Colonel French

Colonel George Arthur French (1864-1950) was born in Kingston, Canada, the son of Roscommon-born Major General George French, an officer in the Royal Artillery. He joined the Royal Marines in 1881 aged seventeen and was the youngest serving officer at that time. In 1890 he received the Royal Albert Medal for saving the life of a sailor who had fallen overboard in shark infested waters off the west coast of Africa. He transferred to the Army Service Corps in the 1890s and saw action during the Boer War and other engagements. In 1899, French married Annie Jefferies of Newbay House, Co. Wexford. He retired from active service in 1912 but was recalled in 1914 at the outbreak of World War I. However, ill health forced him to retire the following year and he returned to live at Newbay. At the outbreak of the Easter Rising he was ordered to take command of a British Army force in County Wexford and to suppress the Enniscorthy uprising. He treated the Enniscorthy insurgents with courtesy, addressing the leaders by their military titles, but demanded they surrender without conditions. When they refused to believe that the Dublin insurgents had surrendered, French arranged safe passage to Dublin for their representatives so that they could receive the order to surrender directly from Patrick Pearse. The following day, 1 May 1916, French formally received their unconditional surrender in Enniscorthy.