Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston (1864 – 1940), a Kilmarnock-born Lieutenant-General in the British Army during WWI.

On the 23rd of September, 1864 the decorated war general and politician Sir Aylmer Gould Hunter-Weston was born in Annanhill House, Kilmarnock.  

Aylmer was the first-born son of Lieutenant-Colonel Gould Read Weston and his second wife Jane Caldwell Hunter – the eldest daughter of the 25th Laird of Hunterston, West Kilbride.  

On his birth entry he is named as Aylmer Gould Weston but when his maternal grandfather died in 1880 he, along with his parents, became known as Hunter-Weston.  His mother was now the 26th Laird of Hunterston and took over the running of the estate. 

Aylmer spent his younger years at Hunterston with his parents and younger brother Reginald before being sent to Wellington College in Berkshire when he was 13 years old. He was to board there for the next 4 years, thriving on sports and winning the school prize for Chemistry and Electricity. He then attended the Royal Military Academy in Woolwich, again excelling in sports, chemistry and physics. By 1884 he was commissioned to the Royal Engineers.  

His military career was long and varied (awards included KCB – Knight Commander of the Order of Bath, DSO – Distinguished Service Order and GCSt.J – Venerable Order of St. John) and was not without controversy and criticism. He served on the Indian Northwest Frontier in 1891 and was wounded during the Waziristan Expedition (1894-95.) He was promoted to brevet major in 1895 and again in 1900, this time to brevet lieutenant colonel, after serving with General Kitchener on the Nile Expedition (1896) and the Second Boer War in South Africa (1899-1902), receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal. 

His father died in 1904 and In August 1905 aged 41 he proposed to Miss Grace Strang Steel of Philiphaugh, Selkirk. Grace was 21 years old at the time and they were married in the music room of the Philliphaugh Estate that December. They didn’t have any children and they remained married for the next 35 years. When his mother died in the October of 1911 Aylmer became the 27th Laird of Hunterston. 

During WWI he served in France at the battles of Le Cateau and Aisne and would often supervise his command from a motorbike. He faced major criticisms for his time in the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 and in the first day of the Somme in 1916 where his unit suffered the greatest number of casualties. He earned the nickname “Hunter-Bunter” and was described as a “donkey general.” 

In October 1916 he was elected to the House of Commons as the Unionist member for North Ayrshire, becoming the first Member of Parliament to also command on the field. He resigned from the army in 1919 as Lt. Gen. Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston and continued with his political career until 1935.  

His war diaries, letters and clippings were given to the British Museum after his death in 1940. Aylmer, living at his ancestral home Hunterston House, liked to keep fit by climbing the stairs to the tower to do his exercises on the flat roof. On the morning of March 18th he fell from the 45 foot tower and died. He was 75 years old. He is buried in West Kilbride cemetery and Grace, who died 14 years later, is buried with him. 

Further Reading

Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston at