious service, singing, music, going for picnics or anything else.

   In those leisured days, there seemed to be a daily tea-party at such houses. A parlourmaid brought up tea (big silver tea-pot, shallow cups, paper-thin bread and butter, and cakes on a three-tiered stand) at 4.30, and open house was kept till about 6.15. An extra cup or two were automatically put on the tray, and anyone dropped in who felt inclined. None of the circle seemed to have any occupation that kept them busy at that time in the afternoon, and these tea-parties were an essential part of social life, their place has perhaps been taken by friends dropping in for a drink in the evening. But in these days of small families, most of whom do not live at home, the wide though casual hospitality of those daily tea-parties seems as archaic as a Roman banquet.

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   Tea and cakes were the only things offered. Few of the circle smoked, and certainly not in a drawing-room, while however long the party continued there was no question of offering drinks. Wine might be served at dinner, but the drink offered to every visitor was unknown, even in circles not touched with Evangelical austerity. Captain and Mrs. Orde-Browne were not violently teetotal in principle, though many of the Brethren were so by then, but they would never have considered offering promiscuous drinks to young people. As a very young officer in his post-Crimean days, Capt. Orde-Browne, realising what a curse drink was in the army, had given it up completely in order to induce his men, for whose welfare he felt deeply responsible, to do the same. He had had some success in this, but he did not feel that such a course was necessary in all circumstances.

Saturday, Mar 3, 2018 : 04:06
Nick Fleet said ...
I seem to remember there is a memorial to Wingate in Charlton Cemetery near to William Kelly's. Also, there was an Alf Wingate local at Guildford (Shepherds Lane) room in the 1960s - not sure if there is any relation?
Saturday, Mar 31, 2018 : 07:28
Tom said ...
I hadn't seen the memorial at Charlton .. will have to go back and check that.

From memory when I looked into it further, I doubted the current Wingate's in PBCC (which would also be related to the Alf you mention) were descendants of this one.
Monday, Apr 9, 2018 : 18:51

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